Customised templates, bespoke themes, bespoke website design - they all sound like they're the same thing, right? A website that's made just for you.
But when it comes to "bespoke", you might find that different agencies have very different interpretations of what that means.
So how can you be sure that the website you've been quoted for has truly been designed specifically for you?
This guide will explain how - and why it's so important to know the facts.
Bespoke websites are those that have been designed from the ground up, not using templates or existing designs. In short, your bespoke website should be completely unique to you.
The confusion when it comes to bespoke website design is that the terminology can be a little fuzzy.
For example, lots of developers offer their clients customised templates. The term "custom" implies something unique, but this can often be limited to taking existing template or theme, and customising it.
Sometimes that's as simple as putting your logo in the header. Sometimes it can include some layout changes and variation in the colours, fonts and imagery.
But at its heart, this is still a template.
A bespoke theme is a little more complicated.
Platforms like WordPress use themes to set design styles for a website. So when you're designing a website on WordPress, you can create a unique, custom theme from scratch, just for this project.
However, we've often come across instances where the term "bespoke theme" has been used by designers when referring to a customised pre-existing theme.
This means they're actually offering you a "customised template" service, not a truly bespoke website. This may not necessarily be dishonesty on the designer's part, but just a difference in terminology usage.
To sum up, anything that starts with a template is NOT a bespoke website.
A custom, or bespoke theme might be a custom website, depending on the designers you're talking to.
But a truly bespoke website is always one that is designed from scratch, solely and entirely for you.
That doesn't necessarily mean a non-bespoke website is inherently bad - it can save a lot of time and money, and a template can sometimes be the right choice for a start-up or small business.
So now you know what bespoke website design is, let's talk about why we think it's important.
The most obvious benefit is, of course, originality. If you decide not to go bespoke, then there's nothing to stop you from ending up with almost exactly the same website as a competitor down the road.
Blending in isn't a good strategy on the internet. If your website looks similar to everyone else's, you're going to struggle to get your audience to remember you.
Another key benefit of having a bespoke website is being able to plan out an intuitive user journey.
When you're working with a template, there's always going to be restrictions on how you can construct your pages and layout.
But with bespoke web development, you can start by planning out your content and user journeys, and create the user interface around that strategy.
Functionality is another area where a bespoke website can give you much greater flexibility to create the experience you want. However, here you might still find restrictions even if you're getting a bespoke design.
If your new website uses a content management system like WordPress or Drupal, or is going to be integrated with a 3rd party software, then you could still find it difficult to create bespoke functionality - especially when it needs to do something in a unique way.
That's because the plugins or services you may need to use to achieve the functionality you want may require the site to work in a specific way.
So if your project requires bespoke functionality, it's a good idea to work with a company that can build you what you need without needing to rely on platforms, plugins or off-the-shelf software.
One of the more difficult elements of custom website design, is to understand how much they cost. In fact, it's complicated enough that we've written a whole article about website pricing and budgets.
First off, a bespoke website is always going to cost you more than a template. And so it should!
With a template or an off-the-shelf theme, most of the design and development work is done already. The rest is simply customising it to your own brand and content.
But with bespoke websites there's a lot more work - and not just with the design and development either.
The joy of having a bespoke website is that you can plan out everything properly, starting with your user personas, user journeys and content. Meaning that every element of the project is aligned with your goals for the website, and your customer's motivations too.
You won't find yourself trying to "fill in" predefined boxes that exist on a template for the sake of it.
That's why we think bespoke websites are often the best approach if you're looking to use your online presence as a way to improve your business, either through marketing, reputation management or direct sales.
And of course, that extra work requires extra investment, but one that's likely to be worth it if your website is going to be an asset to your organisation.
Bespoke websites aren't always the best choice for everyone. Sometimes a template website is all a company needs.
The three big reasons you might want to consider a template website over a bespoke design are:
- Time - templates require a lot less work, so they're much faster to get up and running.
- Money - if you've got a really restricted budget, a template design, off-the-shelf software or plugins can often keep the price down.
- Simplicity - if you don't really need to generate more visitors or sales through your website, and it's just a case of having that box ticked for "online presence", then maybe a bespoke website isn't worth the investment to you.
It's also worth mentioning that a templated website is always going to be better than a poor bespoke website. If you're low on budget, our advice is to work with a freelancer or small agency that create something template-based that's simple, and affordable.
But if you're expecting your website to be significant part of your digital marketing strategy, to bring you new customers, convert more visitors or lift your reputation, then you should really consider going bespoke.
At Edge of the Web we firmly believe that if your website is going to be an asset to your business, it needs to be bespoke.
With a bespoke website, you can make sure that your online presence is going to be driving towards your business goals, whether that's through reputation management, marketing or online sales and conversions.
A custom design website doesn't stop you from using an off-the-shelf CMS or 3rd party software integration. But it does open the door for you if you need bespoke features and functionality as well as unique, high quality web design.
So if you have a unique project and want to talk to an agency that loves to design bespoke websites, we would love to hear from you!