By Michael Nelson
In the current day-and-age of all things web, nearly any business seeking success needs a website. Here at Blakely + Company, a full-service advertising agency in Colorado Springs, our clients often ask what makes a successful website and what our recommendations are for achieving such a site.
With the myriad of options—from simply loading your content into a drag-and-drop platform to hand-coding every piece—it can seem overwhelming to make sense of what will bring the most success to your business. While we stand by the value of generating effective sites from templates, we’re here to discuss how—for certain companies—a custom-built website can mean the difference between simply existing on the web and truly thriving.
One of the key motivations to choose a custom site is having a site that truly represents your brand in a unique and tailor-made fashion. To compare websites to business suits: a template-built site could be related to an off-the-rack suit. That suit, like a template, can fit well enough, meet the required needs and look decent, but will never truly compare to the fit of a custom-tailored, high-end, designer-label suit.
Having your website designed and built around who you are and what you do means that the online experience your users have is truly unique and engaging—setting your brand apart. It also means greater consistency and seamlessness between your website and all other branding materials.
Performance Beast or Beast of a Performance
One of the more under-appreciated reasons for a custom website is the benefit of having control over optimization of site resources. When building a website with a template and plugins, or utilizing third-party resources in general, your site has the potential to be bogged down by the many unnecessary available features built into your site’s resources.
Developers of web templates and plugins build as many features into each template and plugin as they can to cast a wide net and sell to as many customers as possible. The unfortunate result is that if you build a site with their template and/or plugin, and only need a third of the available functionality, then there are still many files enabling the unused features to consume space on your host account—slowing down the speed at which your users can navigate your content.
With that in mind, the benefit of a custom website, by contrast, is that your site will be much more efficient and expedient. All functionality and design aspects are built around your brand and your site content—ideally resulting in no unnecessary files or resources.
A Site That Grows With You, Growing Pains Not Included
As an extension of the performance discussion, another benefit of custom sites is their ability to scale and grow with your needs.
With a template website, expansions of your need will often require more plugins and other resources to append functionality to your site. That means greater potential for unnecessary files that waste space, as well as a raised likelihood of having plugins that conflict with each other and cause site glitches.
With a custom-built site all new needs and features can be seamlessly built into the core of your site—no fuss, no muss. Additionally, many features can be accommodated or accounted for early on in the site development, allowing for simple expansion of existing features or activation of pre-built components in addition to the integration of new features.
Criteria for Custom Versus Template Websites
All that being said, custom websites aren’t always the right step for everyone. Let’s look at some criteria to consider before jumping into a custom website build:
What are the needs of my particular site?
While custom websites are limitless in the ways they can perform tasks and deliver content, if the needs of your site are simple it could certainly be argued that a custom website would be overkill.
What sort of budget do I have to invest?
We would all love the moon for a penny. But, as with most things, in the world of web you get what you pay for. If your budget simply does not allow for the extent of what is involved in making a custom website, then you may be better served investing in a higher-end template website.
What is my timeline?
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it is with a valuable web product. Before jumping into a custom website, you should establish what is needed in the immediate product, how much time you have to achieve that, and whether you wouldn’t have greater success with a more expedient development option.
How custom is custom?
Custom is somewhat of a blanket term. It can mean anything from a custom design on a content building platform like WordPress or Squarespace to a site fully built from the ground up. So if you are considering a custom website be sure to clarify with your development partner(s) the extent of how custom your website will be.
Will I need to be able to maintain this site myself?
Many clients need a website to be friendly for themselves to build, edit and maintain content after the initial site is complete. This is something that should be accounted for from the beginning of a site’s design and development, especially in the instance of a custom website, so be sure your development partner(s) are aware of your needs.
Web is an incredibly subjective medium, and there are no limits to how one can be successful. We hope this informs and inspires you to find success with your very own custom-built website. And, of course, at Blakely + Company, we are happy to build one for you to meet your needs!