Making a new website is perhaps one of the most important branding decisions you can make. After all, it only takes as little as 50 milliseconds for a customer to make an impression about your business based on your website. But where do you start? With so many website builders and web development companies out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options. In actuality, building a website is not as confusing as it seems. Fundamentally, you have two options: a semi-custom website or a custom website. Since each company has a different set of needs, we’ll walk you through both of the options to find out what’s best for you.

What’s the Difference?

A semi-custom website is a plug-and-play solution that uses pre-existing themes, plugins, and templates. Most of the code is already complete, allowing you or your developer to quickly add your own graphics and text. However, a custom website is directly tailored to your needs with customized themes, plugins, and functions. Each option presents a unique set of benefits and pitfalls. Choosing the right option requires you to carefully evaluate what matters in your application.

Factors to Consider

Budget

Budget - a piggy bank with a coin
Since custom sites are built from scratch, they aren’t cheap. However, semi-custom sites start with a premade template that can be tweaked to include different graphics and copy. If your website does not require unique features, what’s the point of building it from scratch when you can skip a few steps and save money? However, if you need certain features, a semi-custom site may not save you much money in the long run. Choosing the right option requires you to evaluate your budget.

Timeline

Timeline - a calendar with an "X" marked on a specific date
A custom website takes a really long time to build. Every detail must be ironed out and tested before launch. A semi-custom website, on the other hand, skips a large part of the development process. Since the foundational code is already complete, the final product will be ready to launch much sooner. If you need a simple website as soon as possible, you should build with a template. If you can wait a little bit longer for a product with better features and design, you should build a custom website.

Customizability

Customizability - a wrench and a screwdriver
This factor is the most obvious, but most important. A custom website is built entirely around your specifications. There are zero limits to what your website can do. If you can imagine it, the developers can make it happen. However, the features and designs of a semi-custom website are limited by its template. Adding additional functionality to a premade template may seem cost-effective, but the final product will be less robust. If you need certain features, you must choose a custom website.

SEO

SEO - a magnifying glass over a chain of linked circles
Custom websites are fundamentally structured to appeal to your target audience. As a result, they have a lower bounce rate and often rank higher on search engines. However, not all templates are the same. If your semi-custom website contains high-quality content, you will not be at a disadvantage.

Performance

Performace - a spedometer
A slow website will always scare away even your most persistent users. So if you want your website to load fast, you should approach pre-built templates with caution. Templates can include lots of bloatware, while custom sites stick exclusively to your core functions. If you want a relatively simple website, templates won’t hurt your performance. But if your website has several intensive features, stick to a custom website.

Reliability

Reliability - a shield with a check mark
If a premade template isn’t prepared for a WordPress update, you may be forced to run an older and less-secure version. To make matters worse, many premade templates online are riddled with errors and bugs. This leaves your semi-custom website vulnerable to security threats unless it’s maintained by a talented development team. regardless of your choice, make sure you can reach out to your development partner for support.

Conclusion: What Do I Pick?

Every company demands different website requirements, so the right solution depends on your business. If you need to quickly scrap together a simple, static, and cheap website, you should probably opt for a semi-custom website. However, if you want a high-quality website built exactly to your specifications, a custom solution is right for you. Your website is the face of your company, so choosing the right option is a critical step in developing a website. To find out what’s right for your business, reach out through our contact form or call us at 844.526.2253.