Bespoke vs template website - what's the difference?

Updated: Sep 12, 2018

I often get asked 'what's the difference?' or 'what are the benefits?' of having a bespoke website over a template based site. It's a question with countless answers, but to make it easier to understand and clear up that big question.... "do I go with bespoke or template?" here's some information on both options, along with some pro's and con's and our verdict. Hope it helps!

Ok, so first things first...

Having an online presence is paramount for businesses nowadays and is one of the most important investments you can make. Whether you sell products or services through your website, or purely have a small 'brochure' site, customers and clients will expect to find you online.

Studies show that 97% of people will go online to search for products and services locally. The decision they make to use/buy/contact you, depends on the instant impact your site has on them.

Along with having a nice looking website, your site needs to have easy navigation, a simple checkout process (for e-commerce sites), a strong CTA (call to action), be visually engaging to hold your visitor's attention, be mobile-optimised and have a good user experience. A poorly built or poorly designed site could mean you lose out on sales opportunities and worse still, could be detrimental to your brand and your business reputation.

If you’re looking for a new or re-designed website with a CMS (Content Management System), you have two options – a template based (either ‘off-the-shelf’ or bespoke designed) website or a bespoke designed and built site.

Template website

A 'template' site is a generic, pre-built site and they are available for anyone to purchase. Template sites have exploded across the internet over recent years, with their ease, accessibility and vast range of templates available, making them easy and affordable for Joe Blogs at home to 'knock one up' - without having to paying for professionals! The user can choose from a set of pre-designed templates, tweak the colours, add their logo and images and replace wording with their own copy. This can be done by either supplying your content to a web designer/developer to update onto the template, or by using the in-built CMS (Content Management System). These pre-built websites are generally not very flexible and you are limited to the parameters of the template. They often have restrictions with some functionalities and outdated code.

Template websites are often cheap to purchase because they have already been built and they are quick to set up. With most companies, you simply pay a monthly/yearly subscription. The only real cost then - if you want a unique, bespoke designed website, rather than simply using an 'off-the-shelf' design (which will be the same as millions of other peoples!) - is to invest in a professional web designer to create your site for you.


COST - The main Pro has to be the cost. It's usually much cheaper (even with a bespoke design) than using a professional freelance web developer or web company.

TIME - It also takes much less time to create as the code is already built, and this is the substantial proportion of the cost of a professional developer.

EASY - They have an easy to use CMS (Content Management System), plenty of add ons and widgets and perfectly adequate online store functionality for small e-commerce businesses.

SIMPLE SOLUTION - For those companies who don't need all the benefits that come with a bespoke site, or who can't afford to go bespoke at first - it 'does the job'.


There are, however, many con's to using a template website...

CUSTOMISATION - Customisation can often be very limited with a template based website and this can make applying the consistency of your brand difficult and frustrating.

LIMITATIONS - Some platforms are better for this than others, and using a professional designer will help as they can 'override' the template, but they all have limitations.

AUTHENTICITY - Template websites all look very 'samey' - there are SO many sites out there now that all look like they're from the same 'cookie cutter', and you can spot a template site a mile off!

LACK OF CREATIVITY - There is nothing unique about a template designed site and they can numb website creativity and consequently lack personality and identity.

FUNCTIONALITY - The functionality of the layout and navigation may also not be suited to the purpose of your site and that can be detrimental to the overall user experience.

SECURITY - Security is also a potential issue with template sites, as unfortunately, well known templates are a hackers dream.

OUTDATED CODE - A common problem also found with template sites is that they are built using substandard and outdated code. Because there are so many templates on offer, the majority of them will have been coded quite while ago, or even a few years ago, and in development and technical terms, that's like decades!

SEO - This has a negative effect on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) as finding and indexing key words is made more difficult.

COMPATIBILITY - It also affects the compatibility with web browsers and consequently increases the time it takes for the page to load - which as we all know can be very frustrating for the end-user.

Bespoke website

A 'bespoke' website is tailor-made to the specific needs, demands and visual requirements of your business, and are both designed and built by experienced professionals. Web designers and developers will spend time analysing your requirements, your brand story, values and tone of voice, the user journey and comprehensive 'wireframes' (mapping out the storyboard of the sites content including any functionality needed), interpreting your brief and working with you at every stage of the process to create a design and website that is unique to you. This also allows the identity of the business to be consistent throughout the site and will ensure an overall positive user experience and brand message.

You will have total control of your online presence, from design to functionality. Bespoke websites are built using the latest software and coding standards. The developer will take time making sure the website works with different types of browsers by performing cross browser testing and ensure that the design looks good across many formats, including mobile and tablet devices. The company creating a bespoke site for you should be on hand to make changes or to help you if there are any technical problems, and should also offer some basic CMS training once the website has been complete, so you can easily make changes yourself in the future.


AUTHENTICITY - Your website is completely unique to you and your business - both in design and development - and isn't going to be a clone from millions of other sites!

CONSISTENT BRANDING - Your branding will be consistent across all elements of your site and there are no creative limitations, allowing you to design exactly how you need it

GROWTH - You can grow and develop a bespoke website with your business, so that future expansion and changes to the site can be implemented seamlessly and with as little hassle as possible.

LATEST CODE - Because the coding is the latest standards, there won't be problems with outdated code and consequent glitches.

EXPERIENCE - You have access to a wealth of experience, advice and information to help you ensure that your online presence does the things you need it to.

PEACE OF MIND - A bespoke built site gives you peace of mind that there is always someone available to fix any bugs or glitches, and that you will be unrestricted with the future of your website. This is partly what you are investing in when you pay more for a bespoke site.

RESPONSIVE - With template sites, the responsive versions are often very restrictive both in layout, navigation options and overall flexibility of design. With bespoke build, your mobile site can be designed and coded completely for the purpose of that device meaning much more consistency and design freedom.

USER EXPERIENCE - Because you will have gone through the UX journey (User Experience) and wireframing process before the design is started, you can be sure the end user will have a positive and the desired experience.

SECURITY - Bespoke built sites are much more secure, reliable and offer a high level of security and hosting options. Security can also be planned specifically for your individual needs, rather than being predefined, like with template sites.

SUPPORT - You'll have expert developers (and designers) to support you with your ongoing requirements and help with the CMS and future expansion.


COST - A bespoke website can be more costly (substantially, depending on the size, content and required functionality) than a template site.

TIME - They also (normally) will take much longer to implement and complete than a template website as the code is being developed from scratch and bespoke to your individual site design and requirements.

And finally...

At Headfudge Design we would always recommend choosing the bespoke route, if your budget and time allows, and we have incredible web developers working with us to provide the best website development possible. As you've read, there are significant benefits to going bespoke over template and we 100% back authenticity and unique design. However, we also recognise that not everyone - especially start-ups and small businesses - have the budget at first for a bespoke build site, and that's why we've introduced our new website packages - to offer pre-coded based sites to those clients who need them - BUT with 'The Headfudge Effect' still producing beautiful design!

The important difference to note with our template based sites, is that although we use pre-built templates for the build and CMS purposes - the designs are never 'off-the-shelf'. As professional designers, we purely use the software as a build platform, and we strip back the pre-designed template to produce a unique and bespoke designed site, tailored to your branding and specific business needs.

Useful links:

Our design packages >

Web design portfolio >

Get in touch!

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