So you're ready to build a new website, but overwhelmed by all the options. Which one suits you best? Are you better off going for a template website or should you invest in a custom design website? Is website builder a viable option for your business or not? Let's take a look at all of these options and see what they are about and how you should choose one.
1. Template: pre-designed (and sometimes pre-coded) layouts that you can just plug your content in.
2. Bespoke/Custom: tailor-fit design specially designed for your business and your target audience.
Templates can be stunning. Bespoke can be ugly. Just like clothing shopping, you may want tailor-fit clothes because they fit you better. If you happen to find something off-the-rack that looks perfect on you for fraction of the price, go for it.
Choose template if
Templates are pre-made designs that can be sold to many businesses, the cost is spread across all buyers which drives down your initial investment.
Templates are already done, you only have to plug in your content. No need to wait for designs, revisions, development, and testing.
Templates are by no means ugly, they can be stunning. However, there will be many businesses sharing the same template with yours. If looking similar to others is not a big deal, a template is a great choice.
A template is less costly because it doesn't require any customization. You need to adapt your content to the template, not the other way around. If you cannot find a template that fits EXACTLY what you need, customization can quickly increase the cost of using the template.
Did you know that many so-called "design agencies" pass template design off as "custom"? Ask them to show you their design files and workflow. You may find out that they somehow miraculously come up with a design without going through all the proper steps.
Nilead is completely transparent about the design options that we offer. We offer low-cost template options as well as the not-cheap bespoke designs (which we do not encourage our Clients to use unless they do need that). We also offer a mid-end, hybrid solution thanks to our platform's unique ability to:
1. Mashup different templates together to create something new and unique.
2. Cherry-pick elements from our marketplace to plugin into current or new templates.
You get the best of both worlds with an affordable budget.
Choose bespoke if
If your budget is less than $10,000, for example, a template-based website is probably your best choice. If your annual revenue is $2 million, then spending $20,000 on a custom website is only 1 percent of your annual revenue. If your annual revenue is $10 million, then spending $50,000 on a custom website is only 0.5 percent of your annual revenue. Your website is, after all, the central hub for all your branding and marketing activities. A high-quality website is always a sound investment.
A bespoke website takes a good amount of time for proper research, revisions, custom development, and testing. If you cannot wait for at least 2 months, the bespoke design is not an option.
The bespoke design is customized for your brand message, your audience, your purposes. It's specially crafted to highlight your strength, lessen your weakness, instill trust, and guide your audience toward desired actions (with ways to measure interactions). Template-based websites simply do not afford you the level of personalization necessary to design a site that is a reflection of your brand’s unique personality, identity, and positioning.
If you have a new or unique business model, you may not find a ready-made template that works for you. If your business website requires some unique features then you may have no choice but to go for a bespoke solution.
When it comes to the platform to manage your website, there are several to consider. To simplify your decision, let's consider two major choices: custom code and website builder.
1. Custom code: website coded by website developers. This website can use a well-known open-source platform such as Wordpress, Drupal, or a completely custom solution.
2. Website builder: no-code or low-code platform that allows creating a website without (much) technical skills and knowledge.
Choose custom if
A (good) custom code website requires at least one skilled frontend developer to develop and properly test and tweak the site.
It's a sad fact that some frontend developers have subpar skills and just want to do enough to get the job done. A custom website is often developed once, delivered, and forgotten. As a non-technical user, it will be difficult for you to judge if the delivered code is a mess that will cause issues in the long run.
Did you know that your website is not the only software that you have to manage to ensure the smooth running of your online business? A website often relies on a bunch of other server's softwares that need constant maintenance to run smoothly and securely. Your team needs to be able to constantly monitor for issues and keep these softwares updated.
Sometimes you own a business like Airbnb or Uber and custom code is your only option. Do not mistake "having access to your code" with "owning your code", however. If you do not have an able team, having the code on your server means nothing if you cannot do anything about it. After a few years, a never updated website software becomes so vulnerable and outdated that you cannot re-use anything for your next website anyway.
A custom-developed website is only as good as the coding skills of the team who created it.
There are many ways to achieve the same look and feel for a website, and some may cause more troubles down the road. Without the help of a website expert, it's difficult for normal users to determine the quality of the code of a website. Unfortunately, most website projects lack enough budget for thorough testing.
In SaaS website builders, components can be reused over and over again, and maintenance code can be updated instantly across thousands of websites, reducing overall development and maintenance costs and allowing for consistent quality standards across the entire network.
Choose builder if
A (good) custom code website requires at least one skilled frontend developer to develop and properly test and tweak the site.
A SaaS platform is constantly tweaked and updated for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of customers. Which one has the better to have higher coding quality and new important improvements?
Sometimes it's not practical to maintain an internal web expert team to manage your website. Most website builders come with hosting and support services that you can always rely on.
Having someone, with the required expertise, to manage everything for you is a blessing. Spend your time worrying about your business, your family, or yourself instead of all these things that you do not understand.
A combination of website builders and templates can truly be described as a match made in heaven. The majority of templates can be overstuffed with unnecessary code (because they need to function with a variety of layout options) and are difficult to customize. Modern website builders provide a simple solution to all these problems. You can style, move, disable, or enable all elements of the builder's templates easily.
The key to any website, whether it's a custom-code website or a builder platform, is to plan for future growth. Custom code website gives you the ultimate power to tweak and add any feature you want to your website. On the other hand, modern builder platforms enable you to quickly and affordably deploy new ideas and apps without weighing you down with high costs. Many businesses take advantage of both options and employ both platforms for different purposes.
Before ending this article, let's address several outdated, misconceptions regarding website builder:
Web builders are believed by some to offer extremely limited ability. This is simply not true anymore. While website builders may still have certain limitations, you can build almost every design you want with modern builders. Many modern builders such as Nilead also allow bringing your code to achieve the design and effects you want. In the cases where you have really specific needs, sometimes you can find ways to get around the limitation by using custom code.
If you want to build your online Amazon alternative then website builder may not be a choice, but for most cases, you may find that these builders offer more than enough. And even if you cannot use these builders in the long run, you may find it to your advantage to build quick prototypes to test out ideas at the first stage of your business.
With a modern website builder, you can get the best of both world:
1. A customized, tailor-fit website design.
2. The ability to update your content and layout without touching any code.
Lower code quality:
Custom websites are often built once and left forgotten. There is also the question regarding the skillsets of the developer who works on your site. A SaaS platform is constantly tweaked and updated for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of customers. It's easy to guess see which one has the better chance to have higher coding quality and new important improvements.
Code still required:
There are 2 types of website builders:
1. Builders that target end-users such as Wix tend to require less knowledge of code (and thus may have certain limitations).
2. Builders that target designers, developers such as Webflow, and Nilead tend to require certain knowledge of code to take full advantage of the builder.
At Nilead, we understand that most users do not have the time and the desire to learn the knowledge necessary to fully tweak their websites. We offer fully serviced, affordable development and management service. Even if you are not comfortable with building your website, you can still tap into our service to create a website that can be easily managed and updated. If you don't have ready access to full SEO, design, developer team to update content and design for you,
It is true that with solutions such as Wordpress you can get (almost) complete ownership of the code, but there are a few caveats:
1. Some plugins are not free, and you either have to pay one time or monthly, yearly.
2. Owning the code does not mean that you can do everything you want with it. You still need the knowledge of coding to make changes.
Open-source may feel like a way to be less reliant on one provider, but that wasn't necessarily the case. The cost of hiring another team to update a website that has been created by one team may not be feasible (new teams have to dig deep into tens of thousands of lines of code to understand what the previous team attempted). Since each team has its standards to follow (and most of the time, no standard at all), the project may quickly become a patched job that is beyond repair.
Costly recurring fee:
The argument is that you can get a cheaper monthly fee if you manage your own website and hosting. In many cases, the authors miss important points:
1. Most website builder platform provides a cloud-based, load-balanced hosting solution (which increases your website speed and stability). This is beyond a single server that you normally use to host your website. We are talking of hundreds if not more servers running and ensure the speed and stability of your website.
2. Maintenance tasks (backup, technical support, security patches, free features upgrades) are included in the package. Most businesses are not aware of maintenance costs and run the risk of getting hacked and blackmailed.
Keep in mind that platform builders have the economy of scale, by providing the exact same services to thousands or more clients they can give your more value for your money.
Website builders are slow:
Obviously, if you really do have the time and money, then investing in your own custom code website will give you better results all around. Unfortunately, 90% of the websites out there do not have this kind of luxury. There are many parts required in running an optimal website:
1. Optimized server
2. Optimize multiple cache layers
3. Setup content delivery network
Without experts' help, you may risk having a very slow website by using custom code website and managing your server. At Nilead, we constantly invest much of our time and effort in identifying bottlenecks and speeding up our client's websites. These new updates are pushed to our clients' freely and automatically as soon as they become available.
Modern Website Builders such as Nilead give you complete control over important features that you need to tweak and improve your SEO. These features are:
1. Custom heading and footer code (html, css, js, meta tags)
2. Element attributes
3. Image alt tags
4. Custom sitemap
5. Custom robots.txt
6. Custom redirection rules
If you work with a customer-driven website builder provider, you may find that voicing your request for new SEO features can be super easy and new features can be quickly worked on.
False sense of security:
Some people believe that hosting their websites will them safer. This is simply not true. SaaS companies have more resources to invest in keeping their system secured. While it's true that no system is 100% safe, it's simply cheaper (per website) for SaaS platform providers to keep their systems updated due to the economy of scale.
More often than not, we find system hacks traced back to human' doings (intentional or not). Most businesses may leave their entire servers in the hands of the internal IT staff who may keep the data hostage when internal disputes arise.