You Get What You Pay For: Custom Websites vs Templates

2 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

Over the years, there have been a variety of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) website builder platforms that have hit the market, trying desperately to address the cost and time involved with building a professional, functional website.  So what’s right for you? A basic “website builder” or an actual custom build job?

Developers will tell you that the single biggest reason you want to contract a professional development team is that you have no control over the code that’s actually being written. It’s the difference between renting your space and owning it–landlords don’t let you knock out a wall to make a bigger space just because you’ve outgrown the current space you’re in. You’re just stuck with the space you have…unless you move to another place. More problems with this kind of process is that you are at the mercy of your landlord, or “build platform.” When it’s slow, your website is slow. When it has problems, your website has problems. When it gets hit by Google algorithm in a bad way…you get the picture. There are also functional limitations based on the individual platform. Even as advances are made on these platform frameworks, they all run on a code base that, at some point, was coded by hand. And that hand wasn’t working for you. To get the most out of any website build, you will want your developer to handle the the core of the code so that they can build your website the way you need it in order to achieve your business goals. Of course, this all takes a well-planned, well-executed project with a trusted development team.  Make no mistake: this will be an investment of both time and finances. But it also means that you won’t need to make another investment in such things for another three to six years–when you rent your website from a place like Wix or SquareSpace, you are also renting on the hope that nothing bad happens that requires you to make major changes before then.  

What if you’re a small business that isn’t at a point where you can make this kind of investment in time and resources?  This is where website builders can be a viable option.  The biggest advantage to a website builder platform is that virtually anyone can use it to build a professional looking website.  This is primarily done through the use of website templates that can be edited fairly easily and quickly to create a functional website for your business.  Of course, depending on the platform, features can be limited and sometimes not exist at all. Website builders also run the gamut from simple drag and drop editing as in the case of Squarespace to full customization of templates as well as framework builds like WordPress. (NOTE: you have a few options in a place like WordPress, including using only the templates they give you, or hiring someone to custom build inside of it for you.)  If your business requires an e-commerce solution, you will need to do some extensive research as certain platforms will be limited in this and other types of functionality. (NOTE: if you are going to require e-commerce functionality, you may be better off waiting to invest in a custom code.)  Many of these platforms also offer third-party app and plug-in integration…which is a whole different language. Unless you’re skilled in plug-ins and customization, you could be paying for access to tools you don’t even know how to use.

When determining which option is right for you, take the following into consideration:

Price –  How much will this cost up front? Is there an ongoing cost?

Support – How fast can you expect to see a response? Is the support staff technically proficient?

Design/Template Options – Do they have options for your business?

Functionality – Are all of the functions you need for your business available: forms, chat, etc.?

E-Commerce Integration – Can you set up a store easily and have it work with your current payment methods?

SEO features – Are you able to add meta tags and SEO keywords?

App/Plugin Integration – Do you need options (image galleries, video players) that aren’t native to the platform?  How easy is it to find apps/plugins?

Hosting Options – Is the hosting shared or dedicated? Is there an extra cost associated with either?
So which approach is right for your business?  The honest truth is that much of this comes down to how much you really know how to do on your own. Plenty of website building platforms will guide you through the process, but it’s a bit like doing your taxes: if you never have write-offs and there will never be anything particularly unique to your business, then rent the software. But if you need any extra consideration or customization, hire a professional. Everyone wants a professional, visually stunning, expensive looking website. Just know that not only is what you see, what you get…but that you get what you pay for.

Does your website need a makeover or even a creation from the ground up? Are you not sure where to start? Give us a shout – we will take a look at your needs and figure out how to make your website work best…not just for you, but for your customers.