Contemporary business wisdom says you need a website if you want people to take you seriously.
“Okay,” you agree. “My business needs some kind of online presence. Where do I start?”
It seems like an innocent question, doesn’t it? The reality is you can drown in the pools of options.
Assuming a DIY site isn’t on your agenda, you have to choose between web design packages. The good news is that choice isn’t complicated.
There are three main categories of web design packages. We’ll walk you through those three categories; then, we’ll talk about the one thing your site can’t do without.
Do You Need a Fully Custom Website?
One of the options among web design packages is the fully custom website. That’s a site planned and programmed from scratch. Do you really need one, though?
The answer boils down to your priorities.
A fully custom website offers several advantages, such as:
- A unique visual design
- Building in unusual functions
- Non-standard features
You will have to make some tradeoffs.
It takes extensive planning. You’ll end up making decisions about everything from colors and fonts to how much content should appear on any given page. You’ll also have to review mockups and test several versions of the site.
It can take months before your site goes live. Fully custom websites cost quite a bit more than the alternatives because of this extra work. Don’t be surprised if you get a quote for several thousand dollars.
Here are some questions that can help you decide if a fully custom site is right for your business:
- Can I afford it?
- Does my site need special functionality?
- Can I wait a month or three for the site?
- Can I spend the time on extensive site planning?
If you say “no” to most or all of those questions, take a pass on a fully custom site.
Custom Theme Sites
A lot of the “custom” web design packages are custom theme sites, websites built on top of content management systems, like WordPress. These sites offer some advantages of their own.
They’re typically cheaper. The programming that drives the site’s functions is already done and the web developers spend a lot less time working on your site.
You get your site faster. Again, much of the underlying programming work is complete.
What you and the company focus on is how the site will look. The company then builds a new theme for the content management system. The theme defines visual elements, such as:
- color scheme
- menu type
- menu position
- content alignment
It’s a bit like repainting your house. The underlying structure doesn’t change, but the new color can drastically change the appearance.
There are downsides.
If you want some extra function on your site, like E-commerce, you’re stuck with existing solutions a.k.a a plugin.
Your site also inherits any security vulnerabilities common to the content management system.
In any industry or profession, a certain percentage of individuals and companies always stay booked solid. They don’t bother with marketing because they can’t take on the extra work.
How do you balance a fundamental lack of time with the time-consuming effort of maintaining a website?
Simple: use a managed site.
Managed sites come in many flavors, but their main selling point is minimal input from you. The website company takes on the bulk of the visual design decisions, photo selection, and even copywriting duties. You can see a good example of a managed site company over at Monster Websites.
Of course, you still retain creative control of the website. It’s the public face of your brand, after all.
Always choose a managed site company that offers updates on demand. If you find one that lets you update the site manually, that’s even better.
Mobile devices accounted for more than half of all web traffic in 2017. Let that sink in for a second.
People keep their smartphones nearby almost all the time. They can access the Internet while they ride the train, stand in line, or even while they shop. Odds are you’ve seen someone standing in a store aisle looking at something online.
The takeaway is that all of the web design packages you consider must include responsive design.
Responsive design is a way of programming a website to work well on all devices. It’s the solution to the problem of unpredictable screen sizes.
In the old days, most screens fell into a few standard sizes. Now, phones, tablets, notebook computers, and desktop screens come in lots of different sizes. Just as importantly, people move from device to device.
You want a consistent user experience across all of them. A site built with responsive design moves content and adjusts font and image sizes based on current screen size. Visitors get the same overall feel from the site regardless of their device.
Parting Thoughts on Choosing Web Design Packages
You know your business needs a website. Customers increasingly shun businesses without a web presence. If you’re not a DIY person, that means picking from the three categories of web design packages.
Fully custom sites offer advantages. You get a unique look, along with any non-standard features or functions you want. They come with the pitfalls of expense, long lead times, and extensive planning.
Custom themed sites are typically cheaper and go live faster. You also inherit all of the content management system’s security problems. Plus, you must rely on plugins for extra functionality.
Managed sites are ideal for businesses that lack the time for real website management. Expect to pay a monthly subscription fee for the convenience.
No matter what option you pick, it must include responsive design.
Even after your site goes live, you have more work to do. Ever heard of SEO? Check your site’s optimization with our SEO audit tool.