June 7, 2010

Template-Based Website Design vs. Custom Website Design

Almost every day we are contact by individuals and businesses looking to develop entirely new websites and those looking to re-vamp their existing websites. One of the first questions people often ask is: “Should I develop a template-based website or totally custom website?”

There are several factors to consider when making such a decision:

  1. Is there a template available that will meet my needs? We suggest searching on www.templatemonster.com to view over 20,000 website templates.  Templates can be searched in various ways including by Industry, Theme, Price, Background Color and Software Application (WordPress template, Joomla template, ZenCart Template, etc.).  Templates can be customized in many ways, including color, image and verbiage swaps. In addition, with many templates buttons can be added or removed and banners can be omitted from sub-pages.  Of course, despite all of the customization the site structure may fall short or your needs and a fully custom website design may be more appropriate.
  2. Is a template you like available in an appropriate software format? Some templates are offered in several versions such as Flash and HTML. Some sites are only available in Flash, which we recommend against using due to its inherent Search Engine Optimization limitations.  Check with your template customization designer or website developer to be sure to purchase an appropriate template for your needs.  The designer will also most likely need an Adobe Photoshop psd file for making customization revisions.
  3. Pricing. The difference between a custom and template-based site can be as little as $1,500.  That may seem like a lot of additional expense now, but if you’re planning to have your site running for several years that may be a small extra price to pay.  It all depends on what you need your site to do. Will it be a ‘brochure’ style website with minimal visitor interactivity, or will it be more complex with highly unique functionality, expandability, and back-end administrative access?  A few questions to ask yourself: Will it have a blog? Will you need a secure site? Will you need e-commerce capabilities?
  4. Design ownership rights. Be aware that when you purchase the rights to download and use a website template others individuals and businesses will also have the option to do the same with that base design. Only by purchasing the full-rights to the template will you be insured to be the only user of the design.  The website template company will generally remove the template from its available library after a ‘buyout’ purchase. ‘Buyout’ purchase fees often range from $2,500. – $3,500.

One additional item worth mentioning is that simply purchasing website template file is only a first step to designing and posting a professional looking website. If you plan to customize the site files yourself you will need to be fluent in web programming and web development software.

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