Websites - custom or template?


Today I wanted to share my recommendations for which type of web site is best suited for what kind of business.

Template-based web platforms are not all created equal. The most popular and in my mind successful platforms are Wordpress, Shopify and Squarespace, the rest comes with a multitude of challenges. Template sites are generally an affordable solution for the somewhat tech-savvy user to manage, edit and update themselves.

Wordpress offers a wide variety of templates of varying sophistication. For a simple blog, that may work well. If you're not content to adopt one of the themes exactly as they are, however, you need to be (or work with someone) familiar with coding. At Rena B Design, we’ve mostly built CUSTOM Wordpress sites that are not based on templates. Beware of the lure to save by using existing templates – trying to customize them can easily end up costing just as much time and more frustration than building a custom site from scratch. Trust me, I’ve tried it.

Shopify and Squarespace are both easy to use, automatically responsive and optimized for SEO (which you still need to implement), widely tested and popular, and so less likely to disappear. It doesn’t hurt that their themes feature good & clean design, and come ready with blog, eCommerce and social media integration. You are still tied to a template but a designer can help optimize your content and assets to tell your brand story and engage your audience.

I would recommend Squarespace for businesses who

  • have a focus on content, less on building a large, highly functional Store
  • have no or few products to sell
  • want to feature large and beautiful imagery
  • need a professional-looking site fast
  • are ok using the built-in payment gateway Stripe

I would recommend Shopify for businesses who

  • are starting an eCommerce business
  • have a focus on selling products or services
  • need solid backend functionality for inventory, tracking and analysis
  • may expand into a physical store of their own
   A custom WordPress site for  Rye Project  and a Squarespace site for Hagedorn Enterprise Advancement


A custom WordPress site for Rye Project and a Squarespace site for Hagedorn Enterprise Advancement

A custom-designed and developed site on the other hand makes sure every aspect of the site is planned to uniquely fit your company’s needs, strengths and target audience. Not only can you control the look of every aspect of how your content is shown, what is omitted for mobile views, or how it integrates with your existing backend data systems. Instead of a mere online presence you have a real tool for your company’s growth. It does take more time, but the potential gains are huge.

Custom Wordpress sites are best for businesses who

  • really need to differentiate themselves from their competition
  • want strong brand presence and recognition
  • need customization on front and back end (integration with a specific CMS)
  • have unique or complex functionality needs
  • have the time to get it right (depending on size about 3 months minimum)

Why do you need a Designer?

Ideally, you spend some time before the site creation on a solid web and content strategy, whether it’s a small starter site, a blog or eCommerce site. We can help you define, target and plan for a site that will be on brand and work for you in your current situation and for the foreseeable future. We can either recommend a fitting template, then optimize and implement your content, or develop site architecture and design from scratch based on your company’s unique needs and wish list. 

With this many variables, it’s clear that web design is never one-size-fits-all – and why we don’t have fixed pricing. If you'd like to discuss what’s best for your business, give me a call!

photo via Stokpic