If you want a competitive edge for business, then having a flashy website may be the way to go—if created right. A quick loading, responsively designed website with top-shelf plugins or up-to-date coding, accompanied by CSS, and optimizing your SEO could help you lock down the demographic you're targeting.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from DIY builders, is having your website custom developed. Now when we examine custom websites, to the contrary of what some sites may say, it is not immediately implying you would need to pay someone else to build the website for you or have the site built from scratch. It does mean, however, the use of databases, programming languages, and styling.
You can still create a beautiful site with ASP or PHP that is one-of-a-kind unique, but to be forward, why re-invent the wheel?
Analyzing Custom Websites
There's a marketplace full of website designs, coding packages, templates, and options available at the right price. Everyone wants to showcase their work, their staff, and their products on their sites, though unfortunately, not everyone has the necessary skillsets from college or university, or have the required time and patience to teach themselves coding and retain it.
Custom-built websites are using various types of programming languages, including HTML/PHP, ASP, and Java, among others. What makes them custom is how you build them, how you piece them together with styling, and how you maintain them. In most cases, you can easily manage their content with the help of an FTP program (File Transfer Protocol), such as FileZilla, CuteFTP, or directly in an interface.
Some of the more popular ways to create websites are with a CMS, or Content Management System, such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. You can also build websites using installed software on your computer. You may have heard some of them like Microsoft Expressions Web, Dreamweaver, iWeb, the outdated Frontpage, and so on. Some more advanced designers may design to build the website from scratch using notepad, Brackets, or similar programs and connect to a database for eCommerce.
Pros & Cons of Custom Websites
Now you know any number of the options available for custom development, so let's explore some pros and cons of why you may be more inclined to go custom-built instead of using a template builder DIY site.
- Ease of Use – It's not necessarily using a template builder like a DIY website, but some content management services like WordPress do use themes and plugins. As they're using plugins that developers can create, you will come across some items that will make building a website just as simple with WordPress as a DIY site. Not everyone needs a certified webmaster to create a stunning web page!
- Transportable – As customized websites are without a DIY builder tool, these websites are easily portable. With the use of easy to use FTP programs and a hosting dashboard, you can backup, import, and export your website files and databases. Do you have your files on hand? Change to a new hosting company on a whim, or move folders without much hassle and change directories.
- In-Depth Design Options – Since the websites are customized, you have control. Having control means the 'sky is the limit.' If you're starting from scratch, with the right skill, if you can dream it, you can do it. When you style the website, you choose the esthetic appearance of the site, like the color schemes, and all the font choices, like sizes, colours, and font families.
- Cost Efficiency – Do you want to build a website using WordPress? That's great! Did you know the actual software to install on your hosting is free to download? The only issue is that most hosting providers aren't free-to-use. Everything comes at a cost, so consider this when you set up shop with a hosting provider and consider things like their uptime, bandwidth, or if there are advertisements. Cost-efficient doesn't mean free—it means it's manageable.
- Support Community - The support community for CMS products like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, etc., is ever-growing. Due to its size, it makes learning and growing a new skill easier to do. With community feedback, forums, social media, blogging, and YouTube walkthrough videos, the average consumer is very likely to find some answers to their questions.
- Maintenance Required – If you don't have a webmaster, developer, or a tech support company to rely on for your website, then the site maintenance is an extra task you'll need to remember. Like any software, website software is no exception to upgrades and version changes. What this means to you is out-of-date software or plugins could make your website susceptible to vulnerabilities and hacking. While updates don't always happen, using WordPress as an example will have version security upgrades, and your hosting company may offer PHP version changes or SQL updates. Falling behind on maintenance could also mean your clients get malware, or your site could crash!
- Hosting Limitations – Your website could be the most beautiful and easy to navigate site online today, but there are other factors to making the site function properly. If you're not relying on the hosting provider to manage their DIY Builders for you, then you're going to need to shop around to find a hosting company to suit your website designing needs. Do you want a website with a thousand subscription forum pages and a million fans signing in daily? Then that means you can't just choose a run of the mill shared hosting provider. Things like Dedicated Hosting and VPS are going to be terms you'll need to be at least aware of as your website grows, so you don't outgrow your service provider.
- Can be Costly – Following up from the previous point, we all hope to have webpages that support all of the traffic and fanbase you could bargain for, but that bandwidth comes at a cost. You need a stable hosting provider with a track record for handling large amounts of site visitors if you want to keep your growing company page online. Do your research and find out what you need to keep your website stable and online!
- Some Skill Required – Not everything is going to be easy, and while you may learn from watching tutorial videos, not all of the answers are there. Have a website you built from scratch, and you can't connect to a database? Your website crashed and threw an error message? Can't quite get your website mobile responsiveness to work? These are all things that could be a troubleshooting nightmare if you don't have the necessary skill to overcome the issues you may encounter while you're starting up.
- Too Much of a Good Thing – It had to be said. With so many choices, you may find yourself in a tough spot trying to find the perfect software, template, plugin, hosting provider, SSL provider, or even a developer or webmaster to manage your website with you. As a novice trying their hand at web development, it can quickly become overwhelming without proper support.
While being unbiased about which type of website is the 'best' decision, a custom website is respectable if you're looking to have a great looking website with functionality and potentially long-lasting. The drawback of a custom website is that if the budget or time isn't there, then neither is the website. Great things come at the costs of both, and if you're impatient or unable to make the time and cost payments required, then perhaps a DIY website is the better direction to go. Both choices are viable for success, but they have their limitations. For example, where a site builder may run into the end of life issues in time, a custom website may also run into code being out of date. Now, this may not be right away, but throughout a business career, it could happen. With the former, it would be typically a migration or recreating the website, but if it's a custom coding issue, a rebuild may be significantly more time and money involved to get it back up where you need it to be.
Some decisive questions you could ask yourself when wondering about a custom site are:
- Can you invest time in its planning?
- What is your spending budget?
- How many pages will your website need to be?
- Are you planning on blogging?
- How will you maintain the website?
There is a lot of time and money involved in maintaining a website of any caliber. It's costly not just for its creation, but for its upkeep, too. If you want to have a successful website that sees any traffic, you need to consider the on-going maintenance of the site content, whether that's through new pages and products, blogging, or forums, but you need visitors. Plan out the site and its purpose and think of how you want to keep it changing.
The budget speaks for itself. If your site funding is low, you can still look at a custom website if you know how to work with the hosting and installations or coding required. Do you have what it takes to manage the website creation, or do you need someone more suited?
The page number also speaks for itself in the time versus money scenario. If you're doing it yourself, are you designing your pages differently? If it's just text, then great, but things like photos, tables, and styling can add extra elements to how your website appears and functions when viewed on a mobile. You can also think of things like whether you're using royalty-free stock photos that are free or are the perfect photos something you need to buy, which then affects your budget.
The blogging plays into helping you decide where you want to set up shop. Blogging generally lies with custom websites, which plays your hand a little, but some DIY sites also offer this type of functionality if you look hard enough. Rule out what doesn't suit your needs and weigh your pros and cons.
Lastly, how are you going to maintain the website, and are you doing that yourself? While we have spoken to a vast number of people who think that their website is doing just fine as it is, a stale, static website that doesn't change doesn't do anything to help you. If you're not selling products, you need to showcase your company and capture the interest of your visitors. If your website is bland every time someone comes to your site, they're unlikely to return. Make the pages captivating, intriguing to your audience, but more importantly, make it their need to return.
Be involved in the process, and with the right questions, you can have a beautiful website. Let Alley Kat Web Consulting help in your successful website choices. Contact us today and book your consultation. At Alley Kat Web Consulting, we focus on the customer experience and plan for a strategy for your future goals.