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 They often have restrictions with some functionalities and outdated code.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-us