Template vs custom-made websites

By Woven Agency, Wednesday June 13, 2018

So, you need a website.

You’ve had the lightbulb moment and got a great idea. You’ve worked out the watertight business plan and got it past the bank. You’ve got a name. You’ve even got the company mascot (Colin the Caterpillar).

Now what you need is a shiny digital shop window from which to tell the world you’re open for business.

But where to turn? Google’s thrown up a thousand different options, from Squarespace to Spotify, Wix to WordPress. Whilst your best mate’s mate who works in marketing has mentioned something about website templates versus custom-build websites.

It’s all a bit of a head-scratcher. But, luckily, your friendly neighbourhood marketing agency is here to help with some Woven website wisdom.

Squarespace template website builder featuring Keanu Reeves

Putting it on a ‘plate’

Well, as it happens, your best mate’s mate who works in marketing was onto something, because when you want to build a new website you have two broad options. One, get a custom-built site that suits you to a tee or, two, explore the wonderful world of website templates.

You’ve heard the GoDaddy adverts, right, as you listen to your podcasts? You’ve seen the Keanu Reeves Squarespace ad as your next YouTube video loads up? Then you’ve already met the website templateers, the guys democratising web development. And, for those after a quick and simple setup, they’re an (increasingly) useful solution.

So, why would you choose a website template? Well, firstly, and to put it bluntly, they’re cheap. You can get started from just a few pounds a month, and should you want a premium package with ecommerce, analytics, and loads of storage, your annual bill should be no more than £150 to £200. This makes them ideal for start-ups where budgets may be a little tight to start with or those who don’t immediately need to commit a lot of money to an all-singing, all-dancing website.

The next plus point is that they’re easy to set up, so even if you don’t know your computer code from your Da Vinci code you should be okay. Website templates come with a large amount of built-in functionality, widgets, fonts, and design options, which means the task of setting up your website is much easier. All that tricky front- and back-end web development and user experience work has been done for you, so all you have to do is select your layout, write your copy, and choose your images. Easy! And because all that difficult work has been done for you, you can have a fully populated and tested website live in just a couple of weeks – as opposed to the months it can take for a bespoke option. It’s a bit like buying a ready meal instead of cooking from scratch.

And, just like your supermarket’s ready meal aisle, there are tons of options to choose from. So, depending on your desired aesthetic and the type of business you’re running, you should find a template that works for you. In fact, there are so many that choosing your desired ‘skin’ is one of the more daunting aspects of using a template website.

Tailored suit to symbolise the difference between template and custom websites

Or does the tailor-made approach suit you?

Website templates are ideal for those who want a quick and easy website, but sometimes the best way to meet your business requirements is through a custom-built site.

The first thing you should know about them is that they cost more than the template approach. Quite a bit more, in fact. Those needing a fully bespoke website should expect a starting cost of around £5,000, which, depending on how much content you need, whether you need it to integrate into existing computer systems, and if you’re after any one-off functionality, could grow into a six- or seven-figure sum.

But, of course, there’s a reason for the added expense.

Firstly, a custom website delivers a unique result, so your website won’t look like anyone else’s. This will help you further define your brand and stand out from the competition. It should also look highly professional and enhance your credibility with potential customers, unlike the more identikit (although still pretty) website templates.

A well-made bespoke website has the advantage of being built with customers in mind. Rather than employing a one-size-fits-all user journey, a custom site allows you to plan out a detailed roadmap to purchase – from piquing interest to encouraging repeat custom – that suits your customer base.

A custom website is also more reactive and agile than a template, and can better respond to the changing demands of your business. So, as your business and customers expands and changes, so too does your website, providing the visitor a better user, more inclusive experience.

Image showing a construction site and the words 'WWW', symbolising a website under development

In conclusion

So, which will suit you best: template or tailor-made? As ever, a good old-fashioned metaphor should shine a light.

You’ve got a wedding coming up (don’t worry, it’s not yours) and you need a suit or dress for the occasion – what route do you go down? An off-the-peg effort that will look great, not cost the earth, and stop you turning up to the wedding naked?

Or do you really dress to impress with a tailored option? One that wows all the other guests, fits you like a glove, won’t look like anyone else’s, and that makes the bride and groom look like they’ve turned up in sackcloths?

We think template options are great for smaller start-ups and one-man/woman-bands who don’t have the time or money to spend on developing a custom-made site – and who probably don’t need the detailed options that a bespoke site offers.

But for medium-to-large enterprises, ones who can commit larger budgets to their online abode, we recommend the tailor-made approach. It will provide a solution that’s unique to you, sets you apart from the crowd, offers you almost unlimited functionality, and gives your online guests a more memorable user experience.

Essentially, it comes down to two things: the size of your business and your available budget. Make your decision according to these two criteria and you won’t go far wrong.


Do you need a custom-built website that will suit all your digital demands? Then get in touch and our web development dynamos will see you right.