These days, many business owners take it as a given that they’ll need a website if they want to compete in the digital age. No matter where you’re located, having a website is key to building your brand, reaching your audience, and providing customer support.

But once you decide to create a website, you still have a lot of decisions to make. Will it be mobile-friendly? Custom built, or made from a template? Tools like Wix make it easy to build a simple website -- but is a standard template enough for your needs?

Let’s take a look at how custom web development differs from out-of-the-box templates, and whether or not you should hire a custom web developer to build your site.

Custom web development, defined

First, what exactly is custom web development? Does it include programming? Coding? Web design? The short answer is that it depends. While there’s some overlap between web developers and web designers, the two specialties are slightly different.

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Photo by Clément H / Unsplash

A web designer focuses on the look and feel of your website. They’ll handle the graphic design and user interface of your website, such as the layout and color scheme. A web developer builds the code that your website runs on, which includes the front-end (the part that your customer sees) and the back-end (where all of the magic happens).

Depending on what type of business you have, you might place more or less emphasis on each component of the site. For example, a restaurant might need a simple interface that customers can use to view the menu and opening hours, while an e-commerce website might require a more complex back-end with third party integrations.

You might choose to use responsive design that looks just as good on a mobile device as it does on a desktop. Or, you might choose to build a separate smartphone app.

Some developers do web design, and vice-versa, but not all. Whichever type of website you choose, it’s important to make sure that you hire the right person for the task. When you work with Zibtek to build your website, you can be sure that everyone on the team is doing what they do best, and working together to produce a cohesive product.

What sets a custom website apart from the rest?

The most obvious benefit to a customized website is that you can create a look and feel that’s entirely your own. Sure, DIY website builders might allow you to upload your own logo, and may even provide templates designed specifically for your industry, but how many of your competitors will be using the exact same design?

You might be stuck using a layout that isn’t particularly user-friendly, and there may be limits to how many customized features you can add.

Additionally, your site may be hosted on someone else’s server, giving you less control over speed, security, and how you collect and store user data.

Because website builders are a one-size-fits-all solution, they may come with tools and features you don’t need, slowing down your website’s functionality.

A few seconds’ difference may not sound like a lot, but according to some studies, it takes only two seconds for a user to click away from a page that’s too slow.

Custom websites, on the other hand, are slick and streamlined, with no unwanted tabs and toolbars getting in the way of the user experience.

They allow you to design your site’s information architecture from scratch, resulting in better SEO rankings and search engine friendly URLs. They can even be designed to automatically input customer data into your company’s CRM.

Not every company will benefit from these perks of custom web design, but the more complex your business is, the more likely it is that you’ll need one.

From user accounts and membership forums, to an automated help desk or knowledge base, there’s virtually no limit to what you can create with a custom website design.

While it may be a bigger investment in time and money, it’s tailored specifically to your business’s needs, something that a pre-made template simply can’t offer.

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Photo by Domenico Loia / Unsplash

Is custom design still a viable proposition for your business?

Building a custom website can give you a competitive advantage over other businesses like yours. After all, customers are more likely to give your company a shot if your site is easy to read and user-friendly -- and especially if it looks professional and unique.

That said, there are some occasions when a custom website just won’t work. If you’re in a hurry to build an online presence and don’t have the time to build a website, start off with a simple landing page or social media profile for now.

You can always invest in a custom website once you have a steady customer base or a long-term business plan.

Some web developers would argue that custom websites are never necessary, and that off-the-shelf solutions are “good enough”.

And the truth is, website builders are improving, and are better now than they were even a few years ago. But there are still a few downsides.

For one, if you use a website builder, you’re locked into that platform for the time being. You can’t simply relocate the website to your own server if you outgrow the platform’s storage or bandwidth limits. If you choose to move, you’ll have to start from scratch.

Second, website templates are easy to break. It’s tempting to make tweaks to the code on your Wix or Weebly site, but if you mess something up, it can be hard to fix.

You can reach out to the support team, but you won’t have a dedicated web developer on your side who can address any issues.

In contrast, custom websites are designed for the long-haul. Your website is yours, and you can upgrade it and migrate it whenever you want.

Your developer can help you create a secure storage system for your customer’s data, and you can even create a custom CRM and apps to go along with your site.

There’s simply no way to match the expertise than an experienced developer can bring to the table. That’s why custom sites continue to be in demand -- even in a world where off-the-shelf templates are a dime a dozen.

Ask yourself these questions to find out if your business would benefit from custom web development.

If you think a custom website is right for you, ask yourself these three questions.

The first and most important is: can you afford it? A custom website can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000 or more, so it’s not a decision to be made lightly.

You’ll need to find a web developer you can trust, and be willing to work with them for an extended period to bring your vision to life.

You’ll also need someone to maintain the website and make updates down the road, so building a custom website isn’t a one-time purchase -- it’s an ongoing investment.

You should hire a custom developer once you’ve established your business and have a long-term plan, not when you’re still figuring things out.

The second question is: do you need tools that a template can’t offer? Remember, for a simple business, a DIY website may be just fine.

If you just need to display basic information about your company, such as your address and operating hours, stick with a template.

But if you’re expecting to scale up your team, branch out into new areas, or do anything more complicated than advertise your business, go with a custom build.

A custom website can help you improve your brand’s visibility, while also boosting your productivity with a CRM integration and other customizable features.

The third question in: when do you need it by? As we’ve mentioned, custom sites aren’t for businesses that are in a hurry. You can expect your web developer to take 3 months or more to deliver the finished product, from consultation to deployment.

So if you have a deadline to meet, or simply want to capitalize on a recent social media mention or some other burst of publicity, go with a template.

Developing a custom website is like launching a new product: it can pay back dividends, but you’ll need to put in some time and attention to get it right.

Photo by You X Ventures / Unsplash

Get a solid custom web development team on your side.

If you’re going to invest in a custom website, you’ll want a team of experts on your side. That’s because your options are more varied than ever. From UX design to social media integration to data encryption, you need a web development team that can do it all.

Zibtek works across many industries, including healthcare, media, insurance, retail, and more, to design the most effective tools for your business. Whether you need an iOS or Android app, a CMS-powered website, or a custom CRM, Zibtek can help you create a unique software solution for your industry.

Zibtek’s developers know how to build sites that will look good to your users, while also providing all of the data management and analytical tools you need on the back-end.

Reach out today to get a free quote and see how Zibtek can help your business grow!