Is a Free, Premium or Custom Web Design Template the Best?

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Web Design templates come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. This is great because you can find a template that fits your exact needs, but it can also be a challenge.

Going through thousands of templates and trying to pick the one that will perform the best on your website is no small feat. It can feel like you are in a quest to defeat all of the question monsters to find and rescue the most beautiful design.

Web_Design_blog_headerIn some cases, it takes extensive research that lasts for weeks. Not to mention, once you pick a template, chances are you will need to modify it to fit your overall design goals.

To help you limit your quest to find the best web design template, we want you to know how to choose between the different types of templates. We will answer your questions such as, “Should I shell out a few bucks for a premium design? They look fancier. Should I go with the free one? Or Is a custom template better since my designer will need to modify the template I choose anyway?”

Each of these template types have their advantages and disadvantages, so today I am going to help you decide on the best template option for your business needs.

Before I dive in, I want to give you a heuristic to live by when picking a template design: the more expensive it is does not mean the better it is.

We are all used to buying things in our daily lives where price tends to be an indicator of quality. Unfortunately, when it comes to templates, this is not always the case. Price is actually a pretty poor indicator of quality.

The main reason is because some companies offer excellent templates in an effort to get you to purchase their plug-in or their premium design. Some premium designs have terrible template layouts, but justify their price through plug-ins.

So do not think that premium templates are better than free templates simply because of a dollar sign. We will explore the cases when a free WordPress design might be better than a premium design.

Let’s look at the specifics of these template types now.

The Free Template Option

WordPress has an extensive database of free template designs. This database is growing every week.

I love free template designs because they allow you to test different designs. You can see how these designs might look with your content and branding. They are a great option for businesses on a low budget.

Using a pre-made template allows for a shorter developing time and lower costs. Free templates will have the framework of a website already completed. Functionality and navigation are ready to go. The only work that needs to be done is customizing and designing the site.

Free templates tend to be more compatible with plug-ins than premium themes. This is because free templates must meet a certain requirements and undergo compatibility testing prior to being uploaded to the main WordPress repository.

The main disadvantage with free templates is that it can be a challenge to find a really good one, especially if you are new. Most designers know and have a couple of good free templates in their toolbelt that they use and then customize them.

The other disadvantage of a free template is that most run a high risk of having a similar website as another website if you do not modify and customize the template enough. Some also do not update as often as premium templates, giving you a higher risk for security problems (although there are some that are updated frequently).

They do not come with any support beyond other users at the WordPress forums and some of the designs carry malicious code if you don’t get the theme from the WordPress repository.

The Premium Template Option

Premium template designs can get expensive. Most premium designs only cost about $50, but I have seen some exceed $200.

The advantage to premium templates is that they often come with support and lower security risks. Usually premium templates will have a support forum and email where you can get help. This can be a big help for designers and business owners of all levels.

Being able to understand a premium template is not always about knowing the code, but sometimes the way the creator thinks. What was their logic while creating this code?

Another benefit to premium templates is their increased functionality. They tend to make admin panels, site configurations and customizations much easier than free templates.

There are several disadvantages with a premium template. Since premium templates are purchased through other sites like Envato, there is no official review process for a template. This means you might be susceptible to glitches and bloating.

Since premium templates have more functionality and more plug-ins required, you run the risk of slowing down the speed of your website. And many of these included plugins don’t include updates to those plugins, leaving you vulnerable to compatibility & security risks.

We generally believe that purchasing a premium template is a waste of money.

The Custom Template Option

The custom template is the most expensive option, but it also comes with the highest ability to convert customers. Generic templates limit the amount of design that you can do. That means there are thousands of websites like yours on the web.

Your business is unique, so your website should be unique. Custom templates can be easier to scale, so as your business grows, your site can too.

Custom templates allow you to dig into the mind of your customers and create that on a website. This increases your conversion rates. This is the entire purpose of a website.

The only disadvantage is coming up with ideas on design can be difficult. But you can gain inspiration by looking at free and premium templates. Your design is limited only by your imagination.

However, completely custom templates do carry a higher burden for work when there are major WordPress updates.

So what type of template do we recommend?

We recommend going with a custom tailored free template. This is the best of all of them. It gives you a high quality code base, regular updates at no extra cost, and still gives you a lot individual customization. A custom tailored template will give you the highest conversion rates over the other template types. The goal of your website should be to convert traffic into paying customers.

If you cannot afford a custom tailored template, then we recommend a free template. Whatever you do, I would not waste your money on a premium template.

What types of templates have you used? What has been your experience with the different template types?

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