11 months ago in Website Development • 11 min read
The Advantages of Hand-Coding Your Website
As an agency that prides itself on Digital Marketing, we understand the value of an effective website. Here we explore the benefits of hand-coding a website before it is built in order to create a fully bespoke, functional website that performs to our clients' expectations.
As an agency that prides itself on Digital Marketing, Storm is constantly approached by businesses seeking a new website. However, some potential clients are unprepared for what a quote for a fully realised, hand-coded, bespoke website might look like.
They reference other cheaper routes to establishing a website and question what it is about the Storm approach that warrants such a committed investment.
At this point, we are sometimes asked if we would be prepared to alter our approach and produce an off-the-peg website based on a cookie cutter template for a reduced price - and this is where we and the prospective client most likely go our separate ways.
We are not averse to sites that are constructed that way - we are all keen visitors to many fantastic websites that originated on Squarespace or Joomla - but it’s simply not what we do for our clients here at Storm. There are plenty of businesses for whom drag-&-drop or pre-built platforms may be the most suitable way to create a website, and we salute them.
For anyone who may be unsure as to which approach to take, we hope this blog may clarify some of the issues.
What's the Matter with a Basic Drag & Drop Website?
The simplest way to get a website up and running is to look to a drag & drop platform such as Wix or Weebly. These are essentially websites that let you host websites. You will pick a template and populate it with your content, literally by dragging it and dropping it into place, and it will be hosted by the provider for a low monthly fee.
Why pick this approach? Well, because it’s quick, it’s easy and can be done with virtually no budget. For an amateur website that has few requirements in terms of functionality, the resulting website may be more than sufficient, especially if you only require it to host simple information and imagery.
If you require further functionality though, you will have to purchase it from the provider – and you will soon run up against the platform’s limitations. You will almost certainly be frustrated if you want to operate a sophisticated transactional site.
Plus, looks-wise, the nature of drag & drop platforms will limit your options. A talented amateur with an eye for design can work within these constraints to produce an attractive site, but ultimately it will struggle to shake off the whiff of the bargain basement.
The Templated Approach to Website Development
A level up from this approach would be a pre-built, off-the-shelf platform such as Wordpress, Squarespace, Drupal or Joomla. These providers allow you to build a website without any specialist coding knowledge (although coders can use them as a basis to build slightly more sophisticated sites within certain constraints).
This approach does open up the options to an extent. Reasonably conventional functionality requirements will be catered for – many successful online stores run on this sort of platform. Design wise, although you won’t have an entirely blank canvass to work on, it will be straight-forward enough to produce a well-designed and even original-looking website.
You won’t need to know much about database management to have your site link up with compatible existing systems and you won’t need to learn how to code.
If this all sounds rather positive – it is! These platforms are a terrific way to build attractive, functional sites. Only when reaching towards the cutting edge of functionality and design do the drawbacks become apparent.
Where very specific function and design features are required such as those that a hand-coded site can offer, you may find yourself wishing you’d gone for a more tailored solution.
Understanding the Benefits of Hand-Coding a Website
And top of the pile is building (or more likely, having someone build for you…) an entirely bespoke, hand-coded website designed specifically for your needs. This requires expert knowledge of coding languages such as HTML, PHP, CSS etc. If you have the skills to do this, chances are you are already an IT professional or a huge enthusiast.
Most people are not – so the hand-coding approach will generally require hiring experts to build the site on your behalf. And that’s what we do here at Storm, but with the added benefit, that the design, content and optimisation will also be addressed by experts.
The greatest barrier to a DIY approach is clearly the skills gap, given the expertise required to code a top-class website from scratch. But if we take it as read that most people would turn to professionals to pursue this approach, then the barrier becomes one of budget.
So, we return to the question that we started with – what is it about a hand-coded website that justifies the investment?
Bespoke Consultation and Planning
Essentially, it’s about getting the exact site you want, instead of approximately the site you want. At Storm, we design the layout of your site according to the specifications we agree together, and then create the code to bring it to life in that form. This contrasts with an off-the-shelf website where the opposite occurs – you have to adapt your content to suit the pre-existing code.
If you are a business with a very specific vision of how you want your site to appear and how you want it to function, we can create that for you without compromise. Whereas a WordPress site may be inflexible if you wish to place text above a heading, or double up your headings, with a hand-coded site, you can have everything arranged exactly as you wish.
At Storm, we build a prototype for you to experience, explore and tweak before building the full-blown site. This adds a layer of detailed planning that you wouldn’t otherwise have. It starts with hand-drawn paper planning, we talk it through with you then our UX (User Experience) designer puts it into a digital prototype.
From that we will create some designs for the homepage and once you are happy we roll it out across the site.
Bespoke Website Design
Hand-coding will enable designers to develop a unique look and feel that visitors will not find anywhere else. It will be immediately apparent to sophisticated shoppers that they are in the presence of a quality brand when they encounter the specific design features and flourishes that set your site apart, not only from your direct competitors, but also any other website.
Your audience is savvy and they are judging you, this should not be underestimated. They see many websites every day and they are desensitised and tough to impress. They hanker after a unique user experience which you will have to provide if you are to stand out. If that is where you are aiming, then a hand-coded site will be the choice for you.
Bespoke Website Function
A key advantage of hand-coding is that talented developers can create bespoke features and functions that Wordpress, Squarespace, Drupal or Joomla simply can’t accommodate. A well-briefed team of web-development specialists will be able to examine your requirements and implement precise solutions.
Storm works with many B2B clients that have very specific functionality requirements, often relating to how their site needs to hook up to their existing IT infrastructure. Clients often need to integrate their new website with in-house systems, client portals, cloud-based software or other applications. Whatever integration a client requires with regards to existing systems, our developers create ways to facilitate the flow of data required for the successful functioning of the website.
Plus, another valuable feature of our approach that sets us apart is our focus on creating distinct CMS portals for clients. This gives them a straightforward programme where they can edit website content quickly and easily, with these change not altering the structure or sleek look of the site.
Working with an Agency to Develop the Website You Want
The added value in going through a full-service Digital Marketing agency is that in addition to specialist back and front-end developers, they will also have the designers and copywriters all under the same roof – so you will have specialist experts working on every aspect of your site. You won’t have to compromise in quality in any area whatsoever.
Could Hand-Coding Make The Most of Your Website?
The choice is clear for businesses at either end of the spectrum. If you are an independent coffee shop on a budget, an off-the-peg site is going to suffice. If you’re Amazon, not so much. But there’s a lot of middle ground there. Those businesses should look carefully at the benefits that a bespoke site could bring.
In many cases, it will be worth stretching the budget to acquire the highest quality digital presence – but only if it will deliver a return on your investment.
To any business that is unsure about the level of investment they should be placing in their website, get in touch with Storm. If it’s not going to deliver a return on investment, we won’t recommend hand-coded, but it may be that we can deliver a new website for you that delivers in ways you never thought possible.