Quality Matters: Why Custom Open Source Websites Trump Commercial Templates and Themes

By MVP Marketing + Design | May 6, 2019

For many, engaging in a website redesign often begins with reviewing your current site followed by vetting one or more digital agencies based on their related market experience, capabilities and track record of success. As experts in the field, we know there are huge differences between agencies using “off the shelf” themes (i.e., templates), and firms like MVP creating custom-based web solutions.

What are “off the shelf” themes and templates? These are inexpensive solutions composed of existing repositories of code that can be downloaded for a fixed or ongoing fee and catered towards a specific Content Management System (CMS). In all instances, a client’s content is forced into the provided theme “skeleton.” Usually, alterations will be made to the theme or template, but the more alterations to the product, the higher the risk of the website no longer being supported by the theme developers, leaving the client with an unsupported and frequently broken platform. For example, don’t expect a button to have rounded corners if the template does not allow for it. Themes and templates also come with many existing functionalities and plugins, which raises the question, “What’s wrong with a plugin?” Too many plugins will result in a slow-loading and unsecure website. Custom website solutions offer greater support for browser and device combinations, ease of expandability, faster load times, limitless design choices, and typically a team that knows the ins-and-outs of the product being offered. Any they understand what you need to succeed in the competitive landscape.

Browser and device compatibility are extremely important. As a custom website designer and developer, a firm like MVP will be able to assess a device and browser list from your current website analytics, and establish the best support plan when your new website goes live. They will also use this information to develop the proper legacy fallbacks or device-specific compliances needed. As you can imagine, a theme or template will offer very limited device and browser support, and will, at times, allow for only partial or minimal functionality depending on the browser. MVP will strive to make the experience universal across devices and will always find a solution for third-party integrations, database requirements or non-supported browsers.

Custom solutions are easier to administer. Many themes and templates require users to know HTML and CSS basics to function properly. However, a custom-tailored web solution will scale with web traffic, content additions, functionality, etc., without seeing a single line of code. Also, with a template, adding brand new areas, creating menu dropdowns, or introducing custom technologies will be impossible. On the other hand, MVP’s custom crafted web solutions will contain a clear and concise information architecture that any employee can access and will save you time in the long run.

Fast loading websites: A must for excellent user experience. According to, the “bounce rate” for a site that takes around four seconds to load is a whopping 17.1%! (The “bounce rate” is how frequently a user leaves a website after only viewing a single page.) Those “fully-loaded-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink templates” are slow, so why penalize your company and your brand from the get-go? Custom designs will run more efficiently and will eliminate unnecessary overhead. Good developers even compile all assets which will compress and combine all website files to serve users in the fastest and most efficient way possible.

A custom solution will best reflect your brand. At MVP Marketing + Design, Dick Weinrib, President & CEO together with Clement Vaccaro, Creative & Account Director and Jeff Leslie, Head of Website Development elaborated on brand reflection earlier and we suggest you check it out. To sum up, you want a website that will put you at the front of the pack. With a template solution, you will receive the same website that any other company would get, albeit with cosmetic changes. Your site content (i.e., copy, video, and PDFs) will be forced into a layout that might not be the most appropriate. At MVP, our User Experience (UX) designers will craft the website around your content for optimal reading flow. Our custom website solutions begin by digging deep into your marketing and sales objective so that our UX/UI (User Interface) designers and developers can recommend your best options. The design phase will prove itself to be limitless, and your firm or company will have a unique ecosystem of design and functional elements developed specifically for your brand, its products and services.

Maintenance should not be overlooked. Theme creators typically warrant their template with a limited guarantee, and firms that implement themes on your behalf usually know front-end development technology only. Who are front-end developers? They are typically designers who know how to make the site look good using HTML and CSS. Many front-end developers are incapable of supporting all of the features listed within a given theme. At MVP, we back up our own front-end team with three expert backend developers to integrate different applications, create unique features and employ coding languages. They also fine-tune our third-party servers and dictate how they should perform relative to our custom-created web applications process information and requests. Custom web developers, like Team MVP, will know the ins and outs of your web application and the back-end and front-end technologies that will produce manageable solutions to sustain your suite without additional cost for many years to come.

The conclusion? You won’t regret choosing a custom site from MVP. We understand that websites are a significant investment to any company. However, based on our more than 20 years of satisfying clients with award-winning B2B and B2C websites, we cannot stress enough the importance of choosing both a high-quality partner and a high-quality product from the start. While templates or themes might appear to be a quick and easy solution, their short-term low-cost appeal is often fraught with long-term negative consequences. With templates what you see is [only] what you get.

About MVP Marketing + Design, Inc.

MVP Marketing + Design is a Minneapolis Digital Agency and Website Design firm that has served Midwest regional, national, and international clients for over 32 years. Our smart, eye-catching work pushes marketing, design, and technology to the limits to propel the brands and stories of our most valued partners. We are passionate about creating brand equity for clients in Professional Services, including private equity, mezzanine debt, M&A, venture capital, healthcarelaw and consultingSoftware, including EdTech, CAM, and factory automation; Manufacturing and Logistics, including medical device, foodservice, precision parts and transportation; and Consumer Products, including food, housewares and office products.

Our combination of integrated digital and traditional marketing and creative services has helped such companies as 3M, Medtronic, Ecolab, Lifetime Brands, Chronic Disease Research Group, Achieve3000, The Erwin Hymer Group (Roadtrek), TSI, NAMSA, Merit Capital, Mason Wells, Cortec Group, Shoreview Industries, Svoboda Capital, Harbour Group, River Associates, Penfund, Watermill Group, Keystone Capital, Dominus Capital, the Chicago Association of Private Equity Executives, JZ Partners, Caliper, Chartwell, Hampton Farms, PB Crave and others achieve lasting digital marketing success. Award-winning design, innovative functionality, and a “what’s next” mindset have propelled MVP and our clients as we build their brands, promote their products and services, and deliver business growth. We’re pleased to have been recognized for our solution-oriented work by the Communicator Awards, Davey Awards, Hermes Awards, MARCOM Awards and others. MVP is a HubSpot inbound marketing agency partner.

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