Custom Website Design Buyer’s Guide

If you own or manage a business or organization you are likely familiar with the website design process. Although the web has evolved dramatically over the past 25 years, most notably mobile website design, the process has remained essentially unscathed. In today’s post, we will discuss the process of custom website design.

What is custom website design? The house analogy.

custom website design

Custom website design is the development of a website from the ground up as opposed to using website templates. Think of a custom website as a home in which you sit down with an architect and map out your house from scratch. A good architect will know to ask you the right questions, such as:

  • How many people plan to live in the house?
  • Does anyone that plans to live in the house have special needs?
  • What style of home do you prefer (eg, modern, southwest, colonial, beach, mountain)?
  • What kind of kitchen do you like?
  • How many bedrooms do you want?
  • How many bathrooms do you want?
  • What kind of spaces are most important to you? (Bedrooms, kitchen, family room, bathrooms, etc.?)
  • What is your 5-year, 10-year and long-term plan for this space?
  • Do you have any landscaping requirements?
  • What are the time constraints of the project?
  • What is your budget for the project?

Now, let’s apply this same logic to custom website design whereas your architect is your web developer. A good website consultant will ask you questions that are similar in nature:

  • What kind of business/organization are you?
  • What are your objectives for the new website?
  • Who is your target audience(s)?
  • How often do you plan to update the website?
  • How many people plan to add content to the website?
  • Do you plan to sell products or services online?
  • Have you considered calls-to-action you would like the website to have?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Can you show me other websites you like?
  • What is your target launch date?
  • What is your budget for the project?

During the discussion, your web consultant will attempt to evaluate your needs in order to make the best recommendations for a website based on your objectives, requirements, timeline and budget. For example, if you plan to write a blog or make frequent updates on the site you will need a content management system (CMS). Although CMS are common on most modern websites there are many choices, including open source platforms like WordPress and licensed platforms such as Sitefinity.

If you plan to sell products or services online you will need an eCommerce store, and again there are several options based on your choice of CMS. WordPress offers several popular eCommerce plugins, such as WooCommerce and Shopify. Check out our article, Top 10 eCommerce Plugins For WordPress.

Template design. The great divergence.

template design

At this point, your web consultant will start asking questions regarding design. Based on the answers from the previous questions, the web consultant will make recommendations with an emphasis on your timeline and budget. Based on these considerations, your web consultant will recommend either a template/theme design or a custom design.

A template design is basically a pre-made website that you purchase and your developer works on to add your content. WordPress offers thousands of themes in their marketplace that are organized by categories, such as industry, features and layout. There are some beautifully designed templates that come stocked with modern web features and functionality right out of the box.

The drawback with templates is that you don’t actually own the design. To refer back to the house analogy, you are renting versus buying. With templates, your website will share the design with possibly millions of other websites. Divi, for example, is the most popular theme on WordPress and powers over 1.4 million websites. With a Divi theme, you can expect your website to look awfully familiar on the web. It’s a tradeoff you will have to be willing to accept.

Template designs are a practical option for someone working on a limited budget. As the the theme comes fully designed and developed, you will experience significant cost savings in creating your new website. A template-driven website can be delivered professionally for around $5,000.

Custom design. The bottom up approach.

custom website development

Although a template design may be a good option for a small business/organization or a company just getting started, an established business should always choose a custom approach in designing their new website.

A custom website design is built in collaboration with a designer based upon your unique needs. No templates are used in a custom design. The designer will ask many questions about the organization; its existing brand attributes, its color palette, its font conventions, its core messaging, its target audience, its competition and how it differentiates itself.

Once the consultation is complete, the designer will then work with the brand assets, content and site architecture to create a home page design composition. This composition is then shared with the client and the collaborative back-and-forth will occur until the home page design is finalized and approved. After approval, the designer will then demonstrate the design in responsive states, including tablet and smartphone.

Once all home page designs are approved the design phase will move into pre-determined landing pages and the creative process starts over until all design pages and elements are approved and ready for front-end HTML development and CMS integration.

With a custom-designed website it is reasonable to expect a higher cost for development. Although total cost on any project is based on scope and functional requirements, you can plan on a starting point of around $10,000 for a custom website design. Of course, this cost can increase significantly as the scope of the project increases.


custom website development san francisco

A custom website design is the right approach for emerging or established businesses. A website is the virtual storefront of most companies and organizations, and it needs to accurately represent the business to its target audiences(s). This includes communicating the uniqueness of the business, its marketing mix, its purpose, its value and its brand promise.

If you would like to talk with us regarding your custom website design we would love to hear from you.  Call us today at +1.888.938.8289 or contact us online.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DEEPBLUE. He has been an active thought leader in the practical application of emerging web technologies and web standards since 1998.

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