Do you need a custom web design?

March 31, 2011
Custom Web Design

Let's start by clarifying what we mean by custom web design. A custom design is one that is made from scratch, completely unique to you and your business. The alternative is a site made from a theme, or a pre-designed template.

If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have told you yes, your business should have a completely custom web design. As a designer, I naturally lean in this direction. The chance to design a beautifully unique website is what keeps me coming to work every day. But now that I've been introduced to the world of inbound marketing, I would answer the question differently.

Here's what I've learned: it's not about what your website looks like, it's about what it does for your business.

dollars-sense.pngThe most beautiful website in the world is good for nothing if it doesn't build relationships with visitors, generate leads and ultimately convert those leads into customers. Let's face it — if it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make sense.

Template-based design has advantages:

  • Time — Custom designs take longer, in both design time and development. Starting with a template has the potential to deliver a completed site much faster.
  • Cost — Time is money in this business. If it takes less time to create, it likely comes with a smaller price tag.
  • Good design — The availability of nicely designed site templates is increasing every day. Truth be told, some of these designs are better than what you would get at some custom design shops, Digett excluded of course. Trust me, I could name a few.

Template design also has drawbacks:

  • Duplicates — It's likely that if you choose a pre-existing design template, others have done the same. Somewhere out there in cyberspace, somebody has your same website, under a different name.
  • Branding — There is only so much you can do to brand a theme. A design that is not made with your company in mind won't be branded as well as one that is.
  • Good design, at best — Simply put, no pre-existing template will be perfect for your company. Give me the reins to make you a custom web design and I'll get as close to perfect as I can.

A web design made from a template is perfectly acceptable in my opinion. As a designer, it's not my first choice but it may be the right decision for your company.

So, do you need a custom web design?

Answer: Invest first and foremost in inbound marketing, that is, lead generation and conversion strategies. Then worry about the design. If you've got some money left over for a custom web design, do it. It's the best of both worlds. If you can't afford it, a template design will not sink your ship.