Custom HTML Websites vs Template Sites

We’ve been doing a good amount of web design and development in the past couple weeks here at Render Perfect, and some questions have arisen from our clients that sparked a great conversation, thus giving us the idea for this blog post!

Custom Designed Website or Template Site? If you are thinking about creating a new site or re-designing your own webpage, this may be a question you’ve asked yourself at some point. It’s a good question, and both should be considered when you’re in this early stage of design. A client of ours was faced with the same question recently and we helped her make a decision, which turned out to work well.

Before telling you our recent success story with our web marketing client, i’ll give you a brief description of Custom Websites and Template Websites, and exlain the differences between the two.

Template-Based Websites

A website “template” is basically a pre-designed website that you would purchase, and then insert your own content into. You have almost no control over the design (aside from initially choosing it), and most of the time CMS’s will not let you make changes to their pre-designed web templates. You can insert your own text, images, videos (sometimes), and apps (sometimes), but have little control on how it is laid out.

The benefits of template-based websites is that they are cheaper (initially) to setup than custom designed websites.  Also, they don’t take as long to create as a HTML website design, because (you guessed it!) they are pre-designed. These might be great reasons for choosing a template-based site, and they may work fine for you, but in our experience, they’ve given us nothing but trouble.

Custom HTML Website Designs

A “custom” website is one that has been designed specifically for your brand or company (agreed upon with you and the design company you choose). You get a say in how it’s laid out, what colors are used, what fonts are used, what apps are integrated, etc. Basically, you can have a design team make a website look and function any way you’d like.

The benefits of having a web design company create you a completely custom site to match your brand are limitless in our opinion here at Render Perfect. They are designed with your brand in mind, with you telling the web design company exactly what you’d like! Even if you aren’t sure, most design firms can come up with a handful of preliminary designs (made specially for you) for you to pick and choose from. Also, custom designed HTML websites have much more expandability than template-based sites. If your business or brand grows exponentially after a certain amount of time, you should be thinking about expanding your reach on the web to attract even more visitors or potential customers. With template based sites, you’re stuck with whatever pre-designed templates they have to choose from, and have no say in adding new features or functionality for your users.

One of the most important benefits to HTML websites is being able to transfer your whole entire site to a new host (if ever necessary). With template sites, you are stuck on the host of whoever sold you the template, and if you want to switch to a new host, you’ll have to choose a new design when you get there, because the previous host owned that template! (nerve-racking, indeed!)

A Little Success Story With One of Our Clients –

Just recently, we had a client that was using a “drag-n-drop” or “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) editor to edit content on their template based site. She wasn’t doing terrible with her traffic or anything, but we definitely saw some room for improvement. We took a look at the code this site editor was producing, and it looked mangled to say the least. There were all sorts of unnecessary code snippets, and a whole bunch of stuff that she didn’t need being inserted into her pages.

Also, she complained that she had ideas to reorganize some of her content to improve the site’s design and functionality, but couldn’t accomplish exactly what she wanted using the “wysiwyg” site editor. We understood her problems and concerns instantly after taking a look at the editor she was using and the code it produced. (Messy!)

What we did for her was recreated her web site, using the exact same design hand coded with HTML instead of using the editor she had bundled in with her web hosting. It was amazing how much smaller in file size the pages had become when we were finished. We had cut the code in half for each of her pages, causing the page load speed and the site performance to increase almost immediately. We also reorganized some of her content into a more understandable, easily navigable design which (in theory) should increase her visitor flow and decrease her bounce rate. (Because her visitors were now able to easily find the information they were looking for instead of searching for a little then giving up.)

Regardless of whether you choose a template-based website or a custom HTML website design, always keep your visitor in mind. There’s a couple of questions you should always ask yourself when considering your web design:

  • “If I came to this site, would i be able to find what I’m looking for?”
  • “Does it look professional and trustworthy?”
  • “What set’s this site design apart from any other?”

If you can answer those questions positively, you’re in good shape!