Do I really need a custom website?
It’s a legitimate question to ask. Let me be clear: I have nothing against websites made using website builders. Wix, Squarespace, and other quick-to-implement platforms fulfill an important need in the market. They can do a decent job of providing a framework to get your content, messages, and offering out to the world.
Not everyone has the need or the budget for a custom designed website. Instant website solutions have their place. However, an outcome of the themes, templates and quick solutions available is an overall “sameness” to the look and feel of so many websites today. Even if a site uses provocative messaging and eye-catching images, the site visitor is often underwhelmed by the fact that they feel like they’ve “been there, done that”, already.
Attention spans are short
In today’s visually overstimulated environment, the most dangerous way to market your business is to play it safe – because you are guaranteed to be ignored. There’s so much competition out there for audience attention, and attention spans keep getting shorter all the time. According to research, human attention spans have markedly decreased in just 15 years. In 2000, it was 12 seconds. By 2015 it shrunk significantly to 8.25 seconds.
Today, I’m making a case for the uncompromising, custom-designed, handcrafted, bespoke website. But let’s start with the potential downsides. A custom website will cost more up front to design and build. Potentially a lot more. It will take more time. Developing a custom website requires the skills of specialists. This kind of site isn’t something you can get your friend’s sister’s uncle’s kid to do for you in their free time while they’re not playing World of Warcraft.
A custom website is typically the result of a team effort by designers, developers, programmers, UX specialists, and writers, all contributing to the finished result. Sometimes one individual will fulfill multiple roles, but I’ve never met one person who can do it all and do it really well. If you know someone who can, send me their contact details.
Earning precious seconds
One of the primary goals of user experience (UX) for websites is to earn screen time from site visitors. This experience needs to:
- Provide the most important information they are looking for at a glance
- Communicate a top level message that gets their attention
- Rapidly capture and hold their attention and imagination
If the website does these things well, it means your message has a good chance of being understood, because the visitor decided to stick around for a few extra seconds. Think of it as continually “earning” the right to keep talking; about your business, your value proposition, and most importantly, what’s in it for them.
A custom-designed website allows everyone (the design team and the client team) more opportunity and flexibility to get everything right to earn those precious extra seconds. One of the most important metrics for a website is known as ‘session duration’. This is how long the average visitor stays on a website. A low session duration means that, no matter how many people are coming to the site, if they leave right away the volume of traffic has little value.
A custom website can make people stop in their tracks, because it is clear to the visitor that this company or organization is serious about what they do. They care and so should you. It demonstrates professionalism, and first impressions count.
Entertain, inspire, and inform
The internet isn’t really that old. Many people, including yours truly, still remember when there wasn’t an internet. We can also remember how primitive the first websites were. Advancements in website capability have happened rapidly, including the use of video and animations, and more interactive functionality that gives people more reason to stick around. A custom website allows way more flexibility when it comes to adding rich media and specialized tools. Many of these tools don’t need to be built from scratch. When building on WordPress, which is open-source (using code that is designed to be publicly accessible), there are many plug-ins available to integrate useful tools that can give users a reason to bookmark your site and come back on a regular basis.
Do you actually own your own website?
One big benefit of a custom website is that you can truly “own” your own digital properties. Most website builders require a subscription to use their platform, paid on a monthly annual basis. Other than a hosting solution, a website built on the WordPress platform doesn’t automatically have extra fees. You can also transfer all of your content to a fresh platform without incurring additional fees. When you invest time, effort and money into building your online digital presence, it’s important to know that it belongs to you, and you’re not at the mercy of another company or web design firm.
Your website is an integral part of your brand
We know a strong brand contributes to the success of any business or organization. It helps audiences connect with you and become your customers quicker and with a higher degree of loyalty. If you think of the website as the frontline of the enterprise and the hardest working member of the sales team, it becomes clear that investing in a seriously great website represents real value that pays for itself over and over again.