There are many ways to build a website yourself or have one built for you, and with so many options and routes to choose from, it can be difficult to get the ball rolling on a major web development project.
Initially, you have a significant choice to make: will you be using templates within a content management system (CMS) like WordPress to build your own site from scratch, or will you be paying a web design team to build a custom site for you?
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, so it's a worthwhile comparison to consider. While there's no one-size-fits-all web design solution, depending on your circumstances and needs, there's definitely a right or wrong answer to this problem for each scenario. With that said, the following guide should help you determine whether template-based site design or custom site design will be best for your upcoming online endeavor.
Which is Best for a Novice Webmaster?
If you've never even tried to build a page before and you'd prefer to wind up with a site that looks like it was made by professionals, the fastest and easiest route to your goal would be a custom site design service. If you'd rather meet with a team in-person to discuss your project details, you can usually find curated lists of the top web development firms in your area. For example, this site has a list of the ten best web design companies in New Jersey.
Attempting template-based design with no previous experience can be fun if you have the time for it, but you can't reliably expect results like those provided by a pro web developer. You have to ask yourself whether you want the best, or do you want “good enough for now?” If you require the best aesthetics and functionality from the very beginning, investing hundreds or even thousands into site development will be well worth the expense.
The Pros and Cons of Template-Based Site Design
If you're still on the fence about whether you're going to try the do-it-yourself route with templates, you'd probably want to start with WordPress as it's the most widely supported CMS with the most freely available templates. Here are the pros and cons of using templates:
Pros of Using Templates
- Free or low-cost- There are literally tens of thousands of templates and themes to choose from and a significant percentage of them are free or less than $20. Even premium themes are only going to cost you between $20-$100 at the most.
- Niche-Based Design- Templates can be good sources of inspiration in terms of site formatting and navigation, as there are many niche-oriented templates that are designed specifically for your business or industry type.
Cons of Using Templates
- Limited Customization- To a degree, there will already be some customization capabilities available within your template's theme options and settings in the administrative online interface or control panel. However, those options are fairly limited in comparison to the flexibility provided by a bespoke design service.
- Having a Site That Looks Like Other Sites- Of course, the major downside to using templates is that your site will not have a fully unique appearance; there could be many other sites out there that look exactly like yours.
- There's Still a Learning Curve- If you think you're just going to jump right in, slap a template on your site, and be done with it... think again. There's a 95% chance that you'll wind up spending quite a bit of time searching for a template that you like, and then even more time after that trying to learn how to customize it to your liking, which will often involve editing CSS or HTML code if you're trying to change something that isn't adjustable within the template options.
The Pros and Cons of Custom Site Design
Needless to say, custom site design is the premium route. So, if you demand the best for your site, then there's really no comparison. If you're still not sure, consider the pros and cons of custom site design:
Pros of Custom Site Design
- Professional Quality – The first and most obvious benefit is that you're going to be getting a site that comes with plenty of built-in unique value, versus a blank template that you have to add your own touches to.
- Guaranteed Satisfaction- When you deal with a reputable web design firm, you have the assurance of knowing that you're not going to be disappointed at the end of the project, as there are usually revision opportunities. No such assurance exists when you're going it alone using templates.
- Ability to Outdo Existing Templates- Custom site design doesn't have to be completely contrary or separate from template-based design, as many firms will gladly use any template you'd like as a source of inspiration for the project. In that sense, you can still get the aesthetic theme of your favorite template if you happen to find one that you like, as your developers can incorporate desirable aspects into your custom build.
Cons of Custom Site Design
- Costs More- Obviously, you can't get somebody to provide such a valuable service for nothing, so expect to allocate a budget for it.
- Wide Range of Providers to Choose From – Choosing a web development company to work with can be somewhat stressful, as you don't always know what you're going to be getting. Thus, it's important to compare providers thoroughly before making your selection.
Investing Time vs Money
Ultimately, choosing between a template and a custom-built website should come down to whether you want to invest your time or your funds. If you feel like your time is worth more money than it costs to have a website built, then you may be better off outsourcing your website creation and management so you can focus on other mission-critical tasks.
On the other hand, if you feel like you have plenty of free time and don't mind the idea of having to learn HTML, CSS, and other web design disciplines to have full flexibility over the customization of your site, then template-based design might be something you'll want to look into.