Template or Custom Website Design

Basic web templates and themes can get your business online fast, but a completely custom website is best for brand identity and business growth.

A photo of a 2021 Ford F-150 pickup truck used to illustrate a utilitarian and common everyday design.

This is the Ford F-Series pickup truck. Since 1978, it has held the distinction as America’s most popular and best-selling vehicle for 43 consecutive years. Chances are, either you yourself own (or used to own) one, someone in your family, or one (or more) of your friends owns an F-Series truck. Even if none of those personally apply, you can probably look out your window and see an F-Series truck parked nearby. Ford sells more F-Series trucks than any other model in their entire corporate lineup. It’s the common, everyday vehicle for the common, everyday person. It has to be everything for everyone and it’s literally the lifeblood of Ford’s business model.

A photo of a 2019 Aston Martin DB11 AMR used to illustrate an example of a unique, individual custom design.

This is the Aston Martin DB11. Regarded by journalists and enthusiasts alike to be one of the world’s finest automobiles, the DB11 is the latest descendant of the 1948 2-Litre Sports and, most famously, the 1964 DB5 made famous in the 1964 James Bond film, ‘Goldfinger’. Fast forward to today, the Aston Martin DB11 sits in the upper echelons of design, mechanical engineering, automotive performance, and bespoke luxury. Virtually every aspect of an Aston DB11 can be custom made to order and many of these options are either handbuilt, hand stitched, or hand tuned. One can expect to pay heavily in order to obtain an example.

So, why the big price disparity and availability difference between the Ford F-Series and the Aston Martin DB11? Both vehicles carry people from point A to point B. Both vehicles have a steering wheel. Both vehicles have four wheels and an engine. All of that is true. However, the biggest glaring difference between the two is that the Ford is a mass-produced, high volume seller for the average everyday public and the Aston Martin is a limited-production, custom built, low volume halo model for only those with the desire and adequate financial backing to pilot what is, essentially, a private ultralux penthouse suite on wheels. The Ford F-Series truck, until very recently, utilized a rear suspension design that isn’t all that different from what can be found underneath an Amish horse-drawn carriage. The Aston DB11 was created using the latest in automotive art, science, and engineering, as well as technical data recorded on some of the world’s most challenging race courses. So, yes. They’re both technically passenger vehicles. The Ford does a good enough job for what it is. But you WANT the Aston Martin.

The approach to eCommerce websites is a lot like the Ford and Aston Martin comparison. Business owners who are either looking to break into the online retail market or those with an already-established presence on the Internet are faced with the decision to choose between going with a premade template or investing in a fully-customized website. Just as the Ford and the Aston are both technically passenger vehicles, a template and a custom website both serve the same purpose on a superficial level. Both types of websites can be used to promote and market your brand, sell product, and earn income but choosing one over the other can either negatively or positively determine the effectiveness of how you promote and market your brand, sell product, and earn income. Should you happen to be faced with this exact decision at the present, read on and learn more about the difference between website templates and custom web design and figure out which is best for your business.

Templates

A screenshot showing examples of popular free downloadable website templates.
Examples of downloadable free templates found on webflow.com.

Templates (and themes) are exactly what their names suggest: premade design templates and website themes that are readily available for immediate integration. They’re vastly abundant and extremely easy to find online. Many of these can be had for free or you can opt for your choice of paid premium templates/themes that incorporate advanced design attributes. Major eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify make use of premade templates and themes, as well as other web providers like Wix and GoDaddy. The largest is WordPress, which powers almost half of all the websites on the Internet. Templates and themes make it easy for even the non-tech savvy to design and launch a website by use of drag-and-drop or WYSIWYG editors. Alternatively, you can hire a professional developer or design studio to implement a template or theme into your website.

Some business owners prefer to use a templated website with very basic/stock design and functionality elements because the investment cost is lower, the development lead time is shorter, and it’s an overall faster way to get themselves online. The size of the business itself is also a deciding factor when choosing a templated website. Brand new online businesses or merchants with limited saleable product (such as a content creator or a business establishment where services are advertised as opposed to physical merchandise, like a doctor’s office, a physical trainer-for-hire, or a restaurant) may prefer to use a templated website as opposed to a custom website because their specific business needs may not require anything more.

Templated websites come with a pre-determined design layout and set functions. These can be expanded upon by means of third-party apps and integrations. However, each time an app, integration, or any other modification is made to the premade template, more coding adjustments will need to be made and each adjustment will require more programming downtime and bigger investments, regardless of whether you perform these yourself or hire a developer/agency to do them for you. Modifying a premade template or theme is essentially website customization and depending on how in-depth these modifications are, the investments may be even greater than choosing a fully-custom website in the first place.

With a web template, the likelihood of your website utilizing a familiar design or visual motif that’s virtually identical with hundreds of other companies is far greater. Just like how there are so many virtually identical Ford F-Series pickup trucks on any given road or parking lot.  

Custom Web Design

Homepage screenshot for the Pompeii3 website, designed by Diztinct. This website showcases a wide variety of custom design layout, coding and scripting, and specialized features that were requested by the client.
Homepage for Pompeii3, designed by Diztinct. This website showcases a wide variety of custom design layout, coding and scripting, and specialized features that were requested by the client.

A custom website gives you full creative control over the visual presentation, user interface/user experience, and functionality of your business’ website. Larger businesses, enterprise-level establishments, and major corporations use custom websites that are tailored specific to their respective sales, promotion, and marketing needs. To design and develop a custom website requires highly advanced coding skill and visual design aptitude; far greater levels than the bare minimum knowledge that’s necessary to operate a WYSIWYG editor. As is the case with templates and themes, the major eCommerce service platforms (like BigCommerce and Shopify) and the other web service providers will accept custom website programming and there are countless major design studios (like us) and independent web developers who specialize in this kind of work. Unless you yourself fit in this category or you’ve employed your own personal developer for this purpose, hiring a custom design firm will be required.

Screenshot of the Pompeii3 Instagram feed that's displayed on the company's homepage.
The Pompeii3 website incorporates a direct mirror to their Instagram feed, which further aids the company’s online brand awareness through social media.

Templates are intended to be used by anyone for almost any type of business. Custom websites, on the other hand, are built focused around the one particular company–your company. Your custom website can incorporate exact features that are specific only for your business and do away with unnecessary additional or redundant features that will never get used. Your custom website’s coding will be created specifically for your website; any overlap with another website will be limited to the absolute minimum. It is a cleaner, more efficient, and more effective way to create websites. Plus, custom websites carry the advantage of higher SEO ranks and the higher your SEO rank is, the better your chances are at higher conversions and strengthening your online presence.

It is most definitely true that a custom website will necessitate a larger investment in both cost and development downtime but the major payoff is that with customized coding, more attention is spent in every little detail of the process. This includes extensive debugging and testing to ensure solid, stable performance. Features and functions will be optimized, accessibility and compatibility on both mobile devices and desktop computers will be implemented, and every step of the development process will be finely inspected to meet your exact specifications. Another priceless advantage to be had with using a custom website and a professional custom web design team is that you will have access to troubleshooting and support should the need arise; a premade web template is, more or less, left out in the open by the original designer and the users are left to fend for themselves should something go south with their product. Third-party apps and integrations can also be incorporated into your custom site, although their necessity can be negated by programming the features/functions from the requested app directly into the website’s native code.

A screenshot of Pompeii3's product category page that showcases custom coding and layout.
Pompeii3’s product category page features customized dropdowns for product filtering to the exact item.

With custom web design, the sky’s the limit on how exactly you want your website to look and operate. Custom websites let your business and your brand stand out from the competition, much like the one lone Aston Martin DB11 in a parking lot full of run-of-the-mill Ford F-150s.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Web Templates

Advantages:

  • Readily-available, very easy to find free templates and themes online (there are also options to purchase premium design templates)
  • Lower investment cost, quicker to launch
  • Accepted by major eCommerce platforms and web service providers
  • Certain types of implementation can be done VIA a drag-and-drop editor or through WYSIWYG (depending on specific service)

Disadvantages:

  • Not ideal for companies with complex inventories and/or highly-detailed product category trees
  • Lack of unique identity; the likelihood of someone else using the exact same web template/theme for their website as yours is extraordinarily high–especially, if using a free template/theme downloaded from a popular source
  • Can be buggy; the probability for software conflicts and incompatibility increases with app, plugin, or integration that is added and stacked onto a premade template
  • Extra code/inefficient coding can slow down website loading times and performance, as is the case with standard features of the premade template that will never be used
  • By design, templates and themes are not SEO friendly
  • No direct user support
  • Easy target for hackers, code that is shared through various premade templates make it easier for hackers and cyber attacks to successfully hit your website and others using the same or similar template
  • If additional features are requested, the downtime and investment cost could equal or exceed what a custom website would’ve required from the get-go

Advantages and Disadvantages of Custom Websites

Advantages:

  • Ideal for eCommerce use of all fields, industries, and sizes of business
  • The best choice for establishing a unique identity, marketing and promotion; your website’s design will be constructed around your corporate motif or design schema
  • Unlimited options for design, presentation, UX, and website-specific features
  • Unlimited potential for business scalability and website modification; you can grow your website along with your business
  • Accepted by major eCommerce platforms and web service providers
  • SEO-friendly; the designer is creating your website with SEO in mind
  • Mobile-friendly (mobile devices are responsible for half of all web traffic)
  • No empty calories; your website’s code will be designed and optimized to incorporate only the features you want to use–without the unnecessary bloat of standardized features that would be found in a premade template
  • Availability of customer support – your hired developer/development team will be ready to assist you in the event that technical troubleshooting is required
  • Security – your hired design team will ensure PCI compliance and security against hacking and cyberattack

Disadvantages:

  • Longer development time is required
  • Due to the work involved, a custom website will cost more than a basic template/theme (unless the basic template/theme is modified so far beyond recognition and to the point where it actually becomes a custom website)

Who Would Be Better Off With a Web Template?

Web templates and themes are best suited for amateurs, eCommerce novices or beginners, and/or specific fields or industries that sell a particular service (or set of services) versus a full catalog of physical merchandise. Businesses on an extreme budget or brand new upstarts that aren’t yet ready to go all-in on a custom website might be able to get by for a limited time on a basic web template.

Who Would Be Better Off With a Custom Website?

Realistically, any business of any size would benefit from a custom website. Because a custom website removes the limitations of some anonymous designer’s premade template and opens the door for unrestricted design and functionality, as well as business growth and scalability. A custom website is the truly professional way to approach your eCommerce venture; where you as the business owner can imagine exactly what you want your website to look like, how it operates, how it presents your business and branding, and to best serve your customers and obtain brand new ones. On a strictly technical side, a custom website is far more stable and secure than a template because the coding can be streamlined to work within your business’ set parameters.

At Diztinct, we are eCommerce experts with over 15 years of experience in custom website design and development. We’ve designed and built websites and marketplaces for companies of all sizes; ranging from small independents to large corporations. Our work has been recognized and awarded by some of the top names in the eCommerce industry and we’ve had the privilege to work with globally-renowned companies and brands such as QVC, Clorox, Dickies, Crocs, and Dooney & Bourke among others. Diztinct also has the honor of being certified by BigCommerce and Shopify, two of the largest and most popular eCommerce service providers in the industry today.

We offer top notch design and development expertise as well as additional services to help you and your website convert more customers and sell more product. These can be purchased either as a complete website build package or à la carte. These include:

Search Engine Optimization

Websites that rank high with Google are poised for greater sales success. We’ll improve your website’s Google standings through keyword research and implementation, link remediation, and tags and metadata.

Marketing and Promotion

Promote your website, brand, and products through targeted ads, social media, blogging, content sharing, etc. We can also help you open a 3rd party marketplace for increased sales and greater exposure.

Inventory Management

Reorganize product categories/subcategories within the platform back-end, improve navigation, as well as scheduling sales promotions and coupon codes.

Graphic Design and Logo Design

Create custom logos and custom icons for your website as per your requests or give us the freedom to create. We also specialize in digital photo editing and retouching for products and other web images.

Are you ready to give your website and your business the Diztinct advantage over the competition? If so, let’s talk. Get in touch with us today and get ready to make your website work for you.

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