Bespoke vs. off-the-shelf websites



Storm12 builds bespoke websites. Other agencies use off-the-shelf CMS platforms. But what's the difference? And why does it matter?

There are almost 10 million Google results for the keyword "bespoke vs. off the shelf website" and authors far more eloquent than I to answer those two questions if you'd like some detail. I'm going to try to make it simple.



What can Storm12 do with a bespoke website? Anything. From simple content to full-on ecommerce with a unique business model, a bespoke website adapts to you, not the other way around.


What does a bespoke website look like? It looks like whatever you'd like it be. It can be plain or wild.


What can I do with an off-the-shelf website? Whatever functionality the project owners say you can do.


What does it look like? Find a theme you like and make your content fit within it. And hope nobody else is using the same theme or your site will look exactly like theirs.


Hold on - what if I can't find a theme I like? Well, in that case you need someone to build you a custom theme.


Which option is best for me?


Well, that depends. If you'll be happy with a fairly standard set of functionality from your website, such as a few content pages, a news feed, a homepage with a slideshow, and an enquiry form, and you're happy to pick an existing template as the basis for the look-and-feel then an off-the-shelf content management system (CMS) like Joomla or Wordpress may well be perfectly adequate and very cost-effective. It's quite easy to get an off-the-shelf website up and running quickly and cheaply if that's important.


If you'd like a website that's a bit more unusual or complicated, or which includes functionality that's unique to you and your business then it's possible to customise an off-the-shelf platform to give you what you need. But that'll be neither fast nor cheap and you start to lose two of the main advantages of an off-the-shelf solution.


I need good search engine performance. Isn't Wordpress best?


Wordpress is technically well optimised to be compatible with search engines, but only if the person in charge of it knows what they're doing with the content and sets it up correctly. It's not a magic solution to get a good search engine ranking. A well-built bespoke CMS can do everything Wordpress can do. But more important is the quality of the content, the way it's organised, and the configuration of the website.


How easy is an off-the-shelf system to use?


Wordpress has a reputation for being easy to use, but in fact it's really only easy to get the most basic of sites set up. Once you start trying to load themes and customise your content it can be utterly incomprehensible (and we say this as programmers ourselves!). Want a slideshow for the homepage? Find a theme that contains one and hope the theme developer has built a user-friendly interface for it. You like those natty animations you've seen on dozens of similar Wordpress sites? You're going to have to learn how to edit HTML to get them working. Want to edit the logo in the header of every page? Start poking around the theme customisation options to try to find the correct screen.


If you don't fancy learning this stuff then you're going to be paying someone to do it for you, which isn't ideal. We think content should be easy to manage and clients often tell us how straightforward our CMS interface is to use.


What about security?


The most popular off-the-shelf CMS platforms are well-maintained by teams of good programmers. Some are paid for their work while others are volunteers. But all software contains bugs and so their work is being patched continuously. If you get your website company to patch the software for you then that's fine, but if you don't then potentially your website is insecure and could be hacked. It's therefore common to be forced to pay for monthly updates that make no visible difference to how the site works, and of course this also erodes the cost advantage of an off-the-shelf solution.


Bespoke websites aren't usually easy to hack, partly because their code isn't freely available for everybody to probe. While they almost certainly contain bugs, a decent developer should fix any that you find at no cost. We do.




We firmly believe that our bespoke websites offer the best solution for clients who want or need something different from the norm, without compromise. There are loads of companies out there offering websites based on Wordpress, Joomla and so on for people who can fit their content into an off-the-shelf package. That's fine.


Our way of doing it takes longer and costs more but we're hugely proud of the dozens of unique websites that we've designed and built for our clients over the years. Each one does exactly what its owner wanted and will keep doing that for as long as they need it. We'd be happy to show you what we mean and let you play with an example of our own CMS to see whether it could work for you. 

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