The Perils of Cookie Cutter Web DesignYou may have seen advertisements on television or on the Web promising your business a “custom” website that can be designed and built very quickly and sometimes even for “free”. Your website is the center of your online identity and the primary representation of your business and brand online – is it a good idea to seek out a “quick” and “free” solution, especially if “free” doesn’t always mean free?

You Get What You Pay For

Many companies that build and host business websites go to great lengths to advertise how easy and inexpensive it can be to build websites. For many professionals and businesses, a cost-effective and easy solution for a website appears, at first glance, to be a win-win solution – after all, who wants to waste time and resources? This is especially true for some who believes that a unique, custom built website is unnecessary, or that all websites generally look and function the same way. However, failing to properly invest in a strong, unique website for your business can present unforeseen consequences down the road, and sometimes a “free” website can cost more in the long run than you may expect.

Websites Take Time

Simply put, designing a good website can be difficult, and building a unique website takes time. Any company that promises to design and build a website “in minutes” isn’t designing or building a unique website for your company at all – they are using software tools to quickly generate a website using a standard template and adding “personalized” features, such as a unique logo, color scheme and multimedia such as images and video. In the industry, this is referred to as “cookie cutter” web design in that your website is designed and built quickly and uniformly, just as an actual cookie cutter quickly produces uniformly-designed cookies from a sheet of flattened dough.

Imagine A Town Where Every Building Was Exactly The Same

To understand why a “cookie cutter” website is a poor choice for your business, consider what a town or city would look and feel like if every building was generally identical, with the exception of exterior color and signage. Even if every building was perfectly functional and structurally sound, the needless conformity would be extremely detrimental to both businesses and customers in a number of ways – for example, a bank would need a vastly different building than an auto body shop, and the same is true of websites. This doesn’t mean that every aspect must be completely unique, as common design elements of websites, such as menu bar placement, allow for easier first-time navigation. Websites should be designed and built to maximize their versatility and usefulness for each user, not uniformly designed and produced from a template based on what most businesses need.

Understanding Your Business

In order for your website to truly represent and grow with your business, a website designer must have a good understanding of your business, which includes a good understanding of what makes your business unique, where you’re headed in the future, and what you will require of your website, both now and in the future. A “cookie cutter” website, even one that is built from a template designed for a specific industry, can be significantly limited and restricted when it comes to personalization and effectiveness, and your business may outgrow it, requiring either expensive upgrades or an entirely new website.

”Free” Can Be Incredibly Costly

Some web companies offer businesses a “free” website, and what could be better than free? Unfortunately, what may be less clear in these advertising pitches is that the majority of these websites are only “free” if the business in question chooses to pay a monthly fee for other services including web hosting, marketing and support. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this arrangement, it can unfortunately “lock in” a business to that provider’s services – if the business chooses to discontinue the subscription because they’ve found a better or more cost effective option elsewhere, their website may vanish as well. A unique website, built on a solid Content Management System (CMS) or platform, can usually be transferred from one hosting provider to another. This allows you the freedom and opportunity to choose the hosting provider that best fits your budget and needs.