For the average person who’s interested in building a website, there are two options: hire a professional or choose a design template from the hundreds that are available online and get to work.
But is there any evidence that one type of site is more successful than another? Will shelling out for a professional designer improve your business outcome, or are template-based sites largely as effective as custom jobs?
In many ways, the answer appears to be mixed. A closer look at what distinguishes the performance of template-based from custom-designed websites reveals the pros and cons of each.
DIY: A Budget Benefit
If you seek to build a site on a tight budget, a template is obviously your best bet. Most site builders have free templates, as well as low-cost upgrades that offer an expanded set of features or more design options.
With a site builder, your biggest cost will likely be the fees for your domain and small add-ons such as e-commerce tools. It won’t be a very fancy site, but it’ll be enough to get you started if you want to operate a small shop or create a blog.
Building Your Brand
Branding can be a vital part of building a business, but if you choose to go the template route, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle in terms of expressing your company’s signature look. It’s just much easier to apply a color scheme and logos to a custom site because you can set the parameters.
If you want to be able to nitpick about the shade of blue in the site background or the size and placement of the brand logo, you’ll need to call a web designer.
A Creative Cookie Cutter
Whether you go with a template or hire a web designer, you can expect your site will bear some resemblance to those belonging to your competitors … but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Part of what makes websites easy to navigate is their resemblance to one another.
Take social media sites as an example. When Park West Gallery posts jobs on its LinkedIn profile, they’re formatted in the same way as job postings shared by the New York Times. It would be impractical for every page to reinvent the listing style and would probably confuse at least some of the users.
The same applies to individual site features such as menus or column format. Hundreds of recent sites feature hamburger menus now because they’re trendy, functional, and easily understood.
Amping Up Add-Ons
One of the reasons that bigger businesses tend to stay away from predesigned site templates is because the average template can’t support such features as CRM or user accounts. Any added functionality comes from plug-ins, which is an unreliable approach if you get hundreds or thousands of daily users.
When you consult with professional designers, on the other hand, they’ll ask you about your primary goals for your site. You tell them what you want it to do, and they’ll have the tools to make it happen.
By working with a designer, you give up the control that comes with a DIY approach but are more likely to center the needs of your business more effectively.
Every business has different needs when it comes to its website, so take some time to think about what you want — for your business and for your customers — before deciding whether to tackle the site design yourself with a template or hire a designer.
There’s no right answer, only the answer that’s going to be right for you.