Read more: 5 tips for successful eCommerce websites – Catalog.
If you run a retail business, you might want to think about going online. Having a website for your store or brand is essential for the business. First, it expands your customer audience from local to everybody. Second, it increases your brand awareness. If you’ve decided to expand to eCommerce, you will soon learn that there are two approaches to designing a website: using a template or making a custom web design.
A template is a pre-made website that designers and developers use as a constructor for a new website. They customize it according to the business objective but save time as they use ready code and UI instead of writing it from scratch.
Custom development is a complex creation of a new website specifically for each case from the ground up. Custom websites take more time than those built on a template. However, the functionality of custom websites exceeds that of templates.
It is also worth paying attention to the back-end of the project. The main question is: do it from scratch or use templates? Our thoughts on the matter you can read here.
No single rule defines a need for a custom or template website design. When picking between the two, you need to consider the following:
Study how other businesses in your area approach the matter. They’ve been online for some time now, and they must know how it works. You can stand out from the rest if you make a custom website, but you need to consider if the competition is worth your time and money. Provided you make a competitor analysis you will assess the risks and get the answer.
Online customer behavior differs from the real shopping experience. You will need to conduct researches to learn their behavioral patterns, so they feel comfortable online. Especially, if you work B2C and with recurring orders. In the latter case, you might want to have a recurring order system built into your e-shop, so your customers can set a period of automatic purchases. Such an option will increase their loyalty to your business as well as simplify the shopping process.
Search Engine Optimization.
To find your e-shop, users will be using Google and search for something like ‘armchair buy seattle’. You can make your website Google-friendly so that people can find it without paid ads. Plan your budget and think how much you can spend on online promotion. Templates tend to be poorly optimized for search engines while custom websites are usually made according to most SEO requirements.
Specifics of your products.
If you’re targeting the mass market, and your priority is quantity – you need a custom designed website that will stand out from the rest. If your product is something like luxury watches, you need to make sure that your website looks so great that your customers will be ready to pay the price. You need to pick between custom and template judging by the specifics of your product. A template works best for niche products with little competition.
Now I’m going to focus on specific cases when the template or custom design is required.
This approach means using a website template that you will be using as your layout. It is the content you put in the template that makes your website different from others. Templates have some limitations on functionality and security. However, you can strengthen protection if you update the template regularly and install protection add-ons. Otherwise, it may break when you try to upgrade it.
When slightly modified, a template website can look awesome and give a positive experience to the users. Let’s study cases when your business needs a template website.
You need a template website when:
You want to launch soon. Templates are fast to put up, adjust to your business objectives and launch. If you don’t do the website by yourself but hire a team, it will take around three weeks to have it ready. Then, a sales analysis report will show how your e-shop is performing, what can be improved and whether it makes sense to invest in a custom website later.
You just want to validate a business idea. It’s like when you want to check whether it makes sense to go online at all. A quick start, and then three months of analytics will tell you if the e-shop meets your business objective or shows desirable numbers. It’s way more sensible than instantly create a complex custom website and then realize it doesn’t give you the desired results.
You target a niche market. A template might be your choice for a niche market as there are likely to be fewer competitors and so it’s easier to stand out from the rest. For the mass market, I suggest you go for a custom website as you need to be memorable among the others.
You have a small budget. Using a template means buying it from themeforest, templatemonster or any other platform, adding a CMS on the backend and putting there your content. Templates take less developing time, and therefore less expense. You can spend the saved money on marketing.
If your objectives correspond to anything from the above, go for a template. My main tip: if it’s your first attempt to go online, try a template and see how it works. I suggest you gather analytics for three months and if everything’s fine, you can give your customers even better experience with a custom-made website.
Custom web design is all about maximum functionality, security, and unique layout. To develop a custom design, you will need a team of developers and designers, as such approach takes more times and therefore money. Many believe that a custom design equals sales. It’s a bit more complicated, so let’s figure out in which cases your business needs a custom web design.
You need a custom design when:
Your products are complex. If it’s a set of tools for repairing a car, your customers need to know about the details the set includes. For that, you may need a 3D model. Any product that can be defined as complex buying requires a custom website to provide the customer with all the corresponding information.
You sell products that require advanced customization. I mean products that always have different measures, like a window. Each has at least two basic parameters: height and width. However, your customers are likely to go for more and set the size of the sill, mullion, casing and so on. After that, the price will change, so you need to have a built-in calculator. In such case, you need a custom website.
You are targeting a Premium segment. If you sell, say, fancy jewelry, your target audience expects a unique design than of an average e-shop. Usually, such businesses require only a few sales a month to consider it a success. To suit the demands of your customer, you need to create an exclusive website that will please them at every step of their user journey.
Website security is your priority. Custom design presupposes continuous support and security upgrades on the website. While templates can be hacked with a few lines of malicious code, custom websites are more secure. Custom websites should always make sure the customers’ private and payment information remains secure.
You expect high loads. If you expect lots of customers to be using your website, you need a custom one. Few basic templates can support high loads on a server, especially if the registration and checkout include more than two steps each. In such case, I suggest you hire a team of developers to make sure that both front and back ends can manage high loads.
You will integrate with third-party services. Custom design presupposes integration with various ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM systems to create a decent website management system. Other third-party services you will need include payment and shipping systems. It’s crucial if you count on your website and are planning to develop it to make it easier to use for you and your customers.
The custom website always means unique layout and approach to the development. But if you want to have it, it doesn’t mean you really need it. The choice between a template and a custom website must be a well-thought-out one. The two differ in development, time and money spent but most of all, in the business objective you are trying to solve with your website.
One more question I can think of, is how you can create design. We can teach you how to outsource your design and make it a positive experience.
We, at LENAL, can help you develop your eCommerce website based on what you want to achieve. We won’t instantly impose a custom or template website on you, but rather study your case and come to the conclusion that will solve your business aim. Learn more about how we work.