Building a Website
6 min read
Updated: April 06, 2020

Custom vs. Template-Based Websites: Pros and Cons

I want to address a question that comes up once in a while concerning custom versus template-based websites. Some of our clients hoping to spend less money give serious thought to building a template, rather than professional-grade, custom website.

These clients often ask us the pros and cons for each type of website, and it’s an important question because most times what you’re really after is actually not a website itself. What you’re after is the results the website is supposed to deliver. 

In our overwhelming experience, template-based websites very frequently underperform in comparison to custom build websites. 

Here’s why.

The reasons why template-based websites underperform

Most templates are created for speed of execution, not for creating the results that you need. The difference between a template-based and a custom website, is that most template-based websites do not use proper code. Instead they use a system called a “visual builder.”

The visual builder allows a freelancer or agency speed of execution. Instead of properly designing and coding the entire site, you can simply drag and drop different blocks into place. Think of the old game, Tetris. 

So you can put together a template website, and voila, it’s live! It’s fast, it’s cheap, and it’s not good. The reason it’s not good is because the visual builder software that enables “drag and drop” also compresses lines of code for every single element on the site. 

Here’s why that’s a problem.

When someone pulls up your website on the Internet, the website (using code) must properly render on all types of screens, whether it’s a mobile device, desktop, laptop, tablet, etc. 

Every type of code has to expand and that expansion process requires a significant amount of time. A common problem with template-built websites using visual builders is that they take 11 to 14 times longer than a custom-built site to upload on all devices.

You would think that might not pose a real problem because it’s still just a few seconds, except that one of the primary criteria Google uses to determine where your website should rank, is the website upload speed. 

This means that when people search for services or products similar to those your business offers, Google will rank custom-built websites higher. If your website is template-built, the chances are slim-to-none that Google is going to rank it higher than a custom-built site.

Why to choose a custom website over a template-based website

What is the optimal website speed to rank higher on Google?

Since Google prefers websites that upload quickly (especially on mobile devices), how fast does your site really need to be to compete? Let’s start with an exercise (if you already have a website) to explain.

To see how fast or slow your website is, you can access Google Insights right now and you will see developer tools. Click on (usually) the second link and you will see a window where you can insert your domain and click “Go.” In about a minute, Google will deliver results showing your mobile upload speed and desktop upload speed.

If your website upload speed is 50 or below, that’s a failing grade. It needs to be above 50. 

Most mobile websites – good mobile websites – will rank somewhere in the upper 50s, upper 60s and rarely, in the upper 70s. 

As of this recording (in February of 2020), most custom-built websites will have a great desktop speed of 90 and above. This is where your website needs to rank.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of template-based websites do not score highly, thus do not generate the visitors to your website needed to convert in order to create sales opportunities. 

For this primary reason, we always recommend spending a little bit extra in time and money to professionally build a custom website. Just search through the top web design companies in Chicago and see what type of professional website design services they offer. It’s the only way to generate the results your business actually needs. You can contact us, and Comrade will build a high-performance website that will perfectly match your business goals.

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About the Author
Sasha Berson
Sasha serves as Managing Partner and VP of Client Solutions for Comrade Digital Marketing, a Chicago-based marketing agency dedicated to solving client’s most pressing digital challenges.
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