You’re thinking it’s time for a new website for your dental or medical practice. But as you start to look around, you see websites of every sort and at every price from under $100 per year to well over a few thousand dollars. What’s the difference between these? What are the similarities? What do you absolutely need with that website? What features or styles can you live without?
Template vs Custom Design
Let’s review what a template is and what a custom design provides. Templates, often referred to as themes, are websites that have been pre-designed and replicated hundreds, even thousands of times. Templates may include very basic and generic images and photographs, but typically no content. Such templates do not provide much in the way of design flexibility or scalability, it’s often ‘the way it is, is the way it is’. Think of a template as a fast-food approach to your website’s design. Your website may look and perform just like the guy sitting next to you.
Templates and themes are priced anywhere from free to $99 on the expensive side. While it may be tempting to opt for a free template to cut costs, this can be counter-productive. Free templates often come with quite a few issues in the form of poor quality standards and they can be void of any technical support when you encounter issues or questions. Paid templates generally provide fair support and are often coded by expert developers. These paid templates can also help you to spend less time struggling over the design of your website, the time that you can spend focusing on your service. A template-based website might seem like an acceptable solution for your current needs, but what happens when your practice begins to grow and your requirements grow accordingly?
A custom website, on the other hand, is literally that – custom designed, custom coded and built for a single client. Your designer or design team will spend the necessary time with you to understand what you’re seeking in the look, feel, experience and performance of your website before a line of code or a single-pixel is put in place. Just like any art or creative expression, custom websites often take inspiration from another custom website, but the similarities stop there. Custom websites by this definition are labor-intensive and thus carry a substantial cost differential over pre-designed and duplicated templates – often several thousands of dollars higher.
A custom website provides the client with the flexibility to work within a budget and add features as you may need them. Your design team will build the site to cater specifically to your current objectives while ensuring that the site is scalable as your dental or medical practice evolves and grows. Custom websites have no limitations on the features, performance, scale of user traffic they can handle without sacrificing functionality.
Plus search engine optimization is better in custom-built websites. Website developers who build websites from scratch will have the technical knowledge to make sure your site is highly optimized for search engines.
How to Spot a Template Website
Can you tell that you’re eating a cookie from an off-the-shelf, plastic-wrapped package and that it’s not a fresh cookie handmade in grandma’s kitchen? Of course you can. That’s an easy way to spot a template website from a custom-designed site. Template sites often try too hard to look custom, and a sure-fire way to spot a template site is their extreme reliance on overused stock images. Now, don’t get us wrong, we utilize stock images for our clients too, but using the same images again and again of perfect looking families, seniors, kids. Face it, you and your patients don’t look like these models, but you’ll certainly find them on a template website.
There is also a technical way to spot a template website. You can easily peek inside the website’s code in your browser and identify a few traits of template or theme-based websites.
- In Google Chrome: Open the site and go to the “Tools” menu, and select “View Source”; alternatively, hit Ctrl + U
- In Apple Safari, Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox: Right-click on the website and choose “View Page Source”
Scan the page for the word ‘themes’, typically found right after /wp-content/. This will indicate the name of the theme the website may be using. You can then use your favorite search engine to look up that theme and possibly find other websites using it online.
There is also a very handy search tool useful in identifying certain WordPress themes. Head on over to ‘What WordPress Theme Is That’. This is a free online tool that allows you to easily detect what WordPress theme a website uses (including its parent and child themes). Additionally, it will also detect what WordPress plugins are being used.
Custom websites certainly offer the most flexibility in design, functionality, and performance, while template-driven sites can be a good solution for small practices hoping to establish a web presence quickly and affordably. When you’re shopping for your next website, if the price is suspiciously low, it’s a template. If you’re being provided feature you didn’t ask for or don’t need, it’s a template. If the design process prevents you from speaking with a designer or a developer, it’s a template.
Your website is meant to be a productive marketing tool used to attract, capture and recruit new patient opportunities for your practice. You’ll want your website to reflect exactly who you are, your brand value, and the quality of services you provide to the community. Your website should be seen as an investment in your practice, and if it’s treated like one, you’ll be making a great decision!