Not all websites are made to be equal. Some are built using pre-existing themes and templates, and others are custom built from the ground up. Knowing what you’re getting before kicking off the project is the most important thing. All too often, we see companies compare apples to oranges as they’ve worked towards selecting a web development company. It’s easy to get hung up on the cost and forget about the difference in quality between your cheapest quote and your most expensive one.

Ask for input on quality

There are a lot of web development companies out there and each has its own standard of quality. Ask the web developers you are interviewing for their input on template websites versus custom websites. What is the difference in quality between the two? What do these web developers see as being the pros and cons to both options?

Ask them to explain their quote

More importantly, did they quote you on a template website or a custom one? Make sure you know. We’ve seen companies commit to a web developer’s quote, only to realize later that all the developer has done is purchase a template and set it up for them. If they had just known what the end result would be, they would have selected a different web developer from the start.

Custom vs. template

Time and budget constraints are the most common reasons for choosing to go with a template route. They are often cheaper. In some cases these pre-existing themes and templates are the right solution, but they can also be quite limiting.

Here are some reasons to avoid choosing a template website:

Time consuming: Changes to a template design can take more time than changes to a custom site. Often, templates will not account for the changes you intend to make.

Adding features is hard: It’s trickier to add features to a template rather than a custom site because it requires modifying the code (html and css), which can cause problems. Functionality add-ons on a custom site also require modifying code, but its usually cleaner. A template can require us to add code on top of code, which can slow down the site.

They’re slow: A website that’s slow to load can frustrate visitors.

Developers must learn the templates: To make changes to a website as a developer, they must understand the inner workings of the website, which takes extra time. While building a custom website, developers automatically acquire this knowledge.

Creativity is stifled: You end up designing your website and its content around the template instead of the other way around. The result? Your website can end up feeling disjointed or misaligned.

Security can be an issue: It’s hard to keep track of the many plugins across templates to keep them up to date. Plugins can sometimes have hidden vulnerabilities that go undiscovered for a long time. As well, sometimes a template is just incompatible with a plugin update and will be stuck on an old (and potentially insecure) version of the plugin.

Custom sites offer better web experience

Custom website design and development usually costs more money. Unfortunately, some web developers can get away with charging an exorbitant amount of money just to setup a template.

A custom site also gives you more freedom to scale your website as you grow. It usually lends itself to a stronger content strategy, too.

Instead of finding a template and trying to squeeze your content into its layout and aesthetic, your content defines the layout and aesthetic. The latter usually leads to a better web experience for your users and results in better conversion rates. When you try put your content into a pre-existing template, it feels a bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Still not sure how to choose between a custom or template website? Send us an email at and we’ll chat.