Does your small business need a new website, or a refresh to your old design? You must make a decision whether to use a small business website builder, or to design a custom site.
When should you choose a small business website builder?
Site builder tools like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are good and we recommend them for certain types of projects. For example:
- A startup company that really just needs a simple, brochure-like site.
- A site promoting someone’s personal brand or portfolio.
- A site for a small non-profit with very little budget.
You can build your site on your own timeline. If you’re ready to move quickly, you can have your site up and running right away. You need minimal technical knowledge. Most builders have easy-to-use WYSIWYG formats, meaning you build your site visually, as opposed to creating it in code. There are lots of templates to choose from, so you can create something that closely matches your brand and message.
If your website is not highly interactive or doesn’t need many bells and whistles, using a small business website builder is an economical option. Most builders offer tiered services, including many very good quality free offerings.
When should you choose to have a custom website designed?
For an established organization looking to present itself as a leader in its industry, it makes more sense to go with a custom site. If you’ve spent some time with a “starter website,” then you have a good idea of what your users and your employees want from your site. A good custom website developer will tease out what’s working, what’s not, and what you hope to accomplish with your new website. The resulting custom design will reflect your specific needs, on both the front and the back ends.
You’ll stand out because custom design doesn’t look like a template
The small business site builder tools have lots of different themes and page templates. But lots of different organizations are using them. There’s a noticeable difference between those options and a professional design that is specifically tailored to your content and your brand.
Your unique functionality will be built-in
When you build a custom site, you have full control over what it can do. For example: you can build in a Members Only area for sensitive content, a certain Pop-Up, Animation, or Shopping Cart utility. The Site Builders offer certain functionality, but there’s a limit to what you’ll be able to do and how much you’ll be able to customize it.
You’ll end up with better Search Engine Optimization (SEO) capabilities
Behind the scenes there are a number of settings and codes that people tweak and add to their websites in order to optimize them for rankings in searches on Google (and other search engines). While the Site Builder tools allow you to get to *some* of those settings and codes, there’s a limit. A well-optimized Custom Site will have an SEO advantage.
Custom website building provides much better handling of database-oriented content
Let’s say you want to migrate your site from a custom WordPress platform to Wix. And let’s say you have 50 blog posts that need to come over. You’ll find that, unfortunately Wix doesn’t allow you to import them. Squarespace is better about that, but you’ll still lose some of important elements of your data in the process. For websites with lots of different pages and page templates, you’re going to have more control over all of them with a custom site, rather than a Site Builder site. There are many other examples of this, but the bottom line is: for any site in which there’s a need for database programming, you’re likely going to be able to do it more effectively with a custom site rather than with a Site Builder.
Personalized, professional development and support
There’s certainly a lower initial cash cost for a Site Builder. However, you and your team still have to take the TIME to plan, design, and build the site, which also could be a considerable cost. Hiring a professional design & development firm costs more money up-front, but requires a lot less of your team’s time and energy, and the end-product is likely to be better.
You own the content AND the code
If you build a site using a Site Builder tool and then grow out of it (for example: you need to add some sort of functionality not offered by the tool) and need to migrate, you’ll have to essentially start from scratch. You own your content (text, images, videos, etc), but you don’t own the code and settings that lay that content out nicely on the screen. You’ll have to rebuild all of that. Conversely, if you build a custom site (depending on how the contract was set up with your developer), you should be able to either add the needed functionality, or take your entire website elsewhere because you own it.