15 Nov 2018

Website wisdom: Off-the-shelf vs Bespoke

Digital Growth Programme consultant Rob Gregory looks at the choices available when it comes to investing in a website, and what the right option might be for your business.

Consumers are looking for your business online, more than likely via a search or a referral of some kind.

90% of searchers haven’t made their mind up about a brand before starting their search. (Status Labs, 2018)

Clicking on a link to your website is an intent to engage with your business and you simply can’t afford to waste that opportunity. That’s why you need a quality website that works hard for your business.

I’m regularly asked what the best option is for developing a company website that nails customer engagement and increases conversions. That’s a big one to answer, here I’ll address the question of off-the-shelf vs bespoke websites and look at the pros and cons of each.

What’s the difference?

Off-the-shelf website products are available to anyone, they are generally not expensive to create and can be live and working hard for your business in a relatively short amount of time. In contrast, a bespoke website will often cost more and take longer to build, however as its built just for your business it has the potential to add considerable value to your offering.

To help you make an informed decision on which route for your business should take let’s look at the benefits of each.


Products like Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo and allow you to quickly set up a website by choosing a theme, creating pages and adding your content. A bit of domain name config and you are up and running for as little as £10 per month. Your time will be the biggest cost as you’ll be doing the legwork in terms of creating and publishing the content.

If you want to add more features there are loads of plugins, extensions and integrations to choose from. This is fantastic but be aware you can overload your site with plugins or worse still unwittingly introduce security risks – remember, you don’t always know and trust the developer that built the plugins on your site.

Depending on the platform or theme you choose you might have some performance or SEO work to do to increase your website's visibility in search results. That said these platforms are much better than they were just a couple of years ago. Considering the ease of set up it’s a compromise most can accept.


Usually built by a digital agency or freelancer, a bespoke website is designed and coded around a set of specific requirements you have as a business. Probably these requirements can’t be met by an off-the-shelf product. Either all code is bespoke or something like is used as a start point and then extended. Often a graphic designer will create a one-off look and feel then a dedicated user experience and development team will help turn that into a working website.

A bit like an architect-designed home a bespoke website is built from the foundations up with your customer's needs at its core. Done well a bespoke site should have no compromises and no constraints. Technical SEO will be built in from the start and any extra features will be developed for you.

With bespoke, you get the extra benefit of increased security, ownership and a website optimised for your business, not for the mass market. This all comes at a cost, however, so you really need to calculate whether its really the right choice for your business.

Return on investment

The investment you make might be your time if you choose off-the-shelf or money if you go bespoke. The key is to make sure you see a return on your investment quickly. Remember a website is never finished so you’ll have to keep investing to remain competitive.

If you’re a small or new business, off-the-shelf is probably best for you, if you’re established or have more demanding requirements then bespoke might be worth exploring.

One final thing to remember is to shop around and get quotes for bespoke work. If you choose the product route make sure you try before you buy.

*Find out more about developing great content for your website at one of our free workshops - you can see full event listings here.

Amazing workshop, provided tons of information about creating content - it's a must for any busy small business owner!

Rashpal Rai, Wellbeing Works, Derby

Best workshop I've been to, so relevant and current

Laura Bruce, Steel City Marketing, Sheffield

Really impressive workshop, with great in depth practical advice and examples. The explanation of hidden feature on social media was very useful and I will be going away from the session looking at building and executing a full social media strategy for my business. Thank you again for providing me access to workshop and the information if delivered.

Wossicon Brown, Sheffield

In addition to helping develop my digital presence, these workshops are helping me reshape and refocus my business

David Primrose, Synergy Food Ingredients, Melton Mowbray

I really appreciate the Digital Growth Programme and have benefitted from previous workshops and seminars. Now that my knowledge in this area is growing I am looking forward to attending more seminars so that I can build on my knowledge and skills

Dorinda Miller, Into Deeper Waters, Nottinghamshire

Before, Google Analytics was a bit of a minefield, but I now feel more confident to use it in the way that works best. Looking forward to future courses!

Emma Daley, SortRefer, Derby

The workshops exceeded my expectations! A huge amount of useful information delivered in a straight-forward, practical and professional way. I am leaving the day with lots of ideas for implementation and looking forward to attending the next workshop

Kate Brudenell, Hawthorn, Melton Mowbray

Really informative workshop, lots to take away and apply to our own site. This is a brilliant service on offer and I’m extremely grateful to be able to attend these workshops

Emma Bradley, Bradley Brown Internet, Nottingham

The GDPR seminar was fantastic and I have already to action certain points within marketing strategy.

Barry Aldridge, TidyCo Ltd, Derby

A massive thank you to Liam and the programme - an insightful and very engaging workshop. I particulary found the hashtag elements useful.

Efficiency North, Sheffield

The GDPR seminar was fantastic and I have already to action certain points within marketing strategy.

Barry Aldridge - Marketing Manager, Tidyco Ltd, Derby

Using my new blogging skills thanks to the fab blogging workshop I attended with Paul Ince.

Sally Davies, Jumpstart I.T Training Services Ltd, Arnold

Thank you Digital Growth programme, you made me believe in myself and gave me skills and knowledge to change our website. I strongly recommend these workshop to SMEs.

Svetlana Parmar, The Winchester Snooker Club, Leicestershire

The Digital Growth Programme is an excellent asset to the East Midlands – it has really helped my company push on in ways that otherwise may not have been possible

Carl Musson, S&J European, Leicestershire

The application is straight forward, access to the team for help is superb and the potential benefits to your company are huge

Carole Hunter, London Edge, Leicester

We used a digital grant to introduce new technology in our warehouse, allowing the guys allow to take on extra business. A lot of our customers are needing faster processing, and this will help us fulfil those orders. It allows us to be quicker and more accurate

James Munton, CS Ellis Ltd, Leicestershire