Obviously, we’re big proponents of custom web design. It’s kind of our thing, you know?
But we don’t hold that opinion simply because many of us are nerds when it comes to pixels and color palettes. After collectively working in this business for well over a decade, we can say with confidence that when it comes to designing a website for a business, custom is almost always the better option.
The reason why so many businesses invest in custom web design goes beyond having a slick site. The aesthetic is important, yes, but functionality specific to the business’s needs (and, by extension, the needs of its customers) must be factored into the design process if the site is going to serve as a useful business tool.
That isn’t always something you can pull off with a pre-fab design.
But before we really get into the specifics of why that is true, let’s first explore what exactly goes into this type of design process.
The Custom Web Design Process
Web design as a whole is many different things to many different businesses, but the process of customization is essentially the same across the board.
First, the project manager and designers meet with business owner(s) to initiate the project's discovery phase. The purpose of this is to research the business's needs, its competitors, and its goals. This involves not only the design of the site, but how it will be developed and marketed.
Based on the information gleaned from this phase, the designers then begin work on a design that integrates all of these variables, both in the site's architecture and its user interface. The site then moves onto the development phase, then the QA phase, during which it is tweaked and polished, tested and optimized, realigned and published.
Once out there in the world, you will know that no other company or business has the same site as you. Even better, the site was designed for both your business and the customer. The customer will have a seamless user experience because your website's design guides their journey. The results are happy customers and increased conversion rates.
How Does That Work?
At first, the answer seems obvious. A customized site stands out from the crowd. It doesn't have the same template, layout, color palette, or stock photos seen on other websites. This gives your business credibility and increases your trustworthiness in your visitor’s eyes.
Dig a bit deeper and custom web design does far more than attract customers. Under every visual layer is a layer of code supporting the site's structure. When you invest in custom web design and development, you aren't investing in a colorful template; you are investing in deep structure that is designed specifically for your business.
When customers stay on the site, they make purchases or seek referrals or gain valuable information—whatever it is that your business wants them to do. All of this happens because of the research and discovery process wherein the designers took time to discover what is unique about your business and what is necessary to make those clicks turn into conversions.
Themes Vs. Web Design
To be clear, we’re not totally opposed to theme-based platforms like WordPress or Drupal. Depending on budget and timeline, some businesses do opt for them and that’s okay. But in this scenario, we’re talking about a business that’s ready to take its site to the next level.
If you start looking at themes or templates with which to build your site, you will likely become simultaneously overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices and options and underwhelmed by how much they all look the same. And the chances are that there are several, if not hundreds of other sites out there using those exact same themes or templates.
It's not about colors and photos alone. How well are those themes and templates coded in regards to making sure your site is as optimized as possible? You want your site to appear in search results, right? As Rolondo Herrera points out on the Business to Community website, "...a custom design will allow you to incorporate on-site SEO seamlessly."
Flexibility and Scalability
If you choose to build a site using a theme then be aware that as your business grows, the theme won't grow with you. You will either have to deconstruct the entire thing to bend it to your will (which can be extremely time consuming) or start over with a different option altogether.
Since a custom design is built with your business's specific goals in mind, you will have the opportunity to make changes and continuously improve the site as your business and customer base evolve. This is especially true if you work with a digital agency (like us) on an ongoing basis. If you decide to take your business in the mobile direction, the site will have probably already been designed for it. Many themes are not mobile-ready.
Scalability and flexibility—that's what businesses pay for when they invest in custom web designs, and they see consistent returns on that investment. They also own a site that works with and for their customers while still working for their bottom line. In the end, you can’t ask for a better investment for your business than that.