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I’ve gone on record saying that most businesses don’t need a “custom” website. That’s mainly because, in the course of web development projects, I meet many well-meaning people who tell me they really, really do need a custom website.
As a professional business, they feel a less-custom web development solution — say like a customized WordPress implementation — will somehow cheapen their brand. Brand perception is a valid concern, of course. Yet the reason custom web development exists is not to demonstrate the prestige of your business, but to add unique functionality to your online business presence.
Custom web development is costly and time-intensive. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. But sometimes, custom work is exactly what you need. So to help clarify, I’ve put together a few scenarios where you really do need a custom website.
10. Flight Deals Sites
If you need to build a website that handles intensive database search queries, particularly for a high volume of users, a custom site design is really a must. The website Kayak.com is a prime example. The custom part isn’t what visitors are looking at — the custom build in this case would happen on the backend, the administrative side of the site.
9. Insurance Quotes Sites
Another similar case is with insurance quote websites. The frontend design for Geico.com is pretty simple, however the backend administrative side of the site needs to be able to handle complex queries from thousands or even millions of customers at a time. That takes custom web development.
8. Stock Trading Sites
Another database-heavy type of business website is that of stock trading sites. Traditional sites, often run by big banking institutions, require a custom-built site. But so do nontraditional trading sites, like GDAX.com, a site that lets users trade cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
7. Custom T-Shirt/Mug Printing Sites
Not all custom website builds entail complex backend (administrative) work. Some sites require custom functionality on the frontend (customer-facing) portion of the website. That’s the case for Zazzle.com and many other custom product websites, where amateur designers can create and sell their own customized products. Customization features often involve letting users preview a mockup of the design on a t-shirt, mug, or other item before purchasing it.
6. Home Remodeling Sites
Sometimes a portion of a website needs to be custom built, while other parts may use more traditional web development standards. One such case is with online home design and decorating tools, like that offered by Lowes. Such functionality is total custom, but the benefit is letting your customers arrange your products virtually, then purchase them online.
5. Car Manufacturer Sites
Here’s another test case for custom web design — car manufacturer websites. These sites often involve an interactive functionality feature, as does Nissan’s. Website visitors can not only look at stock photography of real vehicles but “build” their own vehicle, choosing model, color, options, and more — all while seeing a preview of their potential new car. These kinds of website features often require custom web development to work properly.
4. Social Media Sites
Social media websites are another business where custom web design is a must. Take Instagram for instance. This doesn’t seem like a complicated site — pictures of cats and food, user profiles, comments sections, and a search function. But consider that Instagram handles half a billion users a day, or 4.2 billion “likes” per day, and you start to see why they need custom backend design to handle it all.
3. Graphic Design Tool Websites
Graphic design has come a long way from its days of hard drive-based software programs. Now, new businesses like Canva.com let professionals and amateurs alike design flyers, social media posts, infographics, invitations, and more. Web-based tools like this are great, but a standard website design can’t handle these kinds of demands. Instead a custom-built web design tool is needed to bring such sites to life.
2. Video Streaming Websites
Video streaming done right takes a lot of work on the backend of a web design. That’s why sites like Netflix are another kind of site where a custom web development plan is a must. Without the proper planning, video may freeze, the site may crash, and the business could suffer from the fallout.
1. Productivity Tool Websites
Finally, another popular kind of web-based business that definitely requires a custom web design is that of productivity tools. The note-taking app Evernote is one example, but the same would be true for Google Docs, Apple’s iCloud, Yahoo Email, and so forth. Even though the interface for most of these websites is fairly simplistic looking, the programming behind them is not. To build such websites and have them work consistently takes custom work.
Bonus: Websites That Don’t Need to Be Custom
Just to bring home the point about which website designs need custom functionality and which don’t, I thought I’d include a few bonus specific website designs that — 99% of the time — don’t need to be custom to give you a great business website.
Professional Services Websites
If you have a professional services business — say a law office, CPA business, an insurance sales business, etc. — there’s a very good chance that you don’t need a custom website design at all.
Medical Office Websites
If you have a dentist office, a doctor’s office, a physical therapy business, or another related type of website business, you also don’t need a custom website. This is true even if you book appointments online. There are a number of third-party WordPress plugins that allow you to do just that without having to reinvent the wheel.
“Mom and Pop” Retail Websites
Another case where a customized — but not custom — WordPress website will work just great is with “Mom and Pop” retail business websites. These are local businesses that often serve walk-in customers, with website visitors generally getting information, asking questions, making appointments, or conducting basic e-commerce purchases — none of which require custom programming.
Speaking of e-commerce, most basic e-commerce businesses don’t need a complicated custom-built website. WooCommerce, Shopify, and other such out-of-the-box, yet customizable solutions can work great for most businesses who need an attractive and economical way to showcase and sell their wares online — without resorting to costly custom web development.
Restaurant websites often need to showcase photos and videos of attractive dishes, take reservations, display menus, and sometimes sell special sauces and branded products. Luckily for these businesses, such website functions don’t usually require special custom web development.
Nonprofit and governmental organizations often need to serve a number of different stakeholders and constituencies. They may need portals for clients, the community, donors, vendors, and more. However, these requirements can often be handled without a budget-straining custom web design.
Lastly, many large for-profit firms need a website that can handle requests from customers, investors, business partners, and the press. Again, these functions can often be served by a customizable, but not custom-built website based on the reliable and economical WordPress platform. Just another case where you don’t need a custom site that reinvents the wheel.
It’s certainly true that custom websites exist for a reason. Some online businesses definitely need a custom build to meet the needs of their customers and properly deliver the functionality needed. I hope this post gives you a better idea of what some of those businesses are, as well as an idea of which sites can function great without a custom build. At the end of the day, a website needs to meet the needs of its customers. Today’s customers care a lot less about how fancy your site is or how much you spent on it and a lot more on how well it meets their needs.