In today’s world, it’s challenging to find someone not sitting within arm’s reach of an electronic device. Smart phones, tablets, computers—these machines are part of our everyday lives and means we have access to information unlike ever before. With just a few key strokes or a few swipes of the finger, consumers can find just about anything they desire and as a business owner, you want potential customers to be able to reach you.
Your website is the bread and butter of connecting with your customers. A well-designed website is user friendly, functional, and clearly communicates your brand’s goals and values to anyone who visits. How do you even begin accomplishing this crucial task? You start by carefully considering your website’s platform.
Hosted Website Builders
Think of your website like real estate. When you work with web hosting and development platforms like Wix and 1and1, you’re essentially renting property. You own all of the content and images (much like you own all of the furniture in your apartment), but that’s it. If you ever decide to move, that’s all you can take with you. You can’t take the walls or the foundation.
Website builders like Wix and 1and1 allow users to essentially drag and drop features to build their own website with zero coding required. Website builders oftentimes offer a free (but limiting) option or will charge a small monthly fee depending on the features you need. They also offer templates that are customizable and optimized for mobile devices.
The pros of using a hosted website builder:
- Low cost
- Very easy set-up
- Lots of stock photography options
- Premade palettes
- No coding required
The cons of using a hosted website builder:
- Minimum control over layout
- Changing your template means starting over
- Unwanted advertisements on your site since you’re “renting”
A website template is a predesigned webpage that anyone can use to add images and content to create a website. A new business that only needs to provide basic information may opt for a cost-effective template so they can put their budget towards other services, like Google Adwords.
You can think of website template like log cabin kits. No matter what kit you buy, the walls are set and what you see is what you get. This doesn’t mean it can’t be a great home, but it is pre-manufactured by someone other than your developer. You’re very limited to making changes to your site and since the programmer didn’t do the original foundational coding, there could be some trial and errors making changes with the possibility of breaking code.
That’s not to say there isn’t any coding or additional work required with a website template (you still have to assemble your log cabin kit, right?). A lot of people think that purchasing a template for $99 means that it’s ready to go right out of the gate, but you don’t know how well the coding was done unless you have worked with that particular template prior. And finally, you have to plug in the content! Templates are the skin of your website, but it’s up to you to flesh it out with pictures, text, video, etc.
For the most part, website templates are an inexpensive way to build a website without sacrificing quality. There are literally thousands of different website templates available and most come with theme updates and support to reduce bugs. While you do run the risk of your site looking similar to someone else’s since the same template can be purchased by multiple users, templates are a good option if you’re looking for something simple that doesn’t require many bells and whistles.
The pros of using a website template:
- Fairly easy set-up
- Lots of options
- Reliable website updates
The cons of using a website template:
- Difficult to make custom adjustments
- Limited in design and navigation capabilities
- Requires the purchasing of hosting platform
- Requires set-up
- Others can buy the same template
A custom website is like building a house from the ground up with the goal to support your brand with functionality and design. Unlike template websites, most developers prefer to build custom websites because they’re easier to maintain and yield better SEO results.
Custom websites are the optimal choice if you want to stand out and have total control over your site’s functionality. This is important because having total control over your site’s functionality means that you are in the driver’s seat of your user experience. Once you understand how your customer is going to engage with your site, your developer can build specific platforms so that you can make changes without needing to pay high programming fees.
If your business or organization has a specific task that can be done in-house versus paying a web developer every time it needs to be done, your developer can usually create a platform that allows you to make those changes yourself. Having the capability to do those things on your own will potentially save your business both time and money.
There’s also the important, seemingly obvious benefit of buying a custom-built website: If you’re working with a good developer, the end result will be a website unlike anyone else’s. Your website will perfectly suit your unique business needs and be a style all your own.
The pros of having a custom website:
- More user friendly
- Built to be search engine friendly
- Works across all browsers
- Unique design that is suited to your brand
- Can grow with your business
- Sky’s the limit on functionality
The cons of using a custom website:
- More expensive
- Takes more time
It is recommended that you revisit your website’s content and structure every 5 years. Just like technology itself, web users are constantly changing the way they interact with a website and what they expect from it. For example, current trends suggest that users want simplicity. Studies today show that users prefer to engage with websites that offer 4-5 services and allow them to get to what they want within 1-2 clicks, unlike 5 years ago when businesses were trying to fit everything possible on the home page.
We hope that this overview provides some guidance as you navigate the world of website development. While it can seem daunting, we recommended starting by simply writing down the answers to these questions:
- What is it that you want your costumers and potential customers to know about you?
- How much maintenance would you to or are willing to put into your website?
- What is your budget?
- What is your timeline?
If you have any questions about templates or custom websites or what might be the best option for your business, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org