Pre-Built vs Custom Websites: Which Should Small Businesses Choose?

In our digital age, starting a small business means you have to invest where the people are—aka, the internet. Without a digital footprint, customers nowadays are less likely to trust a business, and they are also quick to judge the online marketing they have in place. Translation: a website is an essential part of your brand, but you also want to have one that properly supports your needs. So then small business owners have to ask themselves: Should we choose a pre-built or custom website?

The two biggest options are pre-built website platforms and content management systems. In other words, website builders like Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix, and then content management systems like WordPress. For beginners, they often look to the user-friendly website building platforms that don’t demand extensive knowledge in coding or other website design experience. Sites like WordPress are equipped to handle bigger websites with lots of data, but that also means more to manage.

In general, between the option of Squarespace or WordPress for beginners, Squarespace would be ideal. It’s made for everyone, no matter how much website design expertise they have, but might not be the best option if you are looking to grow more. WordPress, as a content management system that will need its own web hosting site, does require some prior knowledge of how to use. Because of that, small business owners typically either hire a marketing company to make their website, or they hire a website developer for their team depending on their budget.

By partnering with a website expert, small businesses can get the most out of their website because of a few key benefits:

Customization

While sites like Squarespace and Shopify have many built-in customization options, that still doesn’t hold up to what a custom WordPress website can do. The other sites offer templates that fit for most businesses, retail or otherwise, but they don’t always grow with your business. In many cases, business owners realize the templates aren’t offering all the features that would make their business successful, so they decide it’s time for a custom website. Doing that from the beginning will help you get the most out of your website, and you could even grow quicker with a website that doesn’t hold you back.

Additionally, pre-built templates can only go so far when trying to make your business stand out from the competition. They have limits to how they can be changed to fit your brand, so a template may fail to truly encompass how you want to present your business.

Functionality

When putting together a website for your business, you need to think about the functions you’ll need to properly support your needs. If you’re a retail business, for example, an e-commerce website is essential. With the rise of online shopping, a business can’t rely solely on a brick and mortar store to reach their profit goals. However, by following that consumer demand, you also must make sure your online store is accessible, easy to maneuver, and search engine friendly. E-commerce sites like Shopify and Squarespace are designed for ease when shopping, but they will not have all the options necessary to fulfill a large catalogue that needs specific classifications.

In terms of functionality for a small business owner that does not have extensive website development knowledge, a pre-built platform would technically be more functional for your beginner knowledge. However, functionality also includes important aspects like performance, security, and search engine optimization.

Custom pre-built websites typically don’t allow you to use your domain directly. They use domain masking, or “link cloaking”, which is not ideal for any small business looking to grow. These platforms give you a starting identity domain that uses their main domain, such as 123456789.wixsite.com to let you build your website. When you are set to launch, people that visit your domain will be forwarded to the new destination, but your URL will stay in the address bar as it was. Visitors never notice a thing, but it can hinder you marketing efforts, and in turn, you could be helping one of the pre-built platforms gain more eyes than your business itself.

Overall, investing in the right resources as a small business can be the best way to grow and get the most out of your budget. If you want to learn more about how custom websites can help your small business thrive, give the TMIM team a call. We’re Your Marketing Department for Hire!