Self vs Custom Website Design

When considering self versus custom website design there are a number of things to think about. Many people planning an ecommerce website spend a lot of time thinking about whether to design a website themselves vs custom website design. This article presents some of the issues, as well as pros and cons, of each. Using a template and/or website builder can make self website design really easy and much more affordable than paying someone to do a custom website design.

Different Ways of Doing Your Own Website Design

The fact is that there are a number of ways for doing self vs custom website design:

  • Use a premade ecommerce website template that allows minimal customization. These are available as freebies from web developers, web hosts, and application theme developers. In the case of the web host, it may help make their hosting package more attractive, while for developers, it showcases their work and may encourage you to purchase their services. Often the premade website may have some fairly limiting restrictions versus custom website design. These restrictions may include colors, number of pages, number of catalog items, shopping carts that can be used in connection with the template, size of product photographs, etc. If your store is starting off very simple and if an out-of-the-box web design won’t be off-putting to your clientele, your may be perfectly happy with this approach. The fact that it’s free doesn’t hurt: all you’re investing is your time.
  • Use an ecommerce website builder, commonly offered by web hosts to gain another level of choice. In this case, rather than having a template that is set in every respect before you touch it, you get to make some choices as you go along. These vary greatly. GoDaddy, for example, with the “Website Tonight” feature, offers 5-page, 10-page and 999-page website building options. You can choose the theme to fit your category of ecommerce website (like real estate or clothing or restaurant), and the background color. Your choice of fonts includes Arial, Courier, Garamond, Georgia, Tahoma, Times, and Verdana. You then choose images, with choices of photography or drawings. You can also choose Flash intros and music for your site. The bigger the site, the more you pay, but the website builder is considered to be free.
  • Use a more modifiable template. These are commonly found in web development packages, whether iWeb from Apple or Dreamweaver from Adobe or FrontPage from Microsoft. They are “free” when you buy the program. Again, professional web designers may supply free or inexpensive web design templates for these programs in order to try to secure your business. Those that come in the package are likely to be modifiable in any way the program allows changes to be made, but they provide you with a jumping off point. Just make sure that you choose a template designed for ecommerce that has all the features you need. In an alternative model, you can purchase ecommerce themes and plug-ins for the WordPress blogging software and create an ecommerce site that way.
  • Doing it yourself, actually does not have to be an alternative to custom web design if you have the skill and expertise to do your own custom web design. Keep in mind that it may take you longer than it would take a professional web designer, and that web design—like every other art used commercially—has standards and best practices and if you do not know these, you may trip yourself up. Doing research about web mastering, search engine optimization, and design is recommended if you’re going to strike out on your own. Also recommended is setting up your own review team to help you spot any errors or infelicities and to test your website’s functionality to make sure it all works before you open for business.

Custom Website Design

In contrast to self design, if your website needs are complex and can’t be achieved with the restrictions offered by templates and/or are beyond your capabilities to produce, or your time would be better engaged in other aspects of your business, you should consider custom website design by a professional web developer. In comparison to doing it yourself, a professional can easily resolve issues that are mind-boggling for someone not accustomed to web design, like combining static and dynamic pages, creating a backend maintenance area, integrating a database, and creating slide shows or other altering multimedia displays. A custom web designer will also understand questions of accessibility and search engine optimization, and apply them as a matter of course. Of course, custom website design is more expensive vs self design. However, it costs less than making costly mistakes on your own.

When looking for a website designer to create your custom design, be sure and check out a portfolio to make sure that you are happy with the type of work they do. Compare costs, features they will include, and other design elements you want on your site. Do you want to have an intro video? Who will create the video, what format and length should it be in? Do you already have a logo or do you need the design company to create one?  These are questions you will need to talk to your design team about. Discuss as many of these things as possible before choosing who you want to complete your custom website design. The design team may charge extra for some features or may not offer them at all. Contacting other business owners that have used the service can give you some inside information about what they liked or didn’t like about the design team. Find out if they stayed on schedule, were friendly and easy to work with, and if the total cost was within the quote they were given for the project.

Taking the time to do some research can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches in the long run, whether doing self or custom website design. Getting quotes from other companies can also give you some bargaining power if you like the work of one company that is a lot more expensive than some of the other quotes. If you decide that you need custom website design to set your website apart from all the others, make sure you are getting the best deal and will be happy with the finished project.

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