Custom B2B Tech Web Design vs. Templates: What’s Right for You?
Your B2B tech company offers products or solutions no one can find anywhere else. Sure, you have competition, but you’re profitable because you’re unique. Therefore, everything that your marketing team creates needs to prove that you’re unique and showcase your differentiators. Your website is the tip of the spear of your marketing strategy. It needs to stand out, be sharp, and also be one-of-a-kind. Like you.
What does a one-of-a-kind website look like? Take a look at custom websites our team has built — including Digital Reasoning, 360 View, and SimplifyASC. Three very different websites for three very different organizations with very different goals, personas, products, value propositions, etc.
Some B2B companies feel their marketing budgets stretched thin across all inbound initiatives and choose to scrap a custom design for a template provided by open source websites like WordPress or Squarespace. While these options may seem affordable, are they the most profitable? They don’t often accomplish what you need for your most important marketing tool. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why.
What Design Says About Your Business
Good web design matters — probably more than you’d like. Just like how you may be judging potential employees based on how they dress and carry themselves in a job interview, potential clients are judging your company’s brand and quality of products. For today’s savvy buyer, a bad web experience unfortunately equates to a bad product.
The numbers bear this out:
- According to Adobe, 38% of people stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.
- 75% judge a company’s credibility based on their website, according to Web Credibility Research from Stanford.
- 57% of Internet users won’t recommend a business with a poor mobile experience.
- 48% of users say a non-mobile friendly website indicates that the business doesn’t care (ouch!)
Building Websites with Open Source Templates/Themes
If you’ve been in the market for an affordable website solution, you’ve likely taken a look at WordPress, Squarespace and Wix. All three platforms make the same foundational promise: create beautiful, professional websites, easily. A compelling value proposition to just about anyone.
But, as an agency that specializes in design we know that creating beautiful, professional websites are never built easily. Here are a few downsides of using web design templates for your website.
Downsides of Open Source Themes
- They’re not unique: Templates doesn’t know your business the way you know your business. Case-in-point begins at the beginning of the theme selection process on WordPress. The hosting giant offers 26 “subjects” to sift through, with templates for everything from businesses to photography.Unfortunately, business lumps together all sorts of businesses. Nothing is “technology” or “B2B” focused. And, if we do a search for “technology” here’s what comes up: 21 suggested themes, that are also themes suggested for blogs, farms, and boutiques.Squarespace offers and equally disappointing theme-selection experience. We even did a search for B2B technology this time, and the “recommended” themes were focused on selling tangible products and photography. We can’t help but ask ourselves, how could these themes truly be optimized to sell something in an industry like fintech or cyber security?
- They’re not all responsive: Believe it or not, there are plenty of themes available to businesses that aren’t responsive, even though it’s 2019. Responsive themes automatically adapt to the screen your visitor is using — desktop, mobile, or tablet. 50% of B2B searches are conducted on smart phones. You need a responsive theme. And if you use a non-responsive theme, you may end up spending a lot of money on an independent contractor to make it responsive. For example, WordPress has 47 available themes that aren’t responsive!
- They’re not all accessible: Web accessibility is the ramps and rails of the Internet, and with major companies like Domino’s in the spotlight for inaccessible content, we think that more B2B tech companies should be focused on ensuring their website’s design and content meets the requirements set forth by WCAG 2.1. To us, opting for an inaccessible website theme is like building a website in the past. Only 33 WordPress themes are accessible.
- What you see is what you get: Simply put, you’ll likely have very little room for customization, which can get very frustrating when all you want to do is decrease the margin a little between pieces of content. In cases like that, you’ll likely have to invest in a web developer to make the modifications you need. And then “free” and “affordable” quickly go out the window. In Squarespace, for example, as soon as you start making changes to your site at the developer level, you lose automatic updates to your theme and many of the features that make the platform “easy to use” in the first place.
- They’re often not optimized: Consumers swear by search engines and abandon slow-loading web pages. Will your templated web design be optimized for today’s picky algorithms and users. With a theme, you won’t have as much control over the SEO options and site speed as you will with a custom design. You don't want to be stuck at the mercy of the platform holder to get around to fixing a bug that dramatically affects your search visibility.
Upsides of Using Themes and Templates
Web design themes and templates are more affordable than a custom website, and can often be deployed on a short timeline (especially if you have someone savvy on staff). So, for companies working with very small budgets and short timelines, a theme can be a great solution. However, we do recommend to still reach out to a few web design agencies for price quotes and timeline estimates to see if a custom design is really that out of reach.
Building a Custom Website
Custom building your website will require a bigger budget and longer timeline for development. But, the heftier price tag comes with a whole list of pros, and virtually no cons.
Upsides of Investing in Custom Design
- It’s all about your company: A custom website is going to be all about your company, products, goals, audiences, branding, etc. There’s no cookie cutter involved. When you work with an agency to build a custom website, every website begins with an empty drawing board, and the sky is the limit. (That’s at least how it is with us, anyways.) When you start with your strategy, goals, and needs, the entire website becomes an engine to drive your visitors through your process. You meet their needs and gain new customers in the process.
- You’ll have more control over optimization and accessibility: When you build a custom website, you can take web accessibility, SEO, and site speed into account from day one with proactive planning.
- Improved support: To WordPress or Squarespace, you’re just one of many, many clients. And even if you opted for one of their more expensive themes, you’ll likely have the hardships of not knowing who to contact and when for what, and sometimes the enhancements you need will be an up-charge (or even worse, impossible!). When you build a custom website, you’re company isn’t competing with tens of thousands of other clients, meaning you’ll get better support more quickly.
- Improved conversions and sales: At the end of the day, all of your marketing efforts need to materialize into dollars, and a custom website offers a platform for increasing conversions and sales. For example, this article outlines eleven web design principles that are proven to increase conversions. When you build a custom website, you’ll be able to choose how web design principles like this can be incorporated into your homepage, key landing pages, and product pages.
How to Make the Right Choice for Your Company
Curious how to weigh out these pros and cons to make the right choice for your company? Consider the following:
- What’s your timeline? The length of your timeline often determines what type of web design is most feasible. Are you on a critically short timeline of one month or less? If so, a template might be a great initial start, but you should look into custom down the road.
- What is your budget? Is there any area of your marketing budget you could borrow from to make a custom design happen?
- What’s most important to you? What are your goals? If your company’s priorities are to increase brand awareness, leads, and sales a custom design can get you there more effectively. And of course, if standing out in the marketplace is a top priority, a custom design is a must.
- What is the skill set of your team? While your team may be able to handle a template in house with little to no design experience, it certainly could slow things down. On the flip side, hiring an agency to help create a custom design is often more affordable and effective than hiring a full-time webmaster.
Templates can be a great temporary solution for B2B technology companies who need to get a website up and running fast, while they focus on a long-term custom solution for their site. However, if you want to create a website that makes an impact on brand awareness, conversions and sales, a custom design should be the route that you take.
The most common need we hear from prospective customers is, “We need a new website.” If you are voicing the same concern, book a strategic consultation today to hear our answer. You’ll be blown away by all that goes into a website and even more blown away by the ROI that comes from it.