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Is A Custom Website Important

 
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Old 11-25-2009, 02:24 AM   #1
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Is A Custom Website Important


Do you think it is important to have a completely custom site or will a customized template be sufficient?

A completely custom site will cost $1000 and up but a customized Wordpress template will be about $300 (roughly guessing about the numbers).

Some people here have not liked Artisteer sites for different reasons although many here have customized templates sites and like the results.

What if money was no object? Would you opt for the custom site or still go with the custom template?

I came across this site:

http://www.fireplacemantelsetc.com

Which is definitely custom and I was wondering what your thoughts were on how important uniqueness is to your business?

thanks.
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Old 11-25-2009, 07:38 AM   #2
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


Depends on what you want, your talents, etc. Are you trying to WOW somebody with graphics? Give them useful info? Interact with them?
It all depends.
Can you add meta tags? Do forum posts, with links?
Albert's Roofing cost $49.00 a year for ad-free hosting, and some random moments updating and adding pages. It brings clients in every week.
That's what counts.

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Old 11-25-2009, 09:49 AM   #3
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


What's the difference between the two?

Isn't a custom Wordpress theme, by definition, a custom website?

--

When it comes to design, there are really three things great web design needs to do:

Maintain your branding

Whether it's showing off your company "personality" (professional, high end, friendly, old school) or just keeping the color scheme and logo from your trucks, business cards, and letter heads, your website shouldn't be some crazy step out of line. When you're iPod breaks and you go to the Apple website to replace it, you would expect it to be a clean, sleek, and easy to use, not some Victorian antique looking looking thing.

Define hierarchy and goals

Good design makes things pretty. Great design makes things important.

A lot of people (and most of them rightly so) think designers are just making your site look sexy. When I was starting out in the biz I found that to be incredibly true, and thankfully I started working for a shop that who's owner prized form with function.

Great design draws the eye to important elements (call to action, contact form, phone number, portfolio, whatever), while dimming down less important aspects on the page.

Your pages won't be nearly as effective if you have a ton of options, or a ton of pictures, or a ton of headings, or a ton of crap. That's just another bonus of keeping things simple.

Define an important business goal, make a page, and then define what's most important on the page while finding a way to make it prominent without it being lime green

Most importantly, be easy to use and geared towards your visitors

The sexiest web design in the world won't do jack balls all for your Christmas spending or vacation fund if it does any of these things:

Confuses the visitor about what the site's about (Is this a mason, plumber, carpenter, day care, car wash, coffee shop, 7th circle of hell?)

Makes it difficult for the visitor to find what they need

MAKES EVERYTHING HUGE AND IN CAPS SO I ACTUALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS IMPORTANT

Sticks important info/coupons/goal conversion stuff all the way at the bottom of the page, or real small in the corner somewhere.

Has no clear steps for what to do next if I want to buy right now/set up and appointment/call you for more info/shoot you an email for clarification


You shouldn't pay a web pro to make your site look pretty. You should be paying for them to give you a tool to make money. Luckily, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

--

I personally absolutely hate Artisteer with every bone in my body, but then again I hate any piece of software that boxes you in and at the same time pumps out crap code. To me, the web is about freedom and flexiblity. You can polish and shine that turd, but at the end of the day it's still stinking.

I'd rather spend the extra day or two it takes to code it myself and give the client something lightweight that I know is solid, than trust their business to a piece of junk like Artisteer. There are a lot of tools out there that will help you speed the process up without having to trust your bank account to a robot.
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Old 11-25-2009, 01:05 PM   #4
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Sullivan
Good design makes things pretty. Great design makes things important.
That sums it all up nicely, Justin.

My own observation of the web is that there are plenty of ugly sites, but they are not the majority. Most web sites fall into what I call "good" but only in terms of appearance. Both custom and template sites fall into this category. Many of the pretty sites are just plain bad when it comes to content, usability, and being customer focused, but they look acceptable in most cases.

IMO, great, effective sites are the least common. This is probably because of the ease of DIY templates and site builders, and the fact that anyone with a computer can set up shop as a web designer. Building web sites is decptively easy. You can do it in as little as a few hours with online tools, or learn the basics to 'customize" in a matter of days.

So while the question here is about template vs. custom, the look and feel of the site is among the least important concerns. Can the customer find what they are looking for? Does the site "connect" with the customer? Does it show up on page 1 of search results? Does it convert visitors (get them to call, fill out a form, request info, or sign up to receive resources)? Does every page have a specific goal or focus? Are they returning or bouncing away never to be seen again?

Good web sites and great web sites are usually hard to tell apart from each other in terms of their appearance. The difference comes in when you look at how effective they are. There are even "ugly" web sites that way out perform beautiful ones. I don't advocate ugly, but the fact that they can work helps prove the point about how the appearance is not the highest priority.

For the record, I prefer custom just to be sure it's unique. Template sites always look like template sites, and you need every advantage you can get. But I will also guarantee there are members here with template sites that do really well.
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Old 11-25-2009, 01:45 PM   #5
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


Quote:
Does it show up on page 1 of search results?
Bingo. Page one isn't really enough though. You want to be in the top 1-3 ideally. If you don't have this aspect going for you then pack up and go home. You could have everything else going for you but without the laser targeted traffic, you're website is a fancy billboard.

It doesn't take a custom design to get ranked under any circumstances.

Marketing Sherpa puts out a report called "The Landing Page Handbook" it was an extensive report over 200 pages along with case studies, heat maps and all kinds of goodies. I see it's now in it's 2nd edition and selling for $497.00.

If you're going DIY... BUY IT... You'll know MORE than most web designers about implementing a simple and actionable design.

Documentation beats conversation and Marketing Sherpa puts it down!

Carl

Last edited by carlsore; 11-25-2009 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 11-25-2009, 02:07 PM   #6
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


100% on the The Landing Page Handbook Carl, it was the probably the second thing the boss man handed me when I started at my old gig before I stepped out on my own. Absolute cash money, although that could be said of just about all their reports.

Paraphrasing, what I tell all my clients is simply this: To succeed online you need a steady flow of targeted traffic and a website with compelling content that moves the sales process along.

Being number 1 means nothing if you've got a junk website (one that doesn't convert) and having the most spectacular marketing weapon ever conceived in web form is worth nadda if no one sees it and uses it.

While being on top of the first page is certainly helpful, I think too often we web fellars forget that there are a multitude of ways to get higher conversion rate traffic to the site, including offline stuff.
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Old 11-25-2009, 02:38 PM   #7
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


Quote:
While being on top of the first page is certainly helpful, I think too often we web fellars forget that there are a multitude of ways to get higher conversion rate traffic to the site, including offline stuff.
I don't disagree that there are other ways to get targeted traffic... But the limitation in a Contractors case is they are usually geographically limited to where they can do business. It's not like pimping out an online affiliate deal where there is an abundance of international traffic to exploit.

Search Engines offer the best bang for the buck over long-term application than most of the other lesser methods of driving traffic. And especially so for the much narrower market of a contractor.

Carl
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Old 11-25-2009, 02:42 PM   #8
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


My bad Carl, I guess I wasn't clear!

What I mean is that there are other great ways to drive traffic to the site, besides using a search engine. Newsletters, coupons, giveaways, contests, referral systems, the like. That's on me for being less than clear.

I'm talking about diversifying your traffic systems, and not having your website rely strictly upon SEO.
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Old 11-25-2009, 03:05 PM   #9
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


You are all making assumptions on SEO and usability.

1) This is not about SEO. Assume they both have the same ranking potential.

2) The custom site does not mean overloaded. The site http://www.fireplacemantelsetc.com is custom and has video but loads faster than most web developers sites here. And it is not difficult to understand and use.

Custom template is not a custom site. Custom sites have little graphic elements that are not present in templates.

If you are competing with other sites in the top 5, would having a custom site improve your conversion rate?

Would http://www.fireplacemantelsetc.com have the same impact if it was a template site? Personally I don't think people would spend $10,000 on a mantel if they used a template and did not go the extra mile in entertaining their customers somehow.
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Old 11-25-2009, 03:24 PM   #10
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


I'm still confused Karrunt.

A custom template is a stock template that you make graphical changes to, but maintain the structure of the page elements. A custom site is one you build from scratch. Both are custom, do you mean a stock template? I would imagine the majority of business owners want their site to be unique, and that can be achieved with either solution.

I think you're missing the point. There is no way to tell whether a custom site will convert higher than a template. Here's some examples:

Custom:

http://www.belladesoto.us/

Template:

http://woothemes.com/demo/?t=51

Which looks more professional?


Conversely;

Custom:

http://www.apple.com/

Template:

http://joomla.siteground.com/index.p...=siteground109

Now which looks more professional?

It's not about whether or not it's a custom site or a template, it's about what the strategy of the site is, who is going to use it, and what "personality" you're going for. Then it's in the hands of whether or not you pick a good designer.

"Would http://www.fireplacemantelsetc.com have the same impact if it was a template site? Personally I don't think people would spend $10,000 on a mantel if they used a template and did not go the extra mile in entertaining their customers somehow.
"

A great design will definitely help you position yourself as a professional, but it's not the only key to success. It's going to take a whole lot more than a custom site to get someone to buy a $10,000 mantle.
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Old 11-25-2009, 04:19 PM   #11
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Sullivan View Post

I think you are trying to make a joke with this example. But anyway, I can tell the templates because they have a generic quality since they have to appeal to a wider audience.

This has nothing to do with SEO.

Since you don't like Artisteer and you think a custom site does not guarantee results all that is left I suppose is the custom template site.
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Old 11-25-2009, 04:29 PM   #12
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


@ Karrunt

Not trying to make a joke, it's a legitimate example.

While I've openly admitted that I hate Artisteer with a passion, I've hardly said that custom sites aren't worth the money. 95% of my websites are custom built, I've probably only had 5-10 people in the past year ask me to implement templates.

My point is, you cannot make a blanket statement as to what type of design will be more effective. Every client's needs and goals are different, so it's impossible to pigeon hole them into a certain type of website, or say one is better than the other without knowing the specifics of the job. Hell, I've told people flat out they could get a better ROI using traditional marketing than if they spent it on a website.

Sometimes the strategy, goals, and needs dictate an all the way custom solution, and other times you can change up and tweak something off the shelf. Not sure what this all has to do with ConTalk, but I hope that helps you out!
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Old 11-25-2009, 04:58 PM   #13
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Re: Is A Custom Website Important


Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Sullivan
My point is, you cannot make a blanket statement as to what type of design will be more effective.
I could not have said it better myself. All the statements we have made so far are general rules which may not apply to every situation.

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