Website builder vs. custom website design – How to choose?

April 30, 2018 / Time to read: 5 minutes
Website builder vs. custom website design – How to choose?
A lot of my customers have recently been asking my advice about when and why to choose web builder vs customized website. The most common question is why to pay so much money when there are so many great online tools such as Wix and Weebly that can build websites quickly, without knowledge of coding and at a good price.

It looks like building a website today has never been so easy and everyone can do it just at the click of a button. But since we do not (and should not) build websites every year, it is important to understand website development market in order to choose the right solution that will support your business objectives, whether it’s revenue growth, compliance to security requirements, or creating awareness of your personal brand. Let’s examine options on how you can build a website today to help you make an informed decision.

Website builder - What is it?

A website builder is an online tool that allows a person without any specific design or programming knowledge to build a website. It has a number of preset functional features, visual templates and themes to enable you create a website in a short period of time. Common advantages of using website builders are affordable, fast, standard design and functionality, free hosting. While website builders can make your life easy, and represent an alternative solution, they have disadvantages that can limit your customers’ digital experience. Here is a list of some of them:

  • limited functionality
  • lack of integration options
  • generic and repeated design-looks like a template
  • poor mobile experience and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • basic hosting
  • no tech support

In other words, this tool offers a combination of Pro and Cons that can work for you but you have to be realistic in regards to what you want to achieve and what you can really get.

To make it really simple to understand, think about it as DYI (“Do It Yourself”) approach vs hiring a professional expert for your office renovation project. On the one hand, you can save some money by doing some renovation tasks such as internal painting and cosmetic changes by yourself. On the other hand, by DIY you have a plenty of limitations of what you can’t handle without professional qualifications. Plus, you might run into overlooked risks that can cost you twice in the long run.

When it comes to businesses that could go with a website builder, I consider small-medium sized companies, bloggers, non-for profits with limited budgets, start-ups who are testing the waters on a new business model.

Custom website through professional web agency

We clarified how website builders work. Let’s take a look at custom websites and why, in my personal opinion, they will always be on demand. Being in the industry for more than 15 years, I have seen how web design landscape has evolved thanks to emerging technologies and web enhancements. They do make our life easier but at the same time create a misconception among regular users about the value of design and custom solutions.
A custom website is built by a team of web experts with a specific set of skills in programming, design, user experience and marketing. Web developers work with you to create a solution starting from your vision (your dream website), mission (what you are trying to accomplish) and finishing with how to turn it into reality (offered solution). A custom website development purpose is to target unique business needs, grow the business, and set you apart from your competitors. It is a long term solution to make web working for you.

Going back to my analogy of considering DIY vs professional contractor, imagine you were planning a big office renovation project to make it more functional, incorporate your unique brand theme, create a pleasant environment for your team and customers. Would you pick a DIY approach or hire professional experts who would build a long term solution to support your business goals from different angles and save you money in the future.

The same analogy applies to hiring professional web experts to help you make your web presence unique, efficient and customer driven.

Why established business needs a custom website?

To make things easier, let’s try to answer a few questions that will lead you to the right decision.

  • Is your goal to grow the established business?
  • Are you looking for a multi-functional platform to engage your customers and build relationships?
  • Would you like to enhance your brand through unique, functional design?
  • Are you looking for a dedicated professional support to ensure your website meets your goals?

These are just a few discovery questions to help us identify a web development strategy. If the answer to all of them is “Yes”, then you should consider a custom website.

Here is a list of advantages to support your decision.

Integrated solution - When you have a reputable business and your goal is to develop it, you need expertise in different fields including UX, design, coding and content marketing. Technology advancements (ready-made plugins, applications, responsive design) need to be integrated and managed properly. Only professional web design agency can offer you a full-featured and integrated solution.

Scalability - As your business grows, you need to ensure that your website is scalable and has potential to grow, adopt changes, new functions and keep your user experience smooth. It takes planning, time and tech skills.

Dedicated web hosting – Is one of the crucial parts of business development and very often is often overlooked. This is where you host your website and its entire asset. As an established business you need a strong, reliable, secure and easy manageable solution. If you care about your business and customer experience, you have to choose strong, dedicated hosting services.

SEO optimization – This is all about your website organic (not paid) visibility to your customers through web search engines such as Google and Bing. It directly impacts your business and bottom line. Imagine your website is ranked top ten for searches relevant to your business. This is a result of good SEO. Only professional web designers can configure your website to increase ranking positions.

Branding - With so many websites starting looking the same (thank you, website builders) you want to look differently, emphasize uniqueness of your brand, and connect with your audience. Do you think a website builder is capable to do it? “People ignore design that ignores people” says one of my favorite quotes by Frank Chimero (designer, author and illustrator).

Website needs an ongoing support - When website is completed, your customer journey only starts. You need to manage web performance, including monitoring customer experience, making adjustments, fixing tech issues, optimizing conversions etc. In other words, you do need to take of your online presence to make it successful. A website builder is a tool, not a human, and does not really care about your success. When you work with a professional service provider, these problems go away.

And last but not least….

One thing I have not mentioned yet is a cost and time when you go with a custom website. Yes, it will cost you more and take more time depending on complexity of your website. But if you said “Yes” to all above mentioned questions, then you should look at your website as an investment project that will pay off in the long run. We all know that time is money, so why not to spend time, energy and effort to accomplish the results you truly seek.

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