Though only 71% of SMEs have a website, now, more than ever, this online presence is key to getting your business found and generating revenue. From telling your brand story to gathering enquiries and selling products, each business’s site has its own unique look, feel and purpose.

If you’re in the process of building or rebuilding your business website, you might be wondering if a bespoke or templated site would be a better option for your business. This article will weigh up the benefits and downsides of each, to help you decide what the most worthwhile investment will be.

What’s the difference between bespoke and templated sites?

There are some key differences between bespoke and templated websites that are worth understanding before you make any decisions.

Templated websites are usually available to purchase or use via website builders like Wix, HubSpot or Squarespace. Accessible and easy to use, you can simply sign up and pay for the service, select a template for the website and use its redefined page structures – editing them using modules and basic tools. Some templates and providers do offer tracking, SEO or restrictive coding tools.

In contrast, a bespoke website is built from scratch by designers and developers. Designers will take a brief and discuss what you want from your website, then create a custom design that’s completely unique and integrates all your needs. Once the design is approved, a digital developer will use their expertise to code build the site, plug in any analytics, customer relationship management systems or marketing tools and launch it on the internet.

To help you to decide which option would be best for your business, we’ve compared two websites from the same industry sector – swimming pool retailers – to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of bespoke vs templated website designs.

The bespoke website solution

The main advantage of a bespoke site is that it’s, well, bespoke. Completely custom-made by a designer, it will integrate all the information, buttons and functionalities you want and help bring your brand to life.

Our bespoke example is Compass Pool’s site which has a number of features, both visual and interactive. For example, the first thing the user notices when entering the site is that the mouse icon has been created to be consistent with the brand logo, it also acts as a clever side-scroll function prompt for the sites distinct sidewards navigation elements.

On exploring the site the user is presented with elements that visually animate, creating a heightened desire to engage with the content. Each site page also has been created with a sensibility of space, giving all written content and imagery its own real estate – space to breathe – which in turn, makes the users experience more enjoyable, increasing the likelihood of ROI.

This bespoke site has many other features, such as a built-in brochure download and online quotation function. Though these features may be available on templated sites, the difference with a bespoke website is that the client/design can dictate the location for these features on the web page – giving them more prominence and tasteful placement that fits with the elegance of the design.

Advantages of bespoke sites:

• Insights from technical professionals: by choosing experienced designers and developers to work with, you can make sure they integrate all your needs effectively and take advantage of their know-how to add value to your website.

• In-built analytics and SEO tools: you can choose the tracking, customer relationship management and marketing tools you want to link up to your site. This means you don’t have to change your processes, worry about your SEO rankings or learn how to use the website building provider’s tools.

• Full customisable/editable back-end: your website is a business tool and so the capabilities your team require can be built into the bespoke website, making manageable of it 100% user friendly. Plus, you aren’t tightly restricted on what you can add/adjust, meaning the website can expand with your business as it grows.

There are of course some challenges to choosing a bespoke site option. The main ones are the timeframe and cost of the design and development process. From taking a brief to creating and amending a design, then building the site itself, a website project can take between one to three months to complete (site size dependent of course). Plus, using designers and developers rather than creating the site yourself means you need to pay for their expertise and put time aside to brief and review their work.

Yet, this investment of cost and time means you’ll get the exact website you want and need for your business. By having a site that operates well for your team and customers, you will offer a better service and be able to market and sell your products or services effectively to get a real return on your investment. Not to mention the design of your website will be unique to your brand, standing you up against market competitors.

The templated website solution

If you’re short of time and money, then choosing a templated site will help you set up a shopfront for your business relatively cheaply, quickly and easily. Plus, depending on the type of template you choose, you can add colours, logos and photography to give it an on-brand feel.

The templated website example we will look at is Portrait Pools.

Although at first you can get a sense of Portrait Pool’s brand, products and services, the on-site user experience is rigid, restrictive and somewhat uninspiring. For example, though the site navigation works as it should, it feels too functional and lacks any real individuality or character.

As the user navigates the templated site, in stark contrast to the bespoke solution, each page of the site feels flat with no movement of the elements. The imagery, though large and visually impactful, is missing the support of subtle features that guide the user around the sites pages.

Disadvantages of templated sites:

• Being slow and clunky: though some have the capacity to edit the template’s code, adding this extra layer can slow down the site significantly. Plus, though a website may look good when you create it in the builder, many templates have responsive compatibility, meaning it won’t look great for your customers on their phones or laptops.

• Lacking custom capabilities: with a template, you’re restricted to the tools and back-end capabilities the provider offers. This means you need to teach yourself and your team how to work with what you’re given, as you have no adaptability to customise or adjust the website to better suit your business’s needs.

• Little user experience: even if the template provider has analytics installed, you can’t adjust the site based on the insights you’ve gained. Without being able to change the structure and functionalities of the site, based on the findings of analytics, the user journey cannot be evolved or personalised to optimise the website experience.

Although template sites are a helpful starting point and short-term stop gap, they’re not appropriate for businesses looking to leverage this digital platform as a business expands, grows and therefore has more content and requirements of the website.

What option should you choose for your business?

Whatever the size of your business, when you’re weighing up the options for how best to build your website, you need to consider what the return on your investment may be. Though you might not need a huge amount of money upfront for a templated site, it’s likely you’ll spend extra time (and more money) later down the line when you try to make it work as you want – or fixing customer and employee frustrations with the website as a whole.

We’re not saying don’t choose a template website, some templates look really great – and in fact they’re improving year-on-year. But, they will always have restrictions, as this is the nature of off-the-shelf templated website solutions.

In contrast, by taking the time and investing the money in creating a bespoke website with a trusted agency, you can make sure it suits your exact business needs – providing you with a website that has longevity and scalability. A bespoke site will look great, work effectively and return on your investment several times over by acting as a marketing tool, generating revenue and traffic to your business.

With plenty of experience in developing sites for a range of businesses and industry sectors, you can trust the Designmc team to create a website that will meet the needs of your business and team. To find out more about our bespoke site services and how we can add value to your digital presence, send your brief to us at hello@designmc.org and a member of our team will be in touch.