Your website is an incredibly important component of your online marketing. While that may seem like a “well, duh” statement, there’s no shortage of poorly designed websites to make it worth saying again. First off, your company’s website may be the first (but hopefully not only) impression your brand gets to make on a potential customer.
What does your website say about you? Is it outdated, cluttered and unappealing? Or is it simple, streamlined and professional? Secondly, your off-site SEO is only as good as your site itself. You can invest the man hours into building an incredible portfolio of diverse, quality inbound links second to none, but if all those links lead visitors to a poorly designed site they’ll leave just as fast as they came. All your off-site SEO efforts go right out the window.
Developing a good website starts with one question: “Do I want to pay for it?”
There are hundreds upon thousands of free website templates for you to choose from when building your site. Some are great, and some should never see the light of day. Chances are you’ll have to sort through a lot of the latter before you find one that you can make work for your brand and site goals.
Pros of Free Website Templates
1. They’re free.
If you’re brand new business launching a brand new site, you may not have the budget for a professional, custom website design. Using a free template means you can allocate your limited budget elsewhere.
2. Plug and Play
Since free templates are ready-made, you can just drop your information in and launch it. There’s minimal backend work needed on your part. New domains need time to earn a trust factor with search engines. The sooner you get your site launched the more time you give yourself and your site to do so.
3. You can do it yourself
When you use a free template, you’re the designer. You can make changes at 2 AM if you feel like it – you call the shots.
Cons of Free Website Templates
1. Other sites look the same
The best free website templates get used a lot. You’re probably not the only one to stumble upon that certain perfect design for your site. There might be hundreds of sites that look just like it.
2. People can tell when it’s free
Most free templates don’t hide the fact that they’re free templates very well. Unless you do some serious editing to create a custom header and footer, most people can tell.
3. It might not mesh perfectly
Since the template wasn’t designed specifically for your site, you may not be able to create your ideal site.
If you decided you did want to pay for a custom website design, there’s no shortage of great web designers and developers willing to do the work for you, if you don’t have the skills.
Pros of Custom Website Designs
1. It’s whatever you want it to be
No need for compromise when developing a custom website. You can build it to look and feel however you want.
2. Accurately reflects your brand
You aren’t trying to fit a round peg into a square hole when you custom design your site. You are the only one with this design. Every aspect of that site is designed to reflect your brand and online goals. You can customize your site design to fit in with the rest of your Internet strategy.
3. You don’t have to worry about it
If you don’t know anything about web design and development, hiring a professional to do it for you lifts the burden off your shoulders so you can concentrate on other things.
Cons of Custom Website Designs
1. It can get expensive
Depending on skill level, a web designer or developer could charge you anywhere from $35 to $300 dollars an hour to build and maintain your site. Even if you just want to make small changes, it can get very costly very quickly.
2. Changes may take time
When you’re not the one handling the web design, you have to count on a 3rd party to make the needed changes. Developments might not happen as quickly as you’d like.
There are pros and cons to both free templates and custom designs. You have to decide what makes sense for your business and your budget. New sites may want to stick with free templates until they have more wiggle room in their budget. Established brands might want to create a custom design to ensure their online and offline branding align properly. Whatever your reasons, just make sure you think it through before you go live!