For start-up businesses and companies launching or revamping their website, the biggest decision to make is whether to create something bespoke or use a ready-made design from a website template supplier. Will off-the-peg provide a snug fit for your business? Or is tailor-made the only way to cut it? There are advocates on both sides and each of the two options has attributes in its favour.
A template has an obvious advantage if you need to get things up and running extremely quickly. If you have all your key resources, such as images and logos, a small-scale template – perhaps a basic brochure website – could go be ready to go live in a matter of hours. It’s also a cost-effective means of creating an online presence with a professional appearance.
Flexibility and control
Whilst the efficiency and low cost of setting up with a template has obvious initial appeal, it’s vital to think long-term: will the same website be fit for purpose in one, two or three years’ time? One of the fundamental differences between template and bespoke websites is flexibility: unlike templates, custom websites give you control of the design and allow you to re-think it whenever and however you want. Your strategy, your brand and even the nature of your business may evolve over time. These should dictate the style, content and format of your website, not the other way round. As your business expands, the limitations of a template could constrain the speed of your progress. In contrast, bespoke designs can be adapted to accommodate and accelerate the development of your company, year-on-year.
Creating your own website from a template may be a low-cost option, largely requiring an investment in time rather than money, but you need to consider whether DIY website maintenance is sustainable as your business and productivity grows. Success brings a busier workload and you may find your time becoming ever more precious. You could delegate maintenance to your staff, but it’s probable that, just like you, their efforts are better employed in their primary role. Using professionals to develop a bespoke website means that you can delegate the task to people whose primary role is the support of your website – people who built it from its foundations and know it inside-out. They can maintain it with maximum efficiency and relieve you of any technical headaches that can come with having to do it yourself. Time is money and, by taking this weight off your shoulders, you can put your hours to far better use.
By working with professional and experienced web designers on a custom solution, you’ll benefit from their expertise with one-to-one consultancy and a proactive approach which is impossible to gain from a template. As well as analysing and benchmarking the designs of your competitors, they can invest time getting to know the values and identity of your business with the aim of creating something which uniquely reflects your company and delivers your brief; you are empowered in the design process and your concept can be realised by creative people whose job is to understand and then deliver it.
Again, it’s all about thinking long-term: over a period of time, skilled web professionals can essentially become an extension of your company, steeped in its dynamics and strategic goals. With that knowledge base, they can suggest new ideas, bespoke features and innovations which serve your specific market, keeping you ahead of the curve. Template providers are usually equipped to provide basic technical support, but when it comes to supporting the wider needs of your business, there is no substitute for interpersonal relationships.
Bespoke = unique
Every business is unique, but the same can’t be said of websites. If you choose a particularly popular and well-known template supplier, there’s a chance that you may come across a website using same template elsewhere online. If you’re looking to establish a distinctive and unique brand identity, your efforts will be somewhat hindered if your website looks very similar to millions of others. With a bespoke website, you know that it’s unique by design. A first impression could ultimately decide whether or not a visitor trusts your brand – it pays to make it count.
A website as a company asset
Templates are copyright of the original designer, meaning it has no value for your company. In contrast, if you commission a designer to create a completely unique site, it will remain the copyright of your business.
Any self-respecting web design company will build a bespoke website using the latest HTML and CSS coding standards, which are much preferred by the likes of Google. These standards ensure that page loading times are quicker, resulting in a better experience for your visitors. If you choose a template, you need to be sure that it meets the latest coding standards. You also need to be sure that it provides mobile-responsive functionality, which gets another big tick from Google – again, any decent bespoke developer will design a site with mobile-responsiveness as a primary consideration. Mobile has become the most important platform and it shouldn’t play second fiddle to desktop in the design process. What’s more, whilst the integration of SEO code is possible within the content management systems of many templates, you need have the savvy and know-how to execute it. With bespoke sites, digital professionals will oversee the integration of SEO code throughout your site; as part and parcel of their job, it’s another technical that headache you can avoid.
Security and troubleshooting
The quality of security provided by template providers is variable and many sites are vulnerable to hacking. With bespoke sites, you can determine your own security and increase your peace of mind. It is also easier to overcome technical problems such as slow loading times or unresponsive servers – if you have a template site, solving these issues are out of your hands.
Specialist digital agencies can provide the expertise to create a bespoke site, but an even better option is to use a full-service agency which has a digital team supported by a comprehensive range of additional marketing services to work in tandem with the development of your website. Having creatives working side-by-side on your website, printed sales literature, advertising, signage, PR and exhibitions makes it very easy to maintain consistent a message and brand identity, online and offline. Email campaign and PPC professionals can work with web developer colleagues to ensure that your website is ready to maximize conversions from new traffic. It hardly needs stating that none of this would be possible with a template provider!
Ultimately, the pivotal consideration in the decision between template and bespoke is where you see your company in several years’ time. If you have big ambitions, they are probably better served with a bespoke site which can grow and develop with your business.