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For what seemed to be the longest time ever, I insisted on not having a suit of my own, rummaging through my brother’s closet every time I have to attend a formal event. It’s not that I don’t want to have a suit of my own, it’s just that I only get to wear a suit like, once in a blue moon, I’m not really comfortable spending money on a bespoke suit. I ended up buying an off-the-rack suit just for convenience but it wasn’t until 3 years ago that I finally admit defeat and had two suits made.

2015 was the year when it seemed as if everyone I know was getting married left and right and I remember one particular month where I had at least one wedding to attend to every weekend. My getting a suit of my own was a necessity but I have to admit that having a custom suit of my own felt great. This dilemma between a bespoke and an off-the-rack isn’t just limited to formal wear; it is actually quite relevant to the world of web development in general.


Pre-built template and custom websites

Sure, my decision on getting a custom suit was borne out of necessity but I have to admit that it’s actually quite a game changer when you could have a suit that’s designed perfectly to your specification and body shape. I don’t exactly have a keen eye for fashion nor am I particularly picky when it comes to clothes but a custom suit feels and looks just right, even if it wasn’t exactly cheap.

True, you could always get a store-bought suit and alter them anyway you see fit but the Swedish musician Jens Lekman once sang, “What’s broken can always be fixed, what’s fixed will always be broken”. There will always be a dividing line between something that’s been altered to fit your needs and wants and something that’s been designed from the ground up for the exact same purpose.

The cooking reality show MasterChef once featured a challenge in which contestants are required to cook a meal with canned food. The core of the challenge lies in the ability of the home cooks to transform cheap ingredients into something that wouldn’t look out of a place in a Michelin-starred restaurant. The thing is, no matter how good the contestants were, canned food is still canned food and no amount of dressing can transform a canned tuna into a fresh bluefin tuna that regularly comes out of Japan’s famed Tsukiji fish market.

It should be noted however that I’m not wholly advocating for custom websites, pre-built templates do have a place in web development for the simple reason of practicality. Depending on what you need and the amount of resource that you have, custom websites would seem like a bit of overkill and you know what they say, everything should always be in moderation. In the next section I’m going to outline several reasons for why and when you should go for pre-built templates and custom websites.


The ease and practicality of pre-built templates

There’s a reason why web builders such as WordPress, Wix and SquareSpace are popular, it’s because they’re relatively easy to use. The main reason why you’d go for pre-built templates is for sheer practicality. Most of the available web builders available online comes with drag & drop functionality, allowing users with zero technical HTML knowledge whatsoever to modify their website however they see fit while still allowing an added degree of customization for those that do.

As you’re building on a pre-defined template however, your website can never be truly unique and if you have some specific functionality requirements that you need on your website, pre-built templates might left you wanting with their limitations and restrictions.  It used to be that the template available on web builders are nowhere near as attractive as custom websites, you need to look no further than old blogs for evidence of this statement, but services such as Wix and SquareSpace have changed that considerably.

You only need to take a look at their websites to see just how aesthetically pleasing the available templates are. If you want the least amount of fuss possible, don’t have specific functionality requirements and aren’t particularly bothered with the issue of originality, pre-built templates are ideal for you. For websites that serve as more of a contact point, websites for a law or an accounting firm for example, going this route might be more preferable as your customers aren’t likely to spend a lot of time on your websites.


The customisability and flexibility of custom websites

Think about this for a second, when Netflix or Spotify first started to develop their website, do you think they went for a pre-built template or develop their website from scratch? Both of the above are far from the typical websites and so it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that they use a custom approach, partly because I don’t think there’s any template out there that is suited to the type of websites they need and partly because they need to be able to fully tinker with their own website as it is how their services are enjoyed.

Netflix and Spotify is just an example from the technical side but for creative concerns, there are also valid reasons why you might want to go for the custom approach as well. If, like me, you’ve ever been embarrassed about being caught wearing the same Comme des Garçons Play t-shirt with a complete stranger in public, then you know just how bad it’d look like if someone working in the visual arts industry has a website that looks exactly alike as another business.

It comes back to the argument about bespoke suits, they might cost you an arm and a leg, takes quite a bit of time to finish and you need to have a firm idea on what you want, but the end result will definitely be worth it. The thing with bespoke is that it’s full of details that people aren’t always able to appreciate and that you might not necessarily need, in which case the money might be better spent elsewhere in the meantime.