A Custom Web Design vs. a Pre-Made Website Template: Which One is Right for You?

As they say, first impressions are everything. And since your website is oftentimes the first impression that people have of your company, it needs to be good. Correction: It needs to be remarkable.

I don’t know about you, but if a website is ugly, hard to use or outdated, I not only pass judgments on the company (what they are like and their capabilities), but more often than not, I will leave the site and go to one of the brand’s competitors instead.

Okay, so I’ll assume that we all agree on the importance of building a beautiful, easy-to-use and modern website. The question now remains: Should you go with a custom web design or a pre-made website template when building that beautiful website of yours?

Now, you might assume that, being a web development agency, we are going to tell you that you should most definitely go with a custom web design. Au contraire. In this blog post, we’d like to give it to you straight. We are going to share all of the factors that you should consider when making this choice, and for each factor, we will give an honest and unbiased evaluation of how a pre-made template compares to a custom design—so that by the end of this blog post, you will be able to make an educated and informed decision on what is best for your business.

So…are you ready to dive in?

Customization & Flexibility

Just as it sounds, a custom web design is going to be built around the needs of your business. The web developers that you work with will (presumably) have a solid understanding of your company’s branding, what you want your site to look like, and what you want to get out of your site, which means that the end result will be personalized to fit your marketing strategy. And if you want to make alterations along the way, as your strategy or branding changes, a web design team will be there to help you do that.

With a pre-made website template, on the other hand, you will only be able to customize a few things, such as the background color, the logo and header images. Also, the layout is not very adaptable to change, so what you see is pretty much what you get.

Ask Yourself: Do I want a unique page layout? Do I want my website to fit well with the branding of my business? Do I want to continue to build upon my website in the future? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are probably better off going with a custom web design.

The Winner: Custom web design


 If you go with a pre-made template, it’s safe to assume that there are other websites out there that look exactly like yours. Of course, you won’t have this problem with a custom design, since it will be built to look exactly the way that you want it to.

Ask Yourself: Do I care if my website design is not unique? Is this likely to affect my brand’s reputation or impact my bottom line? If not, then there might be no harm in choosing a pre-made template. But if originality and standing out from the crowd is important to your business, then you’ll want to stick with a custom web design.

The Winner: Custom web design

Presentation & User Experience

In similar fashion, a custom web design will be the way to go if you want to create a high-quality presentation and user experience for your website visitors. A pre-made website template might be preferable, however, if image isn’t an important part of your business.

Ask Yourself: What kind of service or product am I selling, and what expectations do my website visitors have when they are coming to my site? Is image an important part of my brand? Do my customers and clients have high expectations when they come to my site?

If you’re selling lifestyle products or software, for instance, your website visitors are probably going to judge you based on your website. Presentation and user-experience are therefore probably going to be high priorities (or should), and you will probably want to go with a custom web design. If, on the other hand, you are a personal trainer or a consultant, your website visitors might not really care what your website looks like, and a pre-made website template might fit your needs just fine.

The Winner: Custom web design

Custom Functionality 

To put it simply, functionality is how a user interacts with your site. A pre-made website template can provide a decent amount of functionality, but it’s not going to be customized to fit your exact needs. Meanwhile, a custom web design allows users to perform a certain action on your site that generates a result unique to your business or process. For instance, let’s say your business is an e-commerce site devoted to selling energy drinks. With a custom web design, you might have options at checkout for your users to create their own customized energy drink. With a pre-made website template, this sort of thing would not be possible.

Ask Yourself: Do I want a website that has customized functionality and makes the user experience as easy and personalized as possible? If so, then you will probably want a custom web design. If you are okay with a limited, less customized functionality, then a pre-made website template could fit your needs just fine.

The Winner: Custom web design


If you are on a tight budget, a pre-made template might be the way to go. The downside to custom design is of course that the starting price is much higher, typically ranging from $6,000 to $20,000, depending on your needs and desired outcome. Of course the more pages, forms and templates you have, the more costly the web design will be.

Ask Yourself: What’s my budget? How much do I want to spend on my website? If the answer is “not much,” then you’ll probably be limited to a pre-made template.

The Winner: Pre-made website template 

Speed of Delivery

Another upside to a pre-made website template is that they can be implemented right away, whereas a custom web design takes typically 14 weeks from start to finish.

Ask Yourself: Do I need to have a website up and running right away or within the next few weeks? If that’s the case, then you’ll have to go with a pre-made website template.

The Winner: Pre-made website template 

The Verdict

To put it simply, a custom web design is like having an architect construct a house for you. A pre-made website template is like going with a prefabricated or modular home. Whether you go with a pre-made template or a custom web design will depend on a number of factors, such as what type of business you have, who your target is and what your needs are.

For certain businesses with basic needs, a pre-made template does the job just fine, and the capabilities provided by a custom web design might not have a big impact on the bottom line. Think: A hair stylist who wants to build a website composed of just a few pages, where she can share her availability, contact information, and portfolio.

If you just want to build a website that shares information about your business, and if you don’t need much flexibility or customization in the design creation, nor do you anticipate many changes down the line, then it’s likely not worth it to invest money in a custom web design.

But if your business needs require an original website with more highly customized functionality, excellent presentation, or if you want your website to grow along with your business, then there’s no question that you will want to choose a custom web design.

Think about what kind of business you are and what your audience will expect when coming to your site. I’ll be honest: If I were to stumble upon the website of a SaaS (software-as-a-service) business, for instance, and find that it’s some cookie-cutter design or it isn’t modern or professional, I am not going to spend long on that website. I’ll assume that if the business isn’t intentional about their website, then they probably aren’t intentional about a lot of other things either.

If you decide that a pre-made template fits your needs best, make sure that you get one that is mobile-responsive. Sure, it will cost you a bit more. But with 56% of traffic coming from mobile, having a mobile-responsive website is of the utmost importance.

You should also choose a template that comes from a web design agency; this is a much safer bet than just choosing a random one off of WordPress or SquareSpace, since you will at least have people available who can help you customize the template as much as possible and be there should any issues with the template arise.

But if it sounds like you need a custom web design, we’d love to help. And whether you go with us or not, we’ve got some awesome Coming Soon templates for you to choose from while you’re waiting for that website to be built.

And if, after reading this, you’re still unsure about what to do, pick up the phone and give us a call or request a free consultation. Tell us everything. We will do an honest (and free) evaluation of your business and help you determine what is the best fit.