Web Design

What is Custom Web Design?

In this article we hope to make the tenets of custom website design absolutely clear so that you and your website developer are speaking the same language and working toward the same end goal.

More often than not, people use phrases such as “custom design” or “custom website design” without truly understanding what their words really mean. We encounter companies on a daily basis who come to us with their “custom” websites which in turn are having “custom” problems. In reality these are simple template WordPress websites that were sold to them at an inflated price thanks to flashy colors and pictures. Let us be clear: this is not custom design! In fact it's hardly web development... but this is a conversation for a different day.

We want to help you. We want to help the developers that you may eventually work with. In this article we hope to make the tenets of custom website design absolutely clear so that you and your website developer are speaking the same language and working toward the same end goal.

What are the Main Advantages of Custom Design?

Boiled down to its most simplistic form, a custom website design is one that tactfully incorporates the essence, interests, and goals of your company into a visually captivating state that can be displayed across a variety of outlets. When this design is then fused with your business’s website, it will be a direct reflection of the business as a whole. Even things, such as a company's location in a city like Philadelphia or its ecommerce capabilities can be incorporated into design. Visitors, when on your page will feel exactly as your business intends them to feel. Professional web design is art and science fused together. It is not something someone can accomplish by reading a few How-To articles online and jumping right in. There are subtle details that only the trained eye will pick up on that contribute to a better overall User Experience for the average visitor. The placement of buttons, pictures, icons, videos, etc., are not random whatsoever. Instead, the designers meticulously analyze industry trends, target audiences, and the individual business itself before beginning their work. When the page is responsive, the design must also be responsive. If you talk to someone in the morning about a custom website design, and they have it ready for you by that evening, chances are your website isn’t as custom as they may have let on.

Quality web design is constantly changing. What may have been an incredible logo 20 years ago will look blatantly outdated in today’s world. This why companies’ logos often undergo a “tune up” every few years or so. Recall when Google changed its logo in September 2015. Given the size and exposure of the company, the change was quickly noticed. Some criticized it, others lauded it. But take a look at the logo again. Now we can’t imagine the company ever not having this type of logo. This is because Google anticipated a change in modern design trends (i.e. minimalism, soft edges) and adjusted to stay relevant. The last thing you or your business needs is to look outdated. Good web designers continuously study their field and reflect their findings in their work. Template websites will not match the most important features of your business. As a simple example, we did work for a pizzeria which, naturally, displayed its menu on its website. When we analyzed the website during the initial stages of the development process, we noticed that their online menu differed from their in store menu in that it lacked the medium-sized pizza the restaurant offered. When we asked them why this was the case, they simply replied that their WordPress website did not give them the option to add more than two sizes. For two years they had to simply deal with the fact that many of their customers (or potential customers) did not know that this option existed.

We understand that this may seem insignificant, but this is a part of their business that they willfully neglected because of the inadequacy of their website. Would you slack on seating in the restaurant, provide outdated menus, neglect repairs? Then why settle for a website that is anything less than optimal for attaining your business goals? In terms of search engine optimization, Google is able to recognize a unique site and subsequently promote it to a higher rank than that of a template website. The logic here is simple. Google is constantly striving to create a fair and accurate search environment for its users so that they get the best results from their services. One of the many things Google’s algorithms do when determining a website’s rank in in its search result listings is identify a site’s variability from the norm. This variance is also geographically sensitive. If your firm is one of many similar firms in Philadelphia, then the uniqueness of your page will be that much more important. It considers both the code and the design. It follows then, that a custom website will differentiate itself to Google’s robots more so than will a template website. These differences are reflected in better performance on search engines.

To demonstrate this principle further, consider a situation one of our clients got themselves into. Our client, a law firm, had recently merged with another firm doing similar business. Now under one name, this firm thought it best to also combine websites. Business-wise, this makes total sense. However, the means by which they went about merging the website were devastating for their search engine rankings. What the client did was copy all the content from the old company’s website, and paste it onto their own website (the other site was to be later shut down). When this happened, Google immediately flagged their website as a copycat of the soon-to-be nonexistent one. They were unsearchable, even on their own computers with site cache and all. It took us several weeks to remedy the situation because of the complexity of Google’s algorithms and their defense mechanisms used to prevent instances where the intent for copying is malicious rather than innocent. The moral of the story is the more unique you are, the higher up in Google you appear. Finally, a custom website will be versatile. That is to say, it will be primarily adapted to the devices your target audience uses. For example, if you sell skateboards, you will most definitely need to explore the mobile responsive options for your site, since your target audience will be younger people and will therefore be viewing it through mobile phones. If your website is designed for a senior audience, then you should focus most of your attention on the desktop version. Small decisions like these can bring your page to the top.

What Sets a Custom Website Apart From the Rest?

It is fairly simple to tell a custom website from a template one if you know what you are looking for. When looking to spot a custom website, it should meet the following criteria:

  • The design has been drawn from scratch
  • No templates or previous versions were used in the design creation
  • Site is incomparable to any other

Now this is not to say that there is no variability in the definition of what constitutes a custom website. However, the above-mentioned qualities will typically make up the foundation of what the web design world commonly considers a custom design scheme. If you find yourself doubting a site’s custom-ness, it’s best you have it analyzed by a team of professionals before spending any money.

Why are there so many articles online on “the death of Custom Design”?

There are plenty of large template companies out there today willing to pay countless bloggers to expound on the topic of the antiquity of custom design in order to promote their own agenda and line their pockets. Their goal is to convince you that the cheap prices they offer do not come with any strings attached. We in the web development world know, however, this is not true. It is interesting to read these articles and see how they describe the exact opposite of what a custom web design project can offer. They describe custom website design as an expensive waste of time and money that offers nothing unique or advantageous to the people and businesses who purchase them. This is an obviously biased take on the subject.

Template solutions like WIX or WordPress are suitable only for a limited number of clients, and usually serve only as a stepping stone to better things. While the pricing may be more affordable, they won't take you to the top. If you want to take full advantage of what the internet has to offer, a custom website is what you need. The truth is, custom design is not dead nor will it ever be. The reason harkens back to human nature: we notice what stands out. Unless capitalism is supplanted by communism, businesses are going to constantly find ways to differentiate themselves from their competition to appeal to their target audiences. Sure, templates may become more abundant, but that only works to the advantage of those with custom websites.The more everyone stays the same, the more you stand out.

What Else Should I Know About Custom Design?

Though it may seem tempting, you should not hire a new or inexperienced company to take on your custom website project, especially if your site is ecommerce in nature. Maybe their mockups seems nice, or they are offering good rates, but you will only end up with a mediocre site with limited or, at best, average functionality. Not to mention the wait time will be much longer than most would prefer. The best custom websites come from experienced developers. For instance, we at Direct Line Development, located in Philadelphia, can make a fully-equipped, custom website in around 4-6 weeks, delivering timely and satisfying results.

There’s still more to consider besides the quality of the site and the time of delivery. In another article, we detail the step-by-step process by which a custom website is created. The nature of the development process entails a working relationship between client and developer. It is the web design company’s job to not only build you the website of your dreams, but to guide you through each step. Experienced web development companies should be able to take you through this process seamlessly. It’s okay if you find yourself a bit confused at different stages, but if the web design company cannot make the situation clear for you, it’s a red flag. If the big template companies get one thing right, it’s that professional custom web design is not cheap. You must realize you are making an investment. If you take a look at the short-term future, you will understand the value that your site will bring you down the road and thus, better justify the cost.

Wrapping up

Imagine you were forced to buy a suit that you were then forced to wear for the next 3-5 years. It may look great in the photos and the price will be perfectly justified. But nothing is as great as the picture lets on. It’s just average. You are not average. Your business is not average. You must think of custom design as a well-tailored suit. Your website will perfectly reflect the best features of your business. Direct Line Development is the experienced studio you need in order to get started with your own custom website! Give us a call and one of our representatives will answer any questions you may have.