Web Site Development: Template or Hired Web Designer?

Studies indicate that only 1/2 of small businesses have web sites. According to research from Webvisible and Nielsen, 63 percent of consumers and small business owners first look to the Internet for information about local companies but surprisingly, only 44 percent of small businesses have a website.
Although every business owner I know has a web site, I also know that there are some businesses, especially smaller businesses that rely heavily on referrals, they might not have a web site or one they are happy with.
Hiring a web designer is one option. It can be expensive – $5,000 or more. But for some, well worth it. As they want a custom design, custom programming and other features that only a web designer can provide.
For many businesses, who only need a few pages and basic web site design using a template could be another option. There are dozens of great companies who can help you design your own web site, based on templates that you can use. For example, AT&T recently launched new web site hosting and design plans. But I was cautious as to whether a template based web site is a good option.
AT&T answered my questions here:

When is a template-based Web site not a good idea, and instead a hired designer should be used?
In today’s world, a template based site can mean almost any sort of site from a very simple site to a very sophisticated site — and in many cases a site visitor may not even know it. The advantages of using a template-based site are numerous.
Beyond giving the site a consistent look and feel, the benefits for the business are most notably that a non-technical business person can easily make simple text updates to the site on the fly and without having technical or HTML expertise or engaging a designer. For small businesses this means tremendous time and money savings long term.
When building a template-based site, it is frequently still a good idea for a business owner to engage a designer do the initial setup so they can work on flow of information and look/feel. But the reality is that more small businesses are finding that there is really no reason to NOT have a template based site because of its flexibility later on. With AT&T, we offer two different types of template-driven sites.
The only time businesses may need a true custom website built for them is when they need a specific application designed that is completely unique to them.
Some say that template-based Web sites look too cookie-cutter. How are yours different?
AT&T’s newly announced “Get Me Started” plans are based on 100 different templates that are flexible in color scheme, photo usage and logo placement that allow businesses to build a site that is uniquely their own. And because a design team is doing the heavy design work up front, they know how to tweak the site effectively so it looks unique to that business model. Even with all the options and flexibility in the “Get Me Started” plans some businesses want a custom designed website and will want to check out AT&T’s “Do It For Me” plans. These sites are developed on a template-driven system to ensure they have a consistent look and feel across all pages of the site, but the look is 100% custom. The business user can still go in and make updates to the page without fear of mistakenly messing with the code or changing the design.
What about when a Web site needs to expand and change? Can AT&T’s service do changes as the business dictates?
Absolutely. In addition to providing the end user with a simple control panel to make their own simple updates and changes, both the Get Me Started and Do it For Me plans include up to 30 minutes each month of site updates so businesses can come back and request specific updates and changes to the plans at any time. If a business needs even more help, say to build a database or a custom application or even completely change the site, that help is also available.
Check out AT&T’s web hosting and design solutions here. webhosting.att.com.
Other companies you might want to check out include:
Network Solutions
Yahoo web hosting