At Costello Creative Group, we offer branding services for small business in the chemical, flavor and fragrance industry as well as other non-chemical sectors. We also develop creative solutions for growth-minded Clients to solve their communication and marketing challenges with projects such as responsive websites, product packaging, trade show exhibits, advertising, and sales and marketing collateral among other things.
When we work with Clients on their website project, oftentimes we get questions from them inquiring if it’s OK to use an off-the-shelf template for a website project in order to save money. The short answer is, ‘Yes,’ but let’s dig in a bit further.
Difference Between Custom-built and Template Websites
One of the main features of websites today is a Content Management System (CMS) that allows the site owner to quickly and easily make updates and changes to the site’s content without needing technical skills. There are many options for a CMS, but one of the most popular is WordPress.
With a CMS, you can choose to use a template—a premade ‘theme’ bought off the shelf—or decide to have a custom site where everything is built from scratch to match your company’s brand and to add all the functionality you desire.
How Do You Decide Between a Template and a Custom-built Site?
Your particular needs will help you determine if a template or a custom-built site is the best for your needs. Here are some things to consider:
Maturity of your Business
As a small business ourselves, that offers branding services for small business, we understand the pressures when first launching your company. Today, it’s imperative to have an online presence; however, as is often the case when just starting out, all the pieces you’d like to have in place such as branding development, clarity on product or services offerings and more aren’t yet there when you first open up for business.
An off-the-shelf template for your website might make sense in this scenario. It allows you to have an online presence without the time and financial investment of a custom-built site in the early months of your business.
A custom-built site takes longer to design and develop than when you use a pre-made template. If your business is in a situation where time is critical—maybe your original site was hacked and you need an online presence while you custom-build a replacement website—a template is a good choice. If you’re an existing business, getting a website restored is paramount for consistency with your audience as well as your revenue stream.
We work with our Clients to determine a website project scope that works within their timeline and budgets. In some instances, a company’s budget doesn’t allow for a bespoke website design. For companies on a tighter budget, an off-the-shelf template that allows for some customization is likely the best way to go.
If you need a ‘mini’ site for a special event or ancillary product line, an off-the-shelf template might be effective for your needs. A template would allow you to create an online presence for these purposes while minimizing your time and financial investment.
If your business doesn’t require complex integrations and functionality in a website, and really just needs a website to convey your company’s marketing message and services similar to a brochure, an off-the-shelf template could serve your needs quite effectively. Not every business needs all the bells and whistles available with a custom-built website.
Understand the Limitations of a Templated Site
Before you decide on an off-the-shelf template for your website project, it’s important to consider the limitations to make sure that you can still achieve your goals if you opt for that route.
Design and functionality constraints
There is limited freedom for design innovation with a templated website and it is likely that your website would resemble several others in the marketplace. You might end up with a more ‘generic’ look than you would prefer. A templated site also may have functionality barriers to overcome or you might not be able to add the functionality you desire without significant development investment.
As updates are rolled out, your template might not be able to accommodate them. This could lead to broken functionality on your site with no way to fix it. Template creators won’t always continue to maintain them to work well with plug-ins and other integrations and the result of updates could mean it breaks your site.
Difficult to find support
When your site breaks for any reason or you decide you want to update something that requires more than accessing the CMS, it can very very challenging to find the support you need with a templated site. Some templates can have low-quality coding as well.
Since many templates weren’t created with SEO mind, they may not allow for best SEO practices and, more importantly, the constantly evolving ways to optimize your site for the best ranking on search engines. Your site could also be negatively impacted if it uses the same theme as a site that has been identified as a ‘spammy’ site.
When to Consider a Custom-Built Website
If you’re ready to take your business to the next level and you know it has staying power, it’s time to consider a custom-built website. If you developed a comprehensive brand and brand strategy with a professional design firm, you don’t want to be boxed in by an off-the-shelf template either.
It’s important to let that brand design do what it was intended to do. Additionally, if you have an e-commerce business that requires higher-level functionality than a template site provides, it likely requires a custom-built site.
You Don’t Have to Decide on Your Own
If we got you to think about all of the choices to be made and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry—you don’t have to decide on your own what’s best for your business. Schedule a 15-minute complimentary project assessment with Costello Creative Group to go over your options.
To catapult the success of your website project, we invite you to download our Free Checklist.