Small business owners usually get confused with the range of prices and costs they hear when it comes to one simple question: “How much does it cost to build a website?“. One developer will quote $500, whereas another will quote $5000. Why such a big difference? In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the cost of a website to help you understand how much a website really costs. We’ll explain the difference between template websites and custom websites and how each one adds value to your business. We’ll also look at how you can get the most out of whatever kind of website you choose. Hopefully this will help you understand the real cost behind a website and why there is such a big difference when it comes to the cost of website design.
A website is something every business
should needs to have. If your business does not have a website in 2018, you’re doing it wrong. Your website is your store front on the world wide web, and with most consumers searching for businesses online before they walk in the door, websites are more important than ever for creating a good first impression and generating new business.
On the other hand, it’s important to think of your website as an investment in marketing for your business. A custom web design may be visually pleasing, but a template website could produce similar business results for a fraction of the price. Experienced web designers understand how to select and customize template websites to customer specifications, and the turnaround is generally quicker than for custom jobs.
Why are Custom Web Designs More Expensive than Template Designs?
This means that instead of creating a new website from scratch, a web developer can purchase a template for a website that the customer finds appealing, customize the website according to the client’s specifications, and complete the project. Templates are sold in online marketplaces like Themify and Theme Forest and can cost between $50 to $100 or more.
You might be thinking that this is “cheating” in a sense, but what if themes didn’t exist? Developers would waste loads of time reinventing the wheel on every project, and nothing would ever get done. It’s probably a good thing for developers and their clients that themes are abundantly available.
What’s more, it still takes an expert in web development to customize a theme. Your web developer applies their skills and knowledge to:
- Purchase and register your domain name
- Upload and organize key assets (logos, images, documents)
- Establish content hierarchy and flow
- Create or source website content
- Add links and functionality
- Secure a hosting service for your website
- Administer login credentials for your website
- Train you on CMS
- Maintain website security
- Implement text and graphical content across the website
- Customize any extra features required (payment, shopping cart)
- Ensure website performance on multiple platforms and devices
Theme websites may come pre-packaged, but the code is as accessible for developers as if they’d written it themselves. In-depth knowledge of the web’s programming languages allows developers to customize themes in the user interface level and by editing code directly, making them virtually limitless in their applications to projects.
With all that said, it’s easy to see the value and skill set that goes into just customizing a template website, so what makes full custom jobs more expensive?
The Core Difference Between Custom and Theme Websites
Website design happens in three phases: plan, design, then development.
The main difference between custom and theme websites isn’t really the development process, although it’s typically longer for custom websites, it’s the planning and design steps that take longer for custom jobs. When a developer creates a custom website, they essentially start from square one. Here’s a brief outline of the steps involved.
- Review existing marketing and social media presence
- Examine competitor websites and benchmark (make it better)
- Identify website’s purpose, objectives and audience
- Identify and document required technical functionality
- Clearly define scope of work
- Put together website content
- Create a Sitemap and architecture
- Create page structures
- Create home page layout
- Produce wireframes
- Cross-reference other branding materials
- Choose fonts and colours
- Create Visual Assets
- Produce Images or Photographs
For custom designs, the developer builds everything from scratch based on the functionality and user experience that they feel best represents the client’s brand. Rather than choosing a theme that satisfies the client’s business needs and working their brand into the pre-made framework, the developer creates something brand new that is meant to optimally reflect the client’s brand.
This extra thought and the time that goes into fully conceptualizing all the features of a brand new custom website are the main reasons for the cost difference between custom web design and template websites.
A thorough developers could spend between 10 and 20 labor hours customizing a template website, while a custom web design takes at least twice as long and sometimes more depending on the specifications. Most web design services bill by estimating the hours on a project and multiplying the estimate by an hourly rate.
Maximizing the Value of Your Website
Now that you understand the difference between template and custom website designs, which one will you choose for your project?
The answer depends on the specifics of the project itself. Understanding your needs and the strategic objective of your website is the first step to determining what kind of solution might work best for you. To help explain, I’ll offer two examples.
Bob is in a leadership role at a local community organization. As part of a fundraiser, they host an annual baseball tournament. Bob wants to manage the tournament online, so he needs a website where competitors can register their teams and pay a registration fee. The tournament does well, and the features work for Bob’s purposes, but he only needs it once a year, so a custom website might be an unnecessary expense.
Carl owns his own restaurant and wants to do Facebook marketing to help get customers in the door. His first location is doing well, and he is opening a second location in six months. He plans to expand to five locations by the end of next year. We would recommend a custom design for Carl because websites are good branding for restaurants, and a custom design would help him stand out.
Future needs are as important as current needs when determining whether a custom or template design is the best option. If Bob wanted to grow his baseball tournament every year, a custom website might make sense as an investment. On the other hand, if it’s mostly used as an administrative tool rather than a marketing tool, a template website might not look as pretty, but it provides the needed functionality for the right price.
Whether you choose a template design or an affordable custom web design for your business, it’s important to remember that the website is just one aspect of an overall marketing plan for your business. A website is like your online store front, but if you want to generate leads, you still need to advertise. That involves activities like SEO, paid advertisement, promotions, and just about any other method you can think of that drives traffic to your website.
Without traffic, you could pay a million dollars for a website and it would get you nowhere. The next step is to start using your website to communicate actively with your audience, create content that your readers love, and drive engagement with your brand. If you do those things effectively, you’ll be successful regardless of what type of website design you choose.