Templates? Custom-Built? What are the differences anyways?

Have you ever wondered why some websites look, work or even ‘feel’ so amazing? 

For instance, check this one out: 

Custom-Built Website 1
Image: Romboats

And this

Custom-Built Example 2
Image: Yellow Stone Club

Or even this:

Custom-Built Site 3
Image: The Outpost

Now... all of them share one thing in common - they’re all custom-built

Put simply, these websites are designed with features and functionalities that are uniquely made to look and work in a special way. 

However, if you’re planning to recreate something similar using pre-designed templates, then the results will disappoint you as they only provide basic features that are more suited for normal and personal use.

So Should You Not Use Templates?  

Website Templates
Image: Speckyboy

That entirely depends on what you need: 

a) Do you want something quick and simple or... 

b) Do you need something more personalized that’s made to achieve a certain goal?   

If you’re leaning towards the first option, then templates are a great choice as they let users quickly get a basic website up with some text and images. 

But, say you run a business and you’re trying to push up sales or get more customers... 

In that instance, a custom-built website will help you out in those aspects as they are designed to meet such specific goals in the most efficient way possible. 

After all, there’s a reason why ‘normal’ and ‘personal use’ was mentioned for those pre-designed templates because they can only help you with so much up to a certain point.

Okay, but why are custom-built sites so much better? Here are 5 reasons why.

1) Unique Visuals

Unique Visuals
Image: Thinkwithgoogle

It’s no secret here - visuals are important. 

Often, we quickly form assumptions about something based on their visual appearance because it’s how our brains process everything around us. 

From there, we start assigning value, or more particularly... a perceived value to those things. 


If we put this in the context of online shopping

Online Shopping Tea Website
Image: HelloTea

Customers are more likely to click on products that look ‘good’ rather than the lookalikes because they associate them with ‘quality’ or premium products, which is then perceived to be better, as they are:

  • Different
  • Unique 
  • Special 

So what does that mean? 

“First impressions matter.” 

Those visuals help establish the impression customers have towards you in a good way, in which they will perceive you to be different, special and unique as compared to others.  

Now, let’s bring that idea back to your website.

Say you just started a chocolate business and you’re aiming for younger consumers (i.e. kids, pre-teens, etc) who are drawn to vibrant colors and illustrations.  

From there, you understand that your website has to portray ideas of youth and fun, as opposed to a regular website template that only shows your products in an ordinary way such as this

Normal Looking Layout
Image: chocolate.org

Instead of that, what you really want, is this

Custom-Built Website Chocolate Business
Image: Ombar UK

Here’s a quick look at their homepage:

Ombar Chocolate Website Scroll

Now, let’s say your chocolate business decided to target higher-end consumers who fancies ‘luxury indulgences’.

Your visuals would have to look something like this

Premium Website Chocolate Bars
Image: Simply Chocolate

Here’s a quick scroll through their homepage

Ombar Chocolate Choices

From there, your visuals would need to portray a sense of ‘elegance’ while simultaneously highlighting the specialty of each flavor through a careful balance of bold colors and white space

Paired with a close up of your chocolate’s packaging, the striking designs and its complementary elements enhances the overall visual appeal, which helps users vividly imagine the subtle yet flavorful indulgence that is your chocolate.

As you can see, a custom website lets you take advantage of how you can set your visuals, giving you full control over each and every part of your website. 

Even small details such as fonts and colors are customizable as you are not restricted by the preset layouts that are commonly seen in your typical website templates.  

Beyond that, there’s one other benefit to having attractive visuals in your website: 


Apple's Branding
Image: Zhiyue Xu

As mentioned, there’s value in ‘looking good’ because it: 

“Persuades and positively influences people’s perception towards something.”

In this instance, that would be the quality of your products and services

After all, if you’ve already built up a brand, then you’ll know how important it is to stick to the branding that’s been set for your business

When you stop doing so, customers will start questioning whether the business is actually changing. 

Some might think it’s for the better. But others? It could be worse.  

This can then either pull them closer or push them away, which I’m sure you’d prefer the former.   

The main takeaway is this:

A custom website lets you create unique visuals that are tailored to your brand, which will either attract or drive customers away. 

2) Custom Functionality

Image: Parallel Systems

Next, we have an example of what is called custom functionalities

As shown above, having a custom-built website lets you create these special functions (or features). 

While you may not necessarily need something as complex and advanced like the site above, having these special functions can help capture and heighten your audience’s interest and attention towards your business

For instance: 

Inovar Unique Functionality

If you own a flooring business, customers will usually browse through all your products by going to your physical stores. 

But what if they couldn’t be there in person because of some unforeseen situation or circumstance?   

Well, here’s where having one of those special functionalities will come in handy:

Inovar Website Studio
Image: Inovar

Instead of customers travelling down to you, your custom-built website can easily bring your products to them with an interactive studio. 

Essentially, it lets them browse through all your product ranges while giving them a special function to mix and match each tile to various preset spaces. 

Inovar Custom Studio Functionality

From there, they can play around in each of these virtual spaces to find the perfect product match for their very own room. 

With this feature, not only have you recreated the physical shopping experience through an online platform but also enhanced it by providing customers a new way to engage with your business from the comfort of their homes.

Here’s Another Example:  

Image: Twochimpscoffee

Let’s say you run a coffee business and you’re getting a lot of questions from customers about which coffee roast would taste the best

While you can manually reply to each and every one of these inquiries, they do however take up a lot of time and effort

And that’s because you need to understand each of their personal preferences such as: 

  • Favorite flavor
  • Usual drinking time
  • Frequency of drinking
  • What they make their coffee with and so much more... 

To get around this problem, you can instead create an interactive quiz that helps customers figure out the best products for them based on their given answers. 

What’s even better is that you can make your quizzes even more engaging with mini-animations like the example shown above.

This ‘gamifies’ the entire process and makes it much more interesting as customers will be constantly engaged with both the visuals and functionality of your website. 

And these functions are just the start of what you can do with a custom-built website!   

But with pre-designed templates? 

“You’ll be cutting yourself off from all those options.”

At most, they’ll provide you with plugins that try to mimic the same functions, but only at a very basic level. 

For instance, your interactive quiz will turn into a static form like this one:

Static Forms

While some wouldn’t mind something as basic as this, others would argue that your business needs all the competitive edge it can get. 

After all, convincing customers to switch from one brand to another takes a lot of work

And that’s because these businesses have done everything possible (i.e. product quality, website specialties, branding etc.) to attract, persuade and retain them in order to grow their business.  

The question then becomes:  

“Will your business do the same?”

Which brings us to the third point

3) User Experience     

Let’s run a quick exercise for this: 

Think back to your most favorite memory. 

We may have one, a few or just too many to count, but all of them share one thing in common: 

“They Are Memorable.”

In your favorite memory, you interacted with something or someone that created a pleasant and positive experience, which triggers how we feel towards that subject while leaving a good impression towards it.   

Although there are better (and more scientific) explanations to what makes certain memories more memorable, the general idea is that great experiences make us remember things and people better.  

Now, let’s tie that back to user experience.   

In the context of a product, service, brand or business, user experience refers to a person’s overall emotions and attitudes towards those things. 

Put simply, it looks at how memorable someone or something is based on their interaction with you, in which case - your products and services

Take this skin-care website for example: 

Skincare Premium Website
Image: Carbon Beauty

At first glance, you’re greeted by a certain type of aesthetics (bold visuals, large fonts, minimalist design etc.), which hints to you about the type of brand that they are.  

But as you start browsing, you’ll notice how fluid and smooth the entire site is. 

From the way their products appear: 


To the mini-interactions such as these: 

Each of these moments combine to form one unified experience that captivates visitors (especially interested customers) and makes them feel as though they’ve immersed themselves into another world. 

Particularly, one that is new, exciting and exhilarating. 

And best of all? You’ll remember all that because the experience they gave you was memorable

So keep this in mind: 

“User Experience is About How It Feels.”

Whether it’s your visuals, your site’s functionality or even a combination of both, your brand’s user experience will determine whether visitors (or customers) are either going to stay or leave your site for someone else’s.

Optimizing Your User Experience 

Good User Experience

Now, how do you ensure that your site has the best user experience ever? 

Aside from the factors mentioned above, you’ll need to take into account a few technical things within your website

For instance: 

  • Loading Speed
  • User-Friendly Navigation 
  • Mobile Responsiveness etc.


If you’re not familiar with any of those terms, don’t worry! 

The web design team that’s helping you with your custom-built website will take care of them so you wouldn’t need to fuss about those things at all. 

With pre-designed templates however, you’ll need to research on how to troubleshoot them on your own alongside following various best practices to ensure your user experience is in top condition.   

But keep in mind the hidden limitations that come with using a template as well, as some of might not communicate them outright from the start.


Hidden Limitations 

For instance, they might put unwanted ads within your site

Hidden Limitations Of Using Website Templates
Image: Thimpress

And the worse part? 

“Your Competitor’s Ads Can Slip In Unnoticed!”

That’s because you don’t have control over the types of ads displayed, which means it will cost you a monthly (or annual) fee to remove them.   

Other limitations can also include: 

Problems With Website Templates
Image: Crazyegg

a) Page Structure

A fixed layout for your page that can’t be customized according to your visual, content and functionality needs.     

b) Content & Copyright Issues

The site has full control over how they use your content for distribution and promotional purposes, while having the right to delete it with or without any cause and notice when they choose to.   

c) Ecommerce Integrations

You need to install several plug-ins to turn it into an ecommerce site. However, it doesn’t guarantee that the plug-ins will be compatible with your template while some might even overwrite your plug-ins with every new update made. 

Bad User Experience

From there, you’ll need to find different solutions for each of these problems as they will severely disrupt the user experience within your website. 

This makes it hard for any business to portray a professional image to their customers, let alone stand out from the competition.  

The main takeaway? 

A custom-built website lets you create a memorable user experience, while templates have limitations in the type of experience you can create to make your brand memorable.   

4) Speed 

Loading Speed (Website)

One other crucial factor that determines whether customers will either stay or leave a certain site can easily be tied back to this - speed

We all know the frustrations of having slow internet speed, so can you imagine what it’s like when your website takes an extremely long time to load?   

Usually, this is a common problem in templates as they come pre-built with lots of plugins installed which affects the overall speed within your website. 

Too Many Plugins
Image: Kaypound

While it’s great to have a wide selection of choices, the reality is that you’ll end up using only a few of them on a regular basis

This means all the unused plugins will still run in the background, even if you’ve disabled them!

To Make Matters Worse...


Some of the visually ‘attractive’ themes offered can also slow your site down because they require extra code (usually dozens of pages long) to display those attractive graphics. 

But even when that’s solved, you’ll have to troubleshoot certain technical issues such as image optimization, compression, slow web hosting servers, unnecessary (.CSS) and (.JS) files and so much more!

However, that doesn’t mean that templates are all bad… 

After all, those problems can be resolved if you have the patience and technical expertise to do so.

But for those who are short on time, or rather not deal with such difficult headaches, then getting a custom-built website is going to save you from having those nightmares.  

The reason being:

“A Web Design Team.”

A Web Design Team

Not only are they equipped with special skill sets to handle and troubleshoot all the frustrating errors such as those listed above… 

But their invaluable experience in building, maintaining and upgrading even the most complex websites helps ensure businesses that their very own is fast, smooth and always running at peak capacity

They’ll even advise you on various quick-fixes or solutions to make in order to keep your website’s speed in top condition, especially if it’s an ecommerce store that experiences large traffic during certain periods of the year. 

Mobile Phone Ecommerce Speed and Convenience

With that being said, don’t ignore the importance of speed as customers are: 

“Used to Getting What They Want in A Matter of Seconds.”

Thus, it’s crucial to invest in building a quality website as businesses that are slow to adopt  such trends will get left behind. 

Whether it’s information, products or even experiences, your website’s speed can be the determining factor between profits, breaking-even or loss.

5) Security  

Ecommerce Security

As consumers spend more time shopping online, the use of credit cards, e-wallets and other digital payment methods are only going to increase as time goes by.   

Thus, security becomes an important topic as people are concerned with the safety of their information when browsing and transacting online.  

With pre-designed templates, you’re never guaranteed of such safety because they are designed as open source. 

This essentially means that anyone (even people with limited technical expertise) can quickly access the code and develop a software to modify anything within the website. 

Now, that’s a huge drawback for any business as you can imagine the amount of damage that can be done if a hacker with malicious intent decides to sabotage your website. 

From there, you can lose things like: 

  • Personal Data (i.e. passwords, debit/credit card info, sensitive customer information) 
  • Site Assets (i.e. files, images, content)   

Malicious Hacker Example

Sometimes, they’ll even hack it to disrupt your service or inject viruses and malware so it spreads to your site’s visitors which grants them even more access to their computers. 

While developers tend to update their templates with the latest security measures regularly, hackers can quickly regain access because the open-source code allows them to study it for other work-arounds.  

Worse off, some developers won’t respond to requests for new security updates quickly as they often have other priorities on hand, which means your website will be vulnerable to hackers until a new update is released. 

Custom-Built Website Security

However, that story becomes different when you have a custom-built website, as it takes away the risk by providing only you and your team access to the sensitive code. 

Moreover, you can request your web design team to integrate it with state-of-the-art security measures to safely protect your website from most cybersecurity threats. 

After all, they’re tasked with providing on-going support, which is extremely valuable for businesses in certain industries (i.e. healthcare, transportation, government agencies etc.) that requires extensive assistance in safeguarding each and every part of their website.

From there, you won’t have to worry about your site’s safety being compromised as you can be safely assured of the protection installed in dealing with the many cyber attacks that could potentially come about.


Screen Optimization

So there you have it, the 5 reasons for getting a custom-built website, which are: 

  • Unique Visuals
  • Custom Functionality
  • User Experience
  • Speed
  • Security

While templates themselves might seem like a poor choice for those who have specific goals (i.e. growing and scaling a business), their benefits are much better suited for smaller uses that don’t involve complex situations which require hands-on expertise.  

Instead, a custom-built website is exactly the reason why many chose this direction as they can be assured by the web design team in building a quality digital asset, which helps them accomplish all their key business objectives in the most optimal and cost-effective manner.

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