Custom Web Design or Template? What to Use for Your Business?

The world of website creation can be a scary endeavor, especially if you are unversed in the formal terms used by us coding nerds. To the common ear, custom web design sounds like nothing more than a complicated matrix of colors, shapes, and HTML words strung together to create a website that’s both expensive and responsive. It may not be impossible for those with fancy degrees and coke bottle glasses, but for us with normal business ventures, it’s a language unreachable by the mind.

Luckily, the future has made the process of custom web design completely approachable. Even the most uneducated of internet users can create a custom website with various beginner-friendly tools and companies. Furthermore, beautiful and tactical templates are provided by most web hosts for easy creation. If a small business decides to go for a template design, they can create a stellar website by just inputting their business information. It’s that easy.

But what’s it all worth? What’s the point? Does creating a custom website really make a difference, or is the effort not worth it? Should you just choose a template design for your business site? What about working with a design agency?

There are plenty of questions surrounding the topic. As a web design company, we know a thing or two about it. Let’s break it down and find out the true answer.

Does Design Truly Matter?

Let’s start by squashing those that aren’t extremely artistic. If a customer wants a product, why would the layout of your website matter? They’re there to get the product, regardless of the fancy colors surrounding it.

In a way, the aforementioned yawn makes sense. If your clientele already knows and trusts your business, they will be likely to purchase your products or services regardless of the web design. But, those are the clients that already love your business. For those that have never been to your physical store or seen your product in the wild, a generic or downright bad site design can be the underlying factor of not purchasing an item.

Let’s refer back to our wonderfully written article (I wrote it).

Quote from our article How Great Web Design Can Boost Your Business:

While not all businesses (especially small in-person affairs) need a cache-demanding and intricately-coded website to continue as a successful business, not having your business listed online in some fashion can be a quick and painful death sentence. Even for businesses conducted entirely in-person, you still need to be featured on business directories, like Google Maps, to even be noticed. The person living across the street may never know your business exists unless you are on the web. Not even a neon sign can catch the attention of the modern consumer.

Let’s be honest: as a web design company, we aren’t going to tell you that great web design is useless. There is a reason that we have chosen this line of business, though. Web design is crucial for businesses in the modern era. It’s that simple.

KPMG reported in 2017 that 55% of people will search online for reviews and recommendations before making a purchase, with 47% visiting the company website, 26% checking out the physical store, and 23% of people talking with friends and family. That was five years ago. With the pandemic forcing many to stay within their homes, the usage of internet searching has only gone up tenfold. How many people use the internet to search businesses before buying? A lot.

What a beautifully written blurb.

Moral of the story: web design does matter, regardless of your business, services, or products. Don’t lose out on internet customers with a drab website.

Custom Web Design or Templates? What’s the Difference?

To those still confused (we totally understand): a custom web design is when the website creator (you) or a design company (us) uses an open-source application to create an entire website from scratch. Every design, text box, font, color, and word is created and laid out by the designer.

A template is when all of the aforementioned things are already created by a professional designer. You take the premade ideas and add your business information. You may not be able to edit the templates at all, or you may be able to do a few tweaks. For the most part, everything is done and made for you before you even sign up.

Ultimately, just defining the two terms isn’t enough information to make up your mind. Let’s break down the pros and cons of each option!

Custom Web Design Breakdown

As a web design company, we may be a bit biased when it comes to which is better. Luckily, we are able to put that bias aside for a second in order to help you, the business that needs informative information.

Aren’t we nice?

Let’s be honest about the pros and cons of custom-built websites.


  • Stand out
  • Create a brand
  • Gives you room to grow your site
  • SEO practices built-in


  • High price
  • Takes a lot of company time
  • Not easy to change

Pro – Stand Out From the Crowd

As of 2018, there were 1,630,322,579 registered websites on the big ole web. That was before everyone was stuck at home during the worldwide pandemic, too. That’s a lot of websites.

Though your competition for customers and site visitors doesn’t stand against the entirety of the internet, you have to think of how many sites are already in your industry. Even the most niche of business ideas have some sort of competition out there. You don’t want to be known as the one competitor with a drab and grey website.

48% of people determine the credibility of a business by its website design, according to a study by Blue Corona. If your website is boring and generic, you may lose a significant amount of customers from the jump.

This is not to say that templates are all boring and generic. In fact, most templates are created by professionals with a knack for design. Most templates are great! But there’s always a chance that another site is using the same exact one. A custom site is unique to you.

Con – Price

Unless you are already versed in the ways of web design, working with a design agency can be fairly expensive.

Custom web design can become a pricey process. If you are a small business without much money to spare, creating a pleasing site may be last on your list. Furthermore, having to work with someone to come up with the perfect design and template may cost resources (time) that you aren’t ready or able to permit. That’s totally okay.

Running your website through a host with templates beats custom design in this regard. Templates are cheap and you usually only have to pay for the site hosting (something you would have to do regardless). No outsourcing or extra expenses are necessary.

If your business isn’t based on internet sales or design isn’t crucial to you, spending the extra cash for an agency can seem like an extreme expense.

Pro – Create a Brand

If you intend to grow within your industry, you need to start creating a brand. You need to establish what your company stands for, how it does things, and what it stands for. People want to support your ideals just as much as your business.

A report by Lucidpress stated that consistent branding across all channels can increase revenue anywhere from 10% to 20%. The creation of said branding starts in your website design, believe it or not.

The Homepage, About Us, and reviews located on your business website can help set the baseline for your brand and culture. What do you stand for? Does it transmit to your customer base?

Also, the design says a lot about your culture, even if just subconsciously. Do you have bright colors and whimsical copy? Are you serious with dark tones? Every bit of web design counts.

Creating a custom website lets you pick and establish every bit of this branding.

Con – It Takes Time

Working with an outsourced designer takes time regardless of the medium. The process can be long and arduous for both parties, especially if it’s internet-based. Communicating back and forth over email can take forever, especially if you are focused on running your small business.

You’ll need to discuss ideas, review designs, express changes needed, and give approvals throughout the entire process. Unless you know the designer personally and trust them with every move, you will need constant communication. If you are paying the designer per hour, this can make the pricey process even pricier.

If you are just looking for a quick website to create and get your business going, templates make sense here.

Pro – Room to Grow

This is a quick one (we’ll save you from the boring details).

If you start with a custom website, you will have however much room you need to expand your site. For example, if you start selling even more products, need another landing page, or create user profiles, the code is open and ready to be worked on by the designer.

If you intend on becoming a bigger company, you may need open code eventually. Templates can be limiting for expansion, only allowing the general pages that were already laid out.

Con – Ease of Change

If you are not competent in the land of web design, you are hamstrung by your designer. For example, if you decided to add a banner for a time-specific sale on your site, you may have to contact your designer to do so. This may cost another fee.

With most templates, you will be able to add and change things with a few clicks of a button. This makes the entire process easier for a business that will continue to adapt and change year-round.

Pro – SEO Competence

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is undeniably crucial for becoming a successful online business (or even an in-person business that has a website). Basically, it allows you to be viewed by as many searchers as possible. Working to push your way up SEO stats allows you to be the top result on Google in your area or specialty.

For example, if your business deals with selling windshield wipers, you want to be the top business that appears when someone searches for windshield wipers. Right? That’s SEO.

Unfortunately, SEO requires a ton of work and constantly moving parts to be truly successful. While just being a fantastic business helps, there are plenty of intricate cogs that go into the entire machine. One of these integral steps is website coding.

Google and other search engines adore clean and efficient coding. They want to push websites that provide easy and accessible answers. If your website doesn’t get to the point with power and speed, it may be left behind by Google’s algorithm. Therefore, great coding is huge when making a Google-friendly website.

Luckily, great web designers understand this and work to make coding SEO-friendly. When working with custom web design, you can pick a designer that will keep SEO practices in mind, helping you get a leg up in the SEO race before you even begin. You can’t be sure that a template will offer that.

Template Breakdown

You’re not sold on working with an outsourced designer for a custom web design. Luckily, templates are not a terrible option. There is no correct answer, after all. Templates can provide fantastic websites for any type of business. There’s nothing wrong with the method.

Note: a lot of these pros and cons may seem like the adverse of those listed for custom web design. If one is cheaper than the other is more expensive, after all. We won’t reiterate everything too much.

Let’s be honest about the pros and cons of template websites.


  • It’s on you
  • Less time and money
  • Access to third-party apps


  • Getting images to look good on it could be difficult
  • Not original
  • Not always mobile

Pro – You Are the Leader of Your Future

The biggest pro of going with a web design template is an amalgamation of all the aforementioned custom design negatives. At the end of the day, you are the leader of your own website.

As we stated, dealing with a custom designer takes time and constant communication. Just to switch one thing would take a conversation between the two of you (or sometimes more heads). It’s not necessarily impractical, but it takes precious business resources. If you are an artistic and expressive type, you may want to be at the helm of your design.

Fortunately, templates take little-to-no design background. If you decide you want a black background, you can do that (most likely). You are in control to the extent that the template allows.

Con – Image Issues

If your website and/or business will have a lot of reliability on images, templates can cause you trouble. It’s not always as easy as plugging in every image.

For example, a certain template that you love may be built to fit in pictures of a certain scale. If you want a bigger picture in it, it’ll throw off the entirety of the template, making your site look like a mess. With no open-source capabilities, you will not be able to work around this. You will have to adhere to the intended image size.

It may seem like a nitpick, but if you are specific about the images, videos, or graphics you are posting, it could be a problem.

Pro – Less Time and Money

This one goes without saying, so we won’t waste too much time on it.

Hosting websites that have available templates often cost a set fee. You may only pay for a monthly or yearly subscription to the business to keep your site running. Most likely, the template will come with the charge for free. If not, it’ll likely be a one-time purchase. This option can save your small business a ton of expendable money.

As we’ve stated multiple times, working with a custom web design company can take precious time. It can be arduous to get everything right.

If you need a quick website out for cheap, a template is the best way to go.

Con – Your Site Isn’t Original

If you are using a popular web hosting site or common template, your website will be far from original.

As we noted, there are a ton of websites within any industry. Even if you have the most niche of niche businesses, there are always multiple other sites out there in the same realm (we promise). Most likely, one of those sites is using a very similar template. If you want to stick out from the crowd and look professional, you should have a site that is completely original and made from the ground up.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get inspiration from existing sites, but you shouldn’t use direct templates. If a site offers a template, there are plenty of websites using the exact same one.

Furthermore, originality and efficiency in code will help bolster your SEO scoring and Google ranking.

Pro – Access to Third-Party Apps

Because application creators know that a majority of business sites will work with templates, they take the time to make their apps adhere to those exact hosting sites. For example, Squarespace has tons of third-party apps made specifically for all available templates.

If you plan on using extensions on your business site (like MailChimp for mass emails or ShipBob for product sending), you are less likely to run into issues with big templates. The main web hosting sites all know how important these extensions are and work to make sure they can fit into any template.

A custom web designer may have to work harder and longer to get these apps connected. If you decide to implement them in the future, you will have to reach back out to the designer. Money and time.

Con – Not Always Mobile

The majority of web searching is now done on mobile devices. If you plan on becoming a large business with a significant online presence, you need to adhere to mobile standards.

Not all templates are built for mobile. Not all templates are built to go between mobile and desktop seamlessly.

For example, we had a client that had built a previous website using a template. While they loved the original design on desktop, it was a jumbled mess on mobile devices. They believed it would work between the two, but it didn’t. At the end of the day, it was only made to focus on desktop usage. It happens more often than you’d think, even in the modern mobile age.

If the template isn’t open or you don’t know how to manipulate it, you may be stuck with a site that only works on one platform.

Things to Consider

Still haven’t made your choice?

Let’s make a quick and easy sheet for all the things you should consider before making your decision.

What Should My Business Consider Before Choosing Custom Web Design?

  • How much time do I need before launching a site? Does it need to go up immediately?
  • How important is the site to my business plans? Will it need to grow for more options in the future?
  • What applications do I want to use? Do I plan to work with applications like MailChimp to send products?
  • Am I picky? Do I know exactly what I’m looking for?
  • Will there be too much back and forth with a designer?
  • How much am I willing to spend?
  • Do I know anything about editing code? Am I willing to learn a little?
  • How important is internet presence for my future business plans?

If the issue is time or money, remember that you can always reach out to designers for quotes and timetables.

If you are unsure of the popularity of the template you love, check around sites in your industry. Do they have similar layouts?

What About Bus Web Design?

Yup. We are going to talk about ourselves.

At Bus Web Design, we work with a specific design template that can be customized. We believe simplicity and power are the major keys to internet success (in both business and SEO). Your business site shouldn’t be bogged down by ads, flashy graphics, or cluttered code. Get to the point and get the customer out.

Furthermore, we offer flexible pricing that includes ongoing digital marketing. We don’t just create a site for your business, we help you run it. Therefore, if you end up needing to change the design, we’re ready to go. Don’t wait around.

For example, at Bus Web Design, our ongoing partnership packages involve web design and digital marketing. We get compensated based off of what sales we bring you, not a flat fee. Meaning, we don’t get paid until you get paid. That’s our agreement. If that sounds more in line with what you are looking for, you can reach out and ask for more information.

Regardless of who you choose to work with, creating a stellar business website can be advantageous for your business. There’s no reason to not have a website in 2022, even if you don’t plan to update it regularly.