It’s 2020—a professional website is an expectation, not a luxury. It’s a fundamental piece of the impression you make on clients, partners, and online users.
Of course, when it comes to developing a high-quality site, there’s never been so many options. There’s no shortage of companies that offer easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interfaces, allowing, as they put it, “anyone to design their own website.”
In a sense, they are correct. You can certainly create a passable, functional website using a drag-and-drop service or a WordPress template. It might even look nice.
But when it comes to your brand, “passable” and “functional” should never be enough. Your website is not an expense like any other—it’s an investment in the image and the long-term viability of your business. Templates for websites may be simple, but they’re also a serious compromise. Custom web design is the best way to ensure that investment pays dividends.
Here are just a few benefits a custom site can offer:
Modern marketing relies more than ever on good storytelling…and today, that story often begins with your website. Great websites are a continuation of the brand they represent.No matter what products or services you offer, it’s the compelling story you tell that will have customers reaching for their wallet.
Template websites will often categorize their offerings by the type of industry they’re intended for; they may have group templates for artists, for photographers, for lawyers, and so on. It’s a good idea…but in practice, it means that almost any photography website built with that platform will share a near-identical visual identity. Is that any way to communicate your values to new customers? Come work with us, we’re just like every other option you’ve seen.
Custom websites offer the opportunity to tailor every aspect of the user experience to deliver your message. Even small flourishes like a customized loading screen or branded buttons can help to cement the right impression of your brand in a customer’s mind.
Along the same lines, a custom website offers an opportunity to think precisely about what features your site will need.
Will you need forms for customers to fill out? Video elements? Lightboxes? Some templates may allow adding some of these features to your website…but the results will always be cookie-cutter.
Professional web development means the only limit to the features on your site will be your own creativity (and the limitations of the internet itself). Those incredible interactive elements you sometimes encounter online (like this, or this)? Those aren’t offered on any template website. And yet they have the power to turn a routine visit into a moment of profound customer engagement.
Search Engine Optimization
Let’s face it: there’s no point investing in a gorgeous website if nobody is ever going to see it.
Great web development takes SEO into account at all stages of the design process. Where templates are restricted by their need to fit many different needs, a bespoke website will eliminate what is superfluous and enhance what is needed.
This is crucial. The quality of a website’s code is an increasingly important factor in search rankings. Web crawlers prefer what’s called “clean code”: simple, focused code that’s free from the bloat that template websites need to accommodate their many options and possible permutations. That clean code will also often lead to faster load times, another factor that Google and other search engines take into account when determining page ranking.
There was a time that key-word stuffing and simple image descriptions could be enough to boost a site up through Google’s results. And while clear writing is still important, search engines are becoming more refined and more complex every day. In 2020, Google also notes how much time visitors spend on your site, and how many pages they visit while they’re there…along with a host of other factors.
That kind of performance is where template websites almost always fail: their menus can be confusing, their load times frustrating…they are generally hostile to user experience. A good web designer, meanwhile, can make navigating your site a breeze—and by extension, bring your SEO-game to another level.
Anyone who’s run a website before knows that they’re subject to nearly constant change. The internet itself is constantly changing, as new technologies render old site design obsolete almost as quickly as you can blink.
Here, a template website offers real constraints. As you hope to upgrade your website along with the changing tastes and technologies of the internet, you’re left at the mercy of whatever web template company you’ve chosen. Want to implement new interactive features? Better hope the template is updated some time soon…otherwise, you’re out of luck.
A good web developer offers ongoing support—they can keep you abreast of those changes. Not only should they be responsive to your requests, in many cases they will reach out to you, pointing out opportunities you may not have heard of otherwise.
A Professional’s Eye
In a sense, here lies the true X-factor of a custom-built website. A template website can offer many things…but not the invaluable insights of a true expert in the field.
Professional web designers will know which features make a difference to your users…and which are worth cutting in favour of speed or performance. They can offer ideas and guidance when you look for direction and reduce headaches when your site inevitably encounters the myriad technical nuisances inherent to hosting on the internet.
Unless you’re an experienced builder, you wouldn’t put together your own storefront. Even Da Vinci hired someone to design his shop. There’s good reason—when your brand’s reputation is at stake, only the wisdom and talent of experience will do. A website should be no different.
When considering a custom website vs. a template, the choice ought to be clear. For personal, informal use, a template may do (although with some compromise)…but where business is involved, only a custom web design will truly deliver.