Your website serves as the virtual front door to your brand. Indeed, whatever business you are in, it is almost certainly the single most important piece of real estate that you have.
Think about that. Almost every prospect, every customer, every curious member of the public: they experience your organisation, and are almost certainly introduced to your organisation, through your website.
That’s a lot of responsibility on a few lines of code.
So if you aren’t thinking (a lot) about what your site says about your organisation, it is time you did. And one of the first questions you need to answer is this: “is a template approach enough, or does my organisation deserve a custom-coded website?”
Let’s talk about it.
The case for templates
Building a site from a template is quick, easy, and cheap. Or at least, it is all of those things in the short term.
There are a number of tools to build websites from templates, from the relatively basic (Wordpress.com, Squarespace, Wix and so on) to the more sophisticated options such as Webflow. In most cases, with a decent eye and a basic understanding of information design, it is possible to create a responsive, decent looking if generic website in about a week.
That shouldn’t be sniffed at: compared to the old days, templates offer a way to get online fast, and if your budget is (genuinely) tight, they may well be right for you. I could go on, but it would be pointless: the arguments in favour of using templates are speed and cost.
The case against templates
There’s an old phrase in the agency world: “price, speed, quality: pick two”. We’ve already established what the benefits of templates are: guess what has to give. That’s right: quality.
I’ll talk in positive terms about custom design in a moment, but broadly speaking the challenges that come with a template site are twofold:
- Technical. In a word, you don’t control the code and don’t have the ability to optimise that code to ensure the best possible performance both in terms of speed and SEO. The former is particularly important: limitations of template sites are often hard to overcome, and slow sites are punished by Google when it comes to search performance. If you do build a template site, be sure to check that you are happy with your performance at Google PageSpeed Insights. If you don’t like what you see, consider a custom build.
- Design. Whilst templates do give some flexibility, ultimately you are going to run up against a simple issue: you cannot create a site that perfectly represents your brand when you are working within the constraints of a template. Similarly, UX and visual design that maximises lead generation is hard to deliver when your decisions are - to some extent - already made for you.
Almost any organisation will ultimately find themselves bumping up against these issues. What usually follows is additional work, additional spend, but still a result that feels like a compromise.
The case for custom build
A custom build website enables you to start from scratch. To ask the really important questions, and act on the answers in a way that is precisely right for your business. A website ultimately does a job, or several jobs, for an organisation. What are those jobs? What does success look like? What customer journeys is it important to support?
Only a custom site gives you the freedom to build something that is right for your business. And think about that business. It is unique, it has a particular set of values and qualities that distinguish it from competitors. You work hard to ensure that, so shouldn’t your website work hard to communicate them? Only custom design and build can do that job. Only custom design can ensure that your brand, your identity, is presented online in a way that is truthful to your vision.
There’s one further consideration. Most organisations that begin with template websites inevitably graduate to custom design once they encounter the limitations described above. In almost every case, if you can afford custom design and build today, you will save money by committing. Yes, I know we would say that. But we deliver the commercial results that prove the money is well spent.
So if you’d like to discover precisely how impactful a custom built site can be for your business, drop us a line!