It’s true: custom web development is no simple task. Because it requires a large amount of very concentrated expertise, it's easy to develop your own ideas about how difficult or unnecessary the process might be. You may even believe that it’s simply not for you or your business. But in reality, there’s little to no proof of whether these ideas are actually true.
A number of misconceptions about custom web development have cropped up over the years among marketers and business owners with little to no digital expertise. With so many out-of-the-box options available, it’s tempting to assume that it’s not worth the time or money to have a website built from scratch.
Why complicate matters when you can take something off the shelf that works more or less okay, right?
As web developers, we respectfully disagree.
A pre-fab option may be perfectly reasonable for smaller ventures, but it's time to set the record straight. The bigger your company gets, the less convenient out-of-the-box platforms become. Soon you’ll be spending more time trying to bend things to your will. And you may find at some point that you’ve sunken way more money into tweaks than you would have if you’d just gone custom from the start.
Here are five beliefs that may make you hesitant when it comes to having your website built completely from scratch, along with explanations of why they're not valid reasons to shy away from custom website development.
Misconception #1: The Process Takes Forever
This is one web developers hear a lot, so it's a perfect starting place. Sure, setting up a website in WordPress or SquareSpace can be done in as little as an hour. But that doesn't mean you cannot get your custom-built website in a timely fashion to help you attract visitors online.
We need to be honest here: When having your website designed and built from scratch, you should plan at least a couple of months for the entire process. That's because it will take some time to understand your individual needs, and then build a solution that meets those needs exactly.
Any agency or developer worth their salt will take pains to get this right. That team will also make sure to plan in enough time for testing during and after the development process to ensure that the final project is as good as it can be.
Finally, the length of development will depend greatly on the amount of pages you are looking to include on your new site, and whose job it is to input content.
Horror stories of a custom website taking over a year to develop with no end in sight are just as untrue as unrealistic expectations of an hour-long custom web design. With a proper plan in place, as well as regular involvement and communications between the client and the developers, you can get a website designed from scratch in a reasonable amount of time.
Misconception #2: The Problem Of Security
With the general public being increasingly worried about their digital security, building a secure website is becoming ever more important than ever. This is true whether you engage in e-commerce or simply ask your visitors for contact information as part of your inbound marketing strategy.
Large DIY tools like WordPress have recognized this need and actively advertise their security measures to make users feel more at ease. Unfortunately, as a result, marketers often begin to think that custom developed websites are not as secure as their mass-market counterparts.
In truth, the opposite is closer to hitting the mark. If you find the right developer (and this is key), you can get a website that meets and exceeds all security protocols and ensures maximum user privacy along with safety from hackers.
Considering that no less than 86% of all websites tested in this study had at least one major security flaw, going with a custom design process that implements all necessary safety measures will have a number of benefits. First, your data will actually be secure, and second, you can safely communicate that security to your users.
Misconception #3: Client Input Is Limited
Here's another common misconception we hear more than enough: "DIY websites on template-based platforms are so easy to design and set up, how could a custom development process—in which I give up control to a team of developers—give me the same amount of input?"
The answer is easy: with a productive, two-way communication protocol and a flexible web development process.
Many of the potential clients posing the above question may use or be used to the traditional, waterfall method that used to dominate both software and web development. This method is rigid, following a strict step-by-step process in which the client only has input at the very beginning (communicating their needs) and the very end (testing the finished product).
In reality, web developers have long realized the limitations of this inflexible development method, and are increasingly moving toward a more client-friendly approach: agile development.
As its name suggests, agile development greatly increases the flexibility of the process and, as a result, the amount of possible client input. (Going into depth about this method and its various tenets is beyond the scope of this blog post; if you're interested in the details of the methodology, check out this blog post on comparing agile and waterfall.)
For the purposes of this article, the most important thing you need to know is that in agile development, individual parts of a web project (called "sprints") are worked on simultaneously, with continuous testing ensuring a finished product of the highest possible quality. The client has input in each stage during the development and testing process, allowing for greater wiggle room in making adjustments and ensuring a finished product that meets every possible need.
Misconception #4: Usability Can Be Tough
Here's another one of our favorites (read: we hate this): the idea that if you don't follow a template approach to web design, you risk building a website that ends up being impossible to navigate or use. In short, that is simply not true.
Custom web development begins with a comprehensive evaluation of content and the development of a sitemap, which allows you to categorize your individual pages and create a navigation that will make usability as easy as possible. It also includes extensive client and user testing, ensuring that ideas that should work in theory actually work in practice, as well. And as we mentioned above, this testing is especially pronounced in agile development.
In other words, usability should be among your least concerns when thinking about having your website built from scratch. The planning and testing far exceeds that of a simpler, templated approach, ensuring that your end users will enjoy browsing and find what they need easily and successfully.
Misconception #5: The Partnership Stops At The Finish Line
Forbes.com puts it best: Web development should be viewed as a service, not a product. It's easy to think of web design as a simple process in which you approach a developer, get your site designed, and say your goodbyes. In reality, any experienced web manager or digital marketer knows that the launch is far from the last time you'll need a developer.
Seriously. This point is so important, it bears repeating:
Custom web development is a service, not a product.
We'll spare you the horror stories of site crashes or data loss. In reality, most cases in which a client once again needs a developer after the initial launch are relatively simple: a new page needs to be added, a security protocol becomes outdated, or a CMS needs an update. Each are simple fixes—but only if you can get the developer who designed the initial launch site to complete the updates.
And that's where the problem with DIY template-based platforms lies. After you launch the site, you will have little way of getting updates completed or problems fixed. But just because it's the case for WordPress or SquareSpace, don't assume the same is true for custom web development. Knowing the reality of hosting and managing a website, your development team will stay in touch with you and look at its project with you as an ongoing relationship, considering you a partner rather than a customer.
This long-term approach will especially come in handy should the unthinkable happen and your website crash.
Hopefully, we were able to clear up some common misconceptions about common misconceptions with the above post. But if you do have any questions or hesitations about getting your website designed and developed from scratch by a team of professional developers, don't hesitate to contact us for a conversation about the topic.