What are Your Options for Building a Website?

There are various options for building a website, but what solution can provide the most value for both your website and business goals? A website can be as simple as an informational brochure or a basic blogging site, and as complicated as a customized operational system for a business. The complexity of a website can vary depending on the purpose, goals for performance, and the function and feature requirements. If the purpose, goals, and function and feature requirements are mapped out from the start, it will be easier to choose the optimal solution for building the website.

We interviewed experts from across the field of web design and development to get their input on what to consider before building a website. The experts provide recommendations from the planning stages to after the launch of the website while also detailing the abilities, limitations and costs associated with different website building solutions.

Previously, to be able to build a website, you had to have extensive knowledge of how to code, build, and design a successful website. Now, almost anyone can have an online presence with the various options that make building a website widely available. This article primarily focuses on four solutions for building a website:

  • Using a do-it-yourself website builder
  • Using a pre-made theme or template for an open source content management system (CMS)
  • Hiring a web design and development company to build a custom website on an open source CMS
  • Hiring a web design and development company to build a custom website with a framework

The optimal solution for building a website depends on the complexity of the website requirements and the business needs. This article points out components to consider when choosing how to build a website as well as the abilities, benefits, limitations, and costs associated with each solution.

Options for building a website infographic

Defining the Website Value

The first step for building a website should include defining what the expectations of the project are. In the end, you will get the most value out of a project that meets the goals of the website and the business.

Tom Greenwood, the managing director of the web design and development company Wholegrain Digital, explains how a website project should begin.

"A website really starts from defining the goals and defining the uses. Then, you can map out the functionality around that and compare the various systems to see which one fits."
Tom Greenwood

Website Purpose

The first thing to consider is what the purpose of building the website is. Understanding the purpose of a website will then help to define what website elements and functions the website needs.

"The thing that we always tell clients to start with is to figure out why they want a website. It sounds like a very basic question, but it's surprising how rarely people have really thought through what value they're going to get out of it. The first point is really to define 'what are they going to get out of this?' Do they want sales, do they want inquiries, or do they want social shares, newsletter signups? Do they want people to sign a petition? What is it that they're trying to get out of it, and how much is that really worth to them?"
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

Erin Pheil, the owner and project manager of the web design agency Followbright, emphasizes how a website must have clear definition for how it will help the company it is built to represent.

"Clients need to have truly pressing reasons to want to engage in a website design, build, or rebuild project, especially because they typically require much more time and energy than they initially assume. A company really needs to be highly motivated and crystal clear on why they want a new site, and how a new website would tie into their business goals. They need to know what they want – beyond just thinking that it's time to have a new website."
Erin Pheil

A website should represent the company, the brand, and the customers that interact with it. Josh Kelly, the managing partner and chief strategist of the web agency FINE, explains how prospective website owners should consider how the site will impact their customers.

"From a business objective perspective, understanding how the website is going to help you reach out to your customers, and knowing how customers are going to use and interact with your site, I think are the most important things. It's important to understand the context for the website as well as looking at the website from the point of view of the customer's experience, and understanding the objectives that the website will help you accomplish."
Josh Kelly

Beyond the immediate purpose, how will the website fit into the long-term plans of the business? Marty Vernon, the co-founder of EDUCO Web Design, highlights the long-term business objectives of a website.

"It is really important that they [people looking to build a website] think about their business, about where it's at in the present day, and where they might be in the next one to three or even five years. Whether that means possibly getting acquired or launching new products and services next season. Being able to speak to those things would help drive the platform selection."
Marty Vernon

Website Requirements

The purpose of a website influences what elements and functions are needed to build the desired website. There are countless components to consider when building a website and it will help to know what the requirements are for different features and functions. Depending on the purpose of the website and its goals, some requirements might be more complex or might need customization.

Consider the requirements for:

  • Users
  • Functionality
  • Integrations
  • Content
  • Design
  • Scalability
  • Security
  • Maintenance
  • Cost

Outlining the requirements for these categories can help to estimate how complex the website will be, and ultimately, help to understand what website building solution can offer the most value for the website project.

Users

Users of the site could include not only the company's target audience, but also the internal staff who will be operating the site behind the scenes.

"Once you've defined why you want a website, you can think about the best way to achieve those goals. What kind of functionality do you need? What types of people need to be using this site? Both in terms of your users but also your staff – what functionality do they need in the content management system?"
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

How will the administrators of the website need to access the site? Some administrators might desire an easy, straightforward system to add and edit content, while others might need a more sophisticated system that provides access to distinctive users, for specific needs, all in various locations.

What will the users that are coming to the website need to do? Will they be interacting with the site, logging in, and creating profiles, or will they simply be looking at the content, or looking to buy products on the site? Reid Peifer, the creative director at the web agency Modern Tribe addresses what functionality the users coming to the site might need.

"What is the user going to do? On the simple end, a user is just going to read – maybe they're going to share on social media. On the more complicated end, maybe they're going to create queues, or they're going to create their own type of content."
Reid Peifer

As there are more complex user and administrative requirements, more customization might be needed.

Functionality

The functionality of a website closely depends on what the purpose of the website is. If the site is made to be an informational-like brochure, the functionality requirements are relatively simple: to display the information that customers are coming to the site to read.

What are the main functions that you want the website to perform? Are these relatively common functions that a lot of websites have or are they more specific or complex functions? The website becomes more complex with more unique or advanced functionality requirements.

"If you want one unusual feature, it can be fine. But, once you start adding two, three, four, five, six, especially if those things need to inter relate with each other, then the complexity multiplies because everything has to coordinate. There's a kind of exponential scale of complexity in terms of extra functionality that the client requests."
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

Integrations

What outside software or systems need to be integrated with the website? Are these widely used systems or are they more custom or complex? Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg, the co-founder and CEO of the web design and development company Zivtech, explains the importance of understanding what integrations are needed and in what capacity.

"Clients need to consider all of the integrations that they are going to need. What other systems have to be integrated into this site? Are there customer relationship management tools, marketing tools, mailing lists, or analytics? Do they need personalization, video, or audio? These are all the sorts of things that clients need to take stock of before they get started."
Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

Widely used systems or software generally have well developed application programming interfaces (APIs), making those easier integrations. Custom-built software or more complex systems could be harder to integrate into any site, making for more complex integrations. The complexity of the integrations depend on the integration type, how custom the integration is, and how the integration will work with the rest of the website.

Content

The type and volume of content will influence how the site needs to be built. If content needs to be added and updated regularly, a website should be built with a content management system. With more complex content requirements, a custom system might need to be built to support different types of content.

"The first thing to consider is what the content looks like and how it's structured. On the really simple end, there are pages, blog posts, and things like that. On the more complicated end, there might be products, white papers, research, different types of analysis, and content that different sites need to interact with in different ways."
Reid Peifer, Modern Tribe

Design

How will the content and other features fit into the design of the website? Are custom design and branding elements imperative for the website to have? Customizing the content, images, and design to represent a brand will make the build more complex but can help to build a successful online marketing presence. Josh Kelly describes how design preferences can drive which solution should be used.

"If you believe that you can do something pretty unique, and you think your website will be an important branding component, and you have the resources to do it, then you're going to want to start with design and strategy and let the choice of technology flow from that. If you believe that your website is going to be fairly straightforward and you can accomplish most of your objectives doing something a little more off the shelf, then you might pick the technology first. Then, let the design conform to the templates and more constrictive requirements that a platform has."
Josh Kelly, FINE

Scalability

How does your business plan to grow in the future? Does the website need to be able to keep up with the growth of your business? Consider what the purpose of the website is now, and compare that to the purpose of the website in the future.

"Why does scalability matter? If a site is scalable, that makes it a great candidate for what we're trying to build today, but also what we're going to be building in the future."
Marty Vernon, EDUCO

Also, how transferable does the website need to be? Does it matter if the website is locked into a certain platform or a web design and development company? If a website needs to have the option to change servers or to change platforms or to change design/development companies, the website should be built with a solution that allows for these changes.

Security

What are the security needs of a website? Basic security needs require that a site is secure at all times, with a reliable way to maintain that security. Depending on the solution used to build a website, the security will require attention from either an internal team or from an outside developer or web company.

Will the website hold highly sensitive information that needs to be monitored at all times? For higher security requirements, a custom or more responsive security system might need to be built.

Maintenance

How will the website be hosted? Who will be responsible for maintenance, security, and updates?

"When a client asks how they should build something, many times we're also answering how it is going to be supported once it launches. I think many people focus on the launch day, and forget that there are going to be many years afterward where they have to keep things fresh, host it, support it, update it, and ensure it's secure."
Josh Kelly, FINE

Some solutions are all-encompassing and take care of the hosting, updates, and basic security needs. Other solutions require either a knowledgeable internal team to handle website security and updates, or a web company to continue to update and maintain the site. More custom websites with complicated security and maintenance will require a greater maintenance commitment.

Costs

The costs of building a website vary depending on the solution used. From there, the costs can increase and decrease depending on the complexity of different website requirements. In general, as there are more complex, custom requirements, the costs of a website will increase.

For lower budgets, building a website using do-it-yourself solution can help reduce the costs of building a simpler site. However, if a website has complex requirements with needed customizations, a web design and development company will need to build it. The costs of hiring a company to build a more custom site can vary depending on how the site is built, the experience of the company, and the project scope.

Choosing the right solution for the available budget is important. If the chosen solution cannot build the desired customizations or functions, the website will not be successful and the price can increase without added value. Additionally, if a budget is too low for the chosen solution, the result may be a less than satisfactory website because the budget was not available to build the desired website.

Choosing a Solution

Once there is a general understanding of the requirements, and how complex the website might be, you can determine what the optimal solution is for building the website. To get the most value out of a website project, you will want to find a solution that is able to build a website with the given purpose and the desired requirements.

Below, the graph gives examples of website complexity ranging from simple to medium complexity to high complexity to completely custom. While the complexity of a website cannot be completely defined before it is built, the graph does show how different solutions can offer more or less value for different types of websites. Which solution can provide the most project value (meaning the ability to build the desired requirements and accomplish the goals of the website) for the given website complexity?

Potential value of a website building solution graph

The complexity and customization requirements for a website are great indicators for which solution should be used in building the site. There are certain features and functions that are not possible to build into a site if using the wrong solution. For example, the graph shows that a do-it-yourself web builder is optimal for building simple to medium complexity websites. Beyond that, a DIY web builder will not offer much value for complex or custom website needs.

On the other hand, if a site has simple, straightforward requirements, a web design and development company can build a custom site, but unless there are unique or custom needs, using that solution can be unnecessary and offer little, if any, additional value for the price.

Below is a brief summary of the different solution options.

 

DIY Website Builder 

Template/Theme for Open Source CMS

Custom Website on Open Source CMS Custom Website Built on a Framework

Examples

Squarespace, Wix, Weebly Themes for WordPress, Drupal Hire a web design/development company to build a custom website on WordPress, Drupal Hire a web design/development company to build a custom website using Ruby on Rails, CakePHP
Purpose A simple, all-in-one platform to build a website. Ability to get a functional, well designed website up quickly. Great for blogs, informational sites, portfolios, simples business sites, etc.  Provides the foundation for a website on an open source CMS. Easier to get a website up quickly without hiring a professional. Great for blogs, informational sites, business sites, etc.  Professional builds a custom website on an open source CMS. Professional can add custom functions and features into a website with a powerful system.  Professional can create a completely custom website with the custom/complex requirements needed. Custom system can be built to meet the exact needs of the business. 
Users Simple, easy to use for those with limited technical knowledge.  Simple, easy to use, made for content management. Open source makes learning easy.  Simple, easy to use, made for content management. Custom/complex user requirements available. Custom system with exact user needs. With more complex system, might need web company to add/edit content.
Functionality Basic, limited Basic-moderate, more flexibility  High, very flexible High, very flexible
Integrations Basic, limited Basic-moderate, plugins and modules available Plugins, modules available, possibility for custom integrations High flexibility, custom integrations
Content Limited amount and types. Simple system to add/edit content Powerful, easy system to add/edit different content types Powerful system, ability to customize types of content Custom CMS can be built, custom/complex content  
Design Beautifully designed templates, limited customization Different types of themes, limited customization Custom design Custom design
Scalability Limited scalability and transferability Moderate scalability and transferability High scalability and transferability High scalability, limited transferability
Security Basic Basic-moderate depending on theme and available updates High dependent on updates and maintenance Very high
Maintenance Low commitment Moderate-high commitment  High commitment, maintenance packages available Moderate-high commitment, maintenance packages available
Guidance Guidance through available tools and template, limited support Theme guidance, limited support High amount of support and guidance High amount of support and guidance
Cost Very low costs, monthly fee Low one time or monthly costs, potential costs for developer help Higher costs, can range from $80-$200/hour High costs, can range from $100-$300+/hour

 

The value of using each solution is explained further in detail below, including examples and further analysis from web design and development experts. The optimal solution can vary depending on both the website needs and the business needs, including how much guidance is desired through the website building process.

Detailed Analysis of the Different Website Building Solutions

The first two options are focused on the do-it-yourself grounds of building a website. Both options are desirable for those with little technical knowledge and lower budgets who want an easy way to make a website and have an online presence. People can build simple to moderately complex websites using the pre-made tools and templates. Both of these solutions are best for building websites that do not have custom, complicated, or unique requirements.

DIY Website Builder

Examples

Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly.

Purpose

Do-it-yourself website builders provide a simple platform to drag and drop different elements directly onto the website. The web builder provides the tools, templates and guidelines needed, allowing those with a low budget to easily create a website. A beautiful, simple website can be built quickly without any knowledge of coding.

Anthony Casalena, the founder and CEO of Squarespace, explains the main purpose of a DIY web builder.

"We help customers build their brands by offering an intuitive set of creative tools that anyone – from creative individuals to businesses large and small – can use to create their online presence."
Anthony Casalena

Users

DIY website builders are known for their ease of use, they include content management systems that make it simple to add and edit content.

"Squarespace was designed from its inception to be an all-in-one content management system. We effortlessly handle blogs, stores, pages, calendars, and more within a single platform. No plugins are required."
Anthony Casalena

All of the necessary functional elements and tools are offered within the web builder platform, making it easier for people to build a variety of websites while using the single all-inclusive platform.

"Squarespace has a very broad customer base, from students who need a portfolio to established brands and large companies. We span vertical markets ranging from bloggers and authors to restaurants, online stores, wedding websites, and more."
Anthony Casalena

Functionality

DIY web builders are great for building simple to medium complexity websites with little need for back-end customizations. The functionality options are offered within the website builder platform. This is valuable for those that have basic functionality requirements and need the essential functions for various types of websites.

"Customers are able to build everything from a single-page website to full websites for their portfolio, wedding, business, etc."
Anthony Casalena

Most customers that use a DIY web builder use it for the pre-made templates and tools that make it easier to build different types of websites with general functionality requirements.

If additional functionality is needed beyond what is offered, the platform can be limiting for those with more complex and custom requirements. For example, search engine optimization and analytics are both built into a website automatically if built using a web builder. This is a great component for those who need basic SEO and analytic functions but, if there are more custom needs, the options could be limited.

Andrew Ruditser, the lead technology coordinator and co-founder of the web design company MAXBURST, describes an experience he's had with a client who needed more customization than a DIY website builder could offer.

"We have a client … they used to be on a do-it-yourself platform. They couldn't control any customizations as far as the way they looked, and they didn't have much control over their SEO. There were some basic meta tags, and keywords, and SEO tools, but it honestly didn't really serve them well. When we built them a custom site, we had a lot more control over not just the design, but over a lot of the programming that was put into it, and we put a lot of marketing into it. Now, when you Google tattoo shop or tattoo parlor, they're on the first page of Google. They're New York-based, but they're nationally ranked now on the first page. That was something they couldn't achieve on a do-it-yourself platform. Their costs increased, of course, to do this, but that was a given in order for them to get to the next level."
Andrew Ruditser

DIY website builders are not ideal for building a website with complex functions, if the builder does not offer a certain functionality then a different solution with more flexibility might be needed.

Integrations

Web builders include general integrations with specific apps or programs and make them available within the platform. Some web builders also offer different plugins through a plugin store within the platform. These platforms offer certain plugins for free or with premium packages. The plugins are specifically made to integrate seamlessly with the websites built on the web builder.

If there are requirements for integrations that the web builder does not offer, it is very hard to add these outside integrations. For the most part, the only integrations available are the ones that the platform offers or has already built into the platform. An all-in-one web builder can be limiting for those that have specific integration requirements.

Content

DIY website builders make it very easy to add and edit content within the platform. The interface is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) meaning that wherever you want your content to be, you can add the content into that location by dragging and dropping it there. There are options for adding different types of content, which makes it convenient for building a blog, a simple e-commerce store, a portfolio, a gallery, or a restaurant page.

On some web builders, there are limits to the amount of pages that can be added to a website. This can vary from specific platform limitations to limitations based on the costs per month. If there is a need for unique content types or there is a high volume of content that needs to be organized in a certain way, a website builder might not be able to support these more complex needs.

Design

DIY website builders take pride in their visually successful websites. The design templates and available tools help customers to easily make a professional-looking website.

"Design has been part of our DNA since the company was founded. Squarespace websites are visually stunning. Some of our end users have even won CSS [cascading style sheets] design awards for their sites. We spend an immense amount of time and resources on our templates, and are dedicated to our customers becoming successful storytellers through our designs."
Anthony Casalena

SquareSpace in particular emphasizes the beautiful looking websites that customers are able to make. They have templates that are created for specific purposes and users can add some custom design features if they know how to edit the CSS.

Scalability

There are limited options for scalability if a website needs to expand beyond what the website builder offers. Additionally, transferring the website to a different platform is typically very limited. Any features or designs built on the DIY builder platform usually cannot be transferred to a different system or platform. If there is the option to transfer the website, the options are limited and not easily accessible.

"Because they're (DIY website builders) hosted, subscription-based systems, there are limits to how far you can really adapt them. What we tend to find is that people reach a point where they can't take it any further and they actually move across to a different solution, such as WordPress."
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

DIY web builders own the code of the website, and the site is also hosted on their server. Thus, the site only exists as long as the website builder exists and as long as the monthly fee is paid.

Security and Maintenance

Web builders handle all of the security needs and back-end updates to ensure that the websites built on their platform are up to date and secure. There are limited maintenance responsibilities beyond keeping the content up to date. The web builder is responsible for the code and the security of the website, which can be a benefit for those who do not want to worry about maintenance.

For higher security needs, a web builder might not be the best option. The web builder owns the code of the website, and the security depends on their vigilance. Higher security needs require the ability to assess the code of the website and to know how the site is being tracked and accessed at all times.

Guidance

Overall, web builders offer great guidance for those who are making a simpler site and want to build it on their own. The necessary tools, templates and designs for building a successful website are available without the confusion of unneeded tools or functions.

"What we tend to find is that if you're a small business and you're just starting out, and you don't have really specific design and functionality in mind, then those site builders can be really good because they're really cost effective. Some of them have beautiful design templates and you can get online fast."
Tom Greenwood

Some DIY web builders have good customer support that is available for technical problems and to field general questions about the website.

"We try and design every aspect of our customer experience so that it reflects the high level of quality that we'd like to receive. More than 60 percent of our company is dedicated to customer care, and we serve our customers 24/7 through both email and live chat."
Anthony Casalena

A website builder is great for offering templates and tools for building a simple website. However, if someone prefers a more guided process that includes analysis, strategy, planning, and discussing the purpose of the website, a web builder cannot offer these qualities. If someone prefers a professional relationship to help guide the website building process, hiring a professional will better suit those needs.

Costs

An attractive feature of the DIY web builders is the consistent low cost. They provide an affordable way for a business on a budget to have a professional looking online presence.

"If someone has a really low budget, and they just need a nice-looking website for their firm, a do-it-yourself framework would give them the best value for that, for now, to at least have a professional web presence."
Andrew Ruditser, MAXBURST

Most DIY website builders offer a free trial or free membership to build a starter website.

From there, there are monthly costs that vary depending on the chosen package and platform. More advanced features, elements, and design options are available with premium monthly packages.

"We offer paid subscriptions starting at $8 per month (billed annually) and ranging higher depending on functionality. More complex sites, with advanced features, cost slightly more. We also offer add-on integrations with services, such as Google Apps for Business."
Anthony Casalena

Similar to Squarespace, other web builders have packages with simple to more detailed features that increase the monthly price. The highest possible per monthly costs for using SquareSpace is for the more complex e-commerce packages.

"We offer a Commerce Plan, which is currently $26 per month when billed annually or $36 month to month."
Anthony Casalena

Overall, DIY web builders excel at providing the necessary tools and design options that make building a simple website easy. They are a terrific option for building a simple to medium complexity website without any knowledge of code.

Theme/Template for an Open Source CMS

Another DIY-type option for building a website is using a pre-made template or theme for a content management system. A content management system is a web application that provides an easy-to-use system for adding, editing, and organizing content without immense technical knowledge. Using an open source content management system means that the software is available for anyone to use and often for free or at a low cost. Using a template for an open source CMS provides the foundation for the design, features, and certain functions, making it easier to build a website without the help from a professional.

Examples

There are several open source content management systems, but we focused mainly on the two most popular systems: WordPress and Drupal. For both of these platforms, the website templates are referred to as themes.

Free themes are available on WordPress.org as well as at Drupal.org. Premium themes are also available from third-party sources like Themeforest, StudioPress, and Elegant Themes.

Purpose

Those with lower budgets and limited coding knowledge can build a website on an open source content management system by using a pre-made theme. A theme supplies the design foundation for the website, with options to customize and add functionality through plugins or modules. For any problems or extra help the open source community has many developers and freelancers for hire.

Users

Themes are available for various types of websites, including news, blogs, e-commerce, portfolios, business, restaurants, and other informational-type sites, among others.

A content management system is made for ease of use. Administrators can determine who gets access to make edits and add content. In general, open source CMSs have very flexible user options.

"A reason why people use WordPress in the first place is that it's really flexible. You've got a huge range of plugins and themes that you can use, and you can easily build new functionality if it doesn't already exist. It's ease of use. WordPress is pretty easy to use anyway, so it's got a really short learning curve in terms of training your staff how to use the CMS."
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

Using a theme for an open source CMS does require some knowledge of how the platform works, but the good thing about open source is that there is a large community that offers help, tutorials, and classes to learn how to work the CMS properly.

Functionality and Integrations

An open source CMS allows for more flexibility in terms of functionality than a DIY web builder does. This can be useful for those who need options that go beyond what a DIY web builder offers. Depending on the platform, there are plugins (WordPress) or modules (Drupal) that can be installed to add functionality to a website.

The open source nature means that the community is constantly updating and adding more functional features. However, using a theme means that website could be limited to the functions and integrations that theme is made to support, depending on how restricting the theme is.

A direct example of limited functionality is with search engine optimization. Often, SEO is built into the theme, which can be beneficial for someone who does not know a lot about SEO. However, there is also no way of knowing if the pre-programmed SEO will benefit the website's marketing goals. There are often limited ways to customize the SEO of a pre-made theme, and if there are ways to, it would require the knowledge of how to manipulate the theme to the custom SEO needs.

Andrew Ruditser explains how using a theme or template can limit the SEO customization of a site and that for custom SEO, a more custom-built website is needed.

"With custom sites, you can control search engine optimization more carefully than you can with a do-it-yourself type or a base template because you're just buying something out of the box at that point. You're just using their tools."
Andrew Ruditser, MAXBURST

For more functionality or any custom functions, a theme may not be able to support that. Some themes are not made for advanced functions and the theme could break down if functions are forced to work with a theme.

Content and Design

One of the main benefits of building a website with a CMS is for the ease of adding, editing, and organizing different types of content. Content management systems are built with content creation and editing tools that make adding content similar to creating an article in Microsoft Word.

A theme includes the design and feature framework for a website making it quick and easy to get a website up and start adding content. There are a multitude of design options for themes, including different styles built for businesses, portfolios, e-commerce, and blogging. These themes are made for a specific purpose and are useful for creating a simple website that fits into a specific category.

The drawback of using a pre-made theme is the lack of uniqueness. Anyone can buy or download that same theme to use for their website. Even if you want to buy out the theme, others have probably used the same theme previously. It can also be difficult to customize a theme to fit the personality of a specific brand. For more customized design and content options, a pre-made theme will probably not be the optimal choice.

Scalability

A theme is typically made for a specific purpose, and often, when changes or improvements need to be made that are beyond what the theme is made to support, the theme might not scale and function as desired. If it is important to be able to customize and develop the website further in the future, then a theme might not be a good choice.

"We have seen that when clients opt to save money, and decide to go with a pre-created theme, it's usually very difficult to customize, expand, and make those sites into what a company truly wants over time. Pre-created themes usually end up being more headaches and more money in the long term than having a WordPress site built from scratch."
Erin Pheil, Followbright

Security and Maintenance

Using an open source CMS can be secure considering that there is an entire community committed to the security of the platform, and there are security updates to help maintain the security of the code.

However, theme security is highly dependent on who built the theme and what they built into the code. Themes can be very vulnerable to security problems if they are not from a trusted source. If a premium theme is downloaded for free, from a sketchy site, the maker could have put holes in the code or already inserted bugs that will severely daunt the security of the website.

The security of a theme also depends on how invested the theme creator is in updating and maintaining the code of the theme. If the creator has only created one theme and there are limited downloads or reviews, the creator might stop providing updates, making the theme susceptible to security problems.

Themes from both WordPress.org and Drupal.org have to be verified and go through a review process before they are available for download, so they are generally safe.

There are security plugins and modules available that can protect moderate security needs, but if the theme is not updated regularly the website can be susceptible to various security problems. There are more maintenance needs for a website built with a theme on an open source CMS than there are for a website built on a DIY web builder, but with the proper updates and a trustworthy theme, the maintenance can be relatively easy.

Costs

The costs of using a pre-made theme can vary depending on whether someone wants a free, simple theme or a premium theme with more options.

  • Free themes are available for download on WordPress.org or Drupal.org.
  • Themes are available on ThemeForest for a one-time purchase ranging from $20 to $300 with the option of acquiring the full licensing rights of a theme (so that no one else can use it from that point on) for $2,000 to $5,000.
  • On Elegant Themes, an annual package ranges from $69 to $89 per year with access to all of the available themes on the site and access to plugins, depending on the package type. There is also a one-time payment of $249 available for unlimited access to all of the themes and plugins that they offer.
  • On StudioPress, there are single themes available for a one-time payment of about $60 to $100. This includes access to that theme along with their interface and tutorials to help build the website. Access to all of their themes is available for a one-time payment of $300.

These costs, which are as of 2015, often don't include hosting and domain name costs. However, some packages do offer hosting for a monthly or yearly cost. Certain plugins or modules can also cost money to download and install (if there are more complicated installation processes).

There are other hidden costs associated with installing a pre-made theme to use on an open source CMS. Costs can increase for problems that require a developer's help. If anything happens to the theme that causes it to break, or if there are any security issues, it is very hard to fix without advanced knowledge of the code and the software. Hiring a freelancer or a developer to fix the template can get expensive quickly and, in certain circumstances, a new website might need to be built. These costs can outweigh the benefits of using a theme.

"We have stopped working with clients who are looking for help with sites built with pre-existing themes. We've found it just doesn't work. They spend more money than they need to. Many times, clients' requests have to be replied to with, 'That's not possible.' Or, 'That's going to be very expensive.' If a client wants to work with a theme, we're likely not going to be the right fit for them. If they want to work with us, we'd likely require they have the site rebuilt properly from scratch."
Erin Pheil, Followbright

Overall, if a website on an open source CMS is desired, but there is a need for custom functions, custom integrations, and unique design, then building a custom website on that platform will be more worthwhile.

Hiring a Web Design and Development Company

For building a more custom, complex website, hiring a web design and development company can provide immense value to the project. Not only are these professionals able to create a quality, sustainable, custom site, they also provide guidance throughout the entire website building process.

"When a client is looking for something beyond just a simple brochure website, working with a website agency can bring a lot of clarity and direction to a project. When clients try to do larger projects on their own, more often than not, they run out of steam because they aren't experts in building a website, and they often don't know where to start or how to think about the process."
Erin Pheil, Followbright

The professionalism, strategy, experience, and guidance that a web agency offers can be very valuable for a business that prefers the help of a professional.

"The greatest value a web agency can provide is not in the design or the code, but in the planning and consulting and strategy – it's this guidance that gives clients clarity and confidence, eliminates messiness, and is not a commodity that can be easily found."
Erin Pheil

Hiring a web agency does have a higher price tag than building a website with a DIY website builder or with a website template or theme. However, creating a unique, custom site with the expertise and help of a professional can help save time and improve the quality of a website.

"Usually, people who want to hire a company to do custom web design have a little bit higher budgets and stricter requirements, they want something that's unique, and they want a hand-holding experience. For them, they see value in hiring a web design company to build their more complex website."
Andrew Ruditser, MAXBURST

We broke up the option of hiring a web design and development company into two different solutions:

  • Hiring a company to build a custom website with an open source CMS.
  • Hiring a company to build a custom website with a framework or from scratch.

Overall, there are similar benefits of hiring a web design and development company, but there are different options, benefits, limitations and costs associated with hiring a company to build a custom site on an open source CMS and hiring a company to build a custom website using a framework.

Custom Website on an Open Source CMS

Examples

We focused on web design and development companies that specialize in building custom websites for WordPress and Drupal.

WordPress and Drupal vary in many aspects but they are similar in that they are both open source content management systems. Below, we point out the benefits and limitations of hiring a web design and development company to build a custom website on an open source CMS while also pointing to some differences of building a site on WordPress versus Drupal.

Purpose

There are countless advantages of hiring experts who have the advanced knowledge and expertise for building complex, unique websites. They know how to correctly build websites and how to incorporate custom features and functions while also providing guidance and strategy throughout the website building process.

"When you hire the right company, they give you the skill sets, the years in the industry, and the knowhow to create a website. For example, you get project managers, front-end developers, graphic designers, back-end developers, and marketing people. You get all these skill sets that you need to successfully utilize in order to pull in the project and to make it proper, and you get a hand-holding process. We really start projects from the beginning to the end, and it's in our best interests to launch websites, and for our clients' best interests as well."
Andrew Ruditser, MAXBURST

Building a custom website on an open source CMS means that there is a large community of developers that specialize in building websites with that software.

"I think one of the big things for a lot of our clients is that it's open source, but it's also really popular. What that means is that they not only own the code, but there's a huge support community out there that they can get help from. It means that they are not locked in with any one developer. They know that when they need help, they'll be able to find help. They'll be able to shop around for that help."
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

Users

One of the main reasons for building a website on an open source CMS is for the ease of use. It is made for content management, specifically to make adding and editing content easier.

"With WordPress in particular, the greatest selling point that we've seen is how organizations can adopt it quickly. It's incredibly easy to use, it's easy to train, the interface is friendly and helpful, and it's a well-executed platform. It's going to be a project that you can onboard people to very quickly."
Reid Peifer, Modern Tribe

It is easy and efficient to publish, organize and edit distinctive types of content. The simple interfaces make it practical for those with various technological backgrounds to learn how to use the system and contribute to the website quickly. The flexibility of the system makes it possible for the developer to customize the CMS for different user specifications while still maintaining the easy interface for adding and editing content.

Susan Daniero, the founder and president of the web design and development company Materiell, talks about the flexibility for specific user needs.

"These content management systems are highly functional for specific client's needs, it is also easy to have their internal marketing or communications department perform updates, edit content, and add content."

Functionality

Developers have the ability to build more complex and custom functions into a website. But, there are also functions and integrations available through the open source community, making it easier to build general functions into the website without the need to build everything custom.

"Often, there will be a module or plugin (depending on whether we're talking about WordPress or Drupal) that's already been developed and can accomplish that feature or the function we're looking for. Which means we don't have to reinvent the wheel for each feature."
Marty Vernon, EDUCO

An expert knows what functions are readily available and how to build them into the website properly. Additionally, if a specific function is not available, then the web development company may be able to build custom functions into the website. However, there are limitations for adding highly custom functions. If the open source CMS was not made to support specific functions, the site can suffer from the enhanced manipulation.

"It might sound funny but, sometimes, you get clients that have defined exactly the way that they want the CMS to be laid out, and how they're going to be able to publish content, or what their exact workflow is. If you're going to use WordPress, you have to accept that it is the way it is. If you start to mess around with the fundamental nature of WordPress then it just doesn't make any sense. You might as well use something different or build exactly what you want."
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

For very custom specifications, an open source CMS might not be the right choice.

"Generally speaking, where we've run into problems building in Drupal is for tech start-up companies that are building a SaaS [Software as a Service] product, and the website that we're building is the product. If there is a clear path for the how the product needs to function, Drupal is great, but if that structure is constantly changing without a well-defined plan, that will be problematic."
Marty Vernon, EDUCO

Integrations

Both Drupal and WordPress take pride in their large developer communities that are constantly contributing new plugins or modules for different integrations, functions, and features. Instead of having to build custom installations for every integration need, many have already been built. For example, Susan Daniero builds enterprise WordPress sites for clients and often uses an installation for WordPress that helps build multisites.

"We are specifically experienced with a WordPress install, called WordPress Multisite, which is really ideal for many situations where a commercial business has multiple locations, or a school system has multiple schools, or a higher education institution has multiple academic departments and sports, and so on. Multisites can be very valuable, and that's something that's a premier specialty of ours. WP-Multisite is one of our favorite tools for these large enterprise-type builds."
Susan Daniero, Materiell

Drupal is also known for its ability to integrate with a vast amount of modules and third-party integrations.

"Drupal has many different features that set it apart from the rest. Number one is it has a very rich application program interface. It is built in a very extensible, flexible way and it can suit a lot of different needs. It is also open source. There are tens of thousands of modules available to extend or change how Drupal acts, and they're available online for free."
Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg, Zivtech

A professional can offer advice and knowledge on the integrations that are feasible and how to correctly build them into the site.

"One of the big problems that we run into is poorly documented APIs from software as a service organizations, or even software as a service organizations that claim they have an API, and it doesn't work. They sell our client on some tool, and then, when we go and build the integration, it doesn't do any of what it says it's going to do."
Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

When there are highly custom integration requirements or integrations that are not made to work with the given CMS, either the integration requirements need to change or a custom website could be built with a more flexible framework.

Content and Design

WordPress and Drupal are consistently worthy for building content oriented sites. WordPress began as primarily a blogging platform and is now capable of supporting a variety of content types. Drupal is known for its flexibility in organizing and adding various content types.

"In WordPress we'll have a post type, and that post type is going to be universal for every single person using that CMS. In Drupal, we can highly customize each field that's going to exist in a page's content or any other page type. We're going to have headers and body copy, but we'll also have things like the number of images that this content type is going to have. Is this content tied to a testimonial? Is this content tied to an author? Some of those things exist in WordPress, but it's not something that comes naturally to WordPress. The degree and that granular control that we can have over each of these different types of content is much more customizable in Drupal."
Marty Vernon, EDUCO

An expert can also provide guidance and advanced analysis on what content will produce results and how the content can fit with the design of the website.

"While we're designing and developing the project – and content is such a big part of the design, we need to know what the content is so we can design with it – it gives the client a road map where they can be developing, updating, and deciding on what content stays and goes while we're working. At the end of the project, we don't just say, 'Hey, where's your content? We're ready to migrate.' They've got the proper lead time to get that done."
Susan Daniero, Materiell

A web company can also build a custom design that helps to differentiate and market the business as a unique brand. Additionally, they can design the website so that the content works together and is optimized for search.

"If you're working with an experienced web developer, they'll also have an understanding of content and what Google is going to be looking for in the content to actually make your site seem relevant to humans and Google."
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

Scalability

Building a custom site on an open source CMS gives the website more flexibility down the road than using a pre-made theme or building on a non-open source platform would. Not only can more customizations, functions, and features be added as needed, but there are also options to hire different design and development companies within the open source community if one does not work out.

"There's a transferability factor that I think should go into the decision-making process. The client should consider 'If we select this platform, are we then beholden to this new web company forever? Or could we easily take this same system and take it to a new company that might be in a position to support us, if that former company dissolves, is acquired, or changes in a way that is not beneficial to our relationship?' The fact that Drupal is highly transferable is another really good feature."
Marty Vernon, EDUCO

The strong developer communities of both WordPress and Drupal makes it easier to find a development company that meets the needs of both the website and the business as both grow in the future.

"I think that any organization should have the ability to manage, grow, and evolve their website moving forward, without being tied to any particular vendor. So, small business, big business – if you build on WordPress, the next week, next month, or next year, you'll be able to continue to grow that. That's a huge benefit."
Reid Peifer, Modern Tribe

It is important to look for a design and development company that will be able to support the needs of the website and the business in the long run.

"If you think that you're going to have a large, growing site that needs to be maintained for a long time, then there are a lot of benefits of working with a firm that builds and maintains sites because they're going to do it with an eye towards sustainability of the code."
Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg, Zivtech

Security

For security reasons, hiring a web company that understands the code, common risks, and how to build with security in mind is invaluable.

"Drupal tends to be as secure as the developers who build the site make it. There are many features for admins that some people will just open up for anybody and, obviously, it's only as secure as you make it. The code itself is extremely secure, but the site is configurable in ways that might not be. If you don't have an understanding of how the system works, or if you don't follow the warnings, you might do things like open up the ability for people to post executable PHP code to the site, which is a really big security hole. If you work with a firm like ours, none of that is going to happen. We go through and do security checks. In Drupal, there's actually a security check module that can do a lot of the security checks automatically for you. Drupal is extremely secure, and is being run by the largest corporations and governments in the world."
Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

"Often, you'll hear about WordPress security concerns, but it's a question of development practice. Done in the right fashion, WordPress is as secure as any system out on the Internet. Using best practices, using strategic backups, having systems in place, and having plans for when security lapses happen. If you do all of that work, WordPress is great. I sleep very soundly knowing that our customers are on WordPress."
Reid Peifer, Modern Tribe

Having a website on an open source CMS does require attention to make sure the site is secure. Whether that is an internal team that overlooks the website or a plan with the company that made the site, the website requires security checks.

"Hackers are eventually going to find a hole in any website or in any platform we select. While it is important to have a secure platform, it's just as important to have a team that's dedicated and that can respond and plug our vulnerabilities in a short amount of time."
Marty Vernon, EDUCO

Even though websites built on open source CMS can be very secure with the proper attention and updates, there are certain security requirements that might not be ideal for an open source CMS platform.

"I would say that for sites that need financial-level bank security, WordPress would not be the best choice. For example, we were asked to do a Bitcoin exchange site, and we absolutely declined. We didn't feel like WordPress was the right CMS to use for a Bitcoin exchange."
Susan Daniero, Materiell

Maintenance

Maintenance is vital for the security, functionality, and sustainability of a website built on open source CMS. A website is not complete after the initial launch. It needs to be updated and improved to continue working as it should.

"When clients do not take care of their sites, we see horrible problems with it. The sites get hacked and stop working. When clients just make a minimal investment, and have their sites taken care of every quarter, there are next to no security problems."
Erin Pheil, Followbright

Many companies are dedicated to helping their clients after the launch of the website. Depending on how much support is needed, companies will offer a variety of maintenance packages.

"We offer full maintenance and hosting packages, where we're responsible for the uptime monitoring, backups, and server management. We also have retainer packages where some clients want us on call to perform content edits or design or development changes, and they have us on retainer."
Susan Daniero, Materiell

"We always maintain a relationship with our clients. We're in communication with them, and we offer the maintenance, marketing, and support moving forward. We don't just build a site, hand it to them, and walk away. Part of the advantages of hiring a web design company is the building of the relationship afterward."
Andrew Ruditser, MAXBURST

A reliable company will continue to analyze the website after the initial launch, and they will offer improvements and updates.

"We meet with clients on a regular basis to discuss what's working and what's not, and what adjustments we can make to better reach their goals and objectives. Once the site is built, we often go back and make adjustments to it based on what we're seeing as visitors interact with it."
Susan Daniero, Materiell

Costs

Hiring a web design and development company does require a higher budget commitment. But, for a custom website on an open source CMS, the quality, strategy, and guidance that a web design and development company offers adds a lot of value.

The costs of building a custom website on an open source CMS can be lower than building a completely custom website from scratch. The open source CMS makes it easier to utilize modules and plugins so that each element or function does not necessarily need to be built from scratch. This can lower both the developer hours needed and the complexity of adding different requirements.

The minimum budget for any web design company varies depending on their expertise and the type of website being built. For example, a company that specializes in building smaller, custom sites might not have a minimum budget or the minimum budget might be around $3,000 to $5,000. On the other hand, a company that specializes in building complex, enterprise sites could have a $15,000 to $40,000 minimum.

The overhead of beginning a project is often the starting point for cost. Beyond the initial costs of hiring a web design and development company, there are different factors that can further affect the costs:

  • Complexity of the website
  • Customizations
  • Guidance
  • Maintenance
  • Unexpected revisions

These can all affect the amount of hours needed to complete a project, which has a close impact on the cost of the project. Complex or unique requirements can directly cause the costs of a project to increase.

"As soon as you start adding unique content types, unique organizational structures, or start to add tools for creating content, cost starts to go up. WordPress out-of-the-box does a fine job of outputting a page but, often, you don't want a page with content. Maybe you want a dashboard or maybe you want to pull content from different parts of the website and present it in a gallery or in a mosaic, or things like that. Each one of those is going to increase the amount of cost."
Reid Peifer, Modern Tribe

If there is uncertainty about what the plan for the website is or what elements are needed, it will be harder to successfully build a website the first time. Undefined ideas can lead to unexpected design or development changes that will drive the price up.

"Technical specifications matter and it is crucial for all sides to understand key technical aspects of the site like software it needs to integrate with or things the site needs to do. The more of these new technical items that crop up after the initial plan, the more likely we are to start bumping up against the budget. Excessive revisions or rework can be costly because it essentially negates the initial work and then requires a whole new set of work."
Marty Vernon, EDUCO

Repeated iterations of a website can be avoided with more strategic planning. A web design company can offer valuable guidance and consulting to strategize the build of the site and how the site will work after the launch. The less preparation by the client reflects how much guidance is needed from the web design and development company.

"One of the primary variables related to cost in our projects is the amount of guidance and consulting a client needs. If a client's site has very simple needs, they'll require the least amount of guidance and consulting. When a client says, 'OK, we know what our vision of success looks like, but we are really unclear about how to get there,' that means they're probably looking for a guide, and that's when consulting and pre-project planning is a good match. This is the factor that increases their investment tremendously."
Erin Pheil, Followbright

Building the site is not the only cost of hiring a web company there are testing, maintenance, hosting, and update costs that all benefit the sustainability and optimization of the site.

"There are all kinds of intangible things that people don't think about that add to the cost of the project. We are big believers in doing user research, doing A/B testing, and doing user experience testing. All of that work, which influences and informs your final site design and build, but doesn't necessarily show up there, is going to affect cost as well. Companies that do a great job of doing some of that work on their own can cut down on some of the costs."
Reid Peifer, Modern Tribe

Overall, the costs of hiring a web design and development company to build a website on an open source CMS are balanced with the expertise, guidance, and quality that they bring to the website building process.

Custom Website Built with a Framework

A lot of the benefits of hiring a web design and development company to build a custom website on a CMS are similar to hiring a company to build a custom website on a framework or from scratch. However, there are identifiable differences in the options, benefits, limitations, and costs associated with building a custom site with a framework.

Examples

Ruby on Rails and CakePHP.

Developers can build websites from scratch by hand coding the entire site, or they can use a framework to expedite the processes of building the main features of a site. From there, they are able to build in highly custom functions and features.

"We have frameworks and CMS tools that we use, built in Rails typically, that we build custom for each client. If you look at the spectrum of options that someone has to build a website, it spans from DIY kinds of things that are very inexpensive, on up to built-from-scratch, high-end websites. We build more at the higher end, where we build things very specific to each brand, its needs, and the workflow to support that."
Josh Kelly, FINE

Purpose

Hiring a web design and development company to build a website with a framework can produce a very custom website that meets the direct needs of the business. The costs in general will increase, but the flexibility and customization possibilities can make this website building solution desirable.

Depending on the purpose of the website, the development process will vary. Developers can build custom content management systems, e-commerce systems, security systems, and databases. Frameworks allow for more customization and flexibility in building a website.

Users

Very precise user specifications can be built into a website. But, it can be harder for the administrators to add and edit content, or make changes to the website, without advanced coding knowledge or help from the developer. To make it easier for nontechnical users to add and edit content, a developer can build a custom content management system to meet the exact needs of the user.

"We think that a CMS should manage content from an organizational perspective, so we're usually building custom CMSs. We generally don't use off-the-shelf CMSs except for rare cases where we're working with a blog or something, we might use WordPress but, for the most part, our websites are built on a custom CMS."
Josh Kelly

"When we build a site, we want to build it so that the people responsible for the website we built are able to edit and maintain at least part of the site. The bulk of the edits that clients do, they should be able to do without needing to call us. If they need to add a new section, or they need to refresh imagery throughout the site, we can help with those types of things."
Josh Kelly

Building a custom CMS exactly to the website and administrative needs can eliminate confusion and possible mistakes that could happen when using an "out-of-the-box" CMS platform.

"With those out-of-the-box CMSs, there's greater risk of tinkering with things that don't apply to what we've built. We have to show people what they don't have to worry about, and all of the things it can do that they'll never have to do. When you build it custom, the CMS only does what you need it to do most of the time, and you're not going to have a lot of other stuff to learn about. That's really a benefit of a custom CMS. It doesn't take too much training. We do train people on it, but it's meant to take care of only what they'll mostly be needing to change, not every possible thing that could possibly be changed on a website."
Josh Kelly

Functionality and Integrations

A framework gives more flexibility for building custom and complex functions into the website. The biggest benefit comes from being able to create an entire website around a specific, custom function if that is what is needed.

For example, when there are a lot of customizations needed, customizing an open source CMS might be more trouble than building a custom CMS. The developer can build a custom system that fits into the exact needs of the clients.

"Sometimes, it takes more work to customize and tailor a CMS to someone's unique needs, than it does to build something from scratch. With so much customization, it can be as expensive or more expensive than building from scratch. That's one of the reasons we ended up doing what we do. It would be easy for us to adopt some popular CMS platform. But, for us, if we're going to customize things, then starting with a giant CMS platform that has to be tailored, can be just as much work as starting from scratch and building something custom using basic tools that we've developed in-house."
Josh Kelly

For very custom integration needs that other systems cannot support, a framework is often more flexible. Frameworks are able to accommodate more custom and complex functionality and integration requirements. However, there are not the vast plugin and module options that both WordPress and Drupal have, which can make for a more expensive process to add in general functions and integrations.

Content and Design

There is the potential for further customization of the content types and organization structure. The potential for unique and custom design is also an advantage of hiring the right design and development company. The flexibility of a framework does give more possibility for creating a truly unique, custom website.

"Sometimes, the complexity is in technology but, other times, clients want to spend more money on the imagery or on the content. A website doesn't have to be that complex. It could be a functional, very user-friendly site, and still be custom. We do build a range of things, and the complexity does not always come from having a lot of content or a lot of features. Sometimes, the complexity comes from really thinking through the design and content, or from some little functional element."
Josh Kelly

"For us, we look at every project we do as an opportunity to define a company, to differentiate a brand, to connect with people, and to do it in some new and unique way. We don't have an assembly line here."
Josh Kelly

Scalability

Building a website with a framework gives the potential for scalability, a website can be built to grow and expand to the custom needs of the company.

The issue comes with the transferability of the website. Working with a development company that builds with a framework does make it more difficult to change development companies or to transfer the website to a different framework. If the development company builds a website using their specific tools and frameworks, they are the ones that know how the site works and what goes into it. It will be more difficult to transfer that data or get help beyond using that company, especially if they use various tools or a lesser-known framework.

"Sometimes, people end up getting held almost hostage, or they get ripped off for maintenance because they can't shop around. Sometimes, a company just doesn't exist anymore. They don't know where to go to get help. Maybe that company can't do what they need to do long term, they don't have the skills to build some new functionality or something."
Tom Greenwood, Wholegrain Digital

Security

A highly custom security system can be built with a framework. Additionally, the code is not widely available as it is with an open source CMS. Josh Kelly addresses the security benefits of building a custom website that is not on an open source platform.

"I think anytime you're on a platform that's widely shared, there's a potential that people will find a way to get into that platform and cause problems. To us, those platforms are less enticing as candidates because of security issues. There are definitely security benefits to doing custom things, particularly in comparison to WordPress, and probably other platforms as well."

However, most frameworks and custom built systems do not have automatic security updates like the open source content management systems. This means that there will need to be an internal team dedicated to maintaining the security of the site or the web development company will need to continue to make security updates.

Maintenance

Again, maintenance is an ongoing process and the dedication of a web company is needed for a highly custom website. There are hosting, security, and update responsibilities that require the help of the developer or an advanced internal team. Some design and development companies offer these packages for hosting and maintenance, and it is important to find a company that can support the needs of the website.

"It's such a monumental challenge to get through the launch of a website that people forget that it's never done. A website is never done, and it's never going to be done. That's one of the reasons to build a content management system, and one of the reasons to keep updating it."
Josh Kelly

"We are moving towards high-end maintenance packages. We do host for our clients, so we have a standard hosting fee with some services that are related to that. We also have upgraded hosting, with more monitoring and special touches."
Josh Kelly

If the company that built the site uses a lesser-known framework, or they add random iterations from custom tools, it will be harder to maintain the site if that company is not available. This is not always the case, but it is something to consider when deciding if the company that designs and develops the site will be need to maintain the site in the long run.

Costs

Typically, the costs are higher for hiring a web agency that builds a custom website on a framework. A lot of these costs are for the experience and time it takes to learn and work with different frameworks. However, the costs of building a highly custom site on a framework can be less than it would be to over customize a CMS.

The minimum cost for a project is usually higher for the overhead of planning out a very custom website. There are also increased costs for various circumstances.

"When we do a proposal, the things that are going to drive cost are doing multiple design directions that clients can choose from. We're going to build from scratch, and we're going to do a lot of things that are high-end approaches to building a custom website. Clients will always know that's what we're doing, and how much it'll cost. The thing that would impact that is if the project doesn't go smoothly through iteration, or if there is stalling out and things like that."
Josh Kelly

"A lot of things can make a project expensive, but the main thing, that makes it unexpectedly expensive, is if there are a lot of iterations or changes to the original plan. Things that drag on the project process are things that drive up the costs - either for us, or for the client, or both. I think it's really important to keep the momentum and be really focused and clear during all of the key parts of the process."
Josh Kelly

Often, deciding whether to hire a web agency that builds a website on an open source CMS or that builds a website using a framework is not a clear-cut answer. It is better to search for the right web design and development company that fits your business needs. They are the experts and can decide what platform or framework will be able to best support the website.

Overall, hiring a web design and development company to build a custom website has many benefits and finding the right company to guide the process and offer their expertise is invaluable.

"A lot of the sites that come to us need to be rebuilt due to poor planning and, often, the client is only a year or less out from launching this brand new site. When you hire the right team you can save money by doing it right the first time."
Marty Vernon, EDUCO

It is advantageous to have a general idea about which solution will complement the needs of your website and your business, and it is just as important to find the agency that will be able to provide the most project value.

Conclusion

There are various ways to build a website and by knowing what different options can offer, you will be able to make a more educated decision on which solution will provide the most project value. The purpose, requirements, and general budget of the website will influence which solution is right for building the website. Different solutions specialize in different types of websites and knowing how complex the website requirements are can help to select the optimal solution for building a successful website.