Do I need a custom website?

Help! Everyone’s using Squarespace and Idris Elba is on tv telling me to use it too! Do I even need a custom website?

It’s 2019, and your website has never been more important. For each of us, our website acts as a shopfront, a profile, a portfolio, the person behind the counter the customer interacts with, and more. It’s a part of our brand identity, it’s integral to how our audience knows us.

When it comes to building your website you have two choices really. The DIY option, where you create a website using a template or hiring a web designer to create one for you. While I’d love for every new website to have a customer website, I know that it’s a serious decision that every business owner has to make.

So if you’re wondering at the moment if a template based website is right for you, I hope this will help!


Real quick... what is a template-based website?

A template based website, is a website that comes prepared with everything you need. You pick a template, add in your content, and you publish straight from there.

Squarespace, Wix, Wordpress and Weebly are some of the most popular.

Who are template-based websites right for?

I would say there are two big groups of people that template-based, and not custom websites, are the best option for. It’s right for you…

  1. if you’ve started a new side-project with no cash coming in. If you don’t have an income from your business, you’re probably focused on keeping your costs down. Which is smart, you’re a smart cookie! So build a template website for now, and as your project or business grows you can re-evaluate your needs.
  2. If you’re a visual artist ( not digital though!), and using it is a portfolio. Artists that create physical work can really make a simple template shine. Because your visuals are so strong at emoting, a basic white wall gallery works for you. That being said, I still get more excited about an artist or makers work when it’s on an interesting site. And if you do work in digital art, you'll most likely want a website that's a tailor-made and a whole immersive experience for a visitor.

So overall, what are the pros and cons of template-based websites?

If you’re not in one of the camps above, you might be facing an internal debate between hiring a designer or going for Squarespace... like Idris Elba keeps telling us all too on the telly. So let’s do what Rory Gilmore would do and make a pros and cons list.

Pros

1. Inexpensive

This is a biggie. If you own a business, you’ve got a lot to consider financially. And this is by far the most inexpensive option you have for getting your website up.

Because one template design can be used by millions of people, the cost of you using it is either nothing, because it's part of the monthly fee or it can be very low. Think of it like a shirt that is mass made for millions to wear, it’s definitely going to be less expensive than a custom made shirt that's only worn by you. Cost wise: Wordpress is incredibly inexpensive, Wix is pretty inexpensive, and Squarespace is kind of boutique (this word gets thrown around a lot with Squarespace) inexpensive.

There are also some cool designers out there making new templates that you can purchase and install directly on to your site. These aren’t custom, but they are a viable option.

Another reason that costs stay low is because normally your hosting is done through the provider and included in your monthly fee. But talking about hosting is confusing and b-o-r-i-n-g, so let's move on.

2.You can get it live fast

If a designer is creating you a custom site, it will probably take about 4-8 weeks. Template-based websites can be made incredibly quick, they even advertise it as a make in a few hours job. Of course, that’s make it in a few hours if you know exactly the content you want on each page, and how to use it. But, still, it's quick.

So if you need to get a web presence like… now. This is a good thing.

But I do like to remind people that things of quality, always take time. It’s not always necessary to build a website in a day. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. However, if you are actually in desperate need to go live, you should consider it.

3. Upkeep is easy, and you get to feel very in control

I get this one so much. The first website I created was done on Wix. I was in a new job, and someone remote had built a custom Wordpress site for us, but it wasn’t functioning properly. Even worse, there was no system in place where I could change the content. We had a big event coming up and we had to email or call the person to get any changes made to the website. It was annoying to say the least, and could have been damaging!

Switching to Wix, saved me in that moment. I was so happy! I was able to change the content quickly, and keep changing it to my hearts content leading up to the event.

Now in all honesty, a designer should never, ever, ever, ever, ever leave you without a CMS. That's a Content Management System, and it's where you go in and control all of your content for your website.  

And FYI - I find the system of updating content on Wordpress kind of clunky, Wix and Squarespace are more intuitive.

If you down the route of a custom website, these are all things you can talk to your designer about before they start making your site. Ask to see what the CMS will be like. It’s so important that it all works for you!

So at this point, you’re probably feeling like, wtf is a web designer even for? I’ll just use Wix! And, I hear you, for sure. But let’s take a look at some cons now.

Cons

1. Doesn’t look or feel like your business

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of websites that look exactly the same. When I’m closing tabs after a 9pm deep-dive into the internet, anything that doesn’t catch my attention goes straight away. And that means all those sites that look. exactly. the. same. They make me feel, nothing. And if you know anything about branding, you've got to make people, feel.

A custom website is unique to you. It looks and feels like you. It expresses your values, it speaks directly to the heart of your audience and customers. It stands out from the crowd. That's invaluable. And a template website will never be able to do that as well.

2. Doesn’t Function for your needs

Template websites are boxed in by the template's capabilities and functions. This may be fine on that first day you build it, but then as you use your website, you may come into a few niggles. If your template doesn’t have a certain function you need, you’re kind of out of luck. On Wix you can drag and drop elements to totally change a template, which is great. BUT, by straying from the template you’re changing the mobile responsiveness of the page. Meaning, your website might not look right on a phone. No good.

As a web designer, I have lots of in-depth conversations about the function and utility of your future website wayyy before I open up my design software. A template based website may look aesthetically pleasing, but you may be sacrificing function sometimes.

3. It can’t replace a designer's knowledge

A template, can never replace working with someone who really understands web design.

Working with a web designer is a wholistic experience. We get to know your business and your needs. We get to know your customers and what they want/need from your website. Your template can't get to know you like a designer can.

We're also clued up on web design and strategy. We're in the know. We're always learning and exploring our field. You don't just get a website, you can our knowledge too.

Who are custom made websites right for?

It's for you if you want to...

  • better communicate your values
  • stand out from the crowd
  • drive sales
  • create a memorable experience
  • carve a niche in your industry
  • increase audience engagement
  • and so much more

So there you have it. Some food for thought on whether a custom website is right for you.

If you’re considering a custom website for your spirited business, please get in touch! I offer free consultations calls, and would love to chat about all the possibilities.

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