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4 crucial things to consider before choosing a template over custom website design

When it's time to design or redesign a website, businesses usually find themselves with a list of questions and no idea where to get started. First you gotta decide on a platform that won’t make you wanna pull your hair out within the first 48 hours. Second, you gotta decide whether you should use a pre-made template or invest in custom website design.

In this post we’re gonna dig into that second question first -  walking you through the disadvantages of using templates over custom design so you can see that while it may be the easier option, it’ll probably hinder you more than help you.  

Most templates are built to fit…..well everyone.

No matter the platform that you choose to build your website on (Showit, Squarespace, Webflow, Shopify, etc.) there are going to be plethora of designers and agencies selling you pre-made templates that look GORGEOUS (and some that don’t but we ain’t talking bout them).

And I mean it, these people are TALENTED. These templates are filled with animations, multiple sections with all types of functionalities, look stunning on mobile devices, and are beautifully branded with equally beautiful imagery.

These designers are creating these templates with great intentions. They want to give you a head start, a solid foundation, to get your website up and running as quickly as possible with the least amount of friction and frustration.

But one of the primary disadvantages of choosing a template over custom website design is that you’re being given this fancy tool without being taught how to wield it.

The fancy tool you’ve been given, the template, was built to fit a wide range of businesses that have a wide range of offerings, target audiences, brand personalities, etc. Just because the demo is styled/geared towards, lets say real estate agents, doesn’t stop a social media marketer from buying the template. The sellers don’t care.

So why are you investing in a solution that doesn’t have your brand’s best interest or at the very least, your target audience’s best interest at heart? You’re sinking time and money into a solution that wasn’t meant to truly fit you in the first place. 

You’re forcing your copywriting to fit their mold, not your own.

Most copywriters agree that strategic copywriting informs design, meaning that the words come FIRST then the visuals. 

Here at Standard Operations, we agree 100%. 

A beautiful website design WILL NOT save shitty copy. A case could be made for fantastic copy saving shitty design, but we’ll save that for another day.

Another disadvantage of choosing a template over custom website design is that you’re forcing yourself to follow the copywriting formulas that another designer, that doesn’t know shit about you or your business, has deemed as “optimal” for that section or page.

And I am the first person to scream at the top of my lungs: ALL DESIGNERS ARE NOT COPYWRITERS. 

We understand what good copy is and how to make sure it’s displayed for maximum impact, but not all of us are copywriters.

When designers are creating website templates, they are building sections and including copywriting prompts, hints, etc in each section based on what is commonly put into that sort of section.

However, if you’re not a copywriter yourself……you still don’t know what words to write! So the template isn’t actually helping you, it’s making you feel like you’re creating conversion based copy when you’re really filling in some fancy Madlibs.

Custom Website Design vs Template: 5 crucial things to consider before making a decision
Templates vs. Custom Website Design: which is best for me and my business?
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When designers are creating website templates, they are building sections and including copywriting prompts, hints, etc in each section based on what is commonly put into that sort of section.

Since you’re using a website template, there’s a 98% chance that other businesses have the exact same design

With everyone’s industry growing larger and more “saturated” day by day, we all need to be focusing on creating brands that are as unique and true to our core values as we possibly can. As people, we all have our own talents, voices, and perspectives that are different from our competitors.

The problem with using a template instead of investing in custom design is that you’re falling down a slippery slope of sameness and repetition

If you’ve been on the internet at all for the last 12 years, we’ve all seen the same internet trends come and go. Same thing goes for website design trends. So when you choose a website template that isn’t built around the individual aspects of your brand’s identity/voice/personality, but instead follows a trend, you’re already facing an uphill battle of positioning yourself as a leader.

You’re now faced with trying to fit your brand identity into a visual mold that someone else has given you without any regards to what you actually need. Updating some colors and changing some fonts isn’t going to cut it. Because the bones of that template are still there, screaming to your audience: “I don’t actually know how to represent my brand visually”. Which is not the message you want to send when trying to get someone else to invest in you.

These templates don’t teach you how to make better design decisions

We pride ourselves on the efforts we take to turn our clients into mini designers after working with us. 

We want to make sure that they are super confident in how their platform and their website design works so when they need to make new pages down the line as their business grows, they can create pages that mesh well with the rest of the site.

How do we do that?

We provide our clients with resources and videos at the end of the project showing them how to technically maintain and edit their site, but the real educational work that we do is throughout the entire project itself.

During the strategy and design phase of the project, we’re constantly educating our clients and explaining to them WHY we make certain design decisions. We encourage them to ask questions, and we take the initiative to outright explain ourselves because we want them to understand these key things:

  1. Every design decision is rooted in sales psychology and best practices in user experience so the user’s needs are always met first.
  2. Every decision is aligned with the business’ overall goals and is meant to convey the brand’s message in the best and most authentic way possible.

A major disadvantage of using a template over custom website design is that you’re not actually learning how to make better design decisions. You’re getting the end result, but not understanding how you got there and why. 

Which makes creating new sections that don’t come with your template so daunting: you still don’t understand the structural basics of what makes an entire webpage conversion focused vs. a bunch of sections and words strung together in a web of…..mess.

Well damn! So when should a business use a website template?

Despite spending this entire blog post dragging templates through the mud, I do think that there are a few situations where using a template vs investing in custom website design is the better choice.

It comes down to years of experience in your business.

If your business is brand spanking new and money is tight, I think you should be focused on investing in your brand identity more than your website. Shocking, I know.

But your website will not convert a single fucking thing if you don’t know who you brand is, who your people are, what they need from you, what your message is, how to position that message, and all of the other things that only an indepth and intentional brand strategy will tell you. That step has to come first if you want to create a brand and a website that actually stands the test of time.

So if you have to choose between putting your money into your brand or your website when you’re less than a year in - PLEASE put it into your brand identity and purchase a template. 

Before You Go, Remember This:

You can always invest in a custom website design after you get more experience and revenue under your belt. Then you’ll be in a better position to actually utilize a website that perfectly aligns with your brand identity and caters to your future growth.

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Everyone's website needs some TLC from time to time.

Through a strategic approach rooted in Psychology, we put our focus on the human experience behind the visuals. With powerful and clear design, we’ll create an intentional online presence that positions you as not just the best solution for your clients, but the only solution.