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What’s the Best Option for My Site? WordPress vs Custom Websites

Sam Hollis is a web designer, business owner, dad and digital marketing expert.

‘I’m always happy to chat and advice is always free’

One of the first questions people ask themselves when they decide to launch a website is usually “What do I use?”. This will come up at some point whether you build a site yourself or work with a designer. Either way, the decision often comes down to the two most common options – WordPress vs custom websites

In the old days of the 80s and 90s, pretty much the only choice was to write the site in HTML code – The basic language of the internet; a process often called custom coding. This was fiddly and hard to design with, but it allowed a lot of freedom, within the bounds of the technology at the time.

Then in the noughties, WordPress and other similar tools began to come online, giving everyone a more flexible, manageable and graphical option. It’s worth pointing out that WordPress is simply the most successful of a whole group of web design and publishing tools called content management systems that basically make it easier for you to manage your content online. It’s so popular in fact that 37% of all websites in existence run on it.

Meanwhile, advances in the code on which the internet is based, new options for those using it and new ideas among the web design community have made custom websites more powerful than ever before. This makes choosing between the two difficult. Fortunately, I can guide you through.

 

Bitesize Summary

  • Custom websites are generally better at doing things that are very complex or unique.
  • Choose WordPress or a similar tool for everything else.
  • … especially if you want to modify your site easily.
  • Also, custom-coded sites are generally big-budget options.
  • Ask an expert if you’re unsure.

 

The pros and cons of WordPress vs custom websites

Pros

It’s cheaper and quicker to build a site in WordPress than to custom code one. Read my blog on how much a website costs in the UK for some objective advice on costing.

It’s easy for you (owners) to get involved – From a simple blog to full control over the content on the site. Everything is easier in WordPress. Unless you have some expertise, you may need a designer to set up the site and tools and manage the site, but you can make basic changes yourself.

It can be changed quickly and cheaply because most pieces of content, add-ons and themes can be changed without changing the core code of the site.

It’s widely used many developers can use WordPress and most web users are used to it, even if they don’t know its name.

Lots of easy, effective add-ons – Although what you can do with WordPress is more limited than a custom website, there are hundreds of add-ons that will make doing almost anything you might want with it easy.

Sick of one designer? Take your site to another – WordPress is a popular platform with a lot of common functions, so anyone with the relevant expertise can easily take over a site or adjust it if your preferred designer isn’t available.

Cons

Your site is limited – WordPress lets you do a lot of customisation and add many powerful tools to your site, but there’s only so much it can do. If you have really unique and exact ideas about what you want, it may not be for you.

It’s not for very specific needs – If you want something highly specific and individual to you, or if you have a need that not many other people share, WordPress may not be the best approach.

The wrong setup can cost you – Nothing is as simple as it seems, and if you don’t set up your site in the right way with the right tools, it can consume a lot of time and money as it grows and develops. If you’re unsure, consult an expert.

A little note

I’m comparing WordPress today, but there are lots of tools that compare similarly but have slightly different strengths. Read more about the best here.

 

The pros and cons of custom websites vs WordPress

Pros

There are (almost) no limits – On the modern web, if you can dream it and fit it on a screen, you can probably create it through custom coding. No generic themes or clunky functionality can stop you.

Customise and specify as much as you want – Custom coding is a great answer if you have highly specific or unique needs and ideas for your site. While WordPress does a lot, it can’t do everything.

Power and complexity is not a problem – Very large, dynamic and complex sites often require a custom design, or at least function better with it.

Cons

It’s expensive – Custom websites often start expensive and quickly get into back-breaking territory. You’ll want a budget over £2000 at the very least to consider this option even on a small scale, according to my previous research into the subject of website costs.

It’s hard to edit, even for an expert – Even experts can have trouble editing custom websites because everyone writes and solves coding problems differently. To make edits, you either need to be an expert yourself or have a content management system custom-coded at huge expense.

It’s not necessary for most sites – The people at WordPress and their many industry competitors have put so much effort into providing for every common need that most popular and common types of website simply don’t need to be custom coding anymore.

A lot of time and work is needed just to catch up to WordPress – WordPress and its contemporaries are now so well developed and professional, your designer will need to work for a long time (at significant expense) just to match them in terms of looks and useability. That’s before they start to include the extra benefits that will make your site stand out.

 

Which is best for me, WordPress vs custom websites?

If you have a lot of money to spend and want something really unique building, get a custom website coded from the ground up. If it’s particularly big or complex, that goes doubly so. Otherwise, you’d generally be better using WordPress or one of its competitors. I’d confidently say that more than 95% of people would do better with a WordPress vs a custom website. If you want a standard business website, or indeed anything that’s not very unique or complex, go with WordPress or a similar tool.

It’s important to note that there are professionals who can add a lot of value on both sides. There was a time when the majority of web designers coded sites from the ground up. However, most are now experts at using WordPress and other tools. There are still plenty of specialists that make great use of custom coding though.

If you’re unsure of which option to go with, try asking yourself the three decision-making questions laid out below, in order.

 

How to decide between WordPress and a custom website in three easy questions

1. Do you want to edit and update your site easily?

Yes – Use WordPress. No – Go to question 2

2. Are your requirements for a website highly complex or unique? (In terms of function)

Yes – Go to question 3. No – Use WordPress

3. Do you have a big budget?

Yes – Get a custom website. No – Try another solution or ask for advice.

 

Still unsure of choosing between WordPress and a custom website?

If you still can’t make a choice, feel free to ask me anything on sam@samhollis.co.uk. I’m a specialist in WordPress, but I know a good deal about custom-coded sites and other platforms. Of course, I’d be happy to give you more tips and refer you to the right provider for your needs if WordPress isn’t the right choice for you.

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