Custom Websites vs. Template Websites

You have two main options when building out your website: do you want the whole thing done from scratch, so you end up with a unique, custom-built design? Or do you want to go with a tried-and-true template as the basis of your website? As with most dimensions of building a website, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Let’s take a look at why you might pick one over the other.

Custom websites

A custom website is developed from scratch and built from the ground up. You can specify whatever features you’d like your website to have, and the result is a completely unique web presence.

What are the advantages of having a custom website?

First and foremost, your website will be unique. This may not sound like much of an advantage, but a unique website can really make you stand out within your industry. Investing in a custom website ensures your competitor’s won’t be able to easily copy you, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing your business at the head of your industry.

Right up there with uniqueness is control. Opting to go the custom website route means you’ll have full control in specifying features, tweaking what needs to be tweaked, and just generally optimizing your website throughout the process. Obviously this all happens through the developer or agency that’s crafting your website, but you can have as much of a role in the process as you’d like. It’s your website, after all.

Do you see company growth on the horizon? A good custom website will account for future growth, meaning you won’t have to worry about upgrading or switching websites when you finally do hit that tipping point. Instead, your custom site will grow with your company.

What are the disadvantages of having a custom website?

Custom websites can be much more expensive than template-based sites depending on your specifications. This means they may not be the best choice for smaller businesses, or for businesses that have a limited marketing budget.

If time is a concern for you, a custom website may not be the best solution. Quality web design work takes time, and the turnaround on a fully built custom website can easily approach 5+ months.

Lastly, once your beautiful custom website is completed, do you know how to use it? If you’re not particularly familiar with the backend of a website, you’ll have to retain someone to manipulate the site for you, or you’ll have to pay more to get a content management system integrated with your website.

How much does a custom website cost?

There’s a lot of variation in the pricing of custom websites. Much of the final price will simply depend on your specifications for the site. If you told your developer to pack every last bell and whistle into the site, expect to pay a premium.

In general, a 100% custom and unique website will run you $15,000+, with the most complex builds easily running you six figures.

Template Websites

A template website is a website modeled on pre-existing back-end and front-end elements. Features will usually be limited by what’s included in the template. Most templates do include the functionality to change page layouts, colors, and certain other features.

What are the advantages of having a template-based website?

In the world of website creation, template means affordable and fast. If you’re a smaller business just getting started on the Internet or if you’re working with a tight budget, template-based websites are an excellent option. You can expect to have full functionality right out of the box, with complete setups sometimes as short as a day or two.

Some businesses simply don’t need fancy, extensive websites. If you’re looking to set up a basic website or blog that’s primarily informational in nature, templates work just fine!

What are the disadvantages of having a template-based website?

In a phrase, lack of agency is the primary issue with template-based websites. You’ll have limited customization options, and if you find yourself shelling out even more for piecemeal customization you may have been better off with a custom website from the start.

You might outgrow your template as well. If business is booming a year or two into using your template-based website, you might find yourself needing more room for growth.

Lastly, templates are built to be sold. This means not only will you lack customization options, but your website will likely be identical (or very close to it) to other websites out there. The most popular templates have tens of thousands of sales, and there are only so many ways you can manipulate the built-in design and layout options.

If your business is in a competitive industry, having a run-of-the-mill website that’s identical to your competitors’ means you’re not doing all you can to stand out from the pack.

How much does a template-based website cost?

Much like custom websites, the cost of template-based websites is fairly open-ended.

You can find website templates available for free, and then from anywhere from $10 up to a few hundred dollars. Keep in mind that sometimes the price is a yearly fee you’ll have to pay if you want to continue licensing the template.

Many templates also offer a “unique” or “buyout” price, which means the seller will then cease selling the template to anyone else. These buyout prices are often much higher, in the $10,000 - $30,000 range.

Which one is best for me?

As always, you’ll have to choose between a custom or template-based website depending on the needs of your business, and the structure of your industry.

But, as a general rule of thumb, template-based websites are well-suited for smaller businesses, tighter budgets, and those who don’t require advanced functionality.

Custom websites, then, are a more comprehensive solution to one’s website woes. There really is no upper bound on what you can achieve with one (other than your budget, of course), and investing in a from-scratch website will ensure you’re set for years to come.

Try out our free website cost calculator

Choosing a custom or template-based website is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to establishing a web presence. Dealing with your own website can be a daunting task, but we’ve got you covered.

We put together a free website cost estimate calculator that’s meant to help you gain a better understanding of what goes into the website creation process, and to provide you with an overall cost estimate based on your personal needs. Go get your estimate now!