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Templates vs Custom Designs

Templates (Themes) vs Custom Designs

What’s the difference between a custom designed site and a template site? Basically a custom site is one that the customer pays a web developer to create. A custom site is unique and unlike any other sites on the web.  A template site is a ready made site in which the consumer can change the content and images themselves. There several kinds of template sites. You can go to websites such as Template Monster and purchase templates. These templates then need to be configured and tweaked to fit your needs. The big downside of using these types of templates is that they don’t come with any content management system. Adding a content management system to these templates requires additional programming by a professional web developer.

Content management systems such as WordPress have themes. A WordPress theme is much like a template except that they are highly flexible and can be reconfigured to change their look and function. Once set up  it makes if very simple for you to insert your own information. For the purposes of this discussion it’s these types of templates that we’ll talk about.

Why templates?

There are 2 main benefits for using a template:

  1. speed
  2. low price

Most of these templates can be set up very quickly and often at little or no cost. This makes getting your website set up and ready to have content added quick and easy. The downside, of course, is that you have very little control over the look and feel of your website.

Custom headers

Most content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla give you the ability to add a custom header to your web pages … having a great looking header created for you may be all you need to give your site the look and feel that you want. This option will cost much less than having an entire website designed.

Why custom designs?

A custom design gives you total control over the look and feel of your website. It does require that you do a little research to be able to give the graphic designer an idea of what you’re looking for. The nightmare scenario for any graphic designer is to have a client say, “I don’t know what I want but I’ll know when I see it.” Take a look at your competitors’ sites as well as other unrelated websites to see what you like and what you don’t like. You can then specify several elements from different websites that you would like to have included in your design. If you’re having trouble finding different website designs to look at, a place like “Template Monster” or “ThemeForest” can be a great resource. Browse through their thousands of templates to look for ideas you would like included in your custom design.


I find many of our clients will start with a template and after they work with their website for a while and gain some experience in the online world, they will move on to have a website custom designed for them.

Content design

This is an area that is often ignored, but well designed content can make even the simplest template look awesome. Conversely, poorly designed content can make even the most beautiful design look bland. Content management systems, while awesome in their ability to allow you to make updates and add or remove content from your website, generally don’t generate a very creative look. Our recommendation is to have your initial content designed by a professional graphic designer who understands both content management systems and the requirements of search engine optimization. Once you have well designed content, your content management system becomes a truly powerful tool to let you make changes to the content inside of that design.


If you’re planning a new website, or contemplating a facelift to your existing website, please give us a call. We can save you a lot of time and money and greatly improve your return on investment by helping you do a little wise planning before you start. Call us at 250–415-0500 or email consulting@BNIC.ca.