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Fully Custom Website Design (and Alternatives)

Published by Sam Crawford on February 21, 2023

Fully Custom Website Design vs Sitebeam - blog

“Custom” is a word that gets tossed around in just about every professional web design project. These projects often deconstruct the essence of a website, the impacts of user-experience, and put it all back together—along with a built-ground-up website that’s unique in all the right places.

In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about getting a custom website for your service business, popular alternatives, and how all of the above differs from what we offer here at Sitebeam. We will do our best to remain unbiased (fingers crossed) and leave it up to you to decide where your marketing budget is best spent.

If you missed our last blog article, learn why Your Business Website Shouldn’t Be “Different.”

What is Custom Website Design?

Custom web design is the process of creating a completely original website. This includes creating a detailed strategy for your content structures, design system, site architecture (or sitemap), and more. Custom website builds are quite involved and require a high attention to detail and expert decision-making. With the right team, you can create an awe-inspiring online presence that looks, feels and functions in accordance with your audience. But without the right team, it can be a resource-intensive undertaking that may never pay off.

It’s not uncommon for a host of different departments or experts to become involved in a custom website design & development project. You might see brand designers, content writers, digital marketers, UX snobs, website designers, web developers, SEO folks, project managers, and more.

As you can imagine, with this many hands on deck, the timeline and budget requirements for custom websites are typically on the higher end of the scale. For that reason, many businesses seek alternatives to build their website.

What Are the Alternatives to Custom Website Design?

The most popular alternatives to getting a custom website design are purchasing a pre-built website theme or creating a website on your own in a DIY website builder platform.

A pre-built WordPress website theme or website template can be a cost-effective solution, often costing only a couple-hundred dollars—albeit requiring you or a contractor to perform some manual setup. If you decide to go this route, expect to hire at least an entry-level website designer/developer to help you install your theme, make styling customizations (i.e., write CSS), update website content, setup web hosting, issue SSL Certificate, point your DNS Records (or “launch” your site), and take care of any hiccups along the way. Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list of things you may need to do, or hire for, in order to get a presentable website for your service business. 

Without getting overly technical, if you choose to use a third-party WordPress theme or website template, you are fairly locked into the overall structure of the site (unless it comes with modular sections that you can use at-will, which is a concept for another day). With that in mind, make sure the chosen website theme/template fits your business’ services and website requirements before giving them your credit card.

The other common alternative to a custom website design is subscribing to a DIY website builder platform. Popular providers include SquareSpace, Wix, Weebly, Webflow, and dozens of others. If you choose to join one of these platforms, know that you are working on a proprietary platform and your website is subject to any constraints that come with that platform. This is a frequent deterrent we see that influences businesses to choose open-source platforms, such as WordPress.

Despite the term “DIY” (or “Do It Yourself”), several of these platforms come with a very high learning curve—and that is just for the technical aspects of understanding how to use their proprietary site builder tools. On top of drinking their Kool-aid, it is important to understand the foundational principles of modern website design & development. If you are serious about building a performant website for your business, some of the topics you should understand prior to building your site include (but are not limited to): 

  • UI/UX Design & Writing, 
  • ADA Accessibility
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
  • Messaging & Copywriting
  • Loading Speed Optimization
  • Responsive Web Design & Development

Given the skills required to build a truly successful website, it is no surprise that there are many job postings on freelance marketplaces seeking designers/developers to assist with websites on these DIY platforms, which goes against the entire goal of “DIY”-ing your website

In short, if you opt for either of these alternatives, expect to either get your hands dirty or hire someone to do it for you.

Scary Truths About “Custom” Website Design

We have worked through hundreds of custom website projects and even the smoothest of jobs requires a high level of time and energy investment—from both our client and our team of project managers, designers and developers.

A fully custom website project is a massive undertaking, relative to the alternatives we discussed above. On the bright side, you are effectively offloading key tasks to experts and will most likely yield a much better result than if you opted for a website template or DIY journey. Still, the cost, timeline, and amount of boilerplate setup required are nothing to undermine.

Below, we discuss the most obvious deterrents to going with a fully custom build: cost and lead time.

How Much Does a Custom Website Cost?

Asking how much “a custom website” costs is like asking, “how high is ‘up’?” The market cost of a website largely depends on its size, underlying functionality, custom integrations, and much more. For a relatively simple, service-based business website, expect to pay around $5-10k if you’re working with a solid freelancer or small agency. For larger agencies, you are more likely to spend more and for novice freelancers using “DIY website builders,” it will likely be less.

Choose Sitebeam for your business website partner and you’ll pay a one-time fee of $2,500 for an expertly developed, mobile-response website—and you pay nothing until your site is ready to launch. Every website comes with an intelligently built block library so you can publish future pages and sections with ease.

How Long Does it Take to Develop a Custom Website?

Mostly, it depends (again). But if we again consider a simple business website, it can take between 6-12 weeks for custom design and development.

For a template or WordPress theme, it might take just a few days (or even hours) to set up—but with this approach you are almost always locked into a site structure that may not fit your content and messaging. Trying to hack apart these templates, whether you are on WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, etc., often leads to broken sections, rendering issues, disjointed page designs, mobile-responsiveness issues, and worse.

At Sitebeam, we can develop your custom website within just one week of receiving your content, and have even developed and launched sites in as quickly as three days.

Are Fully Custom Websites Worth it For Service Businesses?

Unless you are pushing an avant garde position in your market, our simple answer for small businesses (e.g., accountants, attorneys, therapists, and growing service businesses.) is… no, a custom website is not worth the investment!

The above question is the entire reason we built Sitebeam. Smaller service businesses don’t need to “reinvent the wheel” with a crazy-artistic website in order to build a strong online presence in their market. Still, the business owners that truly care about their brand don’t want a run-of-the-mill website template that blends in—they want to stand out! Sitebeam can make that happen, for a small fraction of cost and time investment—learn how it works!

Choose Sitebeam to Build Your Business Website

Sitebeam builds unique WordPress websites that provide a 100-hour head-start, allowing us to launch completely unique, conversion-focused websites in days, at a small fraction of the cost of a custom build. If you’re an accountant, check out the Best Accountant Website Design Concepts for this year, with designs created by our team of professional UI/UX designers.

Sitebeam massively reduces the energy-overhead by providing a mobile-responsive boilerplate site framework that leverages efficient build processes. Our developers work quickly to build bespoke websites at lightning speed.

Get started today by talking to a Sitebeam website design specialist.

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