Custom or Canned? Which is Right for Your Business?
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This article explains custom designed websites with an integrated brand strategy versus canned websites without a unique brand strategy.
Today businesses large and small need to decide how to make an impact. While social media sites may be the current trend to gain a visible following and get your message heard, having a company website is ultimately the epicenter of the business and it's brand.
In the constantly evolving internet realm there are an astounding number of live web pages that anyone can visit. A study conducted by WorldWideWebSize.com stated that, as of July 2013, there are over 4.45 billion web pages. So the question is posed: How do you make your website stand out and what is the best choice when designing and developing a site? Custom or canned?
The pivotal decision that must be made when fashioning a website is whether to have a custom site designed and built around existing brand standards and business needs OR to choose a site from a pre-built template through a growing number of companies offering everything from Flash sites to open-source templates. In this article we are specifically referring to open-source templates and tools which are really the online trend for canned sites. Both of these development methods, custom or canned, can be great options depending on the goals and needs of the company or individual.
A custom website should include design, strategy, tool integration and development, and the actual build. In some cases, companies use designers just to develop the design and leave the rest to the internal web and IT teams. Working with a specialized marketing & design agency or a web design agency provides a more personal approach to the drafting process with step-by-step client involvement and approval.
There are several reasons why having a website built by a design agency would be the right decision for your business.
First, because the creative process is more involved and in-depth than it would be with a canned site. It becomes a one of a kind project versus something generic.
Additionally, many small to mid-sized businesses don't know exactly what's involved or what type of options they have. This is another reason why it's helpful and much more cost effective to have a custom site built right the first time versus going back and re-working a site or tweaking it to the point of an unmanageable and unorganized mess.
Working with a team who also understands the value of content and topic trends for search engine optimization (SEO) is extremely important to get your website recognized. Numerous canned templates now have this tool built in and it is basically a one shot deal. However, SEO methods are not something one can simply plug and play. It's a constant battle to keep updated, both internally and externally. And if it's important enough to have people find your website, it should be part of the on-going budget for your web maintenance and marketing.
Lastly, using an agency to design, implement and manage a website provides the personal support that you just can't get when you try to pull it off without the dedicated team.
In a recent interview regarding website design strategies, Charlene Moore, Executive Producer for Spin66 Studio, a marketing and design agency noted that, "I believe designing a website should be both systematic and an organic process that instills creativity throughout the development. Something that will make the clients think outside of their immediate world while also providing inspiration to the internal teams and ultimately garner attention from the outside world. There's nothing really organic about planning or building off of a canned site. You don't get to explore all the options and tools you would be able to with a designer sitting down and assessing your business' strategic needs."
The other option is choosing a pre-designed template site that is produced by a site-builder tool online. These canned sites often have thousands of free and purchasable templates to choose from and so the site design ends up governing the brand as opposed to the brand governing the site design.
Website template services such as WordPress, Joomla!, TextPattern, DotClear, Plone, and Drupal are among the most popular. These tools are all open source, meaning anyone with the access password can post, update or manipulate the content. However some knowledge of CSS, or at least being somewhat familiar with html code, is helpful to use these services. Unfortunately with the integration of Cloud services in open source sites, they become less secure and more vulnerable to hacks on the site and hacks on the server hosting the site. Many web-hosting providers are not fond of hosting open-source sites as it opens up their customers as well themselves to attacks and hacks. This is an important reason to filter what types of sites reside on an open source template and which ones should be managed on a secure internal server.
There is most definitely a place for open-source canned sites. They are great for personal blogging and for small to mid-sized businesses that are not compelled to uphold a brand standard or long-term strategy. Due to they're being so many site builder tools out there now, we think it's important to at least spend enough time to research the different options and which might suite your personal needs. For those businesses and individuals that want to be in complete control of the weekly content updates and feel it's no problem to spend the administrative time managing a site and have real time budgeted to create on-going content, we think this is a viable option.
Which Decision is Right for Your Business?
In conclusion, it is vital to know exactly what your company's needs and goals are before jumping into website development. If a business' exploits are immense, then a custom built website with incorporated tools would reflect that. Having a marketing and design agency is good for business because they can help you discover options and tools which can enhance business and website usefulness. Developing a site that truly fits a companies needs simply makes the most sense.
"If you have a serious business… you should definitely choose to go with a custom designed and built website from scratch. At the very least, (if you don't have an internal web team), use a marketing/design agency to help your business find the right tools for the job. Everybody wants something for cheap or free… and that's okay but it's not the same as investing in something you can use to make a difference in your marketplace." - Charlene Moore
Getting a team that knows marketing, web, business, advertising, and support is less time consuming and potentially less costly than figuring out all the little pieces for yourself. It's the health of your business: why risk it?