Websites are critical for businesses to succeed, so web design is more important than ever. However, the advent of hundreds of design platforms and web builders has sparked a debate about whether custom web design is dead.
Many business owners are using platforms that let you create responsive web designs easily. After all, doing something yourself saves you money. And if you can save money and have a killer website, why wouldn’t you?
The answer is a lot more complex than one would think.
Templates Are Easy – but Are They worth It?
Website builders let you create a simple page from a template or other source. Some platforms even target business owners who aren’t skilled in design; you simply drag and drop elements of the web page onto the template. Others offer a bit more creativity and have coding integrated into their capability.
While this seems like it would be all there is to it, template websites actually pose a few problems. For example, the templates are relatively bland and overly simple. They don’t allow much room for personalization, and if you want to customize your site, you’re out of luck. You would have to work the with template developers to make changes or hire a web designer to tweak the site. That defeats the purpose of designing your site yourself. And if you’re going to spend money fixing individual elements on your site, why not pay for a custom design from the get-go?
Redesigning From a Template Ruins SEO
A lot of business owners are attracted to the idea of a DIY website platform because it’s fast and easy. You may want to unveil your site quickly so you have a place for visitors to land. However, launching a site now and making changes as your business expands hurts your search engine optimization (SEO). For example, changing content management systems, web hosts, and site design all affect the way your site is indexed and ranked.
Many times, changing a site leads to 404s and other broken links, which confuse search engines and drop your page rank. Unless you know how to analyze and remedy these issues on your own, your brand will be buried under search results and may be masked by your old site. Essentially, you end up paying for something twice – once for the original web template to launch your site and again for a complete redesign when your business expands.
DIY Templates All Look the Same
Custom designers create websites based around your brand. They’re part engineers, part brand consultants, and part sales and marketing gurus. They know what looks good and what consumers look for in a website. They know how to take your brand message and convey it through words, images, and design.
You can tell a web designer: “I want the website for my shoe company to convey action and boldness, but be geared more toward high-end customers,” and they’ll know exactly how to portray that. You don’t get that with templates, because they’re designed to be easy to use as broadly as possible. They’re geared more toward niches and industries, not individual businesses. They really don’t offer much flexibility to get your brand’s unique image across.
Unfortunately, in a world with thousands of high-end shoe websites, there are probably several hundred that look exactly the same. When you produce anything on a mass scale, it becomes a commodity, and that’s not good for standing out in a crowd. Consider the definition of commoditization: The process of making something easy and affordable by making it uniform and plentiful.
Uniform isn’t a word you want referring to your website. It doesn’t matter how beautiful and user-friendly your pages are; if they aren’t unique, they won’t stay in your consumer’s memory.
Web Designers Tailor Sites to Your Brand
Web designers are always pushing the boundaries. They’re experts in their field. They’re the ones who come up with exciting design trends and make websites do things they never could do before. Because custom websites are created from the ground up, and not from a rigid template, there’s much more room for ingenuity.
Sure, a web template may be easy and affordable, but it doesn’t get to the root of what will make your business successful. When you work with custom web designers, they base the architecture and look of the site on your business goals and branding. Everything on the website is built to align with your business, from the way visitors navigate your menus to the way individual words look on the page. That’s something you’ll never get from a template.
Custom Design for Custom Goals
Web designers also work with you in a collaborative environment to make sure your site reflects your brand in every facet. For example, a web designer may come up with a few options for image layouts and color palettes, along with various styles of fonts. These will be carefully thought out, and each option is personally made for you. When you build your own website using a template, you must choose among too many options, which can lead to brand confusion.
It’s like shopping in a mega clothing store. You enter the building, hoping to find a blue shirt for a party you’ll be attending, only to find that the store has hundreds of different types of blue shirts in different styles, shades, fabrics, and cuts. How are you supposed to choose?
A custom web designer is like a personal shopping assistant. He or she’ll bring you the shirts in the most flattering styles and shades of blue for you. Designers even go so far as to tailor them to your measurements so they fit you just right. Custom web design is a creative process that pairs artistic talent with technical skill. If you want a website that really resonates with your customers, trust the experts.
The Small Business Marketer’s Content Marketing Guide 2015 [Source]
Built in SEO and Tech Support
One of the most compelling reasons business owners are still looking to custom web design is SEO; practices have changed drastically in the past 20 years and will continue to fluctuate. SEO has become a career in its own right, and optimizing a site for search engines is no longer a matter of inserting keywords into your copy.
SEO in 2015 is a combination of content management, usability optimization, even how you label images. Most business owners who use templates end up hiring SEO experts to fix their websites, which again, defeats the purpose of doing something yourself. When you work with a custom designer, they build SEO into the framework of your site. When SEO algorithms change again (and they will), you’ll be able to rely on customized support – a standard for most web designers.
SEO ROI from Link Building Tactics [Source]
So the short answer is no, custom web design isn’t dead. At least not to businesses that understand the value of a website. In fact, web design may be more alive than ever. Templates have become a commodity, and as such, websites are starting to become homogeneous.
During the next few years, business owners will start to see more clearly the benefits of having customized websites built from scratch. Enterprises that want to stand out will ditch the standardized templates and hire professionals to create pages that truly connect with consumers.