Here at Designer Websites, we offer a bespoke web design and development service that provides our clients with unique and highly functional websites. Our work is scalable and fine-tuned to each client's needs, and every website we create is designed to offer the best possible user experience.
Whether your aim is to generate a strong and memorable brand identity for your new company online, or to offer unique functionality to your customers, there are myriad benefits that come from investing in a bespoke website.
One question we're often asked by clients who are thinking of commissioning a bespoke website is...
"What makes a bespoke website better than a template-type site that's based on a pre-built system?"
On first impression, pre-built solutions can seem like a great idea for businesses who are just starting out online. Accessible and affordable, they are the 'quick fix' of the web design world - there are lots of shortcuts one can take to get a website up and running in a short time, allowing the user to build their design based on a set of ready-made foundations.
While the popularity of pre-built systems is undeniable, what we'd like to do in this article is highlight some of the drawbacks - drawbacks that arguably far outweigh the benefits.
Read on to learn why a bespoke web design will deliver a more sustainable, professional advantage to you and your business in the long term.
Exclusivity and Customisation
As mentioned above, a template on a pre-built system can seem like a perfectly adequate choice for your website at first, especially as you can often choose from thousands of available designs to make the finished site feel unique. The fact that it's pre-made also means that you can test your site to see how it will look for the user once you have uploaded all the content. There is very little design or development time required, and therefore the cost should be very low indeed. In fact, many of these DIY-type solutions allow you to build a site yourself (even if you would need to be relatively web-savvy to achieve this).
Sounds OK so far, right? So what are the drawbacks?
A Unique Design...?
Some of these pre-built website solutions offer thousands of different template designs, with new ones becoming available every day. But there are hundreds of millions of websites online, and over time, those templates become less unique as more people choose to use them.
Of course, many of the templates can be tweaked with different colours, images, and so on, making them more specific to your company and your requirements. But you can only go as far as the template will allow you.
With many pre-built systems, you can use a totally bespoke design on top of the platform, which will give you some uniqueness for a while (though, again, only within the constraints of the system's capabilities). The problem is, these systems are designed to be easy to replicate, and the code structure is always the same - so your design will not be unique for as long as you might like.
If you use a decent designer to create a template on top of a pre-built system, then you may well end up paying over the odds for what is fundamentally a template system - and all without gaining any of the benefits of a bespoke website. It's important to be caution here: these web designers may say they're selling you a 'bespoke website' (they may even believe it themselves), but in fact it's only a bespoke design within the rigid structure of a template system.
Moreover, we often see companies charging ridiculous fees for what is simply a design - work that's made relatively easy for the designer by the confinements of a pre-built system. This is not a bespoke website.
Responsive vs Emulated Responsive
A truly responsive web design starts with the user interface (UI) designer, who should spend time creating separate designs for each device type - i.e. mobiles, tablets and desktop PCs. The designer will carefully think about the user journey on a smartphone, for example, excluding sections and including the most relevant areas, making the point of the website more appropriate for that type of user in that situation. It may be a totally different layout to that seen on a desktop monitor. Along with this comes the usual menu style changes and resizing of images, etc.
An emulated responsive design, often employed by pre-built solutions or templates, is one where the system makes automated calculations based on the size of the screen and changes the style of the menu and resizes elements like images and fonts on the screen. So it's the same design/layout, but adapted to the screen size.
Emulated responsive is better than not having a responsive design at all, but this does not give the user the best experience, and does not sell your business or your products in the best way.
Bespoke, truly responsive websites are naturally far better than emulated responsive sites, so be sure of what your web designer is offering you - ask them if it's 'true responsive' or just emulated.
Problems can arise when you ask your web designer 'can we make it do this? and the answer is often an intake of air and - surprise, surprise - either 'no' or 'we can do it for the cost of a small car'!
The reason for this is that they are not proper software developers (although don't tell them that because they probably think they are) and fundamentally, they did not develop the system. They have merely placed the design on top of an existing system, so it's actually pretty tough for them to do what you are asking without outsourcing to a software development company.
A truly bespoke website will be modern, totally unique, scalable, delivered by the people responsible for the coding and not just the design, and fundamentally if you need a change it is often very easy and quick, but most importantly very doable!
Truly bespoke websites are delivered by companies with a combination of professional software engineers, user interface developers and highly skilled web-specific designers. These tend to be far more stable companies and not your fly-by-night very small design-only firms, so an additional benefit is that you don't have to worry about your website disappearing one day!
Some large companies take the view that pre-built solutions are a very fast way of making easy money, and therefore still deliver them. Sadly, these tend to be the companies who charge the same as a bespoke development company would for a truly bespoke website, but instead they deliver to you a pre-built template system at an extortionate price! It's a very fast way to make money if you can sleep at night with this kind of business model...
So are bespoke websites more expensive? Well, they most definitely should be, because they require highly skilled and experienced people to develop them, but, quite often they are not more expensive at all! In our experience, they are sadly often cheaper than the pre-built templates systems, because some unscrupulous companies charge a great deal for placing a design on top of a pre-built solution.
Code Age & Technology
One of the biggest problems with pre-built solutions is that they cost the founding company a great deal of cash to develop, as they try to create a one-size-fits-all type solution. This then leads to them needing to sell that solution over and over for many years to claw back their costs. In turn, this often means that the pre-built solution being sold to you is 5 to 10 years old (or worse) based on old technologies and techniques, albeit its existence in an ever-changing technological world!
A bespoke website will be developed with the very latest technologies, available online techniques and scripting functionality, and there is significant benefit to this online, not least of which is the search engine optimisation benefits.
Expansion and Optimisation
One of the most significant limitations posed by template systems is the inability to expand and improve your website over time. If you want to say integrate your Sage accounts, your ERP system, CRM or barcoding system, etc, this can often be made overly-complicated or even impossible!
Plugins are often available within open source pre-built solutions, which are intended to offer the user the ability to extend the possibilities set out in a template, these can soon prove to be unreliable, insufficient, bug riddled and even highly insecure. Developed by third parties, these plug-ins could not only clash when used in combination with other plug-ins, but also with general system updates across the template platform. This puts the user in a lose/lose situation, due to the fact that while an update may affect the freedom granted by these additions, neglecting to conform to system updates could increase the chances of your site's security being compromised (actually a common problem with templates). These plugins can not only compromise security and reliability but are often not optimised and therefore contain unnecessary code, making the system sluggish and unresponsive.
As far as online optimisation is concerned, your website should be light, fast and responsive to the user, making it easy to use. You want to offer your customers a speedy and useful journey through your website, and this too is what the likes of Google want. They don't care about you or your business, they only care that the website they are affectively recommending is providing a useful experience. After-all, if they constantly linked to slow and poor quality websites, then we'd all stop using them to search for things on the internet right?
The problem with a one-size-fits-all system, is that it lends itself to providing quick and easy solutions, meaning that you don't need to be very skilled or experienced to provide one, again meaning that the site will not be properly optimised. These systems contain lots of bolt-on's and plugins to handle newer technologies that didn't exist when it was created 10 years ago, which just adds to the slowness and the bulkiness. Add to this the inherent security issues which arise with these systems, and you have to wonder why they sell so well.
Support and Security
As I have already mentioned above, template websites can cause serious problems when it comes to security, simply due to the fact that they present an attractive target for hackers. If you own a bespoke website, then hackers would need to target it specifically and run lots of tools to find out where the admin area is, where the database is stored, etc. This makes the process far more time consuming, and therefore less appealing. Template websites tend to have the same admin login area, the same database location and the same codebase etc, so they are very easy to hack. As part of a wider network of replicated sites, they form a super easy target once a vulnerability has been identified.
No website is safe from a really good hacker, all you can do is provide as much security as possible and make it more time consuming for them; if a good hacker wants your information they'll get it! If they can get into military instalments or FBI systems, then they can most definitely get into your website if they really want to. The point is, why would they waste their time trying to get into a relatively secure and obfuscated website, when all these template type sites exist on the internet? These pre-built solutions make it easy for them, and the designers developing them actually know very little about the technical security of a website in the first place.
In fact, an inherent security issue is posed by the fact that many of these systems are open source, and provide free plugins. If you want a widget within your website to perform a specific task, you can simply look online to see if someone has created a plugin for it. Often you will find it has been done and most of the time these will be fine, but how would you or your designer know if that plugin had some backdoor access type code hidden within it, or keyboard tracking, or a million other security risks? Bear in mind that your designer didn't write the code, and more than likely wouldn't understand it even if they did try to read it.
Another disadvantage of using a template is the lack of support when things do go wrong, like some of the issues I have mentioned above. If you discover a problem with your website, without the proper expertise it can be very difficult to diagnose and fix.
So, in summary, a bespoke website will have the following benefits:
- Truly bespoke design - not easily replicated
- A true responsive design - not emulated
- A proper development and design team for support and assistance
- More modern and technologically advanced code
- True scalability and the ability to integrate any online technology as it becomes available
- Security from common vulnerabilities
- Importantly, an optimised solution that is light, fast and responsive
- And lastly...value for money! We're not simply pushing a design onto a pre-built solution and then charging you the price of a small car for doing so!
We're happy to answer any questions you may have on this subject, if you do have any further enquires, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
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