Inbound Websites

Should I Go with a Custom Website or Use a Template?

Should you save some cash and go with a template or go all out with a custom site? What are the differences between a template website and custom website?

If your website is more than a few years old or isn't landing you new business, it's time for a new one.

So, should you save some cash and go with a template or go all out with a custom site? What are the differences between a template website and custom website?

We offer both options, so we wanted to give you our thoughts on which one to pick and why.

Why Should You Use a Template Website?

Should I use a Custom Website or Use a Template?

Templated websites are a great option for bloggers, sole- entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups who are in a hurry and cost-conscious.

Here are a few reasons a template will be the superior choice:

You’re on a time crunch.

Between designing, coding, and pulling together content, building a new website can take several months. A template streamlines the process —no need for extensive design or coding. All you’ll have to do is add in your remarkable content, which means you can publish your refreshed website sooner.

You have a limited budget.

While HubSpot templates can be a bit pricey, they’re a fraction of the cost of hiring a web development team to create a brand-spankin’-new site. The pre-made template will be friendlier on your budget

Your website will be simple and minimal.

If you’re looking to build a website without a lot of bells and whistles, a template will give you everything you’re looking for in a new site. Also, if you don't have very many pages or much content, this is the place to be.

You have no clue how to code.

Nobody on your team knows a bit of HTML or CSS? No problem.

There’s no need to hire a developer to make basic site pages when you can find those already made and ready for you to use.

With a template, all the code is in place, so you won’t have to try to read, write, or edit a language you don’t know. In fact, your best option is never to touch the CSS code. Seriously, I've seen some nasty stuff happen when inexperienced users try to fix something.

When Should You Avoid a Template Website?

Templated sites are, well, templated. They will look similar to everyone else's and have limitations to the visuals, navigation, and functionality.

Some customization is possible in templates, but you are mostly stuck within the parameters of it. I've seen a lot of people become really frustrated when they find out their template can't do what they want it to do.

I also see people flip flopping between templates once they realize one doesn't work.

My best advice is to do your research and map out what you want your site to be before you switch themes.

Make sure the template you choose has everything you want to do with the site. Get to know the template and understand it.

If you do use a website template be sure to check that the template as the following: 

Mobile Responsive

Even in this day and age, some templates are still not responsive (How???).

The more expensive, better-designed templates are developed to be responsive, but it’s important to make sure your template has this capability and does it well.

HubSpot will quickly show you if the template is responsive. However, you can always use the Google Mobile Friendly Test here.


If you want an e-Commerce site, the functionality is limited in template sites. Adding e-commerce and other kinds of custom applications is hard or impossible in template sites. If you want a fully functioning e-Commerce site, avoid templates.

Design Options

  • Content Width
    • Most template designs will offer you two types of content width:
      • Full-Width is when the background image stretches the full width of your computer screen or mobile device.
      •  Boxed-Width is when your content has a visible frame to the left and right side of the screen.
  • Header Options
    • Does your template have several options to choose?
    • Can you have a slider, one-graphic, or a video?

Most well design templates should have all of these options but again please make sure you double- or triple-check that your template has them. 

Custom Websites

Think of it like buying a car for your high schooler. The car may be eight years old but runs well, has good tires and only has two doors. You may pay a couple of thousand dollars, and the car will last through college, ideally!

17799406_10104158298134170_5837254367170010210_n 2.jpg

If you're buying a car for a family, it's a whole other story.

You may need more room for a growing family, so an SUV with aaaaall the bells and whistles might be a must.

It'll look great, drive great, but it'll also cost waaaay more than a couple thousand dollars.

Both cars are great options, but what a family needs will be completely different than what a 16-year-old needs.

A custom site will be designed to fit you, rather than trying to get a template to match your brand.

So the single most important reason to create a custom-built website is that your site is designed and built to support your established brand consistently and explicitly.

Custom websites are a great option for small, mid-sized, and large companies that want to make an impact online. If your website is used as your modern day store front (whether you have a storefront or not) then investing in a custom site could be your best option.

When Should You Use a Custom Website?

You’re taking your time to get your website just right.

Some organizations like to spend six months to twelve months preparing their websites. You certainly don't need a full year to complete a site but three to six months is certainly a reasonable expectation. Starting from scratch will give you a more freedom to tweak the site to perfection.

You’re willing to spend more of your budget on your site.

Custom websites will cost more than purchasing a template—that's just a fact.

But, as some say, you get what you pay for.

If you’re willing to spend more cash, your website will be more personalized. You should be expecting to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 for most sites. That being said, if you have thousands of pages or a lot of complex features, it will probably be more.

You want something that doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

When you buy a template, it means you aren’t the only person out there with that website design. For something truly one-of-a-kind, you’ll need to create a site without any pre-made framing.

Your site needs really special or complex features.

Templates can’t always handle special features like e-commerce capabilities, interactive content, gaming, or anything that requires more than simple text and images on a page.

When Should You Avoid a Custom Website?

If you need a site done fast and for less money, a custom site is not the way to go. Also, comparing web design agencies can be harder with custom work.

How Can You Tell If A Site is Custom or a Template?

Now, I bet you're wondering if your competition has a template or custom site. That is a great place to start when digging into thedynamics of your website redesign.

To figure that out just view the site’s source code.


In Firefox CTRL + U: Alternatively, you can go to the “Firefox” menu and then click on “Web Developer,” and then “Page Source.”

In Internet Explorer: CTRL + U. Or right click and select “View Source.”

In Chrome: CTRL + U. Or you can click on the weird-looking key with three horizontal lines in the upper right hand corner. Then click on “Tools” and select “View Source.”


In Safari: The keyboard shortcut is Option+Command+U. You also can right-click on the webpage and select “Show Page Source.”

In Firefox: You can right click and select “Page Source, ” or you can navigate to your “Tools” menu, select “Web Developer,” and click on “Page Source.” The keyboard shortcut is Command + U.

In Chrome: Navigate to “View” and then click on “Developer” and then “View Source.” You also can right-click and select “View Page Source.” The keyboard shortcut is Option+Command+U.

You’ll see a page of source coding, which may look like a foreign language but don’t worry, this simple. Toward the top of the page, in the paragraph that begins <head>, scan through the code and look for the “generator” meta tag to see which Content Management System is being used.

If the word following /themes/, /template/, or /skins/ in the CSS file is the company name or initials, the site is probably custom-built. If not, it's likely built using a pre-designed template.

Should I get a Quote for My Website Redesign?

A one-size-fits-all website design quote is nearly impossible to provide, unfortunately. And the same goes for nearly all web design agencies you talk to.

Typically, whoever you ask will view each website design project as a custom project (as it should be). It may start with a consultation with your team to determine what your needs are and what the business goals of your website are.

Website design and development should be viewed as a service, not a product. And I know it’s hard to shake the idea that websites aren’t a commodity.

But viewing it as service-based will help you to better understand why a one-off price isn’t simple to give — building a website takes continued time and effort.

Quotes are far too subjective. Building a website can be accomplished hundreds of different ways. Don’t believe me? Go out for a quote and I guarantee by asking just a few companies for a price, you’ll get responses all over the map. I’ve had clients tell me before that they received quotes ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 for the same set of requirements.

How can that be possible?

There’s more than one way to price a website. There are two ways you can end up with a price for your website: fixed bid or hourly. For fixed bid, you will receive a figure like $5,000. With an hourly price tag, you will pay someone $100 an hour for as long as it takes to complete the project.

So, how much should it cost?

The majority of small business websites we design, develop and launch range from $5,000 – $25,000, but that's just us.

A lot of people think that the number of pages in a site is what drives cost. And while it certainly can as it relates to content (anything that’s words or pictures or photography, illustrations, imagery that a designer might make for you) can cost a lot to fill the pages.

But a website design can also be priced based on how many unique templates there are.

So if you have a website that has just two layouts – the home page and every single interior page is exactly the same – it really doesn’t take the developer very long to code that site but it may take a long time to fill in 300 pages of content.

Another way to break your website design budget down is to assume:
15% Planning
25% Interface design
40% Programming
20% Project Management

What Else?

Your marketing and website are one in the same, and a good web design agency will agree.

You need to make sure that your site becomes the focal point of all your marketing. To do that you need to have a clear understanding of your overall business and marketing plan.

We see too many people rush past this step and jump into a website redesign. They redesign the site and then realize that the messaging doesn't fit their personas, or the CTA's don't match their buyer's journey.

Please don't be one of those marketers.


A website can be a very powerful tool when done correctly, but a poorly-executed one will work against you. The bottom line is that you should choose your website design and developer carefully, no matter what type of site you get.

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