As a website designer, this is a question that pops up in my inbox quite a bit. What’s right for me, a theme or a custom website? Unfortunately, there’s really no one right answer. It completely depends on your how long you’ve been in business, what your goals are and how you want your site to look.
But, I’m going to make this much easier on you and walk you through the entire decision-making process. I’ll go over which business owners should use a theme and who a custom site is perfect for. As a bonus, I’ve included a quiz that you can download and take to see which option is, truly, the best fit for your business.
A premade theme is best if….
If you just started your business and are hustling on the side of a full-time job then this is the time to focus on building your foundation. Take some time to figure out who your niche is and how you are going to start talking to them. Content is king when designing and developing any website. If I don’t have good content, it’s almost impossible to build a site that is going to convert to higher sales. So, if you’re still establishing that voice, take a year, get a theme, and start getting comfortable with putting yourself out there.
Although you can always change this later on, this is a good time to consider which platform you want your website to live on. Squarespace and WordPress are, personally, my favorite options out there. When shopping around for themes, look for one that you can grow with for the next year or so. Also, consider investing in a brand identity so that you have a consistent image and voice when you start establishing yourself online.
Once you have a better understanding of your business and audience, that’s the time to switch over to a custom site that will truly grow with your business. I’ll be here to help you when that time comes!
Need your website up and running, quick? Themes are great if you need your site up in just a few days or a couple of weeks. If you’re out of time then you’re really not going to have much of a choice here. A theme is pretty much the way to go.
If this is you, choose a theme that is easy to customize so that you can skip the learning curve that usually comes with a new theme purchase. Try going with something minimalistic, with lots of white space, because these kinds of themes will look great with a multitude of brand identities. That way, you don’t find yourself changing all the colors, fonts, and everything else when you’re just trying to get the site up quickly! Instead, you can focus on simply adding your content and imagery before hitting publish.
All this being said. Do you really need your website done immediately? Be realistic and ask yourself if you have a little more time and if you think a custom website would be worth the wait. Many designers will work with you to make a quicker time frame happen and some even offer rush project options. My custom websites can be done in as little as 4-6 weeks!
A custom website is a lot of hard work. So, not surprisingly, it does come with a bit of an investment. If your budget is small then a theme is definitely the way to go. Themes can range from $20 – $400 so, be realistic, and only look at options that are within your price range.
If you have a brand identity in place, then choose a theme that will complement it. It’s so important that your branding looks and sounds the same across all platforms – and this certainly goes for your website too. Also, make sure that your theme works on the platform that you want to use (WordPress, Squarespace, etc.) and that it’s optimized for mobile devices.
That’s great! If you were scrolling around on Pinterest and happened to stumble upon a theme that you absolutely love, then you should get it! Don’t ask a designer to create the same design if it already exists out there. Nobody likes a copycat. So, if you love it, buy it! If you really want to customize the theme further, you can always hire a designer/developer to help you make it perfect.
A custom website is best if….
You know who your niche is and how to speak to them. You have a business plan and want a website that can grow with your big goals. A custom website is perfect for you!
A theme can take you really far, but a custom website will grow your business faster. Because it’s built to speak to your audience, it will work to attract them to you 24/7. A custom site goes way beyond the design – It’s also about your marketing, copy, and the overall feel of the website. They all come together to make your website truly effective.
If this sounds like you, this the perfect time to work with a designer and build a custom website. Because you know exactly who you’re building the site for and how to talk to them.
If you find yourself trying to customize every little thing, then it might be time to invest in a custom website. Maybe you started off with a theme that used to work well for you. But now, you’re limited and find that often times, your website can’t accomplish the things that you want it to. Or, you just don’t know how to make these customizations.
If the theme or website that you started out with is limiting your growth, in any way, then it’s definitely time to consider a redesign. This time around, you’ll want a custom site that your business can grow with.
Talk with a web designer about your biz goals for the next couple of years (or longer, if you know them!) and ask if the platform that you’re using is the best fit. They can help you decide which platform is the best option for your goals. That way, you’ll feel confident with how your new site looks and how it’s built.
Have you been marketing your business like crazy but aren’t seeing the results that you expected? First, ask yourself, are people coming to your website right now? If not, then focus on your marketing plan and start driving traffic to your site to get more people into your sales funnel.
If people are coming to your site and aren’t taking action (i.e. reaching out, buying something, or joining your list) then it might be time to change your website’s strategy so that it’s actually effective at selling.
If your site is built to speak to the wrong crowd then it’s never going to attract your niche. It could be the design of your site isn’t matching up with your branding/voice, or maybe, your user experience is super confusing and know-one knows where to go next. Either way, this is the time for a custom site that will actually reach your target audience and sell your products, online offering or services.
Does your site look weird on mobile? Was it built in 2005? If you answered yes to either of these questions, it’s time to upgrade your website. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, Google is already ranking your site lower in the search results than your competition. And for good reason. It’s 2017, everyone’s on their phones…and your website should be too!
Now, in reality, this one could really go either way. You could upgrade your website to a theme instead of a custom site. It all depends on where you are with your business. If any of the things above, in the theme section apply to you, then by all means, go with a theme first.
If they don’t – then a custom website is probably the right fit. If you’re in the market for a new website anyway, this is the perfect time to invest in a custom one that is built for your business. Plus, everyone will be super impressed with the amazing transformation of your site!
This is a big one and is one of the main reasons, that people prefer a custom website. Maybe you’re worried, that the theme you like, has been used on a bunch of other websites. And, this is a valid concern. I’ve seen some themes, in particular, all over the web and can spot them almost immediately. Of course, I’m a web designer, most people aren’t nerdy enough to notice that kind of thing. So take that comment with a grain of salt.
A custom site, on the other hand, is completely unique and is made just for you and your business. It targets your audience directly and will grow with your biz. If you want something truly original then you should invest in a custom website and leave the themes behind.
Themes are a great place to start. However, using one will likely take up a lot of your precious time as a business owner. Just getting your website launched will take you a great deal of time and effort. Especially, if you aren’t very tech savvy or familiar with how the platform, you chose, works.
Maintaining your website can also take up a lot of your time. You might find yourself spending hours searching online to customize something with a little bit of CSS. More power to you, if you are enjoying doing this kind of thing, and are succeeding at it. You might even have a future in website design!
But, I can’t tell you how many of my clients have come to me frustrated with their themes or drag and drop websites because they want to customize them and can’t. I’ve even had clients ask me to set-up themes for them because they are fed up with trying to do it themselves.
You don’t have to do everything as a business owner! If you don’t like dealing with your website, then that’s totally fine. You don’t have to become a website designer. You have my permission.
If this sounds like you, then it’s time to hand your site off to a website professional. This is also the perfect time to establish a relationship with the web designer that you choose to work with. That way, after your website is built – they will still be available to help you with updates and changes, that you don’t want to handle.
If you want to learn more about a custom site then check out my Digital Presence Package for all the details on what’s included and how the process works. As always, I’m here if you have any questions!
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