When it comes to website development, there have been a lot of leaps and bounds made with different platforms. Easy to use, templated websites that are sold as being designed for a specific industry can be found quickly and easily if you do a search. And truth is, it is easy to be tempted by a smart-looking templated design, especially if you don’t have an in-house marketing team that can develop and tailor your bespoke website and overall digital presence.
The thing is though, despite there being thousands of ready-to-use designs available online, and you think there is a template that perfectly fits what you need, there are questions and things you need to consider before choosing this option. Just because a template seemingly seems right for your business, doesn’t mean it will be good for your business, and it may actually end up doing your brand harm. After all, what you are getting is a cookie-cutter approach. Let’s take a look and compare a template vs a custom website.
Is a templated website option better than a bespoke website design, or is a custom-designed site a better option than a template or even a block-builder platforms such as Squarespace? How does a template site fare with in terms of costs, functionality, integration, security, and other important considerations?
As we alluded to before, templated sites are basically pre-assembled websites. Listed on sites such as Behance, you can browse thousands of pre-developed sites where everything from the layout, to the styles, to the colours and much more are created and ready to download for you to enter your own content.
Once you make your choice, you can work with a developer or get your own hands dirty in changing the colour palette, adding logos, images and your own content before setting up the links, creating the sitemap and getting it ready to publish.
Another option you may consider is a block-builder site such as Squarespace, WebFlow, or Bubble. These platforms are designed in such a way that you can drag elements (say a block of text, or even a video placeholder) to an area of the page you want it to be and then populate it with the content you want.
In essence, what may take a couple of weeks for a developer to build from scratch, may take you half the time to create in a block-builder or to download, customise, and then launch.
If getting to market quickly is of importance, then a template design, or website builder platform may be the choice for you.
Getting your site live may be something you want to do quickly and cheaply (more on that below) and thus a template is the way you want to go. However, it is a generally accepted fact that pre-built websites are not entirely flexible or adaptable and, in many ways, (some expected and some unexpected) the site owner is restricted to the parameters of the format.
For starters, applying brand identity consistently is often difficult as you are often (extremely) restricted in terms of what you can do with the template. Layout functionality, site navigation, the number of options you can display, and even the number of categories you can show for a product, maybe limited thus impeding the overall user experience.
Another problem we often see when clients (eventually) come to us for support is that the template used was built utilising substandard and outdated code. This is in part, a potential cause of the aforementioned lack of flexibility, but above and beyond this, it also can have negative effect on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The code-base itself may be written in such a way to make the site look amazing, but it does little to assist with ensuring your site and the content within it can be easily found and indexed. Furthermore, code-bloat (where the ratio of code to the amount of text is too high) can cause the site to load slower than it ideally should, causing your site ranking to drop and more importantly, potential visitors to get annoyed with the time it takes for your site to load. In this way, poor coding can affect overall user experience.
Looking great is one part of the user experience puzzle. Another issue with templates and platforms such as Wix is that not all templates – nor the designs you choose – will necessarily work the way they are intended to across all web browsers either. Where a bespoke web designer will write the code for, and then test on Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer and other browsers, a template site is left to you to test. Great if it all works as you expect, but what do you do if you find that your site is not performing on the newest browsers as expected? You will need to either learn to code or even find a new template which you need to start from scratch with.
Our tip if you really need to use an out-of-box website is to be as thorough as possible in ensuring your site will meet the latest and upcoming standards (including inbuilt mobile responsiveness), as this will ensure good UX and also give you a greater chance to achieve your marketing goals.
As some templates have been around for some time, they will not take advantage of the most recent innovative technology and trends, hence their design may not be easily responsive across a number of devices. With worldwide Internet access toping 3 billion people and, practically 40% of web browsing done on mobile devices or tablets it is imperative you do not ignore the power of a responsive design and format for your website.
Another not-so-fun fact about using templates which require plugins is that whilst the plugins may be updated, the older codebase may mean that site-security is at risk.
Suffice to say, there are two types of template website users; those who HAVE been hacked, and those who WILL be hacked. Taking the path of least resistance, many hackers know that template website platforms are not the most secured and can easily discover weaknesses on similar sites and exploit others with the same attack type, doing untold damage and reputational damage to a business.
It might not seem serious, yet template sites fundamentally give hackers an online guide to your front door. Once there, using specialised software, they can start guessing your password which is a great danger to the safety of your data. While you will likely save money by not needing custom coding, you run a huge risk of being hostage to plugin developers and hackers who do damage which requires you to spend time and money fixing things.
In essence, a template site is likely to become quickly outdated, especially with so many plugins and software updates happening on one platform. Installing these into a theme all crammed with code is a recipe for disaster and huge tech support costs.
Lastly, the open-source nature of some template websites is another danger to be mindful of. Since the framework publicises changes and security measures with each release (part of their ongoing marketing as much as a patch to fix the old problems) this information is accessible to developers and hackers. Although precise code changes aren’t detailed, anybody with some backend development experience can peruse the public data and distinguish weaknesses that were rectified in the new releases, and know precisely where to focus in sites with previous versions of software.
Let’s call it as we see it. A template or drag and drop site may market itself as fit for purpose (there are pages and pages of options for people looking for sites for florists, websites for small business and websites for eCommerce shops), but what is right for an overall industry is not necessarily right for you. After all, you did not go into business to offer the same as everyone else, so why would you want to market yourself the same as everyone else?
A template may be customizable to some extent, but is it right for you? Does it mirror your brand, does it make life easier for you and will it allow you to easily scale? If not, then why would you use something that will only make your life more complicated later?
So, what are your website choices as an established or new business looking to improve your online presence?
Template and out-of-box website solutions have some advantages: Quick to build, relatively cheap to deploy and there are thousands of them, making it easy for people who may lack creative and development nous. However, once the site is downloaded, the issues can begin, especially for those who lack experience in development.
If you are looking for a site which presents your brand in the best possible way, then build a custom website (also known as a ‘bespoke’ site) that is tailor-made set to the particular expectations of your business.
Yes, you will need to engage a team who will design and work on it, but you will be getting the expertise of people who will make it as pain-free for you as possible – now and into the future. We understand, it will obviously require a more significant investment, yet it is the most ideal approach to create a unique and interesting experience that can have an impact on your market.
Once you have your strategy, designers and developers invest their energy breaking down your requirements, interpreting your brief; involving you at each stage to develop a design unique to your needs. Additionally, this ensures the business and/or brand identity remains consistent all through guaranteeing an overall positive user experience.
At Three Piece Marketing (and we are sure most other digital agencies) we build sites using the most recent W3C HTML and CSS coding practices, design with flair that lets your site shine and stay on top of the best plugins for your needs. In other words, you get function and aesthetics which you know will work. Developers ensure that your website is optimised for search engines and works with various browsers. We also ensure the design is aesthetically pleasing across many desktop formats, mobile devices, and tablets and, should we are on-hand after launch to help rectify any technical issues that may occur.
When you pay more for bespoke website design services, you are investing in; experience, advice and information and this guarantees that your online presence does the things you need it to – build your brand. You can also design your bespoke website to grow and develop in tandem with your business; whether through plugins, integration with other platforms or any other reason. This ensures that future expansion and changes on the site can be hassle free and actualized seamlessly.
If you are here on our website researching which option is the best for you, then let’s have a chat. There is no obligation, other than your time in having a chat to determine what will work best for you. We are here to help.
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