When you buy a house you normally know what you are looking for. For example an apartment or semi-detached, or a brave few might look for a plot of land to build something themselves. You’ll have a list of must haves and nice to haves - location, off street parking, a garden and four bedrooms. You’ll also have a pretty clear idea of your budget and what, realistically, that will buy you.
Don’t worry you’ve not strayed on to the Location, Location, Location blog, but choosing a new website and buying a new house have a lot in common. When you are thinking about a new website it’s essential that you know what you want and need the website to do - its must haves, should haves and the nice to haves. Do you want to be able to sell directly from the website, capture data, have a blog?
The new build house - the template website
I think of a template website a bit like a new build house - it’s designed and built to the builder's specification. The carpets are already down, the walls are pre-painted in magnolia and you don’t have to do much but move in your furniture. There’s nothing wrong with a new build, I live in one, or a template website. There’s not much work for you to do (with a house or a website) so long as it works for you.
The complications come if you want to change things. With a template site how it looks and works, and how it’s arranged and structured are all pre-defined. You won’t need to hire a web designer, that bit is already done, but you might need a bit of help to customise the colour scheme or tweak minor parts of the design. Then it’s just down to you to add in your content. But, if you find that your needs require more fundamental changes then a developer will need to unpick and rebuild parts of the site to make it work for you. Depending on how much work is involved that is when a template website can start to change from a cost effective way to do things to a more hassle than it’s worth.
The architect designed house - the custom built website
The House that £100K Built is a programme about people building their own house from scratch. Generally, the people building the house have an idea about what they want but it isn’t until the experts, an architect and an architectural journalist, get involved that they start to really shape the house. The experts are able to suggest changes that will make better use of the space, suit the way the people who’ll be living in the house will use it and ways to save money. I think that’s a good way to think about the custom built website. You’re starting from nothing so you can get exactly what you want but that comes at a cost - there is the labour involved in building it. Whether it’s bricks and mortar or code.
Thankfully, unlike buying houses, with websites you won’t need to share part of it with the bank. But, you do need to know what you have to invest in a website and be realistic about what that will and won’t get you.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to a template website or a custom built website. The key thing is that you get a website that works for you and your business and, understand the implications of both choices. A template requires less investment in terms of time and money but you are confined by someone else’s design. With a custom build, there are a lot more options but that means a lot more decisions to make and for some people that can be overwhelming. It will be a require a greater investment up front but, by having the experts help you shape the site you can save yourself time and money in the long run. Either way, having a clear idea of what the website is for and what you need it to do is an essential first step.