fancy and simple chess pieces depicting custom vs template websites from Columbus website design firm

When you go with a template-based website, you'll save a bunch of money in the design and building process. However, the trade off is you'll be giving up:

  • a whole lot of SEO capabilities, and
  • the ability to make your website unique to your practice

Is it worth the trade off? No one can say but you. (Well, WE can say it's not worth it, but for this blog post, that's besides the point!)

After reading this blog, you'll be better able to make an educated comparison and decision.

The design difference between templates and custom websites

Basically, with a custom "content management system" (which is a Drupal or WordPress website) you can do anything your (or our) little hearts desires when it comes to design. And 99% of the websites examples on our  website are custom websites built with one of those two content management systems. Including the website.

We've recently done a template-based website for Metta Psychology (in SquareSpace) which you can see here, which we hope you think looks really great.

The templates that online-based web building tools (like Wix or SquareSpace) offer are really nice. And they're all very mobile-friendly. But templates are only so customizable, and because of that, there's a possibility that, eventually, you’ll want to do something those templates aren’t able to do. Of course, it's tough to say what those items will be until they come up, and at that point it can be frustrating that your website won't do exactly what you want it to.

custom vs regular martini glass representing custom design vs template designWe can customize Wix or SquareSpace templates

But not everyone can.

Someone who only builds websites in Wix or SquareSpace does it because they don't know how to code. Their templates let you work around that little limitation. However, since we DO know how to code (from building custom websites) we were able to customize the template, when less-experienced web designers wouldn't  know how to do that. Since we do, even using a SquareSpace template, we can bring more to the table than a web designer limited by only offering what templates offer.

This is why the Metta Psychology website we recently built in SquareSpace is better than the default template. We took the best of what templates offer (cost-savings), with the benefits of a custom-coded website. Which results in a one-of-a-kind SquareSpace website.

The SEO limitations of template-based websites

If you go to SquareSpace, or Wix's respective websites, they'll tell you their website templates are SEO-friendly. However, from personal experience, and reading blogs from other professional web designers who have first-hand experience using Wix and SquareSpace, we can tell you both of those platforms have SEO limitations, such as:

Clean URLS

In the web world it is a "best practice" to code what are called "clean URLs" in your website. See below for what a "clean URL" is.

Columbus website design firm's comparison of clean vs dirty urls

The default page URLs in Wix include what's known as "junk code."  You'll read on Wix's website that this additional code is necessary for something called “deep linking,” which we've never heard of in all our SEO days. But what they're saying is, they’ve built the code in their templates to require this junk code. Which means, it disregards what's universally considered a "best practice" of SEO.

Alt Text fields

Your audience might not be visually-impaired, but being able to add "Alt Text" copy to images lets you bring your website up to universally-accessible standards. And that's certainly a ranking factor for Google and other search engines. See the screen shot below for how we name images with keywords (the blue text), and how adding copy in the "Alt Text" fields look.

Screenshot from Columbus website design firm showing what Alt tags are


Use Geo-tagging on your website lets Google know your proximity to the person searching. Having a location closer to the person searching is a ranking signal for Google.

Columbus website design firm shows how adding geo-targeting looks in SEO

Template-based websites all have white backgrounds

You might not initially think that's an issue, and it might not be one for you, but it is a limitation. Websites with white backgrounds might look clean, but also don't have the rich feel that can be achieved using background textures with custom websites like this one we've done for SSK Plastic Surgery.

Secure websites can’t be done in Wix

As of 2016, secure websites (those with https in the URL) can’t be done in Wix, and now, https sites are ranked better in Google. Unfortunately, Wix's templates won't let you do that. But SquareSpace's will.

SquareSpace templates don't let you use unique Page Titles

What are Page Titles and Meta Descriptions? Watch the first 40 seconds of this video on Page Titles and Meta Descriptions, and you'll  know.

Columbus website design description of Page Titles & Meta Descriptions

For proper SEO, every SEO person, and Google, will tell you that every page in the website has to have its own unique Page Title and Meta Description, which relates to the content on that page.

There's more to SEO, which you can read about here, but this gives you the idea.

Additionally, should you want to move your website from Wix's or SquareSpace's servers (though we're not sure why you’d want to do that) you wouldn’t be able to. Why? Because their code is proprietary and they won't let a website built with their software leave their servers.

Benefits of custom websites

WordPress and Drupal are two of the main content management systems used today, which you can see here. Most of our sites are built with these. However, we strongly believe Drupal is easier for the end-user (you) to work with.

When it comes to design, using either of these, anything is possible. We can build whatever we design and anything you envision, both on the home, and inside pages. Textured backgrounds & customizable pages make websites look much better. Plus they have infinitely scalable options.

With SEO capabilities, there’s also no limitations, because the code in these content management systems are completely under our (and your) control. You can read why Drupal or WordPress are the best options for SEO.

Should you have any questions about template-based sites versus custom built websites (in WordPress and Drupal), please contact us and lets talk.