Spoiler alert: A custom website is not always the “must” it’s made out to be.
Your best website meets your visitors’ needs and your business goals. In other words, there is no rule that makes a custom website best. 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 talk through your options.
When it comes to deciding if a custom website is best or 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? Let’s find out:
You currently don’t 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. Best of all, it minimizes your startup costs. This allows you to learn, adapt and grow. In time, you may find reasons to spend money on custom components or a complete custom website. The difference is, you will be better prepared for the investment by knowing what problems you are trying to solve.
*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 aren’t receiving visitors.
If your website falls into this category, odds are you might not be ready for a custom website yet. Similar to above, if your website is not attracting visitors it would be unwise to throw money into a custom website for this reason alone.
In this case, it’s crucial to assess your website for the following:
- First, is there enough content? Keep in mind search engines return pages with ~350 or more in their results.
- Equally important, is that content accessible? Your webpages should be filled with mostly text. Graphics and images with words are not accessible unless they include ALT tags—in other words, plain text alternatives—for screen readers.
- Last, is the structure of the website preventing content from being read? The best way to find this out is to hire a website developer to assess your website.
In all cases, your website may still not be ready to go custom. Above all, your investment should lie in pinpointing and correcting the issue in getting visitors to your website. Once your website is attracting visitors, you will learn how well they are able to use it.
Ultimately, even a poorly-written website can often be corrected instead of scratched.
You have a website and are getting visitors, 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?
- Or is the design is getting in the way?
- Last, 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. Best of all, it will also tell you 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.
Before you build a custom website, you may need to gather more info about your current website.
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. First and foremost, 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.
Hire a website professional.
Whether you’re unsure where your website fits or are ready to move forward, I can help.