Is Custom Web Design Worthwhile?

A custom web design is often expensive, and sorting the good designers from the bad can be a challenge. There is an alternative, in the form of high quality templates designed for use on business websites. They can save you money and take away the risk of getting a design you don’t like.

We’re going to look at what templates are and which route is right for your business.

What Are Templates?

Templates are designs which govern the overall look of a site. A designer will create one design, and sell that to many different users. Many of these templates include several color schemes, some customization options – and can be altered further by a professional. Once you setup the options and include your content/pictures/logo, a person can probably still tell what template you started with, but your site is not going to look exactly like others based on the same design. There are many great looking business templates:

Corporate Theme by Studio Press Optimize by Woo Themes Agency Theme by StudioPress

You would probably be surprised how many websites are based on a commercially available theme. The site you’re reading is one (based on this theme).

WordPress, Templates, and Themes

The rise of WordPress as a near-standard system for small (and many large) websites makes the whole template process easier. I’m going to focus on using templates with WordPress, because I think it’s the only way you should do it. WordPress templates, called themes, can be quickly and easily switched out via a convenient theme selection menu:

Wordpress Theme Select Screen

This menu means you can easily try a variety of themes, and when you want to upgrade your website, there’s no need to do everything all over again. Just choose a new theme and your entire site’s design changes. WordPress also makes it easy for theme designers to include an options menu, which can allow even novices to customize a theme.

Why Use a Template For Your Site?

There are three main reasons:

  • It’s cheaper
  • It can be easier
  • It’s often just as effective

Templates are clearly cheaper than most custom design. High-quality templates with commercial support generally run less than $100, and there are also a large number of free WordPress themes. Once you have a theme you need hosting – you can easily get high-quality, easy WordPress hosting from Page.ly for $14.95/month.

In addition to being cheaper, using a template is often easier than finding a good designer. There are a huge number of web designers, at a bewildering array of prices, making it hard to know who is going to do a good job. With a template, you know beforehand basically what you’re getting. For help with actually setting up the site and making customizations, you can use WP Help Center or a company from this list.

As for effectiveness, template designs are often just as good as custom designs at converting visitors into leads and sales. This will vary based on the template/designer you’re comparing, but there’s no penalty for using a pre-made design. Either way, the money saved could easily be devoted to split-testing, which will likely be more beneficial than a custom creation.

What’s the Downside?

There’s one main downside:

  • Branding issues

The problem with a template design is that if you have an established brand, the site will not be designed to perfectly fit that image. You can include your logo, and find a template that uses your colors, but if need a very particular look, custom design will be the only way to get it. There is also a small chance that someone (particularly web designers) may realize your site is based on a template – if you’re sensitive to this, then custom may be the way to go.

Getting Started

If you’re sold on the idea of using a template, how do you get started?

First off, you’ll need some WordPress hosting. I highly recommend going with either WordPress.com itself (which is free but limits you, most severely by not allowing commercial themes) or Page.ly, which is hands-down the best WordPress hosting for non-techies.

Next you’ll need to pick a theme. To browse some of the available options, check out the free themes in the WordPress directory, or look at Woo Themes and Studio Press, two providers of high-quality commercial themes.

Finally, you’ll need to start installing your content. You can look at my guide to setting up a free WordPress business site for more on finishing the process.

And if you really want a custom design? I’d suggest asking around for a recommendation, or checking out the Sortfolio.

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3 Responses to “Is Custom Web Design Worthwhile?”

  1. smallbizshift September 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Is custom web design worthwhile?
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. sunnydayads September 23, 2010 at 1:58 am #

    RT @smallbizshift: Is custom web design worthwhile?
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. Assurance santé December 5, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    Lors de la conception d’un site web, se baser sur les modèles préexistants est une bonne idée lorsqu’on n’a pas beaucoup de créativité ou que l’on ne souhaite pas dépenser beaucoup trop d’argent.

    Lise