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Website Templates vs Custom Site: Which is Right for You?

Website templates are affordable, but will it cost you in the end?  

If you are looking to build a new website, or upgrade your existing website, you may be weighing your options on the best solution. Let’s assume you’ve already ruled out the basic drag & drop platform, such as Wix. There are tons of great website templates available for whichever CMS you use (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc), and these templates average less than $100. So why spend thousands on a custom-built website?

There are several variables to consider when asking this question.


One of the most important factors to consider is the speed of your website. Slow load times can kill your user experience and lower rankings with Google. There are basically three factors that determine a site’s speed:

  1. website templates - speedHow many files need to load?
  2. How big are the files?
  3. How many different places are the files?

Website templates are designed to attract a broad audience. They are usually filled with tons of extra icons, animations, stock media, and other functionalities that you are never going to use. For example, they may offer 6 different versions of a homepage when in reality you only need one. On Milk Street, we call this “fluff” and it could slow down your site. Also, the more bells and whistles in your template, the more you have to keep updated and the more likely conflicts with any existing plugins will occur. A well-built custom site will run lean which means much faster load times.

Level of Customization

How are your HTML/CSS skills? Some of these available website templates are really nice, and the designers and developers have done a great job making them look clean and professional. That being said, the template is filled with fake content. Your content isn’t necessarily going to fit in those spaces so nicely. Your images aren’t going to be the perfect size. You may have a specific font you want to use, and so on.

Note: Be sure to read your templates’ documentation before attempting to customize a template. If you don’t do it properly (e.g. using a child theme in some cases) you risk losing all of your customization when updating the theme.

Also, be careful not to employ too many plugins when achieving this customization. The more plugins you have running, the longer your load times, and the higher the risk of conflicting scripts. A well-built custom site will include all of this functionality with minimal files to load.


Website templates are affordable because the developers hope to sell many copies. That being said, there will be many sites out there that look almost identical to yours, depending on your level of customization. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re a leader in your industry, or wish to appear so, you should consider the value of a one-of-a-kind website.


If you view your website as “just an online business card,” then:

a) Reconsider the value of a professional website with proper tracking and analytics.

b) Your website is still your representative in the digital world. It’s worth it to build the site properly. If your site isn’t functioning correctly, the viewer may associate that dysfunction with your business. 


website template - budget

Obviously, your budget is always a factor in making these decisions. A custom-built WordPress website can range from $1,500 – $15,000. Depending on your particular functionality needs, websites can even reach six figures. On the other hand, website templates range from $30 – $150 on average. Keep in mind, that price does not include customization. If you need to hire a developer to implement your content into the template, your cost is going to increase significantly. And if your site is not maintained, you could be spending a lot more money to fix any problems that may arise.

Website templates definitely have their place in the market, and they can be the right fit in certain situations. If you have some experience in web development, or if your budget does not allow for a custom website, then a website template is worth considering. Just be sure to understand the value of building your site the right way; it could end up saving you money in the long run.

If you are leaning towards a custom website, Milk Street can help! Take a look at some of the websites we’ve developed for our clients and make the move to Milk Street.  

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