Custom Design vs Template Design: Which One is Right for YOUR Business? 

By Steve Hoag

Custom Design vs Template Design

Creating a new website is one of the more exciting projects a business can take. It’s a chance to take a brand new approach to your online presence. That being said, it is important to understand whether you require a custom design or would be better served with a pre-made template. Both have their advantages and can be the right choice depending on the situation.

Custom Design Advantages

Unique Design

One of the most prominent advantages of paying for a custom design is that your website will truly be unique. Other sites may have similar elements, but there will be nothing out there that looks like your site. This is great from a branding and general marketing standpoint. Of course, having a custom design means your website will be considerably more expensive.

Search Engine Friendly

Custom designs usually mean you will be hiring a designer to work on the project. An advantage of this is that they will be following best practices and designing your site with things like SEO in mind. Designing a website from the ground up with SEO in mind will help you to boost your online exposure much more quickly than with templates.

Custom made for your needs

A custom design is the way to go if you need things like custom graphics, media, and widgets on your site. Also, good custom designs were made with your business’ vision and branding in mind. They will evoke the main brand associations you want to create. Templates were made with a general idea of this is good for photography, or this is awesome for a small business. They don’t tailor themselves to every customer to the same level that custom designs do.

Scalable

Successful companies grow like people do as they get older. They get smarter, stronger, and sometimes fatter. If you envision your site needing to grow with your company, then you need to go the custom route. Just like that trusty pair of high school gym shorts, a well-designed custom site is flexible enough for your company’s needs at every stage.

Website Templates

Budget friendly

Template based website designs are your wallet’s best friend. They won’t burn a large hole in it, especially when compared to custom designs. Some content management systems like Joomla offer a variety of free template to use, with options to purchase more advanced ones.

Shorter turnaround time

Website templates don’t require a designer to have to create a brand new design. This means all that needs to be done is to upload the new source code to the backend of your website. Also, custom designs usually require multiple revisions before the final product is delivered. Each revision costs more time and money. With templates, what you see is what you get. That makes for a much shorter turnaround time, which is nice if you need a website very quickly.

Novice-friendly

Website templates are usually made more novice-friendly than custom designs. They tend to be much simpler and easy to understand because of having fewer moving parts. Template are also typically used in some of the more popular content management system options like WordPress. These products combine the simplicity of a web template with the ease of use of their content management systems to help smooth the learning curve.

Once it comes down to it, the difference between custom and template based design are pretty stark. If you need a truly unique presence, are willing to spend more time/money, and want a solution that can grow with your business then you need a custom design. On the other hand, choose a template design if you only require an affordable, simple, quickly delivered solution.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Monday, August 19, 2013 7:49:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB web design web development website

Website Redesign Mistakes for Businesses: What Not to Do 

By Steve Hoag

website redesign mistakes

Website redesigns are awesome when done properly. Ideally you will be pleased with what you paid for, have a site that reflects all the latest best practices, and attracts your target market. However, there are many companies out there that are paying for redesign, and make some critical mistakes during the process. This severely inhibits their ability to succeed online. If you avoid the following mistakes, your redesigned site will be in great shape:

  1. Focusing on being flashy

There are a lot of cool technologies you can use in your website whether it be video, images or fonts etc. This doesn’t mean you need it all on your site! Putting way too many elements on  your website will make your business look like a 13 year old’s Myspace page. Focus on what is critical. Sometimes a minimalist approach can work better. You want your website to attract customers, not repel them with a neon pink color scheme, or background Justin Bieber music playing all the time.

  1. No clear call to actions

More often than not your website’s purpose is to sell something. Having clear call to actions is crucial in making it as easy as possible to secure a sale. Customers prefer to have quick and easy purchasing options, rather than having to dig through multiple pages to find the buying page. Call to actions can range from banners on pages, to a ‘Buy Now’ tab on the main nav. Make it easy for your customers, and you will be surprised at how many more sales you can get.

  1. Focusing on quick development without customer research

Research is a critical success factor when it comes to optimizing your website presence. You need to have an extensive profile of your target segment. Be responsive to their needs/wants, and design your site around that. If you go in blindly and design a website you think looks cool, but isn’t to your Average Joe, you will have wasted money. That means more redesigns and more headaches down the road.

  1. Unresponsive design

A growing trend is responsive design. This means making your site capable of adapting to every device that your target market uses. These can range from smartphones to tablets to computers. With the explosive growth in mobile browsing, it is very important that you optimize your site for all devices. If not, you could be missing out on some potential sales and exposure!

  1. Paying way too much, or not enough

Redesigns and their associated development can be an expensive proposition. Many design/development companies will charge anywhere from $500 to $10k or more depending on the scope of the project.  Before choosing which route to go, do your research! Find out exactly what you need, and how much is typically charged for that. Look at the design/development companies’ websites, evaluate their profiles and core competencies. If you are a business that is focused on government sales, find a firm that has extensive experience in that. Likewise, if your company is a creative marketing start up, look for a designer/developer that can mimic vision and quirkiness. Examine their turnaround times too. Can they match your required timeline? What are their policies for extra design revisions? Research is crucial in finding the optimal website solution.

 

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, August 7, 2013 7:00:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB web design web development web trends website

3 Web Trends to Watch For This Year 

By Steve Hoag

website trends

The rules of the online and tech world are constantly changing as innovations are made, and paradigm shifts occur. What was a new trend last year is now an industry standard. What things will change throughout the next 12 months? Read on to find out!

Responsive Design Becomes Mandatory

Smartphones are now mainstream. Tablets will soon join them as their functionality and price point become more attractive for consumers. This means online browsing will be done more and more through devices other than computers. Responsive design used to be a novelty, and luxury afforded to companies that were large enough to need it. However, this next year responsive design will become an industry standard as mobile browsing reaches critical mass. Companies large and small will need to make adjustments to keep up or stay ahead of the pack.

The Coming of Age of the Experience Economy

Big time tech players like Google, Microsoft, and Apple have had to change up their game lately thanks to experience focused companies. These include the likes of DropBox and Spotify. Tech is no longer the main differentiator, as customer experience is steadily becoming a key purchasing factor. Experience related factors like company culture, case studies, and a consistent user experience across all mediums are becoming the mainstays. Look for that to continue as the bigger players continue to adapt to this new model. It’s already happening with key innovations like Windows 8, and the Microsoft Surface.

The Increase of Data Ecology Diversity

Data is becoming more and more important in today’s world. Companies are gathering more data on consumers than ever before, and finding innovative ways of implementing their findings.  ‘New Data’ (personal/contextual) will interconnect with ‘Big Data’ (archival) and create new ‘Tertiary Data.’ The amount of data we have is ever increasing, constantly leading to more insight into our personal lives. The implications for businesses, governments, and consumers are profound. Will data analysis completely overtake business or personal visions when making decisions? Will ‘going with your gut instinct’ become a distant memory? Only time will tell.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, August 1, 2013 6:50:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development web trends website

Getting Started with Responsive Design 

By Steve Hoag

fast track responsive web design

Responsive Design is the one of the latest trends in website development/design. More consumers are accessing the web from a variety of devices. These range from traditional devices like computers to tablets to smartphones. In order to maximize your website’s effectiveness, it needs to be able to be properly displayed on all devices. Responsive Design is commonly defined as building a website for a number of devices that adapts to each ones display /functional requirements. Ideally, you want your content to adapt to fit the user’s screen and display regardless of what device they are using.

There are a number of approaches that are critical to successfully implementing Responsive Design:

Mobile First Design – This focuses on starting with the smallest devices like smartphones, and designing your website around this. This can mean anything from removing content that won’t display on phones, to eliminating excess elements from your page that can make it difficult to display.

Media Queries – These can be added to a website’s style sheets/CSS. They are used to alter the way in which content appears in different devices using rules.

Fluid Grids – Unlike fixed grids, which stay the same width for every screen, these are defined using percentages. This allows them to change size, but remain in the same proportion to each other.

Some tools currently available for use are BootStrap which was developed by Twitter, Unsematic which helps with fluid grid design, and ResponsivePX which can be used to evaluate the current responsiveness of your site. Adobe also has released Edge Reflow which offers a variety of design tools. Please click on the ‘tools’ link to find a more extensive list of options out there. Now that you know the basics, time to get started on making your website responsive with the help of some tutorials!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, July 26, 2013 6:18:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website

5 Tips for Building an Engaging Website 

By Steve Hoag

web site design, website design

Lots of people have websites. Not enough have engaging ones. That’s a fact of the Internet. Everyone’s objective should be to make their website as engaging as possible. If it isn’t, why are they still putting money and time into their Internet presence? Engaging websites are for companies (like yours) that are serious about how their impact online. So how do you go about doing that? Read on my friend, read on.

1.  Unique voice – It doesn’t matter if you sell bolts or Ferraris, every company needs to have a unique voice that mirrors their brand. If you don’t have a unique voice then you will not stick out in people’s minds, and will blend into the white noise.

2.  Make sure your content can be skimmed through – This basically boils down to not adding a lot of filler. You want to make your point, and then move on to the next one. Keep things concise. Also, make use of headers that allow viewers to easily jump from place to place easily, and still be able to retain the main points you are trying to communicate.

3.  Emphasize benefits over features – Customers care more about what a product can do for them, rather than being fed a feature list. For instance, telling your average Joe that your TV has a 1080p resolution, and Dolby surround makes you sound like a used car salesman. A better option is to tell them:  Our TV will create the most visceral cinematic experience you have ever experienced by seamlessly combining its stunning 1080p picture with immersive Dolby Surround Sound.  See the difference?

4.  Continually update your site – This is an absolute must. Your website needs to updated continually to stay relevant. Business is constantly evolving, and the Internet moves even faster. New trends and technologies are common occurrences that you need to take advantage of. Staying ahead of the curve is the name of the game.

5. Call to actions - These need to be all over the place. You want to make the purchasing process as simple and quick as possible. People are much more likely to buy if you repeatedly present them with that option.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, July 18, 2013 4:44:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise web design website
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