Custom web development vs. template-based: choosing the right approach for your website

Discussing advantages of custom web development over template-based

Half of the internet users form their opinion about a business based on the design of its website. Considering the abundance of sites today and the importance of sales in certain niches, it is necessary to provide potential customers with the best design and user experience possible.

There are various ways to develop a website — you can build it yourself using a website builder, gather an in-house team for custom web development, or hire an IT agency for the same purpose. In this article, we will discuss the advantages of custom web development and compare different approaches to website development.

What approaches to website development exist?

There are several approaches an entrepreneur can implement to develop a website. They can develop it using a website builder, or opt for custom web development. When using templates, the entire backend of the digital product is already set up for you, and you only need to add content and customize the visual part using predefined blocks. On the other hand, custom web development involves building a website from scratch using frameworks and coding languages. Within this approach, both the front end and the back end of the website are written manually.

Let’s compare these two approaches to cars and car production. Template-based websites are like mass-produced cars that come off an assembly line. They follow a standard design and have limited customization options.

At the same time, custom web development is like building a custom-made car. All the parts of the car are designed and tailored to meet the needs of the owner. To add, this approach allows for complete flexibility and customization. The website can be designed to align with the brand identity and unique requirements of the business. Such a high level of customization offers a competitive advantage by providing an outstanding online presence. Let’s delve into the advantages of custom web development as well as template-based websites below!

If you are not in the mood for playing with templates and urgently need a custom website, delegate this task to us!

Pros and cons of template-based websites

Using a template-based website is suitable if you need to create one quickly and don’t have the resources to hire a team of developers.

Template-based website builders typically offer templates for various parts of a website: blog, product catalog, homepage, subscription options, schedule creation, and more. You can use a free or paid version, utilizing basic functions and upgrading to a subscription when you need additional features to implement your ideas. Furthermore, you can assemble a website using templates on your own, without the help of a development team.

Here are examples of services with website templates: Squarespace, Wix, GoDaddy, Weebly, and others.

Let’s review the key advantages and disadvantages of the approach!

Simple setup

The template-based websites are simple and easy to set up, and that’s their biggest advantage. With the help of pre-designed templates, entrepreneurs from any industry can assemble a website without the need to grow extensive tech knowledge or coding skills. That’s why this approach is a great solution for those who need a basic online presence and don’t want to invest much resources and time into building a website.


Websites created with the help of website builders are usually more budget-friendly compared to custom web development. The biggest part of templates are available for free or at low cost, making it an affordable option for small businesses with limited budgets.

Pre-designed layout and features

Website builders offer many pre-designed layouts and built-in features, for instance, contact forms, image galleries, and blog sections. These ready-made parts save time and resources on designing and implementing common website components.

Advantages of custom web development: templates for a one-page website and blog from a popular website builder
Here are the templates for a one-page website and blog provided by Squarespace

However, template-based websites also have some drawbacks that should be considered.

You are not the owner of your website

A big downside of template-based websites is that the user is never the true owner of the website. When using this simple technology, the user needs to comply with the terms and conditions imposed by the service provider. That’s why a user is never a host to its website’s hosting, domain, or data. In case the platform decides to shut down or change its services, the user’s website could be at risk of being lost or getting out of access, without an opportunity to be transferred to a user’s server.

Lack of uniqueness

As far as the same templates are used by many users, many websites will have a similar look and feel. Such websites lack uniqueness and make it harder for businesses of any size to break away from competitors. Templates provide little opportunity for adding custom design and features, therefore the ability of the website to align to brand identity and unusual requirements of the business is also limited.

Plugins slow down the performance

Another drawback is that certain features or functionalities may require the use of plugins. Features that may require plugins include contact form, optimization for search engines, security, social media integrations, analytics, and others. While plugins can extend the functionality of a website, they can also introduce additional complexity and potential performance issues. In some cases, plugins may not be optimized for speed, leading to slower page load times and negatively impacting user experience.

No scalability

Template-based websites can be hard to align with the growing needs of a business and new unusual features it may need. Website builders usually limit the ability of their users to add new unique functionalities like custom algorithms, map integrations, or AI-based features or expand the website’s architecture efficiently.

No access to code

Another great downside of template-based development is that it provides tight access to the website’s code. Therefore, when some bugs occur, they can only be fixed by the developer of the website builder. This may take some time and lead to money and reputation losses.

Alien advertisements

Template-based websites have the disadvantage of displaying third-party advertisements. The owner of the website can solve this problem by paying extra money to the provider of the website builder.

Advantages of custom web development for building websites

Custom web development is suitable for you if your website needs to withstand high traffic, you want to add unique features to it, and you plan to actively customize it according to your needs and trends.

Custom web development involves several stages, including design, coding from scratch using a specific framework, release, and ongoing support. Creating such a solution typically requires an in-house team or an IT agency that can assist with development.

Advantages of custom web development: key stages in the development of custom websites
Key stages in custom website development

Here are a few popular technologies for web development: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Laravel, Node.js, Django, and many others.

Now let’s talk about the advantages of custom web development for websites!

True ownership

With custom development, entrepreneurs become true owners of their digital tools. Such websites are located on the owner’s server, therefore they are free to make decisions about their future. On the other hand, template-based websites may have limitations, and if the platform shuts down or restricts transfers, you could lose access to your website.

Fully tailored functionality

The greatest advantage of custom web development is that it allows you to create a website or web application of any format you need. These can be a corporate website for collecting customers’ applications, platforms for buying and selling crypto or NFT, complex marketplaces with multiple types of items, etc. Nowadays, there are technologies like frameworks and coding languages that allow you to implement any unique functionalities and algorithms within your app or website.

If you want to get a website fully tailored to your business idea, contact us and we’ll discuss your unique idea.

API usage

An opportunity to leverage APIs is among the list of advantages of custom web development. APIs allow you to seamlessly integrate features and services from third-party providers into your website. For example, you can integrate Google Maps for location-based functionalities or Stripe for secure payment processing. This integration enhances the functionality and user experience of your website but it requires coding skills to be implemented.

The features added through APIs are very diverse. For instance, our team has recently developed the Oddscrowd betting app, where users can track games, and their results, and see what users make lost accurate bets. We used eOddsmaker’s API to fetch the most up-to-date and reliable data to the Oddscrowd web application. You can read the entire Oddscrowd story in our cases section.

The ability to leverage APIs is one of the key advantages of custom web development
As for other third-party functionality, we also used PayPal for in-app payments and implemented authorization through Twitter

Less vulnerable to hacker attacks

A higher level of cybersecurity is another advantage of custom web development that websites make use of. As long as only an entrepreneur and a chosen IT service provider have access to website code, custom websites are usually safer and more resistant to hacker attacks. More than that, up-to-date web technologies provide robust security measures, protecting your website from common hacking methods. Since the data and code of your website are in the hands of a trusted dev team, the high level of security and corporate data safety is of no doubt.

Better performance

Superior performance is one of the advantages of custom web development that makes this approach a preferable choice. They are optimized for speed and load times, resulting in a seamless user experience. Custom development allows for efficient code and server configurations, ensuring that your website can handle a high volume of traffic. Additionally, a custom website can be easily scaled to accommodate the needs of growing businesses, allowing it to work smoothly even with millions of users.

Up-to-date web development technologies like Laravel and Django allow the development of websites and web apps with completely different complicated functionalities. One example of such a web app is InvoiceNinja which helps businesses and freelancers process payments, monitor expenses, generate custom invoices, and curate proposals in one place. This service is used by more than 170,000 business accounts, imagine how big is the load of this service. All this became possible thanks to Laravel, a web development framework.

The ability to provide good performance is one of the key advantages of custom web development
InvoiceNinja is a service delivered via the SaaS model

Unfortunately, in this world, nothing is ideal, and neither is the custom web development approach. That’s why it’s time to discuss its drawbacks.

Dependency on an IT agency

Throughout the entire process of design, coding, and maintenance, entrepreneurs who opt for custom web development are reliant on their chosen IT service provider. If the provider lacks expertise or proves to be irresponsible, the project can come to a halt at any stage. This reliance on a single agency can make it challenging to hand over the project to another team in the event of issues or dissatisfaction.

Longer development timeline

Unlike template-based websites that can be built within a few hours, custom-made websites may take a few months to develop. This process includes such stages as planning, design iterations, coding, testing as well as after-release maintenance. The long timeline should be taken into account when one plans to create and launch a website or web application.

Higher development costs

Custom web development often comes with higher development costs compared to the use of pre-designed templates. The process involves a dedicated team of professionals who are skilled in various programming languages, web design, and project management. These specialized skills and resources inevitably come at a higher price.

Let’s take a closer look at different price breakdowns. Here is the table presenting prices and features of different website builders provided by Forbes.

Website builderStarting priceDrag-and-drop editor*E-commerce features
GoDaddy$99.9 (per year)YesYes
*it allows the user to choose needed blocks and templated and drop them into the editing space

As for custom-made websites, development companies from Clutch usually charge $25–$49 per hour, while web development projects on this platform usually cost less than $10,000.

Although custom websites are more expensive, we always need quality to be the very first focus. Here’s a wise saying provided by Clutch.

“When it comes to development, you always get what you pay for”

Dispelling 3 popular myths about custom web development

Myth 1: Custom web development is only for large enterprises with big budgets

Custom web development is indeed more expensive than template-based development, but there is no need to be scared off by the high price. After all, you don’t have to develop a website or application with all the possible features from scratch. Instead, you can start by launching a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with a minimal set of features and then enhance it based on the project’s needs and with additional funding. One of the best advantages of custom web development provided by a third-party dev team is that you can make the process iterative and start and stop the development whenever it’s convenient for your business.

Myth 2: Custom web development and outsourcing IT services are not necessary in the era of pre-designed templates

As we mentioned earlier, templates offer limited functionality. They may be suitable if you only need to create something simple, like a company’s brochure website or a landing page with low traffic. In such cases, a template-based solution might suffice for some time.

However, for startups that aim to create web applications with diverse content, analytics, and personalized recommendations, attempting to build such an application on your own might not be the best idea. Instead, it is advisable to turn to a professional team that can handle the custom web development and ensure a successful realization of your business idea.

One outstanding example of this approach is Slack. When the creator of Slack had the idea to build their messaging platform, they didn’t try to develop it themselves. Instead, they turned to a third-party company for design and development. The team quickly built a web application for them, and after its launch, Slack became one of the most popular messaging platforms on the market.

Myth 3: Template solutions are useless

While it’s true that template solutions provide limited room for creating something unique and customized, they can still be valuable tools in the hands of developers. For example, professional developers can utilize platforms like WordPress to create a website blog or the functionality of Shopify for an online store. In their hands, these tools make development faster, and the result is no less impressive than a custom-built solution.

For instance, our team offers a service for creating custom e-commerce stores. We create unique designs, utilize the Next.js Commerce 2.0 web framework, and leverage the backend functionality provided by Shopify. This allows us to deliver unique and visually appealing stores in a very short amount of time, with their distinctive branding and excellent SEO.

Advantages of custom web development: e-commerce website design concept created by Ronas IT team
A minimal design concept that our design team has created and posted on Dribbble

By the way, if you are planning to build a custom e-commerce site, you can delegate this website to us.

If you are searching for a team to build a web or mobile e-commerce platform, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Wrapping up

All in all, both custom-made and template-based can fit startups and small-sized businesses in certain situations. Make sure you make a sensible decision, and carefully estimate all the risks and potential costs of the project. Also, don’t hesitate to delegate the development of the website to a third-party contractor or another tech partner as this will reduce the hassle.

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