Templates v.s Custom - what’s the difference?
If you’re thinking of embarking on a new website project, you might be looking for the best way to get your website live quickly and easily. Building a B2B website is notoriously time-consuming, and with every project being plagued by missed deadlines, detailed content writing and then making sure the entire site works correctly, it’s tempting to take the easy route and opt for a ready-made template site.
But what is actually the difference between building a custom site and using a template? On the surface they may seem similar, but you can quickly find when you look at specifics that there are some key differences.
Build your website faster
Template websites have become extremely popular in recent years partly due to their speed. Building a website fast is the dream, and using site builders such as Wix, WordPress or SquareSpace seems attractive for this reason. They all claim to offer an easy solution to creating a new B2B website, and one of the main selling points is the fact that your site can be up and running in minutes. However, building your site in this way means that you lose a certain element of creative control, and means that websites are often crafted without the proper thought process.
The planning of a B2B website is essential - it involves research on who your customers are, what they are looking for, and how your new website can appeal to them. Usually, this factors heavily into the design stage, as you can amend the look and feel of your site based on what will be the most attractive to prospects. However, using a templated site means that you can’t really implement this - although the templates can be visually appealing, they aren’t necessarily created in a way that drives leads. Using a custom website solves this issue - when you are building from scratch, you can effectively tailor your pages, content, images and UX to match what your ideal site visitor, or buyer persona, is looking for. Not only do you have the ability to create a site that is visually appealing, you can also ensure that it is built with actual customer data in mind.
A smoother process
B2B website design is not exactly famous for being the smoothest process. From deciding you need a new website, to planning stages, right the way through to actually putting it live, there are a million bumps in the road that need to be navigated. In this case, it may be that the template website wins out - with a faster upload speed, you can skip a lot of the processes involved in traditional website design. However, building a custom website doesn’t have to be a complex process. Here at Axon Garside, we’re big fans of the Growth-Driven Design method, where you build a launchpad website of your essential pages, then work on growing the site and continuously improving it over a period of time. As the entire process happens over just a few months, you can focus on the most important aspects of your design and get the minimal viable product live.
Ease of use
You may think that this one seems easy - template website design leans towards usability, with many platforms emphasising how simple their builders are to navigate. However, if you need your website to work harder, a template can hold you back. Ease of use is all very well and good throughout the build process, but it is later on that you can run into real issues.
The key to making sure that your B2B website is working hard enough is to make sure that you are continuously updating and improving it to provide useful content, new service offerings, and more. If your site is templated, then it’s difficult to squeeze extra information into existing areas, and often the builders offer minimal SEO or blogging support. For this reason, the template site fails in terms of ease of use. Putting the website live may be easy, but adding any kind of customisation of further information is anything but.
This is the absolute key to making sure that your B2B website is inbound-ready. If you want to generate leads, drive traffic, and increase conversions, you need to be sure that your website is being updated and amended based on real customer data. If you have a page that isn’t converting, then you can take a look at the data you have, improve user experience or amend the content, and try again. This is the nature of Growth-Driven Design, and it should be a cornerstone of any B2B website. The only way to improve your website is to check the data and apply this to your website offering, and if you’re using a template site, this can be tricky. The only way to really amend a template site is to change the template, and aside from content amendments and minor colour scheme changes, this seems very basic for a B2B site.
Building a custom site, however, means that you can set up with continuous improvement in mind before the site is even live. If you choose to build your custom site in a system which also stores data, such as HubSpot, then you can directly apply that data to each page, checking on how they are performing and how to make improvements as time goes on. Continuous improvement is one of the cornerstones of GDD, as it ensures that your website is more than just a pretty face of your business - it’s a lead generation machine.
Choosing a CMS
“But wait!” I hear you say, “I don’t want to have to code an entire website!”
Don’t worry, there are a few content management systems that allow you to build a custom website that is still easy to use, easy to update, and can work as part of your wider marketing strategy. We’re not shy about the fact that we love HubSpot, and we tend to use it for all of our builds. That’s because within HubSpot, you don’t need to code an entire site - you can code the modules, and then build your website using these. This makes it ideal for a GDD approach, as you can lay the groundwork of a selection of modules, and then create your pages using their drag and drop system.
There are other CMSs that may offer the best of both worlds, where you can build a fully custom website but get all the benefits of a template. Custom sites can be built in WordPress (although they may set you back a bit) and custom sites for Shopify are also taking off.
When you’re deciding how and where to build your site, it’s important to make sure that you’re choosing the right platform for your business. A template site, while it seems easier and faster at first, can actually cause you trouble in the long run, as the customisation options are often lacking. A website that you build from scratch, in comparison, means that you can effectively plan out your strategy, and also means that you can continuously amend and improve your site. This is essential for a B2B website as part of a wider inbound strategy, and offers you the opportunity to build an online presence that isn’t just a brochure for your business, but rather an agile sales and marketing tool that adapts to your customer base.