The con that small business owners fall for

This article is to dispel some myths of web design so you can make an informed decision when talking to potential builders of your website. The article was prompted by a few interesting conversations recently. They were around the merit of building a website from scratch versus a template based website.

The case for custom-built

Custom-built websites are created from scratch. It’s a bit like building a house from scratch. Back in the early days of the internet, it was the only way to build a website. The look of it is designed by a branding or graphic designer. The functionality of it is built by a developer who codes it. There’s two aspects that are coded

  • The functionality
  • The look

Functionality

When you build a house from scratch you have to decide the materials of the walls, the size of the rooms, plan the rooms, plan the electrics and plumbing. The same in a custom-built website. The functionality include things like navigation bars, forms, clickable links, how the site behaves as you move around it and click on buttons that change colour, content management so you can add articles/news, update pages after the build is complete, commenting features, social sharing, it’s behaviour on mobile devices, video, security… the list is ever growing.

The more functionality you have, the more there is to code, the more there is to test on various browsers and devices, to make sure it works as intended and doesn’t break, which means the more expensive the project becomes.

Fancy but useless

Some coders like to show off their programming skills and build in functionality that has no value in converting a visitor to a prospect or client. An example of this is fancy moving parts when you hover over certain areas. It’s fancy and clever but serves no purpose. The trouble with most programmers and coders is they don’t understand online marketing.

The Look

The look is all about the design that you might get your graphic designer to do. It’s not just about the logo, but about making what people see on your site reflect who you are and what your company is about. A good designer will be able to translate that and put together colours, fonts and images in a way that will be attractive to potential customers and reflect and convey the essence of what you offer in a visual way.

The trouble with most graphic and brand designers is they don’t build websites. They usually advocate getting web developers and programmers (who love their fancy useless gizmos) to build their designs for them.

Anti-templates

Both designers and programmers are anti-templates because they perceive that their designs and fancy gizmos will be compromised when fitted into a premade template. Web developers like to show off their programming skills and they earn more when they build from scratch.

Custom cost

So getting a website designed and built from scratch will cost upwards of £5k because of all the different skills involved. It will also take a long time because of all the too’ing and fro’ing between you, your copy writer, designer and programmer. Then there’s the testing and snagging. I know of web projects (not ones I’m involved in) that are still waiting to be launched, months later (in one case years later!).

And that’s not the end of it. After the website goes live, depending on the size of it, there will be endless snagging as some functionality won’t have been thought through and either won’t be there so has to be coded in (more cost).

Endless Snagging

One client (whose website I didn’t get to build), still has snagging issues a year after it was signed off. It was designed and built from scratch. Simple things like having the text link a different colour so it stands out as a link, should be something that happens by default, but wasn’t something the programmers saw to include originally.

And because it wasn’t included in the original design spec, you get charged extra for it. Unless you’re super experienced and up to speed in web functionality and what’s available, you wouldn’t know that something should be there that isn’t to realise it’s not there in the first place!

The Marketeer

There’s a third skill-set I’ve not mentioned yet – the marketeer. The marketeer understands internet marketing and thinks and carefully constructs the path that visitors take that lead them to be prospects and then clients.

Marketeers are all for keeping things simple and easy. For that reason, they like templates, because templates make it easy. Marketeers like functionality that has a purpose of drawing in visitors, taking them on a journey to become prospects and clients.

The Case for Templates

Templates are premade. The functionality is already there. You just have to add your content. Some templates even have the design created for you, so you just select one you like the look of, add your logo (if you have one), images and content and you’re off.

You can get a simple website up and running within a day or so, compared with the months a custom from scratch one takes.

Downside?

The perceived downside is that it will look like other websites as those templates are available to everyone.

Templates are not just for simple sites. There are hundreds of templates that lend themselves to having their ‘look’ totally customised. A clever branding designer can create a unique look on a template that still fulfills their desire to capture the essence of their client.

Templates Like Houses

Templates are a bit like a houses that have already been built. The structure is already there – the rooms, walls, doors, windows, garden. The functionality like electric sockets, light switches, curtain poles, blinds etc are all installed, tried and tested.

You can take two identically built houses and change the look and style of them completely. Wall colours, curtains, different fabrics and colours or changing the style to blinds will all contribute to making the otherwise two identical houses completely different for not that much money. For more budget you could change the carpets for hardwood or laminate. You could go the whole hog and swap out the kitchen for a completely new look. You add your furniture and arrange it how you like.

No two houses, even if they’re built identically would ever be the same because you impart your personality and style on it. But all the functionality is there. Electrics and plumbing are needed in every house so there’s no need to design those basic bits again.

Website Templates Are Like Ready Built Houses

The same with a website. A template has all the basic functionality so why build it from scratch? Why not just add your unique content and imagery to the framework that’s already there to make it completely unique. You don’t have to rebuild the house from scratch!

Just like buying a house, when you’re looking around you look for the must-haves. When we were house-hunting last year we had a must-have list. It had to have large rooms upstairs and downstairs, a downstairs study, we didn’t want any projects that need complete gutting or extensions, we wanted off-street parking, a neat garden. If the house spec didn’t have 4 bedrooms and off-street parking, we didn’t bother even looking at it.

Wish List for Functionality

The same with choosing a template. In WordPress there are literally thousands of free and premium (under £100) templates to choose from, all with different types of functionality, premade looks.

Just like you can choose to design your own house or get an interior designer in to do it for you, so you can with a website. An interior designer will work with the space you have in your house and design and look and feel to fit the confines of the space that reflects your style.

Branding Designers are for websites like Interior Designers are for houses

A branding or graphic designer can do the same with templates. They can design a look that is still unique, doesn’t have the bugs or long development time a built from scratch site has. They can take advantage of existing functionalities (mobile friendliness, social sharing capabilities, security, optin forms, video etc) without having to have you go to the expense of paying someone to built it again.

Templates not just for experts

You don’t have to be a branding expert to create a different looking website with templates either. I use a particular theme in my Business Website Course to show delegates how to build a website. It’s the same theme (WordPress’ word for template), yet everyone who has gone through the course has created a unique looking website. And they were complete novices, not designers.

The con

My web designer colleagues/competitors are going to be up in arms for this article, but it makes me mad when I hear that someone has spent £2-5k for their website which is essentially a brochure website. For the same amount of money, they could also have got a website that had a means for getting potential visitors into their lead funnel. They could have means to update it themselves and/or add blog posts. Had they used ready built templates. It could have looked just as beautiful, but instead, they only got pretty looks.

I hope this article has helped you see the benefit of templates and dispel the myth that web developers put out there that the only way to create a unique website is by building from scratch and not using templates. It’s not. There’s a wealth of templates out there.

Next Step

I’ve created an online marketing toolkit, which shows you the 5 essential tools I use for myself and my clients to make sure visitors to our websites do get into our funnels. You can download the toolkit and resource guide here for free

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