If you want to create a website for your local business, one of the first things you are going to have to decide is how you’re going to build it. From platforms offering free tools that allow you to do it all yourself to agencies that can custom-build websites with lots of bells and whistles, there are options for all levels of digital skills and budget.
But how do you decide which is the right one for your local business? It comes down to two basic choices – building your website using a template or a custom design.
A website template is a pre-set design that allows you to plug in your information and publish it online. Depending on the layout, that information can consist of text, images, video or other assets. Some, but not all, templates have widgets that allow you to add features such as a site search or social media.
There are thousands of templates available online, many for free or for a small fee. Blogging platforms such as Wordpress, Squarespace or Blogger allow you to select a design, build your website and publish it to your URL yourself. Many of these platforms are designed for people who have little or no experience building websites at all, so you don’t need to know how to code or have any other special skills.
While templates can be quick and cost effective, you may be limited to the pre-set layout. That means from font types and sizes to column widths, image placements and everything else, what you see is what you get. If you have some basic coding skills, you may or may not be able to tweak the design.
If your primary goal is just to get online, a template might be a great option for your business. But there are limitations you should be aware of. First of all, “what you see is what you get” means not all options will work for everyone – for example, if you want to display short quotes from happy customers on your homepage but the template only allows for single paragraph of text, you would have to choose between a testimonial and your main homepage copy. If social media plays an important role in your digital strategy but your template doesn’t include anywhere to prominently link to your social profiles or offer plugins that allow people to share your content, you may not be able to promote social media to the extent that you would like to.
Another risk to consider is that other websites, including competitive ones, may be using similar templates, which can add to the challenge of differentiating your business.
It’s also worth noting that standards for things like search optimization can change from time to time. Some services routinely update templates so that they conform to best practices, or will let you know exactly what you need to do to keep your website up to date. But if the platform you are using doesn’t offer this maintenance, your website may become out of date, which can have negative implications on your search performance.
As the name implies, custom design means building a website from scratch that takes into account your business’s unique objectives and priorities in the digital space. You choose everything from the layout to the specific features and add-ons because they make sense for your particular goals. Think of a custom website like designing and building a house, whereas a template is more like finding a prebuilt home.
Unlike templates, there are many different approaches to custom designing a website. If you know how to code, you may want to build it yourself. Otherwise you’ll need to find someone to design and build the website for you. A website expert or agency will also be able to help you with securing a website address, hosting and other important steps.
They key advantage of custom designing your website is that it looks and functions exactly the way that you want it to. If you work with a team such as Yellow Pages, the process will begin with a one-on-one consultation so that your website design and functionality is a true reflection of your business needs and goals. Once your website team has a thorough understanding of your vision, experts in web design and development, user experience and copywriting will get to work creating a uniquely-designed site that brings this vision to life. A full-service design and management package also typically includes things such as securing a domain name and hosting, and may include regular maintenance and upgrades, optimization for mobile platforms, or other services.
Designing a website from scratch doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive (though it can be). Don’t be shy about asking for references or to see samples of other websites the team has produced, and look for packages that cover all of your web needs in a single fee. While it may take a little more time to build a website from scratch, custom design can save time and money because experts will help you get your site right the first time, ensuring you have the best website to achieve your business goals.
Get a website that works for your business
With lots of options for building a website using either templates or custom design, it has never been easier to develop an online presence for your local business. Whether you opt for a DIY-template or custom-designed site will depend on your website goals, budget and timelines. To better understand your options and what’s best for your local business, contact Yellow Pages for a free expert consultation.