Website Templates vs Custom Web Design, Which Should You Choose?

April 19, 2024

When Should You Buy a Website Template vs. Opt for a Custom Website Experience with a Private Designer?

If you’re a small business owner just starting out, I’m sure you’ve grappled with this question. Or maybe you’re currently debating this with your business partner. Many business owners have been running with subpar websites for 10-20+ years and are still making money. On the other hand, there are small businesses with killer websites that don’t attract as many clients. The truth is, I can advise you all day on choosing custom website design or templates, but if your business plan is lacking, the website becomes irrelevant. Ultimately, the decision hinges on what your business can afford and how quickly you want to scale.

Custom Design: A Premium Choice

If you have a larger budget, I always recommend opting for a custom design and a professional brand photoshoot. These branding photos will give your website a cohesive look. You wouldn’t want photos from 10 years ago, five years ago, and yesterday mixed together on your site. A custom website design is tailored to your specific service or business, incorporating everything you need to reflect your brand & aesthetic. Custom design truly is the most professional and consistent choice for businesses.

Imagine for a moment that Nike did a photo shoot in 2004 and still used those brand photos on their website today. While they might be great photos, they wouldn’t accurately represent what they offer now. When it comes to custom design, it’s called an investment for a reason. You’re hiring a professional design service that is fully committed to you and your business for the next 4-6 weeks. Most designers include branding and logo creation in their custom packages. My custom designs offer more than just website design, including social media announcements, SEO, desktop and mobile optimization, and instructional videos on website usage to help you after the site is finished. This comprehensive approach explains why designers consider custom design an investment. Custom web designs normally range from $500 to $20,000, depending on the clients needs. On average, I create websites ranging from $1,200 to $8,000, which is my sweet spot for the clients I work with. Keep in mind that anyone offering a web design for $500 is most likely just a landing page, not a full website with several pages of content.

Website Templates: A Budget-Friendly Alternative

If I were starting a new company today, I would opt for a website template. These can cost anywhere from $0 to $1,200, making them a more budget-friendly option if you have the time and patience to add your content to the template. From personal experience, most business owners don’t have the time to learn how to edit a template themselves in a program they have never used. There are some designers also offer template customization services, where they customize a template to fit your business needs. This is a good compromise as it saves time and money while allowing you to choose the design. Templates do have their limitations. If you want additional pages, features, or 3rd party integration it essentially becomes a custom design. Most designers will charge you more for the template customization, or they will change your package to a fully custom website. When creating website templates, I consider the needs of specific service providers. For example, a bikini brand might prefer my ‘Lanikai bikini’ template over my ‘makeup artist’ template because it better aligns with their business. Always do a deep dive into what the template will offer you, even if it’s super cute, it might be missing some key features you need for your business.

DIY Website: A Word of Caution

If you’re considering DIYing your website without a template or any help, be prepared for challenges if you’ve never done it before. While a website template is meant to provide a foundation that you can edit as needed; it’s much easier than doing the whole thing yourself. It’s not impossible to make a website, I’m not saying that. I will say that it takes some talent to design something that converts, offers SEO optimization, populates on google, is organized, and has a flow to it while matching your branding. There are simple templates within specific platforms like Showit, Wix, or WordPress, so you’ll need to familiarize yourself with that platform to create a website. On average a showit website template is $200, so save yourself time and energy and buy one of those instead of doing it yourself.

Final Thoughts

All these options can be beneficial for your business; it depends on what makes the most sense for you. If your business or service is less than a year or two old, I’d recommend buying a website template to save money and get the job done fast. As you scale your business and increase your annual income, consider investing in a custom web designer. A custom design will elevate your business, making you appear more professional and instilling confidence in your customers due to the polished appearance. Still unsure? The web design community on Instagram is incredibly welcoming. Feel free to reach out to them via comments or DMs for quotes and suggestions on which option might work best for you.