Custom Web Design

By Forrest Smith -

Working with a template can be a good strategy in some situations, but for creating a web presence that has lasting value, more directly appeals to your target audience, is more cost-effective over time, and produces greater returns for your investment, a custom website is your best approach.

Custom Website Advantages

There are numerous advantages to a custom website. So many, that in my opinion, it’s not really worth it to use a template:

Custom Websites are Designed Around Your Business, Not the Other Way Around

Your business is unique — your customer’s needs and the goals that you have for them on your website are unique. The information you present to your customers, your branding, and your goals are all special to your business. When using a template, you’re shoehorning your entire business into a package that wasn’t designed specifically for your business, your customers, or your sales funnels. A website should be tailored to your business, not the other way around.

Designed to Accomplish Your Goals

With a custom-designed website, the focus is on your busines and your goals. Every aspect and each page can be designed and built to solve your specific goals, whether it’s selling more product, submissions to a contact or interest form, or to build awareness and presence for your brand.

Less Bloat and Unnecessary Functionality that Negatively Affect User Experience and SEO

Templates come with a lot of baggage — extra code that is used to make sure a variety of company types and content can utilize the same template. As a result, there is a lot of unnecessary code that’s included with templates. This additional code slows down your website and negatively affects your search engine optimization efforts.

A Sign of a More Experienced Designer and Developer

Often times, templated design solutions are used simply because a designer or developer doesn’t have the experience or knowledge to build a website on their own. While you can get a passable website that may work initially, there is a long-term cost. That same lack of experience may also be a lack of experience building websites that convert, websites that aren’t optimized, and they may lack the skills needed to adapt the website to your needs down the road.

Easier to Modify Over Time as Your Needs Change

With a custom website, you aren’t tied to a set template, and as a result, your website can more easily change and evolve as your business needs change. With a custom site, it’s easy to implement new website sections and design optimized visitor journeys.

Less Expensive Over the Long-Term

Custom designs are flexible, not only in their design, but also in how the are coded and built. A quality built custom site can more easily be modified and updated over time. I’ve had numerous clients come to me after they realized that the template they were using just wasn’t able to change easily enough for their needs. It’s easier and cheaper to spend a little more up-front to build your website correctly, and save hassle and expense down the road.

A Easier Editing Experience

With most templates, you’re wading through not-very-friendly website page builders to edit your content. It’s easy to break pages or cause issues with this set up, and as a result, it’s often times a little scary for website owners who just want to change some wording on a page. A well-built custom website limits the damage that you can do to your own website, and more importantly, makes it easy to edit text content if you desire to do so.   For websites that I build, my clients have the ability to edit any of the text on the page, without having to wade through page builders, code, or worry about breaking something on the site.

Version Control

For most templated sites, the design is stored within the website’s database, and once those changes are made, there often times isn’t a good way to roll back to the previous version. I prefer to keep the design of the site in the website’s codebase, not stored within the site’s database. This makes it easy to track changes throughout the years, re-implement website sections if needed, and be able to undo or redo changes to the site’s design as necessary.

Disadvantages to Custom Websites


Templated websites can be less expensive, at least initially, and this is often times the reason for utilizing templates.   For many websites, this can be a totally acceptable approach, especially if it’s a first website to test market fit. If you plan on keeping your website for more than a year or two, and have the funds available, a custom site will likely be less expensive over the long term, and will be a more effective at helping your business grow.

Development Timeline

Depending on how a custom website is designed and developed, it can be faster to implement a templated website, since you just have to drop in your text and your own images, along with a few color and branding-related changes. In most cases, a custom website will take longer, since there are more planning rounds to strategize how your website visitors will most effectively accomplish your business goals, additional design time to create a design that truly speak to your branding and appeals to your unique visitors, and several rounds of design iteration make sure everything is refined and in its place.

The Best Approach for Long-Term Growth

It can be tempting to implement a website template yourself, or to utilize web design companies who utilize them. The slightly faster initial development timelines and reduced-upfront expense sound good, especially if you have a limited budget, but over the medium and long-term, templated websites will be a larger source of headaches, greater maintenance expense, and less-than-ideal conversions and outcomes from your website.