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Custom-built websites or templates: expectations and realities

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Does your next move involve creating or redesigning your website? If so, it’s time to ask yourself a few key questions before you set off on this exciting project. One of your first decisions should be to determine whether you want to use the services of a web designer or to rely on a pre-defined template.

And that’s a decision you shouldn’t take lightly! Did you know that you could lose over half of your clients if you use the wrong design or select one that doesn’t inspire confidence? So to help you with your decision, we’ve conducted an investigation of our own.

Saving time is not the same thing as saving money

There’s no doubt about it: ready-to-use website designs can save you precious time when you’re trying to get your company up and running and the clock is ticking. To give you an idea, designing a site based on a WordPress template can take anywhere from two to six weeks.

In contrast, you could find yourself waiting for several months before your custom-built site finally goes online. This includes time spent analyzing and searching for best practices, designing, prototyping, creating original content optimized for referencing and programming based on your proposed design and preferred features.

Clearly, for urgent projects and small budgets, the best solution is a template website. However, if you plan to make design adjustments to your site in the short term, the cost will be higher. Sometimes, it’s better to incur all your expenses up front, rather than dipping into your budget every now and then to save a few dollars.

Rely on originality to stand out

It is obvious that many templates are being downloaded and used by thousands of users worldwide. In this regard, these sites are victims of their own success.

Imagine for a moment that you just bought a Cadillac to impress your neighbours and co-workers. Your shiny new speed demon is sure to turn a few heads! But once you get to work, you realize that you weren’t the only one to have a brilliant idea: some of your colleagues even beat you to the parking lot with their own sporty new roadsters. In terms of originality, your neighbours and co-workers have already seen much better than another Cadillac…

The same goes for your website, pretty much. If your goal is to stand out from the crowd and present yourself as an original brand, your best choice would undoubtedly be to go for a custom-built website that is fully customizable.

Plus wouldn’t you feel a little embarrassed if one of your clients also downloaded and used the same template or images as you? Take a while to think that one over…

Customization

As you’ve no doubt heard, a custom-built site should be infinitely customizable (within standard constraints) with respect to design as well as features. In the end, the creative choices are only limited by your imagination.

Here’s the catch, though: modifying content may prove more difficult than expected if you plan to do it on your own. Depending on your objectives, a programmer dedicated to your site could define the content and even include a few easy-to-modify pages (e.g. team description, events, news, etc.), as opposed to the static pages, which would be programmed to be modifiable on demand.

Templates’ flexibility will come in handy if you plan to make regular modifications to the content of your site or blog.

However, if you rely on a template, the most difficult thing is “thinking outside the box” and adjusting the site’s pre-designed structure to match your graphic identity to a T. Also, if you get carried away modifying content, you might create errors on your site that could be difficult for a novice to correct.

What about security?

Despite their growing popularity, template websites do have a downside: they’re easy targets for hackers. Templates provide an opportunity to pirate multiple sites at once because they often use similar plug-ins (pieces of code that add specific features to the site).

Also, if you decide to go it alone, basic site maintenance and troubleshooting can prove much harder than necessary. For example, a major WordPress update might be installed to correct a security vulnerability identified in a previous version. In that case, you’ll have to hope and pray that your site model can accommodate the update. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see websites fall apart due to a single WordPress update.

In conclusion

Clearly, for large-scale projects, you are strongly advised to go with a custom-built design. You’ll have genuine flexibility and you’ll be able to transcribe your visual identity on the web exactly. Still, you should be aware that web design will require a more flexible budget and turnaround time than you’d need for a turnkey site. But that’s the price of success!

Whatever you decide, bear in mind that your website is not cast in stone and that you can make improvements and adjustments at any time.

We at Minimal believe that each project is unique and requires an honest-to-goodness digital strategy based on the objectives of each client. Please feel free to contact us! Working together, we will take all of your company’s needs into consideration, including costs, timing, employee skill level and overall brand strategy.