Should I pay an agency to create a custom NationBuilder site or buy a theme template?

Working in the progressive non-profit space, our clients often need to make big change on a small budget. They know a top quality website is important, but custom design and development can be a big investment. Sometimes they will say things like “you build a lot of websites, don’t you have some ready-made templates we can use?” It’s a good question to ask, so we thought we should lay out a few considerations to help you decide what is the best fit for your website project. 

Custom NationBuilder websites

The Pros

  • You can provide direct input into the design of your site, based on what you know about your target audience (after all, you know them best!). 
  • A professional design and development team can help create a user experience tailored to your specific campaign objectives. 
  • As part of a custom build, it is easier to include third-party integrations and other custom functionality you won’t get in a ready-made template. For example, social media streams, shop integrations, advanced page tracking analytics, member-only content, and resource pages. 
  • You’ll have access to an agency team that can provide more involved support and strategic advice on getting the most out of your website. This is of course a major asset when it comes to optimising your workflows and supporter engagement in NationBuilder. 

The cons

  • It takes longer. Our standard project life-cycle, for example, can be up to 14 weeks for a full website design and development project (although that can be considerably shorter or longer, depending on the size, complexity and urgency of the project). 
  • It requires more financial investment. Custom website design and development is likely to cost at least six to ten times more than purchasing a ready-made theme. 

NationBuilder theme templates

The Pros

  • It is cheaper. In the NationBuilder theme marketplace, for example, you can currently find ready-made themes ranging from USD 200-700 (with varying levels of functionality and support for different page templates). 
  • It is faster. Once you purchase a theme, you can start the content upload process and have your new site up and running in days (if not hours!)
  • You still have all the basics you need to run a campaign. 

The cons

  • Your site won’t be unique. 
  • Your site will still look great, but it won’t necessarily be the perfect match for your brand, target audience and campaign objectives. 
  • You won’t be able to add customisations, change page layouts or reorder content.  

In summary

If you are looking for a unique user experience tailored to your objectives, or otherwise need to create custom workflows for your NationBuilder site, then it is probably worth making the investment and engaging a professional to design and develop a custom website. 

If, on the other hand, you want to launch a campaign quickly and cheaply, and only need the nuts and bolts of NationBuilder, then a ready-made theme could be for you.