The Difference Between a Template and Bespoke Website

How should your website be built?

If your website was built using WordPress, it’s likely to have been developed:

  1. From scratch as a bespoke website
  2. Using a customisable theme

Usually, the decision to use a bespoke design or customised theme boils down to budget and timeframe. Let’s explore the pros and cons of each.

Bespoke website build

A custom build means that your website is designed uniquely to you, without using a customised theme.

Pro: A bespoke website is the best option if your site requires complex functionality or integration between services. If your site is likely to be high in traffic, or performance heavy for any other reason, choose a bespoke build.

Con: Bespoke websites are costly and time-consuming to build. It takes longer to design and might require ongoing specialised maintenance (which isn’t cheap). But for a high-performance site the investment can pay off.

Customisable website themes

‘Customising a theme’ can range from installing a theme, importing a demo and changing the logo/content to a custom design that uses a theme to speed up development.

From my experience, what most companies mean when they offer ‘professional theme customisation’ is somewhere between the two: a site that’s designed, or part-designed, and uses a theme such as Divi. This may involve some custom coding, but often sites are created using the theme’s inbuilt options.

Pro: Customised themes are a cheap way to get a website online quickly. You can create an acceptable website that won’t cost the earth.

Con: Customisable themes can limit design and functionality. And depending on how the site has been built, making quick stylistic changes across the site might be tricky.

Con: Customised themes with bundled plugins might need updates that require a developer. I would always recommend using a developer to manage theme and plugin updates where possible.

Con: A theme that includes lots of in-built functionality is likely to include lots of code that will never be used. If the site isn’t optimised properly, this can lead it to be slow.

Con: Developers occasionally mislead clients by importing a theme from a demo and pretending it’s a bespoke design. If you’ve been presented designs from your web developer, this is unlikely to have been the case for you.

Bonus: The third way

There is a third option that sits somewhere between the two. Frameworks or ‘starter themes’ such as Genesis, Underscores or GeneratePress allow bespoke designs to be developed quickly.

These themes have minimal default code. A good option if there’s a reasonable budget available and the site doesn’t have extensive functionality requirements (though these can be factored in).

I recommend this strategy to many of my clients. It allows limited budgets to include a reasonable design period without relying on a theme stuffed with code that will never be used.

Which route is best?

Budget and timeframes will dictate whether a bespoke website or customisable theme is best for you. Before commissioning a website, talk to your web designer/developer: they can advise on the best approach.

Word of warning

It’s unlikely that your developer will pretend that a customisable theme is a bespoke build. But being knowledgeable about your options and might help to prevent you from being ripped off.

Dave Smyth is a freelance web designer based in London. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For more of his thoughts on design and freelance things, sign up for his newsletter.

This article originally appeared on his blog.

Independent Web Designer · · ·

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