Customized website or standard solution: how to make the right choice?

When it comes to building websites, you are quickly overwhelmed by the possibilities. You can choose to build your platform in a standard solution like WordPress or Wix. If your platform issue is more specific, you also have the option of choosing custom work. But when do you choose what? How do you make the best choice? And what should you pay attention to if you are considering one of the two options? We explain it in this article, which we wrote together with developer Dennis and account manager Constantijn.

When to choose a standard solution?

"Standard solutions work very well for websites and shops that do not have special requirements or integrations that require customisation. If a website or webshop makes use of integrations with third parties, we always check whether these are offered by means of plug-ins. Then we check whether the quality of the plug-in is good. With Shopify, you can easily add a large number of plug-ins to your webshop. However, with Wordpress you should pay attention that there are not too many plug-ins. This is at the expense of the loading speed of the platform. The biggest advantage of working with plug-ins is that it is not necessary to develop a new feature from scratch. The advantage of this is directly reflected in the development costs. That is why Constantijn advises new clients for a content website or small webshop, to go for WordPress or Shopify. 

Constantijn: "Projects that are realized with a standard solution, cost a lot less time and therefore automatically money. Are you looking for a ready-made option with not too many crazy features? Then a standard solution is actually the perfect solution for you. Even if you do depend on links, you can still get quite far with plug-ins. 

3 main advantages of standard solutions

  • Easier: because of the standard options that a custom site brings, you can easily put a site together. Add the necessary plug-ins, and your website is ready to go. It is also easy to maintain for you, and you do not need a developer for every question.

  • Themes: you don't have to start from scratch, but can start with one of the many thousands of themes that have been created. This saves you having to go through a design process and make important choices.

  • Short lead time: the lead time of a standard solution project is often not long, precisely because of all the choices you can make in advance. This allows you to go live quickly and efficiently. If you want to have a site up and running in the short term, then a solution such as WordPress is the way to go.

Main disadvantages of standard solutions

  • Less flexibility: especially when it comes to the technical options, you are often bound to the options your template can offer.

  • Links with external products: you really need to be lucky to find a working plug-in that does exactly what you want.

  • Often 80% fit to your wishes: themes often do not fully fit to your wishes, so you will end up with a site that may not visualize 100% what you had in mind.

  • Plug-in overload: if you want to build a more complicated platform, chances are you will create a plug-in overload in your site. As a result, your site will become extremely slow, less user-friendly and harder to find in search engines.

  • Security risks: The basic functionalities of a standard solution offer insufficient protection against security risks. Of course you can find plug-ins for this as well, but as mentioned above, an overload is not desirable.

  • Performance: loading speed is often not optimal with standard solutions and it also quickly deteriorates.

When to choose customisation?

Customisation may be less interesting in terms of costs if you compare it with standard solutions. But you get what you pay for. You usually end up with a customized solution if your question is more specific, your platform larger or your objective more challenging. With customisation, you end up with a platform that you can continue to develop, that you can keep adjusting to your wishes, and that you can easily expand. 

Constantijn explains: "Customisation is really meant for a different kind of solution. Think of a tool, a dashboard, or a platform that needs to be linked to an app. But also large webshops that have specific wishes about process depth and links are fine with customisation."

Main advantages of customisation:

  • Speed: a custom site is often known for its speed. Your platform can be optimized in such a way that Google's site speed test is impressed. Your users like that and it is good for your SEO value.

  • Load time: another metric that Google does well on. After waiting for 1.5 seconds, two thirds of your visitors already quit. Moreover, a disconnected visitor is unlikely to return. With a customized site, they are generally exactly where they need to be: under 1.5 seconds.

  • Flexibility: anything is possible. You name it, we make it. From an app for training staff to a user-friendly platform for moviegoers.

  • 100% according to your specifications: from your style guide to your integrations with external parties, with a customized site you can realize it exactly as you envisage it.

  • Super safe: do your developers do their job well? Then they have thought very carefully about the security of the platform. The chance of a data breach, for example, is then much smaller.

  • No expiry date: since the arrival of Laravel, customized sites no longer have an expiry date. This is good news, because it means that your platform does not need to be replaced as often.

  • Automated testing: a piece of quality control so developers can guarantee that what they put live, actually works well. This means there are no unpleasant surprises when you decide to update or add something to your site.

  • Design possibilities are endless: an optimal user experience? The best interaction? Or an eye-catching, surprising design? It is all possible within a custom platform. You can make it as crazy as you can imagine.

Most important disadvantages of customisation

  • Costly: the biggest disadvantage of customisation is the price of such a platform. After all, having something customized costs more time and therefore money than something that is a copy-paste from another site.

  • Turnaround time is longer: because everything is put together custom for you, the process takes a lot longer than when you choose a standard solution.

  • Changes are also custom: if you want to make changes to your site, there is no ready-made solution for this, as is often the case with Wix or WordPress sites.

What can you develop with customisation that cannot be done with a standard solution?

Dennis: "You opt for customisation if you want to have a platform made that involves many factors. Think for instance of a calculation that has to be based on many parameters. Or anything for which you develop an API that can communicate with a mobile app. An example of such a platform is the aforementioned app we developed for McDonald's that allows them to train their staff, or Unit Victor's app that allows veterans to keep in touch with comrades they have served with."

What does the process look like when developing a custom website?

If you opt for a customized solution, then you will go through a different process than if you go for a standard solution. To give you an idea of what to think of, Dennis explains the process.

  1. First, we map out the functional wishes and priorities.

  2. Then we start the design process: we research competitors, systems to be replaced (if applicable), start the UX Design process, the style guide and the visual design. Development and design work closely together in these phases to ensure a smooth process.

  3. With the knowledge we have gained and based on the design, we create user stories, in which we name what a user should be able to do with the platform and why.

  4. With the user stories and the results of the design and visual trajectory, we start building your platform, adding more and more functionality.

  5. In two-week sprints, we deliver a new and better version of the product each time, until the customer is satisfied.

  6. Within two months to a year (depending on the complexity) we reach the final product. 

Why is sustainability and scalability so different with a customized platform?

Two of the advantages we mentioned earlier for customisation are the sustainability and scalability of this kind of platform. We asked Dennis how development can guarantee this for a client: "For sustainability, we first of all apply very strict coding standards. For example, we write our code according to the SOLID principles for maintainability. This means that we set up the code cleanly, so that functions do not have more than one responsibility. If you don't do this, then there is a chance that everything will fall apart the moment you try to modify something. Think of it as a car where you change the front left tyre and suddenly the exhaust falls off. You want to prevent that, and we do that by coding in a SOLID way".

Automated tests also ensure sustainability. Dennis explains: "These ensure that functionality continues to work as it should, everything we put live is subjected to multiple tests, so that we know for sure that what we put live is also really ready to go live."

"We guarantee scalability by taking it into account in the code. We set it up to be scalable, so that we can always anticipate a growing or shrinking organization. Suppose you suddenly get ten times more visitors, then we can anticipate this at the right time."

How do you make the right choice?

After all this information, we understand that it might be a bit much you. Let us summarize everything we have discussed: 

You make the choice for a standard solutions if you:

  • want to have a content website or smaller webshop made,

  • where not too many complicated integrations are needed,

  • where budget and lead time are somewhat limited,

  • and when you want to see results in the short term.

You opt for customisation if you:

  • want unlimited possibilities

  • work with complicated links

  • are looking for a scalable solution

  • want a fast and flexible platform

  • want to give your platform 100% your own twist.

 

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