By Sarah Stashuk / December 21, 2020
As a business owner, one of the most important investments you make is likely to be your website. If you sell your product or service online, a good website is absolutely crucial to your success—we’ve all been to sites that were so difficult or counterintuitive to use, that we just left. Don’t let that site be yours! Even if your website serves only to inform potential customers, you’re almost certain to get more business with a well-done website.
Many smaller business owners looking to set up an online presence may not know where to start. It’s difficult to grasp just how much thinking, planning, designing, and strategizing goes into a website. Think of it like a car’s engine: when it’s working well, you don’t even think about what’s going on in the background; but when there are problems with it, it can be very complex and expensive to fix.
In the early days of the internet, all websites were custom-built. But these days you’ll find a wide array of open-source website platforms at your disposal. One of the most-used open-source platforms is Wordpress. This means that a community of developers created the code and keep it up-to-date all on their own—it’s not owned by a company, and nobody pays them to do it. There’s a long list of pros and cons to choosing a Wordpress site over a custom website and vice versa. Below, we’ll talk about some of the most important points to consider in the Wordpress vs custom website decision.
Wordpress vs Custom Website: Speed
How quickly do you need your website up and running? Because all of the Wordpress code already exists, it’s usually possible to register your domain and connect them, having your site up and running within a day. While this sounds tempting, the real work on a Wordpress site begins after your site is live. To add functionality to a Wordpress site, you’ll need to incorporate plugins. These are pieces of code that make up anything from a blog to a photo gallery to an e-commerce shop. They’re all added to your site piecemeal (think of your Wordpress site as a plate and the plugins as the food you put on it. Everything has its own recipe, but it all comes together to make a meal). Many Wordpress plugins are straightforward and easy to install and use, but some are considerably more complicated, especially when it comes to payment portals and more advanced features. If you’re not very web-savvy and you’re looking to build an online store, you’re likely going to want to hire a web developer anyway, which eliminates the advantage of getting a site up and running quickly.
On the other hand, a custom website can take weeks or months to build, depending on the complexity of the site and the skill of the developer. This is because they usually start with much smaller building blocks, and spend a significant amount of time customizing the site from the ground-up to perform its exact intended purpose. Custom sites may take longer, but they offer much more flexibility; if you have a unique vision for what you want your site to do, a custom website may take less time, as the developer won’t have to spend time making all of the Wordpress plugins work properly with each other.
Wordpress vs Custom Website: Features
Wordpress sites offer no shortage of features. As mentioned in the previous section, there are plugins for virtually any website function you could want, and finding them merely requires browsing one of the many plugin repositories online, downloading them, and implementing them. However you may find that many of these plugins don’t work quite the way you imagined when you installed them, and that they take considerable customization to do exactly what you want, the way you envisioned. It’s usually not difficult work for a developer who’s versed in Wordpress, but it is something to think about.
Similarly, a custom site can incorporate as many or few features as you desire. The downside is that each feature adds to the time and cost of the project, but the benefit is that you know it’ll work just the way you want it without any tinkering because it was built just for your purposes. A custom site offers flexibility as far as your budget will allow.
Also consider that a custom-made site will be designed and branded as uniquely yours. Many Wordpress-driven websites out there look strangely similar because there are thousands and thousands of businesses that use the same Wordpress design templates, or “themes.” Why not stand out with something that looks just the way you intended?
When it comes to marketing your site with search engine optimization (SEO), Wordpress and custom sites have two very different approaches. Wordpress sites rely on plugins (Yoast is a free and popular one). While these plugins are usually full-featured, you really need to know what you’re doing or your site could end up sending negative signals to Google, hurting your search rankings. On the other hand, a custom website will come with custom SEO—at least when it’s built by an agency that knows web design and marketing. This allows for deeper customization and more SEO options than simply filling out the fields in a plugin.
Wordpress vs Custom Website: Utility
Wordpress’s plug-and-play functionality makes it generally easy to use. Wordpress is a content management system (CMS), which allows you to go in and update content in a very user-friendly interface. Still intimidated by making changes on your own? The global popularity of Wordpress means that there are plenty of online tutorials for just about anything you’re looking to do.
Many custom sites built today are likely to include a CMS, making simple updates a breeze. Fixing errors on a custom site can be easier than a pieced-together Wordpress site, since you can reach out to the developer who built it. A developer looking at your Wordpress site may not be familiar with the plugins you’re using or the updates that have been made, and so it may take them much longer to diagnose and repair issues. All custom websites from Get Savvy Digital include a custom CMS that lets you easily change out all of the content yourself without relying on a developer to do it. Our custom sites also come with free maintenance and hosting for the first year.
A custom site is also likely to be more secure. Because Wordpress is one of the most widely-used CMS options in the world, it’s an attractive target for cybercriminals, and the fact that all of its plugins are developed by different people means that there’s a greater chance that bad code can make its way onto your site.
Wordpress vs Custom Website: Cost
It’s difficult to say whether a Wordpress site or custom site will be more cost-effective. As we mentioned, the Wordpress code base is free, as are many of the plugins you need for a functional website. However, many sites will require some customization to make the plugins look and function just the way you want, and this will likely require the help of a Wordpress-fluent developer. Depending on their skill and the complexity of what you want, the costs can add up.
In most cases, a custom website will cost more to build due to the need to construct it from the ground up. However, if your site is relatively simple and you hire an efficient developer, you might end up with exactly what you want at a cost that works with your budget.
Something else to consider when figuring the cost of a Wordpress site is the updating of themes. Themes are used to give your site a certain look, and can be highly customizable (though taking advantage of the flexibility can require specialized and harder-to-find Wordpress Developers). These themes also require regular updates, and typically updating them erases any customizations you made to the site’s appearance in the code. It takes a Wordpress-experienced developer to update your theme and retain the customizations you’ve made. Furthermore, themes installed on your site that aren’t updated on a regular enough basis can lead to your site being shut down for security purposes. This means that you have to start your site all over with a new theme, adding both cost and time to your website project.
A custom website is more flexible in this respect. As long as you can work with your existing developer, keeping your site maintained is likely to be straightforward and within budget.
Either way you go, keep in mind that a website can be the lifeblood of your business and that you often get what you pay for when it comes to web services.
The Verdict: Wordpress vs Custom Website
Choosing between a Wordpress site and a custom website for your business is a big decision. While it’s typically faster, easier, and more affordable to get a Wordpress site up and running, there are many hidden costs when it comes to implementation, customization, updating, and security. A custom website addresses these issues upfront, so while the initial time and monetary investment may be higher, the end product is ready to go and requires little, if any, tinkering. Think of it as the difference between buying an off-the rack suit and having it tailored versus having a suit completely custom-made just for you.
Want to learn more? At Get Savvy Digital, we offer a variety of custom website options. Wherever you land on the Wordpress vs custom website decision, consider us if you’re looking for marketing solutions or other business services!
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