Written June 28, 2017 • Steve Perry
I often get asked why a bespoke design is better than using a ready-made theme. It’s a good question and on the outset spending $50 on a ready-made theme can sound like a better option than spending a few thousand pounds on a bespoke design and build but let’s look at the issues.
Ready-made themes (we’ll just call these themes from now on in) are a very cheap option. You can even download free ones. Platforms such as WordPress and Magento are also free to download and use so technically you could have a website, using WordPress or Magento, set up for just the cost of a cheap hosting plan and domain name – around £100 per year. Financially this is a very good option as long as you have the time and skill to set up the site and theme yourself. There are quite a few downsides that are often only found out further down the line. I’ve had plenty of clients come to me when these become serious business problems and it then costs time and money to rectify, sometimes the only solution can be as drastic as changing your business name and swapping domain names due to being black listed from a website hack. I’ll explain why.
Let’s consider the people who build these themes. Now I must stipulate that I have no issue whatsoever with good honest people who make a living out of, or enjoy the hobby of, creating themes to give away or sell. Power to the people. However sometimes, and it is a minority, there are dark agendas behind giving things away for free. You have to consider that these themes take weeks, if not months, to build so you have to wonder why they get sold for the price of much less than a developer’s typical hourly rate. Why spend months creating something to sell a half dozen for $50 a pop. It just doesn’t really make business sense so you have to assume that they are either making them with the aim of selling hundreds of copies, it’s just a hobby that they do alongside their full time job or in some cases they are including ‘back doors’ to steal data from your website (yes, it happens).
If they are planning on selling hundreds of copies then they have to build in pretty much each and every design option, feature, fancy effect etc., known to man so that the theme appeals to the biggest audience possible. All of these options, features and fancy effects come at a cost. They are buggy, hard to use (for the average layman), slow down your website and can often have many security flaws as they are hard to keep patched up.
If it’s just a hobby project then they will more than likely lose interest after it’s initial release and sales drop off which means that security patches won’t get installed and the theme will often be ‘left to rot’ in software hell. Leaving those users who purchased it very vulnerable to security issues. This only covers the technical aspects.
Then there is the support. When I work with clients the largest part of any project is talking with clients and discussing how things work and helping them get set up with their new website. This is an on-going process and I often work alongside clients for months, if not years, after a site is launched adding new options and features as they get requested and their business needs grow. Installing security patches and monitoring how effective the site is all takes time, and more importantly a good working relationship within the client / designer / developer team. When you buy a theme you get none of this. You might open a support ticket and, if you are lucky, get a generic response in a week’s time. You will more than likely try to fix the issue yourself.
Then there is the actual design, the look and feel. Your business is unique. If you are in a competitive market, and most people are in today’s business arena, then why would you market your business in the same way as each and everyone else? You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t use the same logo or business name as another company and you wouldn’t decorate your offices the same as someone else does. So why use a theme that just about anyone else can use as well? You could spend years building your business and its reputation to have Joe Bloggs set up shop around the corner and install the same website theme as you. How will your customers know who to trust? You both look the same now so if Joe Bloggs is a bit cheaper then he will get your business, period. So you end up competing on price alone.
Your business has personality, just like you do. You wouldn’t dress the same as everyone else and your business website shouldn’t look like everyone else’s either. Your customers are unique to your brand and your brand values should be considered in each and every touch point of your business, this includes your website.
A website project is about much more than ‘creating a website’. It’s about creating a unique design that is tailored to your business needs and target market – one size doesn’t fit all. It’s about having a trusted person to work with who you can meet up with, or call, to discuss technical requirements. It’s about having someone to turn to who can keep on top of security updates and having a website that includes just the features that you need so that it runs smoothly and efficiently on all browsers and devices. It’s about your business and a good website will help your business grow.
The cost of a bespoke site does sound a lot more than that of a theme on the outset but a professionally created website should make your business much more money than what you spend on the commission. A good website in today’s climate is often the key to success so it’s wise to invest accordingly.
If you would like to discuss any points raised here then call me directly on 01782 954282 or send me an email.