Why online businesses are moving away from premade themes and embracing custom web design

Most online start-ups, e-commerce shops and virtual businesses are keen to keep costs low. And that can make the appeal of a pre-made website theme almost irresistible. But before you pull the trigger on a templated design, here’s why online businesses are moving away from pre-made themes and embracing custom web design.

Reasons range from personalisation to SEO and considering these elements might help you avoid a costly web design mistake that will limit your overall business growth.

What are pre-made themes?

Pre-made themes are templated designs for business or personal websites. They provide a blank shell for blog posts, page layouts and storefronts. And they’re great for a lot of simple applications like hobby stores and personal blogs.

According to Techopedia, “A website template may include carefully laid out titles, square or round images, background banners, stripes and other layout features, as well as styled and laid out typography. Designers can take advantage of these templates and simply swap in their own data and images to get a very elaborate Web style without writing any [code] themselves.”

And the newest templates often have fancy animations, responsive design and social integrations to add interest to the page. For free or a nominal one-time cost, online businesses and individuals can enable a pre-made website theme to quickly create a nice-looking website.

And that’s okay for some purposes. But here are the reasons why you might want to go with a custom web design from a specialist from a website design agency instead:

Slower to load

Since pre-made themes are designed to cover most scenarios right out of the box, they’re often bloated. Animations might not be built to load quickly and poor image handling may clutter your content management system with endless resized files.

Since page load speed has a huge impact on ranking and website conversions, you can’t afford to sacrifice this performance for convenience. And don’t forget about device type either. Mobile browsing has overtaken desktop browsing for most businesses. So, mobile-first isn’t a trend any longer; it’s the standard. You’ll need your design to be fully responsive, or ideally mobile optimised.

Whatever you choose, the site still needs to be visually engaging too. G2 states, “38 per cent of visitors will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.”

Fewer personalisation options

By definition, a premade theme is constrained to the advertised look and feel. Unfortunately, that means there’s not too much your business can do to brand the theme. And since you can’t customise them much, it’s easy for consumers to recognise a templated theme.

This may cause them to lose confidence in your brand - since it will look like a copycat. You’ll also miss the opportunity to actually say something new about your product or service through your website aesthetics.

According to Forbes, “Branding allows you to build relationships with your audience, which can eventually turn them into loyal customers. You can create a brand that people actually care about and put yourself ahead of businesses that aren't using this to their advantage.” - Premade templates cause you to miss out on this entirely.

Poor optimisation

Since pre-made themes are generic, they don’t know what your business goals are. They might not offer any efficiencies for how your customer actually buys. That bog-standard design might actually get in the way of purchases.

Shift4Shop states businesses should: “Limit the number of clicks it takes for a visitor to make a purchase or complete an action to improve website conversions. Amazon has mastered the art of avoiding click fatigue with their simple “Buy Now” buttons and even at-home Dash buttons.” If you can’t make streamlining changes to your website design, you’re holding back business growth.

Lack of ongoing support

Once a designer puts a premade template into the marketplace (especially if it’s free) they are under no obligation to support it further. So, if a vulnerability is discovered, technology improves or new integrations are needed; you’re left fending for yourself.

Beyond that, if you do eventually hire a developer to fix your generic deployment, you might find the costs are higher. That’s because they will likely need to repair the existing code before they create anything new for you.

Additionally, you may need a complete redesign in the future if your templated website has unknown interdependencies that are decommissioned.

Damage to SEO

Logical reports, “If you make the wrong web design choices, you can unintentionally make it difficult for crawlers to index your site, damaging SEO rankings. Thanks to web design best practices, [a custom] developer will format URLs, content, and images in a way that crawlers can index more quickly, boosting your rankings.”

Many stock templates aren’t designed with SEO in mind at all. This can make it hard to use popular tools like Yoast SEO to manage your metadata and keywords. Or the design may be poorly executed so that text is rendered as images (which Google can’t index) for zero SEO value.

Poorly designed premade templates may fail to use proper paragraph formatting, ignore lists or bullets and provide inadequate content refreshing display elements. All of those pieces are important for traffic, ranking and the overall user experience.

Why custom design is better

Naturally, a custom website design allows you to avoid all these issues. Any bespoke template will account for (correctly) SEO, device-specific design, journey optimisation, load times and more. You’ll maximise your website’s touchpoints for brand storytelling. And you’ll be able to quickly deploy changes to make the user experience better. That ongoing support is a competitive advantage in a market that’s saturated with online competitors.

A custom design will contain only the code you need without any added bloat. And you’ll have a dedicated team to protect your user data from leaks and theft.

Lastly, you’ll have access to enhanced functionalities through custom web applications that simply aren’t available as part of a premade website theme. Even with the enhanced upfront design costs, the ROI on improved conversions and repeat custom can quickly make up for it.

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