3 Minute Read

Website templates are one of those things that get people thinking. You look at some of the $199 “premium” themes and start asking yourself if you should pay tens of thousands of dollars for a custom eCommerce website. Is a custom website really worth it? Considering the significant price difference? The super-short answer is: yes. Custom eCommerce websites are worth it.

In theory, a custom website and a template will give you the same final result: a website. That is, of course, the abstract way to look at the whole custom vs. template debate. Using the same logic, microwavable meals and Michelin-Star meals are all food, a 2010 Honda and a 2021 Lamborghini are both cars... you get the picture. 

While a meal at a Michelin-Star restaurant is definitely better than any microwavable meal, these cheap, low-nutritional-value meals have their advantages. They are indeed cheap, they’re fast, and you can have them without leaving your home. You don’t even need a fully-equipped kitchen to cook them. 

Just like those microwavable meals, a website template can have advantages over custom website development. Whether you should opt for a custom website design or a template depends on your specific business needs. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when deciding to go down the custom website design path or use a website template:

Cost and Return on Investment

Custom is a word that’s usually used as an indicator that something is more valuable, which often means it’s more expensive. Whether it’s a shoe, a suit, or an eCommerce website, when an eCommerce development agency puts in the effort to create something that works for your specific needs, that does come with a price tag. And, of course, the price tag depends on the skill and experience of the team creating this custom item. Working with an eCommerce agency isn’t exactly inexpensive, but it is necessary if you’re building a custom site. 

When you look at templates, you’ll find that the cost is anywhere between $0 and $1,500. And when you’re paying $1,500 for a template, that’s top-shelf stuff: the best that the templates world has to offer, the crème de la crème of template websites like Theme Forest

In the case of custom eCommerce websites, the cost can be anywhere between $20K and $200K, or even more. So, the cost of custom website design and a template site isn’t really comparable. Whether this extra cost is worth it depends on the needs of your business.

In 2020, Apple spent $18.75 billion on R&D (research and development). An insane amount of money, if you take it out of context. In the same fiscal year, Apple’s revenue was $294.13 billion. For a company with so much revenue in such a competitive industry, spending $18 billion on R&D is reasonable. The same relative return can apply to your eCommerce business.

If you’re bringing in millions of dollars in revenue per year, spending $100K on a custom eCommerce website makes sense. As a general rule, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that businesses with revenues less than $5 million allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This percentage is based on companies with margins in the 10-12 percent range (after expenses). The return on investment is almost guaranteed, and the risk is virtually non-existent when you work with the right eCommerce development agency. The risky option, in this case, would be opting for a template to save money, which doesn’t make much sense.

Customization Options

Pre-made templates are customizable, but exactly “what” can be customized is often fairly limited. When you buy a template website design, you can hire a web developer to customize it and make it function the way you want it to. The overall result of this customization is not commensurate with what you’d get from a custom website.

While you can put snow chains on your tires, that won’t turn your car into an all-terrain vehicle. If you get carried away and try to live the arctic version of Mad Max, it might not end well. A customized template to your website is like the snow chains to your car: a makeshift solution that does not fundamentally improve the vehicle for your business. 

In the case of using a theme without any customization, you’ll end up with a website that’s similar to thousands of other websites that use the same theme. And just like how awkward it’d be to walk into a party and find that half the guests are wearing the same t-shirt as yours, you don’t want your website to look exactly like all your competitors selling the same products. 

The message you’d be sending to your customers is “we’re all about the same”.  You don’t want to be the same: you want to be the best.


While custom websites are much more expensive than templates, that extra cost is worth it. For high-revenue eCommerce businesses, a custom eCommerce website is a solid investment. The scalability, improved functionality, and the agency support that comes with custom websites make them the smart choice for eCommerce business owners who want to ensure growth.