What type of website should you get for your online store?

19 March 2021

You have your merchandise, your business model is ready to go, and excitement is at an all time high. Being the savvy, modern entrepreneur you are you know that getting your online store up and going is a key part of the plan, and needs to be done right. After looking around some, you realise that you have a choice to make: use one of the many pre-built solutions, or invest in a custom-built site.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
First, let's make it clear what we are talking about. By a pre-built solution, we mean you sign-up for and use some platform where you have a ready-made online store, and you do not need any custom development done. A classic example would be a  straightforward Shopify store, or one if its many competitors such as Wix or Squarespace. By custom-built we mean you engage the services of someone to build your site to your specifications. This does not mean existing platforms won't be used, but it is up to whoever you have tasked with the project to use them specifically to meet your needs.
Some of the common words associated with each solution.

In most cases going with a pre-built solution is cheaper and and quicker upfront, but there are obviously more constraints. On the other hand, if a custom-built site is done right, it should, by definition, be exactly what your business needs. So how should you chose between the two? That's what we are going to help you with.

The deciding factors really come down to this: what resources do you have available, what expectations do you have, and how specialised is your operation?

The first thing to ask is "how specialised is my business?". If you have a very specific idea, that involves more than selecting items and checking out, you should start speaking to people about a custom-built site right from the beginning. As an example, consider a business where customers can upload photos of their dog, which you then print onto tennis balls, and ship them their custom-printed tennis balls (presumably to toss to their dog in the park, but who knows). This kind of site can be custom-built fairly cheaply and can be done right from the start, whereas you may have a lot of trouble getting what you need out of a pre-built site. On the other hand, a more "store-like" business will get a lot of what they need right out of the box if they choose a pre-built solution.
Every business is unique, which may mean a unique website.

The next aspect to consider are your resources. The most influential resources are time and money. If you are very short on both, reaching for a pre-built store along with a free theme, is very tempting, and also probably the correct way to go. This is especially true if you see your online business as a low volume, low profit affair, such as if it is a small side-business or passion project. If you see your business as starting small, but growing big, then starting with a pre-built solution is still a valid idea, and as you start to get more money you can put that into improving your site to facilitate the growth you expect, such as buying a more professional theme, or paying someone for some custom design work. If you have more substantial resources, then you should carefully consider starting with a custom-built site, or at least getting a custom-made theme for a pre-built store. While it may seem more expensive and time consuming upfront, it gives you far more control and flexibility for growth in the future.

Now that you hopefully have some kind of direction, there are a few other points to consider. If you happen to decide that a pre-built solution is the right choice for you, it does not mean you still need to do it all alone. As your business grows, you should consider investing a bit of money into some branding and professional design work when the budget allows for it. Furthermore, should you ever need it, you could probably also get someone to build some custom functionality into your store, depending on the platform of your choice. However, bear in mind that whoever does this for you will still have to work within the constraints of your platform, which can potentially limit what is possible.

In conclusion, going with a pre-built solution is good for:
  • traditional e-commerce business model
  • looking to get things up and running quickly
  • you are starting on a low budget

Go with a custom made site if:
  • you have a unique or custom product or service
  • you are particular about the look, feel and function of your site
  • you are starting with a fair budget

Whatever your decision, we at Dymantic Design would be happy to chat about it with you. Whether it be a fully-fledged custom-built site, a new logo or brand identity,  or just a chat about your options, we are here to help. We love the plucky courage of a new business getting ready to take its first steps.

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