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Template or custom website design – which one to choose?

4. August 2016.

Once you have decided to improve functionality and/or aesthetics of your existing website or create a brand new, you will have to choose between a template design (available for free on the internet) or a customized design developed to suit the specific needs of your business profile. A way to solve this dilemma is by asking yourself the question – what is it that my clients will find on the website once they start navigating?

In BRIGHT, a full-service digital agency, we get asked these questions on a daily basis. For your interest and for the sake of our professional development, we want to share some of our experience in dealing with typical problem situations our clients face with website designs.

Time and again we hear from our potential clients that beautifully designed websites are pricey. We want to argue that this assumption may be false, especially if the website is seen as a highly sophisticated marketing and profit-making tool.

The estimates for designing a website will vary depending on various factors such as the artistic design, the types of functionalities, the web content, the layout specifications, navigation options etc. It is therefore important to identify, right from the beginning, what aspects of usability and utility are paramount and, based on these decisions, create a web design that best serves the purpose.

So, how are template designs different from custom website designs?

A template design is a ready-made platform (or CMS – a content management system) for building websites available for free or for sale on various internet sites.  A custom-made website design, however, is designed and produced to suit each particular client’s needs in terms of website functionality and the corporate image (that in many cases is created, enhanced or completed while developing the website). Most of this ‘first level’ work is done by our corporate client manager, technical manager, project manager and graphic designer. Based on design and functionality specifications, our ‘second-level’ team, the IT programmers, provide software solutions for implementing the above specifications.

Some features of template designs can be adjusted to a certain extent to suit specific needs (such as colour variation, content layout and navigation options etc.) while the template itself is a standardized platform with a set of uniform, built-in components.

We invite you to have a look at three problem situations described below and see if they provide answers to questions you may have had (and possibly still have) about your own website. We all think (and rightly so) that our case is unique but we, at BRIGHT, believe there are a number of problems we all seem to encounter irrespective of our distinct needs, taste and circumstances.

Problem situation 1

Our website will contain just the contact info and perhaps some

Emerging companies usually do not want to invest in sophisticated websites as they do not intend to use the website for e-commerce and marketing purposes. Their website will contain just the very basic information like contact info, a brief description about the company profile etc. Given the above specifications, BRIGHT project managers would recommend to choose a template website design. It will provide a platform for building a simple low-cost website and make your company visible on the internet.

Problem situation 2

We want to show we are the best

In this situation the client can usually give a clear answer to the question: what is the purpose of your website? The website will be designed for specific business purpose such as advertising, prospect generation, direct sales, business-to-business sales, customer support, education or other. Once the purpose of the website is defined and so is the target audience, developing the content, layout and functionalities is matter of choosing the best options from multiple alternatives and tailoring the web design to best suit the purpose. The process of developing such custom-made website obviously requires an effective communication between the service provider (a digital agency) and the client about the visual aspects of the brand, the professional values the brand seeks to communicate, the business strategy, the strong and weak sides of the product the client seeks to market as well as the expectations by the target audience (although often hypothetical, they mark the direction). This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg and only a team of expert professionals can do the work of this kind. Needless to say, templates do not provide platforms for building websites with such specific and complex features, therefore a custom-made website is the only optimal solution for our problem situation.

Problem situation 3

Our website will help us earn money

If the company wants to develop a website containing such sophisticated functionalities as e-commerce, application forms with the option to save and process the data, specific layout of banners and other innovate features, a custom-made web design will be the only reasonable solution. This problem situation is perhaps the most complex of all because the website for such businesses is a moneymaking tool – very much like a ‘non-human resource’. Websites for such purposes require specific design that is tailored to the business needs in order to market the product, strengthen the brand and, most importantly of all, provide software functionalities that offer best solutions for online financial transactions.

The website is your company’s digital identity

If your company has high expectations for brand presentation and you are looking for a truly unique experience, a custom design website will be your best choice. A custom-made design will provide for all advanced functionality your project needs as well as for customization and control to develop the website further and enhance your business performance. However, you may want to choose a template design website if you are on a restricted timeline, you need something simple and online visibility is your main goal.

We hope our experience at BRIGHT will help you to weigh the pros and cons of custom designed and template web designs. Building a website is unarguably a big step towards your company’s increased ‘visibility’ therefore it is crucial that you make the right decisions.

Most readers of our blog will agree that the website is the company’s digital identity. A professionally built website will become an enduring source of information and increase the total value of the business. It will also bring people back to the website again and again.

We, at BRIGHT, strongly believe that all businesses, professionals and bloggers will benefit from beautiful websites. We also believe that high quality and professionalism is the result of intelligent effort.

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