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Web Design Agency vs Free Templates

April 28, 2016

Templated website builders and offer people a cheap, DIY way to get their first website online quickly.  With free web template providers out there, when is it time to switch to a web design agency like Bizango?   Here’s our take:

Why do you have a website?

Every project we do begins with a simple question: why are we doing this?

Are we looking to generate more business? Confirm good word of mouth? Make you look bigger than you are? Is there a message we're trying to convey? Are we trying to compete with a new competitor? Looking to build community? Hoping to make an impact?

Defining your goals is the first step in determining the direction of your project, in terms of strategy, creativity and budget.  If you don't face any real competitors in your industry, or you just need an online resume, then a template site can do the job.

However, if you are looking to convert leads into customers, or if you are engaged in a competitive field, where your business offers clear benefits that your customers need to know about, consider getting professional help telling your story.

Here’s why:

  • Competition. Potential customers are looking at you and your competitors and making comparisons based on a number of factors such as where they can find the best value, who might offer the best product or service, and who they connect with.  Studies show that visitors judge a website very quickly: you have 3-5 seconds to make a positive impression and convey your brand value.
  • Buying decisions are based on emotions. Your online image and unique branding creates trust and people make their decisions on an emotional level.  If you’re using a templated website, it looks templated.  Even your customers who don't know much about design can feel the difference between a website that makes it easy for them to buy, conveys a clear value proposition, and tells a consistent story top to bottom. Of course it's possible for a professional marketer to build a great website on a template. It does happen. But too often the free sites we see start with a bang on the homepage, and quickly fall apart when I get inside. It lacks polish and sophistication. The messaging gets muddied and the site doesn't convey its story effectively. The website itself becomes a broken promise. Customers feel it and they return to Google, and they try somewhere else.
  • Your audience is savvier than you think. Here in the Pacific Northwest our customers are made up of the most sophisticated internet users on earth. They know good from bad. They have an eye for the web. And when you launch a new site using the typical bedford type template everyone else is using, your customers may not be rolling their eyes, but they do receive your message loud and clear: "This wasn't important enough to do right." There are thousands of other people using the exact same template.  It may not be the case that using a template cheapens your brand, but you are definitely wasting an opportunity to forge an emotional connection.
  • A custom designed site offers more capabilities.  If you are looking to have more advanced functionality, unique features to engage your audience, e-commerce integration or other interactivity, working with a web designer will make it happen.  When working with a web design agency, there is no limit (well, ok, expect for maybe budget!) as to what can be done.  
  • When you work with an agency, you're adding an experienced marketing team to your staff. Can you call that template vendor up and ask for practical advice about your online marketing strategy? Can they help you evaluate which headline will have a better impact on your SEO? Will they touch up your photos? Do they know who you are when you call?  One of the  values of working with a design agency is that you are working with a team that is invested in your website’s success.  You have truly added a whole set of capabilities to your team.
  • Your website should bring you more business - that’s why it exists.  A good design+marketing agency listens to your objectives and goals when structuring your site’s layout for optimal usability and Google impact, and to create a rich, unique and immersive experience that takes prospective customers by the hand, leads them inside, demonstrates value, and then, at just the right point in the funnel, invites them to contact you and become a lead.  

Do you have time to do it right?

Many business owners are used to being the marketer-in-chief. Great! All that knowledge and expertise you've developed over the years is essential to the success of your web design project.

But don't also appoint yourself graphic designer, lead developer, and SEO guru. Your business deserves better -- and so do you:

If you’ve ever tried using any of the cheap/free template website builders out there, you’ll find out very quickly that it takes time and patience to learn how to use it.  Learning the dashboard and taking the tutorials on how to use the product can be overwhelming and a real headache, especially for non-technical people.  And when something goes wrong, who do you call?

Templated websites are tools — they don’t create anything for you. If you are an experienced, professional designer and marketer you can use these cheap tools to create something that looks nice.

But most of our clients are people who are busy running their businesses and doing what they love. They learned long ago to do what they're best at, and delegate the rest.

They have already been around the block with those tools and found the website they created didn’t achieve the results they’d hoped for, and they’ve decided they’d rather have someone else handle it. 

But, just as doing your own electrical work at home isn’t for everyone, building your own website isn’t for everyone either. You could probably figure it out. But if it goes wrong, the results can be shocking.

What’s your budget?

What is the lifetime value of a new customer to your business?

Do you know the answer for your business?

What you’re willing to spend on your web design will certainly come into play when deciding between using a template or going with a design agency.  If you have no budget, then a template website is the right (and only) choice.  Template services have given new business owners with zero marketing budget a way to launch their first online presence – and that’s a great thing. 

But once your business is profitable - once you've learned how to turn each new customer into a profitable transaction - and you're ready to grow, there is nothing you could possibly do that will pay for itself faster than an online presence that sends you new customers every day.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

Will your business offer different products or services?  Do you forsee changes in your business, your industry, your target audience?  Do you expect to grow?  How will that affect your marketing needs?  By working with a design agency, you’re well positioned to expand your website, increase your targeted marketing campaigns and pivot when the time comes.

If your goal is to gain customers, to sell a product or service, or increase business through online searches, you need a website with a higher-than-average conversion rate.

If you have the expertise to create that using a free website tool, so that you’ll be putting your best foot forward in the way that your internet-savvy ideal customer expects to see when they go online, then you don’t need any help. 

But, if you want a team with a track record of generating results, on the cutting edge of industry best-practices and keeping an eye on design trends, it may be time to add a marketing agency to your team.

 

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