Web Design

Custom Website vs Website Templates: What Should You Choose?

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I am Jess! Ottawa brand strategist and website designer helping ambitious service-based businesses grow with confidence through meaningful design. I'm the type of gal that use one too many exclamation mark in my emails and can only have one cup of coffee a day. Weird, I know. If you ever want to chat any thing biz, branding, or well - life, feel free to reach out!

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Website templates are beginning to be more popular nowadays in the small business digital landscape. Is it the right option for your small business though? Today, I want to spend some day breaking down the pros and cons of a custom website vs website templates to help you make an informed decision.


In this day and age, having a website is crucial to running a business. While social media is a great way to connect and attract ideal clients, that’s just one piece of the sales journey puzzle. 99% of the time, said potential clients will most likely want to head over to your website to learn more about your services and business to see if you are the right fit for them.

A lot of thought and questions can arise from building a website. Aside from asking yourself which website platform is best or what technical tasks are involved, prioritizing design and experience are equally as important. Lucky for you, that’s what a website designer is here to help with!

Nowadays, they offer two specific services to get your website up and running: Website Templates and Custom Websites.

Let’s break it down.

What is a Template Website?

A template website (or as I like to call semi-custom website) starts with a pre-made template by a designer that you can purchase and install immediately on your website hosting platform, such as Showit, Squarespace, WordPress, etc.

I often recommend a template for small business owners who are in the early stages of their business (1-4 years) or if you require a fairly straightforward set-up. Let’s face it, not all businesses have a complex business model or structure and are just looking for a website to display exactly what they do and who they serve.

Pros of Website Templates:

  • Cost-effective: They range at a fraction of a price of a custom-designed website, usually ranging from $200 – $1500 depending on the platform, design, and complexity of the template.
  • What You See Is What You Get: You know exactly what the end results will look like, which is a great option for those who aren’t as visual or don’t want to have to second guess their site.
  • Gain Momentum: If you enjoy DIY, you have the ability to launch your website in just a couple of weeks and on your own time. No months of back and forth or dragged-out timelines.
  • Can Help You Get Organized: Since a template website is premade, you can essentially follow the structure of your purchased website template to create your content and swap out images, allowing it to be DIY-friendly for most small business owners.

Con’s of Website Templates:

  • Similarity In Design: Your website could look relatively similar (or even identical) in design compared to hundreds of small business owners, including some from your own industry. Depending on the purchased template and platform, you may also run into design limitations.
  • Not All Website Templates Are Created Equal: This is fairly important to note! Depending on the level of expertise of said designer, some templates may look pretty but are not responsive across all devices or optimized properly. Functionality and beauty need to co-exist and unfortunately, that may not be the case, which is why some templates are free or cost $200.
  • Lack User-Experience and SEO: Most website templates are built and designed for the masses so depending on the template you pick, it might not be fully optimized to your website goals and architecture. In addition, most templates probably did not think about SEO too much since that would be different for every client/industry that purchases the template.
  • Limited Support: Depending on the website template shop, you may not get the support you need to help build your website, which may require you to learn the platform on your own and figure out how to customize your template. With that said, however, there are website designers who now offer template customization as a service!

What Is A Custom Website?

A custom website is specifically built and designed for your business only. In my opinion, I recommend a custom website for small business owners who have been in business for 5+ years and are wanting to scale their business and elevate their client experience.

By working with an expert website designer, we have the ability to create a custom navigation experience that’s not only unique to you and your business but attracts ideal clients more effortlessly to help you stand out. In short, a good custom website can stir up emotions and build brand loyalty!

fun and colorful website mockup for wedding officiant
A fun, vibrant, and adventure-driven custom website for Lovely Day Events

Pros of a Custom Website

  • Strategy & Design Optimized: A custom website starts with strategy, which means going back to the basics of understanding your business goals and ideal client avatar (and journey!) in order to build a website that converts. A good website designer will take everything into consideration to build a solid framework and sitemap before jumping into the design.
  • One of a Kind: Your website is only unique to you and your business. Depending on your business and branding – No other business owner would have the same website as you! There is a level of personalization involved with designing a custom website that is a true reflection of your brand’s unique personality, identity, and positioning.
  • Hands-on Support: Not only do you not have to lift a finger during the development process but afterward, your website designer will walk you through how to update and maintain your website more effectively rather than you enrolling in YouTube University.

Cons of a Custom Website

  • Higher Investment: Custom websites require more time and attention, which means it does come at a higher price tag. Not only are you getting a unique website, you also have the expertise of a website designer who is optimizing your website for SEO (design-wise). In some cases, we also recommend working with a copywriter and brand photographer to complement your new website design as they work together like PB&J. Custom website design can range from $3,500 – $7,000 and even more.
  • Longer Timelines: Custom websites are more of a collaboration, meaning there will be questionnaires and meetings scheduled to ensure high quality of work. Most website designers also present website mockups prior to jumping onto the platform to build out the design. With that, it can be a longer timeline, ranging from 4-6 weeks, or more if you are investing in other complementary services.
  • Less Control On End Results: Based on the branding, copy & imagery you provide, the designer you choose to work with, as well as the website platform, the look & feel of your website could look slightly different than what you have in mind or even from the designer’s portfolio.

Custom Website vs Website Templates: Which Is Right For You?

Personally speaking, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer because everyone’s business is different.

I’ve seen businesses thrive using a website template OR a custom website.
I’ve also seen custom websites being mediocre and I’ve seen website template customization gone rogue.

Depending on your business, both options are better than having a DIY website or NOT having a website at all.

So the battle between a custom website vs website templates really comes down to where you want to take your business and your overall vision. Both options will get you to your goals – it just depends on what goals you have!

Posey Vera Website Template by Studio Crescent

At Studio Crescent, we recently launched a series of Showit website templates designed with beauty & functionality in mind. All templates are fully customizable and we include a resource how-to area to help out clients learn how to use their template! Not to mention, if you’ve any questions, just reach out and we are more than happy to help and troubleshoot your questions.

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