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Getting a new website is daunting. There’s a lot of technical jargon and different types of website and suppliers – most of whom will tell you their type is the best!
In our opinion, there’s no ‘best’ or ‘worst’ type of website, just different ones. Some may be suitable for your needs and others won’t be, and this may change as your business evolves.
This blog is part of a short series that demystifies the different types of website and helps you decide which one is right for you.
In this article, we explain what a bespoke website is, what makes it good and not so good, and whether it might be suitable for your business.
A bespoke website is a completely unique website, designed and built from scratch by a professional and 100% tailored around your brand, customers and goals.
Typically a designer creates a number of visuals so you can see exactly what your website will look like before it gets built. Your site then gets built and tested according to the signed off designs and made editable via a Content Management System.
With a bespoke website you can get 100% of what you want. You can achieve a one-of-a-kind unique and professional design that looks like nothing else. You’re not limited by any constraints, other than physics and what your designer is capable of producing. This makes bespoke websites great if you need to stand out or require something very specific/ niche.
However, the effort that goes into creating a bespoke site means they take a lot longer and cost a lot more. And whilst bespoke websites can be the highest quality types of website you can get, this very much depends on the professional you choose to work with.
You’ll pay more for a bespoke website than you will for other types of websites such as templates or builders. This is because the entire website is designed and built from scratch, rather than picking a pre-built package off the shelf and customising it.
It’s a bit like hiring a carpenter to make your cupboards instead of buying a flat pack from Ikea; a carpenter making something just for you will never be able to compete price wise against Swiss mass production.
Whilst there’s no fixed starting price for a bespoke site, it’s rare for them to cost less than £3,000. Depending on the size and scope, the investment tends to range between £3k – £30k but there’s no top limit – enterprise level sites frequently start from six figures.
Bespoke websites that don’t have many pages and only contain content (text, images, videos and maybe some simple animations) tend to be in the lower half of this scale, whereas bigger or more complex sites such as e-commerce, large membership sites and dynamic/ interactive websites tend to edge towards or sit in the top half.
Price is also determined by who you chose to work with. Freelancers with minimal overheads can have rates starting from as little as £15 an hour, whereas a company with a team and offices may be anywhere between £60 – £120 per hour.
Another way to look at the cost is the Return on Investment (ROI) you hope to achieve from it. It’s rare to spend £10 and make a £100,000 return – that would be a 10,000% ROI. Generally, what you spend is proportional to what you get out of it. If you’ve got big hopes for your website, expect to spend proportionally big.
On the other hand, if your website is unlikely to generate any direct business – for example if it’s more of a tick box exercise and your referrals and sales happen offline – you could probably put £10k to more profitable use than a bespoke website.
Read our blog on how much should you invest in your website to get a better feel for what’s right for you.
Bespoke websites enable you to achieve 100% of your vision, providing you have the budget.
From the very start you’ll be able to decide what it should look like and how it should work. That doesn’t mean you have to stipulate everything yourself; a good web designer will work with you to understand your needs, explain the options and advise on the design – that’s their job after all.
It does mean you have ultimate control and sign off. To return to our carpenter analogy, you won’t be limited to choosing a cupboard from whatever the stores have available; if you work with a carpenter, everything from the design to the choice of wood, finish and handles will be within your control.
Likewise your bespoke website can be completely tailored around your brand, customers and goals. It you need it to look a certain way, have a specific feature or do something that no other website does, that’s all achievable. This is different to website builders and templates, where you can only work with that eco-system and don’t have free reign to do whatever you want.
Once it’s been built, you can typically decide who hosts it and who looks after it. This may well be the company who created it, but if you need to host it on your own servers, that’s generally fine too.
However, you should carefully check your contract T&Cs for stipulations regarding the hosting and transferability of your website. Some companies may have terms or proprietary software that make it difficult or costly to host it elsewhere or have other developers work on it in future.
Equally you may not have have ultimate IP or copyright over the source code which may prevent you from using the same website multiple times or reselling it to other third parties. Check your contract T&Cs for the license and ownership terms.
Bespoke websites – done right – can be the highest quality type of website you can get. Having a one-of-a-kind design instantly elevates them from the masses of popular templates and Wix websites, and being handcrafted just for you means can benefit from a level of care and attention to detail that oozes professional polish.
However, not all bespoke websites are good quality. It’s entirely dependent on the capabilities of the professional you chose to work with, and unfortunately, there are a lot of cowboys out there.
The only way to get a quality bespoke website is to work with a quality professional. This means that finding who to work with is one of the most important parts of the process.
The shortlisting, meeting and evaluation of potential website partners should be given the time, attention and care these processes deserve, because the right partner will be the ultimate determiner of quality and success.
In our opinion this is especially important for bespoke websites as they’re more expensive. If all you need is a simple template website and a local freelancer quotes you £500, that’s one thing. But you don’t want to risk multiple thousands of pounds (not to mention the impact on your time) working with someone on a bespoke website who’s not at the top of their game.
Fortunately, there are ways to spot the good guys from the cowboys before you even pick up the phone. Start by reviewing their website. Are they open about their team, experience and expertise, or do they hide behind a bunch of technical waffle? Do the websites they’ve created for others look professional and polished or sloppy? When you do speak to them, check out our video on 5 tips to spot a website cowboy.
Being clear on what you want to achieve from your website from the outset is another of the most important parts of the process. This is the case for all websites, but especially so if you’re considering spending thousands on a bespoke site.
Some goals are tangible and objective such as increasing traffic, enquiries, sales, bookings, donations, subscribers or speed, or even decreasing calls support calls or negative feedback. Others are just as important but harder to quantify, such as having a look-and-feel that reflects your brand personality or correcting misconceptions.
A true website professional won’t sit back and wait for you to mention these these things but ask you from the start why you want this website and what you want to get out of it. And the more you can be specific about your goals and targets, the more your website partner can help. Read questions 2 and 3 in our article here for tips on how to articulate your goals.
Once it’s clear what you’re looking to achieve, the whole point of a bespoke website is that it can be handcrafted around your business and customers to help you achieve these goals.
You’re not having to fit into someone else’s pre made template; your site can be 100% focused around your target customers to give them a great experience, help them do what they want to do and ultimately drive them towards your desired outcomes.
And because you’re working with a professional who understands digital, you’ll benefit from their knowledge and experience of the best strategies and tactics to achieve these goals.
However, to echo our previous point, results will vary depending on who you work with. Some professionals may be great at design or have technical superpowers, but this doesn’t always translate into a commercial goal focused approach.
Too often we see professionals getting fixated on the website (what should it look like, what pages will you need, what features would you like?) when what they should be focusing on is what the website needs to achieve.
When meeting potential partners, pay attention to whether they ask you about your goals and targets. Ask them how they approach generating results for their clients and examples of success they’ve had with other clients. It’s not a guarantee they can achieve the same for you but a good starting point, and hopefully a way of identifying the wheat from the chaff.
Bespoke websites take much longer to create than templates or builders because they’re created completely from scratch. An average timescale is around 3 months, but it can be slightly shorter or longer depending on the size and scope.
Although you’ll be working with a professional who’ll be in charge of the design, development and overall project management, from your side you’ll still need to set aside time for meetings, feedback and reviews – typically around 5 – 10 days in total throughout the course of the project.
You’ll also need to plan time for writing your content (at least 2 hours per page) and sourcing any images you may need to provide (e.g. team photos) unless you chose to hire a copywriter which we highly recommend if your budget permits.
Most bespoke websites will be integrated with a CMS (Content Management System) or e-commerce platform. These enable you to do things such as create new pages, change text and images, add a news story, upload new products, adjust pricing and process orders.
There are literally hundreds of CMS’s and e-commerce platforms, the most popular of which include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Magento. Evaluating the merits of all of them is a vast topic which we don’t have time to discuss here, but there are plenty of online reviews.
There are also many proprietary CMS’s and e-commerce platforms. A proprietary platform is that that has been created by an individual web designer/ company and it belongs to them and them alone.
There are certainly some merits to proprietary or smaller niche platforms if they’re geared specifically to your industry and have everything you need ready to go. However, they may well tie you into one supplier making things awkward if the relationship took a downturn and downright difficult if the company went out of business.
They’re also typically only used supported by a handful of developers, meaning they’re not very scalable – anything new would need to built from scratch.
Generally, using a popular and open source platform gives you greater freedom and flexibility. If things stop working with your existing WordPress developer, you can simply find a new one.
And if you want to add a few feature to your Magento e-commerce, there are hundreds of extensions you can buy for less than £100 rather than having to pay and wait for something to be created just for you.
Bespoke websites require maintenance. Typically your website partner will have a package to keep your website maintained on a basic level; for example, keeping the CMS and any plugins up to date and secure. They may also offer an annual maintenance package; the equivalent of a car service ie. tweaking and tuning your website so it continues to perform well.
Maintenance is typically not included in the project cost but is a separate fee; potentially a small monthly or quarterly fee for the basic ongoing maintenance, and another small fee for the more extensive annual service. Check your contract to see what the charges are.
In order for people to access your website it needs to live on a server/ computer that’s connected to the internet. This is known as website hosting.
Typically the person or company who created your website will have hosting plans and can manage this on your behalf for a small monthly fee. This tends to range anywhere between £5 p/m for basic hosting (small levels of traffic, shared server) to £100 p/m for more powerful hosting (high levels of traffic, virtual private server).
You should also be choose your own hosting. For example, some companies want their internal or IT suppliers to look after their website hosting, or already have managed hosting they’re happy with. If you have specific hosting requirements, check the T&Cs before you sign to ensure this is possible.
Bespoke websites are great if you want niche functionality, a professional polished finish and a unique design that elevates you from the masses. But be prepared to spend accordingly – we’re talking thousands of pounds not hundreds here.
They represent a particularly good return on investment for businesses with ambitious growth plans who want to attract customers from the the corporate sector or mid-high range of the market.
In our opinion, the most important thing to get right about your bespoke website is finding the right partner. The final output i.e. your website, will be a complete reflection of your partner’s competence and how well you work together.
Research suitable suppliers on Google as well as asking for recommendations, ideally from people who have actually worked with the suppliers in question and can give you an honest account.
Meet a selection of suppliers face to face, enquire about their process and results achieved for other clients, make sure you understand what they’re proposing and feel comfortable communicating and working with them.
Getting the right partner – someone with the right skills and experience, who’s also a good fit for you and your business – means your bespoke site stands a far better chance of success. Invest time in this part of the process.
If you need some help deciding what type of website would be best for your business, feel free to give us a call.
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