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What makes a custom website anyway?

By October 20, 2015March 24th, 2016No Comments


In the modern world of WordPress websites and premium templates, the term ‘custom’ becoming harder and harder to define. Obviously, you have your choice in the market for cheaply assembled websites, but how do you know that you will get what you need from a given service provider? In this article I am highlighting the services that truly make a website custom. Budgets flex based on the level of customization for each item listed below, so the goal is to identify what kind of customization is a priority for the success of your website and your business or organization.



Delivering a custom website strategy starts with good consulting. And good consulting starts with good listening. Are you working with someone who claims to have the solution already packaged for you, or is there variation to their approach based on the uniqueness of your organization? If all of the the other elements listed below aren’t custom, starting with a strategy custom fit to your existing organizational goals and digital footprint can still get you custom website that works for your situation. Without custom strategy, you’d purchased a website built for someone else.



A custom design usually includes the creation of wireframes, graphic mockups, and should include some level of unique artwork creation to reflect your brand and enhance the presentation of your content. This can be a very time-consuming process depending on how many pages your mockup. Remember, any website using a content management system will use a ‘template’ to some degree. The custom design process ensures that template presents your content according to your custom strategy and reflects your brand well.

The creation of additional design elements can provide added value if you plan on using those elements in other branded communications from print to social media. Be sure you discuss ownership of those designs and that appropriate file formats are made available to fully leverage the investment you are making in the custom design process.



The biggest headaches come from not anticipating required custom functionality. Anyone can make a button on the page, but what does that button ultimately need to do? Custom functionality in the WordPress world often means additional template features of the creation of a custom plugin. As a rule of thumb, custom functionality should live in a plugin, allowing the website owner to change the visual presentation of the website in the future without losing that vital functionality.

You may also need to obtain your functionality a la carte if your designer does not possess the appropriate programming skills. Be sure to count that cost in the planning stages of your website and always be sure to get that functionality spelled out in writing or you’ll be disappointed later on.



The cheapest, easiest WordPress site can still be made to shine with custom content. Words, headlines, images, and videos do the heavy lifting of any website, convincing the viewer to read more or move toward a specific goal like a purchase or signup. Putting intentional thought and additional resources into the development of custom content can be easiest to overlook yet most valuable part of any project.

Do you expect to use old pictures, stock pictures, or for those pictures to magically fall from the sky? Plan ahead, budget for custom photography and your site will perform well. Not good with words? Pay someone who is and that investment will pay dividends. Afraid video is too expensive? Ask around and you’ll find some great options.



Now that you’ve gotten your custom website, how do you keep it moving forward? You need particular attention paid to all of the custom configurations and strategy you paid for. You wouldn’t build a custom hot rod and take it Jiffy Lube would you? That doesn’t mean you need to pay more for ongoing services, but it means you need to be sure the ongoing services that help sustain and grow your custom website have your custom strategy in mind. Having someone keep a watchful, informed eye on your site can be worth quite a bit to help create a customized web presence over time.



A custom website doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to be intentional and you want to know where truly custom attention is being paid to your goals and requirements in any website project.

Not sure if you have a custom website or need advice for your custom project? Get in touch.


Photo by Jeff Sheldon.

Scott Bothel

I'm a digital marketing consultant living and working in the Greater Seattle area. My passion is to help small businesses leverage web marketing to accomplish great things!