5 December, 2017
In the modern world, it seems inconceivable that any business would operate without some form of online presence. And although many companies have realised the power of social media by using it as a marketing platform to present their businesses to the world, that’s no longer enough to set you apart from the competition. That’s because almost all enterprises now have a social presence – no matter how small.
Enter websites. To really set yourself apart from the competition, the least you need is a website that displays your company information and that tells your potential customers who you are and what you do.
There are three main ways you can build your business website:
- Website builder platforms (Wix, SITE123, 1&1, etc)
- Open source content management systems (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc)
- Custom websites professionally built from scratch and tailored to your business needs
Each of these comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, though today I want to discuss the top five benefits of using custom website development services.
When using a website builder or CMS software, you’re generally given a ready-made theme to work with unless, of course, you pay to have one custom-built, though this can be expensive. This theme allows you to place certain elements on pages in preset styles and this can create an illusion of uniqueness, when you’re really restricted to the theme’s limitations. So, although you’re creating something using your own vision, it will inevitably look very similar to the hundreds, or possibly thousands, of other websites out there using the same theme.
With a custom website, there is no theme. The architecture of your website is built to your specifications and does not carry any limitations or restrictions on how the site will look. This means that no two websites that are built, look them same.
This uniqueness will also set your site apart from your competitors, allowing you to build your site around the customer journey and focusing the design and development on the narrative that your customers are most likely to follow.
A lot of website builders and CMSs come with a lot of built-in functionality. This is to cater for as many different users as possible, allowing these systems and platforms to target the biggest possible customer base. The problem is that every website created using these platforms comes with all of this functionality, regardless of whether it needs it or not.
This bloatware, as it is commonly known, can not only increase the complexity as a user but also affect the technical structure of the site which, in turn, can affect the time it takes the website to load.
Website load times are critical for your business, and can be the difference between landing and losing a customer, especially since users look at websites on mobile devices using mobile broadband. It’s such a big issue that Google weighed in through the DoubleClick platform, publishing a white paper on how speed affects publisher earnings, which indicates that over 50% of website visits are abandoned if a page takes longer than three seconds to load.
Custom building your website allows you to completely avoid unnecessary functionality and bloatware. In addition to avoiding unnecessary functionality, building each of the functions for your site allows you to optimise not only the functionality but also the design for these functions, further reducing load times.
Website security has always been a hot topic on the internet. However, major security breaches in the last couple of years (Ashley Madison and Equifax are two prime examples), internet and website security has become a major focus for search engines, as well as consumers. It has gotten to the point where Google has set Chrome to automatically warn users if they’re entering any information on a form that’s hosted on a page that does not have SSL installed.
Even before this year, Google had been pushing for a web that operates under constant SSL, alluding to the fact that they may consider using SSL as part of their ranking algorithm. This, however, never seemed to catch hold, so instead of punishing website owners for non-SSL, they have put the risk squarely on the shoulders of websites who accept any form data over non-SSL pages.
Using an existing platform to build your website, whether it is a website builder or an open source CMS, opens your website up to vulnerabilities that affect all other websites using these platforms. This means that a vulnerability found on another site using that platform can be used to penetrate all other websites using that version of the platform.
Using a company that builds web software eliminates a large amount of these risks through two simple processes.
- They should always develop with SSL in mind. This will lead to fewer issues later, as the entire site should be built from the ground up using SSL.
- Their source code will be proprietary. They may use open source programming languages (PHP, Python, Ruby, etc), but their code will not be released to the public. This automatically decreases the risk of a breach, as the only way to find vulnerabilities in a custom-built site is through persistent penetration testing, which can be resource- and time- consuming.
Another important point here is that a lot of companies that custom build websites also host these websites for the customer (like we do), so a lot of the time, the hosting environment will be optimised for the security of the websites and applications that are hosted.
4. Scalability and Flexibility
Having a website that can easily grow as your business grows is a pivotal part of taking your business online. Therefore, having your digital presence built with a system that is both scalable to accept larger flows of traffic and flexible so that it is easy to add new functionality to the existing platform is vital for any business looking to expand in the digital world.
Website builders are neither scalable, nor flexible, meaning that their lifespan for any serious business is very limited. Once the lifespan of a website built using a website builder is reached, the business owner will have no choice but to switch to either a CMS or a custom-built website.
Open source CMSs do provide a lot more scalability and flexibility, though these come at a price and generally require the employment of a professional or company to be able to manage the system. (We started using WordPress for all our projects when we started DQ Media, but, we found the limitations and resources required to scale WordPress projects, as well as adjust them according to our needs, was a lot more expensive than just building our own web projects.)
Custom building your website allows you to create it with scalability in mind. Also, because a project that is built from the ground up has less dependent functionality built in, it is more flexible to change as you do not need to work with unnecessary functionality to upgrade your site.
5. Functionality Optimised for Your Business
Building a website shouldn’t only be a marketing and branding task. One of the biggest and most important reasons to custom build your website is the ability to optimise it for your business. Although you can do a lot with open source CMSs, most of the time getting the functionality to work in a way that is optimised to help your business can be a complicated and expensive process.
Optimised Customer Journey
Instead of sorting through thousands of functional and design options, you can build what you need from the start. In addition to building functions that are going to help your business processes, you can also build a customer journey that will be better suited to your business and customers.
Custom building your customer journey on your website means that the path from visitor to customer is only as long as it needs to be, and there is no added fluff, leading to a decrease in visitor drop-offs and, therefore, an increase in conversions from visitors to customers.
Business Function Automation
Along with simplifying your customer journey, you can also optimise a lot of your business functions using a tailor-made website. Something as simple as capturing potential leads into a specific table in your website administration area and exporting them to an Excel file using a structure that is optimised for your sales team can greatly increase business efficiency and decrease the amount of time you spend organising your customer data.
Whether you want to connect your internal POS and stock-keeping software to your website for automatic updates, or to automatically add customers from your website into your CRM system, integrating XML feeds into your website means you can actually design the functionality of your business needs.
Although I have highlighted the negatives of website builders and open source CMS platforms above, they both carry positives, too.
Website builders are the cheapest and easiest solution for any business owner, with the main cost involved being time consumption, as you don’t need a technical person to work on the site. Open source CMSs, on the other hand give you a lot more flexibility and functionality than website builders but will require someone technical to help you with it. Also, CMSs need constant updating, meaning you will need to continually maintain the site to keep it secure.
With these points in mind, it is important to note that the upfront cost of having a custom-built website is generally higher than the other options on the market. However, in the long run, having a website that is custom built for your business and customer needs can not only work out more cost-effective than using an open source software but also help drive sales, as customers follow the route you have designed for them and not one preprogrammed in a piece of existing software.
DQ Media is fully equipped to build you a custom website, from our five-step design process to our ability to create functionality that works for you and your customers. We listen to your needs and ask questions that your customers would, and use your input to build you a website that will not only look as unique as your business is but also optimised for you and your customers.