With 10+ years of experience in the website design and development industry, and after hundreds of discovery calls, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something along the lines of:
We want a website that’s different so we can stand out from the competition.Hypothetical Client
Influenced by that goal, they decide to pursue a completely custom website build. But a custom website won’t necessarily help your business succeed online. Not only is it usually overkill, but it can even hurt your business due to the massive time investment, high costs, long lead times—and even due to your website being “too different.”
We’ve seen hundreds of custom websites that tried to reinvent how websites should look and function and (guess what?) they almost always find a way to confuse users. These (oh so) revolutionary websites go against convention, violating basic user-experience principles, and cause conversions to plummet and—ultimately—the business suffers.
A “different” design does not mean a “good” design, in terms of website performance. Good design often goes unnoticed because it doesn’t get in the user’s way. Do you really notice your Starbucks straw when you take a sip of your mocha frap? No, not until the straw is clogged or has a crack in it.
Websites aren’t much different. When building your website, you should aim to “get out of the way” by designing a UI/UX that helps the user accomplish their goals—which are hopefully also your conversion goals!
Why do businesses choose to build custom websites?
The first reason is, they have to build it custom. Websites that fall under this category are usually web apps or very complicated websites, as opposed to marketing websites. These companies are building a new platform, require an intelligent user authentication flow, have customer portals with specific database needs, etc. These websites need to be custom due to functional requirements.
The other reason a business may want a custom website is to be remembered. I’ve visited only a few custom websites that I remember because they really blew my socks off. On the other hand, I have visited many bad websites that left a lasting impression on me. You obviously don’t want to be the latter, but is it even worth trying to be the former? We don’t think so; we think you should try to be the same… well, kinda.
The value of your business website comes from its similarities to other well-built, user-friendly websites—ones that adhere to modern user-experience principles and provide a familiar navigational experience.Sam Crawford
The Best Small Business Websites Draw Inspiration From Big Brand Websites
Your website’s underlying structure and user-experience should follow suit with those of brands that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on their digital marketing efforts. Why not leverage the hive mind, right?! (high fives ensue)
In 2021, Procter & Gamble invested over $8 billion in promotional activities, the most of any advertiser in the world. Take a look at some of their brands’ websites—what similarities do you see in their website structures? Just to name a few:
- Main Navigation: The main navigation/menu is at the top of the page, often persistent (or sticky) so it remains accessible to the user as they scroll down the page.
- Call-to-Actions (CTAs): CTA Buttons are large, apparent, and use a branded accent color with high contrast against the primary background colors.
- Animations: Minimal animations and virtually zero instances of the (grossly overused) parallax effect.
- Short, Simple Messaging: Although more of a copywriting queue, there are very few long-winded paragraphs on marketing pages. Content is broken up with images, across varying content structures.
- Footer: The footer contains helpful links and information and is not loaded with hacky SEO keywords.
Many of these websites are fairly traditional in their underlying structure. They stick to the basics of good UX and let the branding make the site unique.
While many third-party WordPress themes or website templates exist, we are not recommending you choose that route either.
If you’re a solo CPA or work at a small accounting firm, check out the Best Accountant Website Design Concepts for this year.
A Quick Note About Pre-Built WordPress Themes & Website Templates
We believe your website design should be content-driven, so we do discourage the use of out-of-the-box website templates. Through content-driven design, your web pages are strategically laid out based on your messaging and content. With a template, on the other hand, you are effectively shoe-horning your messaging/content into a shoe that might not quite fit. Just because your accounting firm offers similar services to another accounting firm in your area, it doesn’t mean you have identical messaging—far from it!
While we are designers & developers, we firmly believe that your content is still the most important part of your website. The layout design always comes second to what it is that you need to say to encourage that next lead to convert.
A Good Brand Can “Make” Your Website
In order to have a custom-looking site, you do not need to go through the dog and pony show that comes with working with a glitzy digital agency. All you need is to have a well-defined brand with unique fonts, engaging colors, stylistically unique artwork—and that’s it! Oh, and you need to bring that branding over to Sitebeam so we can build your site!
Sitebeam’s marketing website (yes, the website you are on right now) was made using these principles. Most folks think it is a completely custom website build, but if you look closer, you’ll probably recognize every single content structure as one you’ve seen on some other website. What’s the difference? We made our’s look good by using our branding to our advantage, ultimately making standard content structures look unique.
How Sitebeam Creates “Different” Websites—Differently
The Sitebeam methodology leans on the belief that building a website for your service business should land somewhere in the middle of the extremes: custom vs. templated.
We make websites that look & feel custom, but also have some sort of underlying templating functionality for ongoing landing page creation, content publishing, etc. With this approach, you save time, money, effort, sanity, and have an established framework for your site’s future. Let’s talk a bit about that “framework” that you get with a Sitebeam site.
The Sitebeam Starter WordPress theme takes a highly branded, modular approach to building websites. We create each and every page using custom-developed Gutenberg blocks with variable settings to create different layout options and color modes. These blocks are self-contained, mobile-response content structures that we’ve developed and refined over the course of three years.
At the time of writing this article, we have over 60 blocks that can be added at-will to any page. providing a fast, friendly, and safe content publishing experience. Blocks can be categorized into 13 categories, based on the content format they support. Examples of section categories include Features sections, Statistics sections, FAQ sections, Contact sections and more.
If your goal is to have an expertly developed, highly branded website that leaves room for your service business to grow for years, Sitebeam is the best website partner for you.
Check out our Pricing or Get Started today!