Custom Design versus Commercial or Free Templates

Over the years, creating a website usually meant hiring a professional website designer or developer - which often means paying a premium for a quality design. Designers are not for everyone but there may be instances where the need for a custom (unique) concept is required, therefore a designer will be hired. 

Custom Design

Custom website design and development is a solution that gives you a creative and unique product for you and your business. It's a way to ensure your website looks professional and functions without errors while maintaining the fact your new site is unique to your needs. This means that your website will be the only one with the design style that was developed specifically for you!

There are many advantages and disadvantages when determining whether you should opt in for a custom solution which I will give you a few to consider:

Advantages of a Custom Website

  • You get a unique design style that only your website will have - no one else will have it
  • Your website will be developed to your needs
  • You can get a website that is properly coded when using a professional designer
  • You have more control over your site's layout that is specific to your needs
  • You can have your website branded to your company's identity - logos, colours, etc.

Disadvantages of a Custom Website

  • Cost is usually a factor because custom design will usually "start" in the lower $1000's and can go into the millions
  • Custom design takes time - expect a typical small business website to take at least 1 month or more
  • Finding the right designer can be a daunting task because there are just as many bad designers as there are good designers
  • Not understanding how web sites are built or how web designers work can be very intimidating and discouraging for many
  • You may need to have some knowledge of html and css basics

The custom design solution is what most businesses will go for if they need something special...providing they have the financial resources for one. Typically, you can expect at least $3000-$5000 for a simple website, with a project development time of about 6 weeks. However, if you are starting out and have a limited budget, you may want to consider a premade template until your business is bringing in enough revenue to justify the cost of a custom solution. A custom designed website is literally an investment and you will want to make sure you are comfortable and capable of going that route.

Paid or Free Templates

Premade templates (or themes) are a great solution for those on a limited budget and is also a great way to test a new business concept without investing in something more expensive. The worst thing would be to pay for a custom website, only to find out your new business is not working out, so a premade template is ideal.

In a nutshell, a premade template, either paid or free, is a good starting point for most people because it's a way to test your market before going further.

Advantages of a Premade or Free Template

  • Low cost solution - usually around $35 for a template
  • Very large selection of templates on the internet from providers who specialize in this area
  • You can find a template or theme for static html and cms based websites - Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, etc.
  • You can setup your website within minutes because all you have to do is install or upload your template and begin adding content
  • In most cases, template providers will give you free updates...or at least they should
  • When using a cms like Joomla, your template will more likely work with extensions and plugins

Disadvantages of a Premade or Free Template

  • The code you get is the code you have to use - it may not be efficiently coded
  • Many sites that provide themes or templates are pushed out fast which could result in poor quality products
  • Some providers may not offer free updates to the template when bugs are found
  • Because these are premade templates, you can almost guarantee that many others will be using that same template, therefore, your site will not be unique
  • A premade template could make your website and business look unprofessional

Whatever Works Best for You

I've shown you the advantages and disadvantages of using a custom website or a premade template, but ultimately it's going to depend on each person to determine what will work best for them. A custom designed website is a major investment but it can definitely give you a long-term solution and help your business stand out as a professional resource with unique branding.

Premade templates are a great way to keep your costs down while getting started with a new business. Most people will opt in for this solution because of the prices are more than reasonable, but you also get your website up much faster than if you went for a custom design option. There are many template and theme sites out there that sell individually or with the benefits of subscribing to a membership where you get access to most if not all templates being offered. The choice will be yours.


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