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Are Custom Web Design Services Worth It?
12 Reasons When To Consider Them.
And When Are They A Waste Of Time

Is custom web design worth it? Do you need to spend a lot of money buying custom web design services or is unnecessary?

The short answer is this: if you're on a tight budget or have a close deadline - then probably you don't need it.

On the other hand, if you need a special website, I highly advise you consider it.


With that said, you need to have a clear goal for your website in the first place.

Is going to be a pillar of your marketing efforts?

Do you need any kind of unique functionality?

Without having a clear goal and strategy, it's going to be hard for you to decide if you need to invest your money into a custom website.

12 Pros of Designing a Custom Website

So let's break apart all this mystery.

Let me give you 12 reasons why doing a custom website might be a good idea.

Before we start, I just want to clarify one thing. I am fully aware that most of the points that will be mentioned below can apply to a template based solution. However, they will very likely require a lot of time and effort to implement therefore nullifying the main advantages of a template based approach to build a website: short timeframe and small budget.

1. Built Around Your Business Needs

Here is the problem with a template based design: you're trying to "fit" your business into the frames of a template.

In other words, you're trying to adjust the needs and strengths of your business to adjust to the template.

If you select this approach, you might be limiting your success.

Think about your marketing for a second.

Do you agree that it is important to differentiate yourself from others?

I bet that you do.

Just imagine what if one of your competitors have built a website using a similar theme.

I know it's very unlikely, but still...

How do you expect to stand out in the minds of your customers?

It would definitely be more challenging.

2. Fully Customizable

There are so many templates out there. 

Many of them offer a lot of blocks and pieces that you can use: home pages, contact forms, maps, FAQ sections, testimonial carousels and so on.

And they serve their purpose in most cases.

But what if you need a custom interactive map of the United States:

Custom interactive map on a website

So when a user clicks on a particular state, it zooms in and shows the cities in that state.

Why you might want that kind of a map?

Well, what if you have multiple locations in the US.

And you need to display custom information about each one of them.

That might be tricky to do with a regular Google Map, especially if that information includes like a photo gallery or videos.

If that's the case, your template is very unlikely to offer that kind of widget.

And this is just one use case. There can be tens or hundreds of them.

Sometimes when you buy a template you don't know what pieces might be required down the road.

To avoid this issue you need to make sure that you've planned out every and you have a very clear vision in advance.

That is not the case with a custom web design. 

You can count on your developer or agency to build something like this for you.

3. Unique

I've touched this point earlier when I wrote that a website has to built around your business needs.

But it's worth elaborating on this.

When going with a template instead of buying custom web design services, you will face this dilemma:

On one hand, you want to buy a good reliable template while you still want your website to be unique.

Well, how would you determine if a template is reliable?

You'll probably look for a one that is popular and has many positive reviews, right?

Well, guess what. The more purchases the template has - the more websites are using it.

And that increases the change of your website being perceived as "just one of the many" instead of being "the only one".

I hope you get the point.

4. Better User Experience

User experience is extremely important for your website to generate leads and convert them into customers.

Here are a few problems that you might encounter when you have a template based website.

Number 1. The website structure and behavior are defined by the template. 

This means that some of your pages or sections might not be easily accessible with 1-2 clicks.

It might also mean that you want to have video testimonials on your website, but your template only allows for a text version.

Or maybe you want to have a custom checkout process on your e-commerce website, but the template might limit you.


Number 2. Your template has a bug or it doesn't look well across all the browsers and devices.

So now what?

You potentially have 3 options: 

  1. Contact a developer who created the template and ask to fix that bug for you. Some templates offer support for a premium price while others don't. If your's doesn't you might be stuck,

  2. Ask your own developer to work on it which might be very time-consuming in some cases and you might have to pay for it,

  3. Do nothing about it and damage your user experience

All these kinds of problems can easily occur during any development cycle.

Not to say that they can't happen if you've paid for a custom web design service, but then you have a guarantee that your service provider will fix it.

And if you a got a flat price for a project from your vendor, you will not have to pay for it.

If you buy a template, you don't always have that option.

5. Higher Security Levels

It goes without saying that security is extremely important for any website that has sensitive data on it.

If you are collecting people's personal information like names or emails (which most websites do), 

or you have some kind of a payment system integrated into your website - you have to be EXTREMELY careful about it.

If that's the case, there is one problem with the template based website.

Let's say it's a WordPress theme that you've purchased.

These themes usually come along with a bunch of plugins that help extend the functionality.

While these plugins serve a good purpose, they might cause security issues for hackers to exploit.

That's why you've got to be very careful when you buy a theme. You have to make sure that all the plugins were built by a good and reliable developer.

6. More Flexible for SEO

When it comes to SEO, there are so many factors that play a role.

A lot of them are a part of the on-page SEO optimizations.

Things like loading speed, user experience on mobile and tablet devices, internal linking, AMP pages or rich snippets are all a part of it.

That's when many of these templates can be limited.

Let me go over some of these one-by-one:

  1. User experience on mobile and tablet. Since mobile devices have much less screen space, it might be a good idea to hide certain parts of a layout to make it more readable.
    Why is this important for SEO? Because you want to make sure people stay on your page as long as possible. If they won't, it will tell Google that your content is probably not good enough and you'll have a hard time ranking on the first page.

  2. AMP Pages. AMP pages are essentially simplified versions of a page on a website that Google indexes and shows to users on mobile devices. In order to have an AMP version of your page, you have to do some coding to create it. Why can this be hard with templates? Because if your template is not good, has a lot of unnecessary html and css code, it will be very time consuming for your developer to pick the most important bits and pieces of that page and put them into an AMP version.

  3. Rich Snippets. Rich snippets are like an extended version of a page from your website that Google shows in search results.
    Whenever you search for something and see not just a simple block with title and description, but also a list of company services, its reviews and other pieces of information - those are rich snippets.
    How do you get them? Well, you have to add a special piece of code to your web page so that Google understands your content better.
    Why is easier to achieve with a custom web design? Because you have full control over the code. And when developing the website, your developer will structure his code in a way that is easier to add rich snippets to it.

7. Scalability

This point is especially valid when it comes to bigger projects like software, not just a small website.

You see, when you're using a theme, it can be a bottleneck if you're want to scale the project.

What do I mean by scaling?

Basically 2 things - you want to add a lot of features to your project or you want to have a high volume of users on the website.

If you take a look at some big websites like Yelp, Airbnb, Amazon - they are all built using a custom-tailored solution.

And even a lot of smaller ones like government websites, for example, fall into that category.

Why?

Because as you will try to scale your project, you will definitely run into problems.

And those things can be extremely hard and time-consuming to overcome when your template is limiting you.

It is much better to start from scratch with a custom solution than to have to combat those issues.

8. Better Performance

Having good performance and fast load times is ABSOLUTELY crucial for any kind of website.

It doesn't only impact your SEO game, it can also be a huge difference maker when it comes to getting leads and clients.

According to Matt Schmitz from Dotcom-Monitor

“75% of all users will typically bounce as page load time passes the 3-second mark.”

That's insane... but it makes perfect sense.

People are extremely impatient these days and no one likes to wait.

That's where a custom website design excels if done by a professional.

When using this approach, your developer will only write code that is used and necessary for your website.

Let me explain.

You see, all the modern templates out there have to be flexible.

This means they have to provide a lot of components and widgets so that they can be used for various kinds of websites.

For example, your website may not need a photo gallery but another one may.

That's why a lot of templates have to account for the user needs.

A website theme is almost like a menu in a restaurant - it has all these options that you may not want or need.

And that's great, but it comes with its price.

And the price is a lot of redundant code that is not needed.

This usually comes in a form of huge CSS and JavaScript files.

Those things will have a big impact on website loading time and overall performance which is especially crucial for larger projects.

9. Potential For a Higher ROI

I assume that if you read this, you are probably looking for a small custom website rather than a complex one.

And you probably already know that these kinds of websites have one common goal - get leads and customers.

How do you do it?

Usually with some kind of a free lead magnet that you give your visitors in exchange for their email.

These can come in different forms: e-books, quizzes or a video course.

Now think about this for a second: you want to have a video course as your lead magnet but your template doesn't have that functionality built in.

What do you do?

Do you adjust to what your template provides?

And change your lead magnet?

Well, then your conversion rates may not be as high. 

A series of educational videos might be something that your audience prefers than a simple e-book.

Or maybe you'll use an external landing page for that purpose?

That's fine, but then you run into another issue - people are leaving your website.

All these things can limit the amount of money you make from your website.

On the other hand, with custom web design you have full control of how you want your lead magnets to work.

Yeah, it takes more time from a developer to build it.

But if it will result in much better results, is it worth it?

It's up to you to decide.

Me personally? I would go for it. 

10. Credibility and Authority

Now, let me ask you this: does the way you present your brand impact your credibility and authority in the eyes of your customers?

Does your brand look more professional if your website looks unique and performs well?

I bet it does.

Take a look at these 2 websites of business coaches:

Business coach - custom web design vs template

Without knowing much about these people - which one would you trust more?

The one on the left side or the one on the right?

Who do you think works with high-end clients and delivers better results?

I don't know. But if I had to choose, I would say it's a person who's on the left.

That's my point.

Having a custom website tailored to your brand can significantly amplify your authority.

11. Easier Integrations with Third Party Services

Let's say you need to integrate your website with a third party service, like Google Maps API.

I want to share one of my personal experience here.

So I had been working on one project for a company that sells Christmas trees in the whole country.

And they had this special form on their website where you could input your city or location and the radius to perform a search. 

And once you submit the form, it would find all the stores in that city within a given radius.

This module was integrating with Google Maps API.

And it was developed by me from scratch.


Now, the question is how many templates have a similar piece of functionality?

My guess is that only a few out of thousands.


Maybe in your case, you want a custom integration with MailChimp and Hubspot.

So let's say when a user opts in for a lead magnet he's automatically added to your MailChimp list and Hubspot contact.

And on top of that, you want to automatically tag that user in your Mailchimp list.

Whatever the case may be, it will probably require a developer to implement this custom logic.

And what's the advantage of having a custom web design vs a pre-built theme?

It's that with a custom web design you can structure your code the way that you need.

And it's less likely that you'll run into what I call a "plugin hell".

12. Work With a True Professional

This one might be a bit controversial, but I think it's still worth mentioning it.

When you go with a custom web design, you automatically eliminate most low level and unprofessional vendors.

Why?

Think about it: would you rather work with someone who has the skills and experience building custom websites?

Or just with someone who just knows how to install a WordPress theme and only do some minor changes to it?

The first ones will have much more experience. 

If something is wrong, they can fix it because they are professionals at what they do.

They also have much more expertise and can consult you about the best solution for your problem.


Conversely, people who don't have that much experience and only specialize in installing ready to go themes can be less reliable.

Why?

Many of them simply don't have the skills to fix a more complex issue or a bug on your website when it occurs. 


When Are Custom Web Design Services a Waste of Time

Now that we know what are the main advantages of a custom web design, let's talk about the disadvantages of this approach.

In my experience there 3 reasons why a template-based website can be a better choice.

So let me go over them step by step.

1. Budget

It goes without saying that custom web development will be a more expensive option.

The reason is that it requires more work and attention to your project from your service provider.


If you're interested in learning more about this subject - check out our ultimate guide to website pricing

If you are curious how much would a custom web design project cost you, I would have to say that prices range like crazy.

But from my experience, on average you can expect to pay anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000 for a corporate website for your business.

That's assuming you're working with a small or medium agency in a country with an advanced economy like Canada, US or Australia.

For a template based solution, I would say that the price is likely going to be somewhere in between $3,000 to $10,000.

So if you're working on a smaller budget - you might abandon the custom approach altogether.

2. Time

The second most important factor is time.

If your main objective is to do something very quickly and you're even ready to sacrifice the quality a bit - custom web design is not for you.

You can get the job done much faster with a template. 

But please keep one thing 1 mind: plan your website structure before you buy a template.

If you don't do this, you might find yourself in a situation that your template doesn't fit your needs and you'd have to either modify it heavily or buy another one.

And neither of these will save you time in the long run.

3. Your Needs

The 12 advantages of a custom website that I've written about earlier mostly apply to high-end brands or more complex solutions that require custom functionality.

Or even websites that work like a software.

If you need a landing page to quickly start generating leads, then Clickfunnels or Unbounce is probably the best way to go as they're built just for those purposes.

Another use case might be a simple blog.

If you love animals and you want to write about it - then you don't need to pay that much money for a tailored website.

The best solution for you might be using WordPress to create a simple blog in under an hour.

Or maybe you don't even need to own a website.

Maybe Medium is your best choice.

Who knows, you'll have to try it out.

Conclusion

As you can see, custom website development has many advantages and disadvantages.

The general rule of thumb is this: if you want something very simple and quick - go with a template based solution.

If your project is a complex one, you need a tailored solution that requires a lot of attention - a custom website should be your choice.


I hope this article was helpful to you.


PROGMATIQ is an international web design company and we would love to talk to you about your project.


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