DIY Template Sites vs Custom-Built Websites

DIY Sites

Thinking about investing in a new website for your business? Once you have made the decision, one question remains…should you go with a custom-built website or use a DIY template for your site? Which path best suits your business? Are there any major differences? We’re covering it all to help you decide!

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Read the Full Discussion Below

Sarah: Hey, good morning! Let’s jump right in. We’re talking about websites today, and I’m really excited about this topic because I think whenever we think about what we’re going to share, it’s what we come across the most. And I’ll tell you; we come across this situation of, hey, I need a website. Should I just do it myself with those template sites that I see online, or should I do a custom-built website? Is there any difference between the two? I mean, does it matter? Which is better? So, we’re going to break it all down because spoiler alert; there are some key differences that you may not realize until you’re right smack in the middle of it, so let’s get started.

Glyna: Welcome to Marketing Mix, everybody. Every week we try to bring you different kinds of segments and highlights of everything digital marketing. The mix comes in because we like to mix it up. We may have some interviews, some tips, trends, Q&As. Today, we’re going to do a comparison for you on websites. So, let’s look at our broadcast first, Sarah, so people know where to find us.

Sarah: Sure. Yes, as always, we go Live every week on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and you can catch the replay on Instagram and LinkedIn and don’t forget about our podcast, Marketing, and a Mic. And we are always getting more subscribers, and it’s just so exciting. Also, don’t forget about our YouTube channel, Fusion One Marketing. The purpose of that is it’s really just a resource for businesses to turn to, to get to know a little bit about digital marketing and how it can help, so it’s good stuff.

Glyna: It’s really good stuff.

Sarah: We’ve got a cool topic, and I’m really excited about it just because this is one I feel is going to help business owners a lot, and it might help them avoid some obstacles, some unforeseen obstacles. So we’re going to really dig deep into what you get with a do-it-yourself website template, and then what you get with a custom-built website, and then also what you don’t get with each. So they all kind of offer a little something, and it’s really important to make that distinguishment and apply it to, Hey, what does my business need? So before we jump into it, do you feel like business owners should ask themselves some key questions first before they pick which one they want to go with?

Glyna: Yeah. With everything, there’s always a lot of things to think about and see how it applies to your business. The first thing I would start with is basically how much information needs to be on your website. I think we’ve established we all need a website. We’ve talked about it time after time after time, you still need that first impression. You need a website to be legitimate in people’s eyes. So, think about how much stuff do you need to have on your website. Do you need multiple pages? How many services and products do you offer? Do you need a page for every one of those? Because when we’re pricing these things out, that’s where the price increases on custom websites. Budgets, again, you have to think, especially if you’re a brand-new business; we don’t always have budgets upfront. So, are you better off being able to pay something upfront, something that you can own, or do you need to make a month-to-month payment to make it more practical for your budget? And again, extra time. How much time do you have? Do you need a website right now? Or is it something you can sink a little bit of time into? And then this is a biggie, how tech-savvy are you? Unfortunately, people think that they can do these websites, and they think, “I am pretty techy. I’ll get in there and just do it myself. No problem”. But then they get hung up. So really, give that some thought. And then, do you want something that’s like a one-of-a-kind website? Or do you not really care, and you just need a website thrown up, something just to represent your business? So it’s a lot to think about, and those are things that we can help people wade through if they need it.

Sarah: Yeah. Those are really important questions to ask. We want to talk about what you are going to get with a do-it-yourself template? First and foremost, you’re going to get a shorter development time. Why? Well, because you’re working off of the template. So when you work off of a template, you can get your site up and running rather quickly. That might be a really good advantage for a startup business or somebody who really needs to get things going fast. And you know, the construction time. There are not a lot of moving parts. So because of that, you can get up and running. Because it’s really sort of plug-and-play where once you’ve got everything set up, boom, you’re ready to go, so that can be like I said, a huge advantage for some business owners who don’t have a lot of time. I got to get this going. What can I do?

Glyna: Yeah, exactly. They are less expensive. Okay. That’s a plus. So, with less development, it just makes sense that it comes with a lower cost. So, you can also have lower upfront costs, and since you’re spreading that over all of that time, it may be able to fit in your budget a little bit better, and you’re paying a little bit each month, not such a big chunk. Usually, you can make changes yourself, so that’s going to save you money. If you have a custom site, you’re not going to be able to get in there and just do anything that you want to. Professional agencies, if they’ve built your website, they’re obviously going to need to charge you for making those ongoing adjustments. But let’s talk about this. It is less expensive, but this is a biggie, you’re going to be paying that monthly fee forever.

Sarah: A lot of people don’t realize that.

Glyna: I know!

Sarah: They think, this is so cheap upfront, but you’re paying every single month.

Glyna: Yes.

Sarah: Forever.

Glyna: Forever!

Sarah: Until the end of time. Yeah. I think that’s so important to know that and so, do you want to get that subscription-based set-up but… Okay. Let me talk about this third thing that you get with the template site which is no coding experience needed. Now, what do we mean by that? There is a learning curve. So, if you don’t have a little bit of knowledge with a website template and all that, it might take some downtime to figure that all out and how it all works. But essentially, how these templates work is it’s like a drag and drop where you’re going to take your photos, take your text, take whatever it is, and drop it into these template builders. That’s pretty easy to use. So, that’s nice, right? That you just have to have the text and the photos and you just drop it all in and you’ve got this template. So it’s pretty easy to build up the features. And as you mentioned before, if you want to make changes, you can just go in there and update your pictures and update your text. So, it’s fairly easy to use. And I say fairly because you are going to have to know a little bit of what you’re doing. A lot of these website templates now come with some built-in features like hosting and all that. So, really you don’t have to be a coding wizard to get it up and running. But I think there’s a caveat to that.

Glyna: Yes. All of these things are great, and these are some positives that you get with a DIY template, but we have special notes. We always like special notes to kind of throw-in. It is all of that, but it can be difficult to take your template and move it to another platform if you need to. Normally, if you have your template it has this purpose. I know people who have done template websites and they look fantastic and they’ve done a great job and it served the purpose that they need it to. But you’re not going to be able to move it to a different platform. You’re going to have to stay with them usually forever and ever, and ever. This is a biggie. If you bought your domain from them and set it up with a template-type website platform, you might not own that domain name. So again, special notes, things to be careful of, because if you built your whole business around, you can’t take it with you, then that’s not a good thing. Just things to think about.

Sarah: That’s a big one. Again, they probably don’t realize, when you go with these templates, you are at the mercy of them, so as long as you don’t get to keep your website is basically what that means. You don’t get to keep it. If you want to go elsewhere, and once you have it built, guess what? They keep your domain name, which means that website name that you have, you might lose. Then on top of that, you might have to rebuild it all over again.

Glyna: Speaking from a team trying to rebuild a website right now, that’s a big taking on.

Sarah: It really is, isn’t it? When they come to you like, help fix it, I can’t get these things to work or can you go back? Can you go in the back and change all this up? It’s like a whole different beast and it’s hard. But anyways…

Glyna: Well, and different companies specialize sometimes in different types of websites. So, just because it’s a website, doesn’t mean that we know how to work on every type of website there is. We stick with our platform that we know for our specific reasons. It’s so frustrating. I feel so bad for people that have just sunk all this time into something and it just won’t work and I can’t help them but…

Sarah: Well, that leads us to a couple of these don’ts which is what you’ve don’t get with a template site, custom design. Here’s the thing with the design of most of these templates, what you see is what you get. You can change the colors and you can maybe change the fonts and you can put the layout itself is pretty much set in stone. If you love that layout and design and have no desire to change it, that’ll work for you. Just keep in mind that they do have a lot of standard templates. Your website might look exactly like somebody else’s. It’s going to have a very generic look. So again, keep that in mind, if you’re looking at it, and you’re thinking, I want to move this here and I want to move that there. You won’t necessarily have that option with the template.

Glyna: Yeah, you’re exactly right. That’s where we get into not just design but customization. If you want a lot of bells and whistles, it’s not going to work for you, usually in a template. Template companies make these templates to do specific things. For instance, they may have a template that’s really good for photographers. They may have a template that’s really good for roofers because they have in their mind the limitations of what each industry needs in a website. So, it’s very, very hard to customize it. As Sarah said, if you want it to do cartwheels and do all have a lot of bells and whistles, then a template is not that great for you. You really giving up a lot of flexibility. If you are sticking with a template versus a customized website.

Sarah: Yeah, and it’s interesting. If that template has features and you want to maybe do away with them, you not necessarily can. And so you almost have to fill space that you’ve made maybe not need, and I can bog down your website.

Glyna: Yeah, and always people are like I want to put a photo gallery on here or I want to be able to have people buy things on this website. Can you help me put that on there? If the template is not made for those specific things, they may not have that option to put it on the website. So again, you’re really bound within the walls of the template.

Sarah: So true. Okay. Here’s the last thing we want to touch on with the Do-It-Yourself template site. Ongoing support. So when you’re working with a template, one thing that you want to keep in mind is that you’re not going to have access like direct access to the person that has built your website. So you can’t call them up, ask them specific questions or make specific requests. You’re really limited to that. It’s going to have its limitations. When you have those customizations, you might be working on your site and say, I have these pieces on here that I don’t really need, how do I take them off? That layout is that layout. So, you have to make it work. They have supports, I don’t want to say that they don’t have support, but you don’t have that direct support from that person that has built it, who can make those changes quickly. That could be really important because then you’ll feel like, well, I’m trying to call somebody and I can’t get anywhere with this and I’m on my own. That goes into your time and your time is a valuable thing.

Glyna: Oh my gosh. We run into this all the time. I feel so bad for people because time is just as important as what the cost is because time is money. You hear that all the time. We ran into somebody just recently, they are on their second website that they were trying to build. The first one wouldn’t do what they wanted and now this one is…blegh. That’s all I can say. When I looked at it, we were like, “Oh my gosh, we can’t fix it!”

Sarah: It is! Now they’re bogged down by it again. They’re like, “I can’t do that upfront costs. I’m just going to do this monthly thing”. But at the end of the day, they ended up spending more trying to redo these templates.

Glyna: Yeah! I will say, I have seen people really pull it off because they only needed specific things for their company. The template they chose offered that and they put it up, it looks beautiful. So, it’s not that you can’t pull it off, but obviously, we prefer custom websites because that’s what we do. Let’s move on to what you get with the custom-built website. We don’t have templates. We’re able to code the website. Meaning, we make it look exactly the way you want it to. It’s really cool, somebody can even say, “Hey! I like this website. I want it to look exactly like this”, and our guys are so good that they’re able to produce whatever you want. So, there are rarely any limitations. I knock on wood doing this for 10 years. I don’t think I’ve run into anything that we weren’t able to produce for our customers. You’re able to show your culture, your personality, and all of the things that you need with your custom design and you get all the functionality that you need for your specific needs. It is a win-win as far as customization and design. That’s the fun part because we can make a pretty website for sure.

Sarah: Yes, exactly. So this is another thing, and I wanted to add to this, what you get the custom websites, scalability, flexibility, and manageability. What do we mean by that? Your custom website is always expandable. So, if you have a new idea or you want to add a new photo gallery or you have something else that you want to add to your website, your web developer, the web designer can make it happen. When you have a custom-built website, custom features can be added very easily, a lot easier than a template site. That’s really nice to make you feel like your website’s not stuck in a box where you can continue to add to it, which is so huge because that kind of adds to the longevity of your website. You’ll get a lot of use from it because there are really no limitations. That’s really, really huge.

Glyna: Yeah. Longevity, that’s a really key thing to bring up because if you have a template and websites, sometimes they aren’t supported after a certain amount of time. Then little things start to happen, little tweaks start to happen and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, this thing has fallen apart!” So anyway. Longevity is very, very important.

Sarah: Having that customization I think is huge with being able to have it function and do what you needed to do.

Glyna: Yeah, exactly. All right. SEO. Yeah!

Sarah: I knew your eyes would start twinkling.

Glyna: That’s why you put me on this part. Okay, a lot of templates, almost all the templates, hardly any of them have the functionality to do SEO the way it’s supposed to be done. I hate to say it, but GoDaddy, even their templates. You would think that they would have that availability, but they just don’t. So, if you’re trying to rank or trying to increase your business through SEO, a template is definitely not the way to go because it can’t be optimized for what you need. If you go to a custom website and you have a great developer, you have that functionality that’s built-in to the backend and we can optimize that website to give you the best chance to rank, but also increase your business. SEO, again, it depends on what you want from your website. If you just need something to throw up there and be a legitimate business, SEO may not be that important to you. But if you want to actually get business from your website, you need to be able to have SEO and be able to optimize it.

Sarah: If you’re a business owner and you don’t know about SEO, you’re not going to think to ask or know about it. That’s the key thing with these templates is that they’re not going to have that SEO. You’re not going to have really that up-to date-code and SEO that’s going to help you get found online. It’s one thing to have a pretty website, but if it’s not optimized for search engines to be able to find it and think it’s a relevant site and match it to your online users…It’s a biggie!

Glyna: That’s a huge one. Yeah, definitely.

Sarah: One more thing that you get with a custom website and there’s more than one, but we’re just trying to condense it today, let’s be honest. You get that ongoing support. This is so huge too. With these custom sites, if you want to add location pages, if you want to add service pages, increase security, whatever you want to do, they can help. They’re there to monitor it and make sure it’s running the way it should. Having that ongoing support is so important. They’re on top of it, making sure that your website is operating at peak performance all the time.

Glyna: We use WordPress. We talk about that all the time and for a number of reasons, but it’s also what we call “”an open platform”. You can start with what you need today and then add on later if needed. Rob calls it “the wedding”, you know how you plan for a wedding. and you think it has to be perfect. You have to have every single thing in it all at once at the beginning but you really don’t. Just start with the pages that you need. We can customize those and then we can add-on as you go. Do you need a shopping cart? We can add that on later. Do you need a photo gallery? We can add that on. Those are other things that when you have the support from a great company and a great platform, then you’re not holed-in to some of those limitations.

Sarah: That’s a good one! All right. What do we not get? There are a couple of things you don’t get with a custom website.

Glyna: Yeah. There are a couple. It’s like when you’re excited about something and then somebody tells you it’s going to take four weeks, that’s kind of a bummer. You have to weigh it out with what you actually get. So yeah, custom websites can take just a little bit longer, but it makes sense. We need to really make sure that we are putting it together exactly as you want it. We normally can get a website up in four weeks. We can do it in less time than that but a lot of times we are really just waiting on content. So, it may not necessarily be us building it that takes 4 weeks, but we’re waiting on the content so that we can build the website. Four weeks gives us the best chance to make sure it’s perfect to get the content on there, optimize it, those kinds of things. So yeah, it’s not exactly the quickest turnaround time if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’ll be great for you in the future because of all the things that we mentioned. Open platform, you can manage it easier. Oh, blah, blah, blah. All the stuff we already mentioned.

Sarah: It is endless. There is another thing that you don’t get with a custom website and that’s a lower cost. There’s a reason for that. You’re building a site according to your specifications and it’s all customized to your business. So, with the customization and having all these bells and whistles, it is going to be a little bit more pricey and it’s going to take a little bit more time. Now that being said, we do offer some templates, and I say templates very loosely. We do have some template options that will give you those customization features. But when you have a custom site, it is going to have a little bit of a higher price point to it. Now that being said, one of the great things is that it’s a one and done. Once you pay for it, that’s it. That’s what’s very different about these template sites, they may offer a low, low, low upfront cost. But you’re paying every single month for the life of that website. So, you’ve got to think about that. You could end up very easily paying more than what it would be for just a custom website. The big difference is you pay the price upfront, but once you get it, it’s done.

Glyna: Yeah, exactly. Then it’s yours forever. You can make changes. We built websites for people and they just want to change the look of it or the color of it and those are things that we can do. So, that initial investment is worth it. It lasts a lot longer. So we’ve talked about most of the things I think we wanted to cover, but we want to just do a final take on the value again, kind of reiterate the value of custom-built websites because obviously, that’s the lane that we’re in. So, let’s think about your ROI, return on investment. If you need to drive people to your website, you’re going to want a custom website because it gives you the best chance of people finding you. It has the functionality, design, and security that you need. It’s all built-in. All of those things are great. You can scale them. We’ve mentioned that about 15 times. I feel like, you can scale them as you go and it can grow with your business. So, you don’t ever have to worry about having an old stale website or that you have things that you want to add that you can’t add. It can adapt to the changes of online practices too, like SEO and all of that. So, your return on investment really pays off in the end.

Sarah: Yeah, it sure does. You need to think about a custom-built website’s longevity. With a well-built website, you’re going to get a good five years out of that. You can get more, but we always kind of recommend, there comes a point where you do want to refresh your website a little bit. But your well-built site is going to give you about five years while a template, that has limitations to it, it might need to be redesigned within two years or less. So, you’ve got to think about those things. A site that’s effective, and does all the things that you want it to is going to give you double the return on investment because it is built to be a fully functioning website beyond just looking pretty. It’s got all that backend stuff that you need just as much.

Glyna: Yeah, exactly. And again, we’ll mention SEO, throw it back in there one more time. If you’re going to be on the internet, you might as well try to optimize it for search engine optimization and actually be able to drive customers to it. I mean, if you can, I think obviously everybody needs more business. If that’s something you need, then again, that’s why you would want a custom website.

Sarah: Yeah. Let’s just recap really quickly. Okay. What you’re going to get with a DIY template. Here are the pros: Shorter development time, less expensive, and you don’t need coding experience. What you don’t get with the template site? Custom design, no special features. The layout is the layout. You also don’t get that ongoing support. So if there are changes needed or different hiccups, those things can’t get resolved right away. So you’ve got that limited support. Let’s talk about a custom website. What you do get: You get a unique design that matches your brand, your brand voice, and everything about your business. You get that scalability, that functionality, that security, and all that stuff with a custom-website gives you better longevity. Then another big thing that you get with a custom website is SEO. Oh my goodness, you need to have that on your site. I can’t say that enough. That is how your business gets seen, how your website gets seen online. What you also get with a custom website is ongoing support, whatever changes you need to make can be done right away. They are staying on top of your website to make sure it’s fully functioning. So, here’s what you don’t get with a custom website: Quick turnaround time. It’s going to take time. You want something customized, then it’s going to be a three to four-week process. What you also don’t get is that lower price point. But again, as we’ve explained, there are upfront costs, but there’s no month-to-month cost. With a template, you get that month-to-month cost forever, as long as your site is hosted by that platform. A custom website is your own. That is your domain. You own it. It’s yours. With templates, you do not get that. Once you leave them, you lose that site and that domain name and that can be scary.

Glyna: Yep. We run into that all the time. So anyway, hopefully, you guys think that was helpful and I do want to mention it because we are celebrating our 10th year in business right now. We have a special going on with our websites and we’re offering 10% off for anybody who needs a website between now and the end of February. I realize if you’re listening to this at a later time, that doesn’t apply. But for those of you who are watching or listening now, we have a couple of weeks left. If you want to jump on that opportunity, that would be awesome. I think that’s all we have for you this morning. We really appreciate everybody tuning in, thanks to all our early risers over here. Once again, we’ll be back next Friday for the next Marketing Mix segment at eight o’clock. And until then, we hope you have a great week. Bye!