A custom website is often said to be a must for an online business. I’m here to tell you that’s not always the case (even if it is how I earn a living). There are times when a business can—and should!—grow and thrive by making use of an existing template and some smart modifications. Before you consider a custom website, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you already have a website?
- If so, does your site receive visitors?
- Do those visitors lead to new business?
- Does your website accurately represent your business?
- Is it missing anything important that can’t be added due to limitations?
- Do you want a custom website?
- Can you afford a custom website?
Now that you’ve answered the questions, let’s see your results.
When it comes to making the choice between a custom website and a template, the questions above are the ones that will help guide your decision. Of course, there are other things you will want to consider (ease of use, how it looks, the content, etc.)—those things are still important. They also do not only apply to a fully custom website. A good website designer and developer will guide you on how to incorporate those things on any website, custom or not.
Are you ready for custom? Here are my recommendations, based on your answers:
You don’t currently have a website.
If your answer to the very first question on this list is ‘no,’ let me stop you right there. I am a firm believer that your first website should not be custom*. Why? A custom website is a solution that is tailor-made to solve a problem unique to your business. In most cases, jumping ahead to the most expensive solution is not going to be the most beneficial for your business at this stage.
This doesn’t mean I am suggesting you simply grab any template and slap your logo on it. Far from it. Instead, work with your designer and developer to modify and make use of existing starter templates. This allows your website to appear custom (and can incorporate custom components), but saves you time and money in getting your first site set up.
*This is not a hard and fast rule, but my general recommendation for the average business looking to put up their first website.
You have a website, but are not seeing results.
Now, we are starting to get into the conversation of whether or not you need a custom website. Before we can jump right in though, it’s important to take some time to figure out why your current site is not working for you. Consider these next questions:
- What is it about your website that is causing the roadblock?
- Is it lack of functionality?
- Is it the design is getting in the way?
- Is it the content?
The answers to this next set of questions will start to pinpoint if your website’s problem requires a custom solution, and what that problem is. In some cases, the solution lies in addressing very specific, smaller issues. In others, it’s tackling the site as a whole.
You may need to spend some time gathering more specific data from your site users. This can be achieved by setting up a feedback plugin, doing a deep dive into your analytics, or even leading user testing sessions. You may wonder if this is all necessary, but keep in mind you’re considering spending significant money creating a new answer to an old problem. You will want to be sure of what that problem is before investing in the solution.
Where did your needs end up?
At the end of the day, working with a website professional doesn’t immediately mean diving into a custom website. A good designer and developer will carefully consider your existing website (or lack thereof) and work to address the unique problems that are preventing your site from being the bombastic powerhouse it was meant to be.
The most important thing to remember is that your site’s job is to be the best representation of your business it can be. By reviewing where it currently stands and where you want it to go, you can make the best decision for both your business and your budget.