Does Using Website Builder Templates Hurt Your Small Business?


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Website templates make it easier than ever to build brand-new websites, but business owners are often unsure whether to use them. While templates are usually affordable and relatively easy to use, they can also prove overly rigid when you attempt customization.

In this article, we’ll explain the pros and cons of website templates and help you determine if they’re the best option for your small business.

Key takeaways:

  • The decision regarding whether to set up a business website using a template centers on your unique needs and circumstances. A custom site built with code from the bottom up benefits some businesses, while opting for templates benefits others.
  • No matter what type of website you’re hoping to build, whether personal, business, educational, e-commerce or something completely different, there is a template to help you get started. There are also free and low-cost template options to suit tight budgets.
  • Building a website from scratch is also a great option if you require a higher degree of customization, but unless you or someone on your team knows how to code, it can get expensive to hire a professional developer.

What Are Website Builder Templates?

Website templates are preset designs that can be easily applied to your page. Instead of spending time coding or optimizing every single aspect of the design, you can start with a basic template and make further changes as needed.

Developing a website from scratch is much more complex and resource-intensive, but it also comes with significantly more — if not complete — control over the result.

The best website builders typically include high-quality templates, integrated features like SEO (search engine optimization), and e-commerce support. The template example below comes from Squarespace, one of the most popular e-commerce website builders.

Ecommerce site banner for a flowers website.

How Templates Affect Your Small Business Website

  • They come with a predetermined visual design
  • They’re good for your budget
  • They make it easier to update your website

Whether or not to go with a template is an important decision when designing your small business website. The template you select impacts nearly every aspect of the entire site.

Website builder templates have a predetermined visual design

The visual design is almost always the first thing you notice when reviewing a new template. While themes often allow for some degree of customization, you may only be able to make a limited range of changes. Unlike bespoke website development, templates restrict the possibilities regarding how everything looks.

Depending on the context, working with a predetermined visual design can be a good or bad thing. On the positive side of things, templates make it easier to align your site with best practices. For example, templates intended for e-commerce come with product categories, account pages, and other elements integral to a digital storefront.

Meanwhile, you may find that your website template prevents you from creating a truly unique design. Templates cover a wide range of site types, but their preset nature makes it impossible to offer the flexibility of building your site from scratch.

While visual design is inherently subjective, we’ve found that Squarespace offers the best template selection of any major website builder.

Furthermore, their templates are highly customizable, enabling users to do everything from changing color schemes and adding pages to turning a portfolio template into a fully-featured e-commerce store.

Website templates are good for your budget

Website templates are an incredibly popular option due to their low prices.

Most themes are relatively affordable, and there are even some free website builders that enable creators to set up a new web presence at no charge.

While many free website builders come with watermarks and other limitations, Joomla has a decent free plan that’s surprisingly practical for different kinds of websites. There’s no Joomla branding, no limitation on storage space, and users can even access an impressive selection of free extensions to add to their websites.

If you’re looking for a budget e-commerce solution and are willing to pay, we would recommend starting with Duda.

Duda starts at just $19 per month and covers almost anything you could need for e-commerce sales, with features like product listings, real-time shipping quotes, support for more than 40 payment methods, and sales through social media platforms like Google, Facebook, and Instagram.

With such a wide selection of templates available, there’s a low-cost option out there for virtually any need. Even though you may have to pay extra for updates or ongoing support, the overall price tag should still be significantly lower than what you would spend on custom web development.

Website builder templates make updates easier

Along with the budget and visual design, your workflow is another key consideration when deciding if you could benefit from taking advantage of a website template.

Websites created without templates are often significantly less approachable on the back end. If something goes wrong or you need to update the site, you’ll likely need help from a developer who understands how the different elements of your site connect to each other.

However, with a more streamlined template, anyone from your team can make changes without causing any other problems. Many templates are also supported by e-commerce platforms like BigCommerce or a third-party provider, ensuring that any compatibility issues or technical problems get resolved quickly.

Should You Use Templates or Hire a Web Designer?

Both options come with significant advantages, as well as some important drawbacks. You can still create an incredible website either way, however, and the right solution is the one that works best for your needs.

In general, templates are a better choice if you’re working with a limited budget and are okay with missing out on some customization options.

Custom web development tends to be more practical for larger businesses and organizations that can afford to hire professional developers. You should consider hiring a designer if you have the money and desire to create a unique website.

Of course, designing your website is significantly easier if you or someone on your team has experience with web development. The expense attached to hiring an outside developer is often out of reach for startups and growing businesses.

Remember that a skilled and reliable developer is likely to charge hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for the initial setup. You may also end up with ongoing maintenance costs.

Given the higher price tags associated with bespoke web development, you should plan to move forward with a website template unless you have very specific design goals that require deeper customization. The reality is that most business websites have similar structure and goals, which is why predetermined templates work well for so many different brands.

Frequently Asked Questions About Website Templates

Is it legal to use website templates commercially?

Most website templates available through providers like Squarespace, Joomla, and Duda are intended for commercial purposes without additional permissions beyond signing up and, if required, paying. If a template’s creator has parameters regarding how it can be used, such as non-commercially, these will be clearly stated.

Never download the code from websites you like and use it as a template unless you have been given explicit written permission. You could be in violation of copyright laws if the site has been custom designed.

Can I create my website templates?

Absolutely! But most of the time, you will need to know how to code and design to do so. If you do, you can make your templates available for other businesses to use, either for free or a price.

What do website templates include?

A website template’s features depend heavily on the type of site it’s designed for.

Portfolio sites are arranged so you can stylishly showcase your art via photos or videos. E-commerce sites come with an online inventory and shopping cart to help your customers easily browse and buy. Business sites typically involve imagery and text to discuss everything you have to offer and ways to contact you.

No set standard for what a website template requires exists. Rather, you need to select the best for you based on your business and start browsing your options from there.

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