Building a Website: Bespoke vs Using an Off-the-Shelf Theme

If you’re thinking of building a new website for your business, you’ve got lots of options. Your first decision is whether to build a bespoke website or use an off-the-shelf theme.

A bespoke website is designed and built specifically and uniquely for your business, in every aspect. An off-the-shelf theme is ready-made, so needs to be adapted to suit your needs.

There’s no right or wrong answer. So to help you decide on the best option for your business, let’s talk through some of the key differences between building from scratch and using a theme.

Price

For most businesses, price is important when looking to build a new website.

If you use a DIY theme it’s generally cheaper than a bespoke website build. So if you have a low budget, you may want to pick an appropriate ready-made theme.

WordPress Page Builders can also work if you want to try your hand at building your own website without code.  WordPress claims that beginners can use their page builder but it definitely helps to have someone who knows their way around a website to help!

On the other hand, a bespoke website certainly has its perks. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it can be tailored exactly to what you want and need, down to the very finest details.

Our best piece of advice when budgeting for a website project is – what’s going to be the ROI?

For example, will building bespoke allow you to improve your customer experience and generate more sales than using a theme? Do the sums, and if it makes sense to invest more, there’s your answer.

Design

Your website is a visual representation of your business, so the design really matters.

With a theme, the design is done for you. It’s nice and easy! But can an off-the-shelf design that works for thousands of other businesses truly reflect your brand? Some theme designs are more adaptable than others. So if you know you want to change certain aspects, check out how flexible it is before you buy it.

With a bespoke website you can design it specifically for your brand. The design can also be refined so that the user experience (UX) is as seamless as possible. You have much more control over how to guide your own customer journey through the website in order to achieve more enquiries, sales, or whatever your goal is.

A bespoke website gives you more freedom to build more advanced features and have more control over functionality to guide the customer journey. But that doesn’t mean to say off-the-shelf templates don’t have various features that you can adapt to your needs, if you choose the right one!

Quick tip: UX should be a top priority when designing your website. The easier it is for potential customers to navigate around your site, the easier it is to generate leads and sales.

Technical SEO

Page load speed effects user experience (we’ve all experienced how frustrating a slow-loading website can be!), but it impacts on SEO too. If your website is slow because of the way it’s built, it’ll hinder your ability to rank as well as possible in Google search results.

When you use a DIY theme lots of the features will probably work through plug-ins. Whilst that’s great for personalisation, it can slow your website down. Most people only use a tiny percentage of the features available from the theme they’re using. Despite this, all of the features have to load every time someone wants to view the page – not great for speed.

You don’t get this issue with a bespoke website. Because it’s built from scratch, you can slim down the back end so it’s only using features it needs. This means the pages will load much quicker.

But whilst page load speed is important, it’s only one aspect of technical SEO.

If your website isn’t built properly, search engines won’t be able to ‘crawl’ the page content for the information they need to display your website as a search result. When you build a site from scratch you can ensure it’s technically optimised to display properly when someone searches for your business services.

If you want to learn more about SEO, we’ve covered the basics to get you started in this blog.

Future-proofing

Bespoke websites are built to last. They’re easy to adapt and improve as your business changes and grows.

On the other hand, DIY themes can be fashionable and go out of date quickly. It’s also trickier to adapt and introduce new features as many themes aren’t easily editable.

Security

Another vital consideration when building a website is its safety and security.

A bespoke website relies on fewer plugins than a DIY theme, and the code is also of a much higher standard. Both of these things make your website harder to hack.

Bespoke websites (should!) also go through rigorous testing before they’re handed over, on various devices and modern browsers. At Vida, we also follow industry best practice in terms of accessibility and GDPR, which doesn’t come as standard with DIY themes.

Back End

And finally, an off-the-shelf theme gives you complete control over the back end, which is great if you know what you’re doing! But if you’re not a coding expert, it can be a little dangerous. It can be easy to make mistakes and change the code without meaning to, which is then difficult to fix if you don’t know what you’re doing.

We build bespoke websites that allow you to easily make any content changes whilst keeping the style and functionality of the site. Editing power, but with a bit of a safety blanket.

We also give training on how to use the CMS so that you feel confident using your new site.

Feeling inspired?

We build beautifully unique bespoke websites that reflect the amazing work you do. You can take a look at some of our work here, or get in touch with one of the team for a chat about your website project.