Website Builders vs Custom Websites

Maintaining your business web presence can be expensive, just starting out can be even more expensive and stressful so it is understandable why you would want to find ways to cut your costs.

Whether you have been in business for some time now or if you are just starting out, you have no doubt been bombarded with ads from companies like Weebly, Wix, or a whole assortment of other website builders.

In all the ads no matter the company, they show you these beautifully designed websites, while claiming that you can do this yourself no problem … and for less than your monthly coffee budget.

What they don’t tell you is that those gorgeous websites were designed by a professional designer, built by their professional development team, and in order to duplicate the website that wow’d you can only be built if you purchase their premium extensions.

Well, let’s take a peek at the difference between website builders and a custom-built website.

The Cost

As I mentioned above already, website builders advertise themselves as the more affordable options with the same outcome. Website builders operate on a monthly subscription, free / paid templates, and free / paid extensions. Here is an example of what the monthly fees look like:

  • Wix monthly fees from $5 USD to $29 USD – Wix Pricing
  • Weebly monthly fees from $0 USD (with a Weebly branded URL) to $30 USD – Weebly Pricing
  • Squarespace monthly fees from $16 USD to $46 USD – Squarespace Pricing

As you can assume what’s included varies from the level of the package.

On the flip side you have custom websites, these are often made using WordPress, Drupal, or straight-up custom coded content management system (this is not very common anymore). These websites’ costs often vary in the scope (difficulty) of the project. In my experience, most of the time your basic website (minimal bells and whistles) will start around $2500 and increases as the project scope increases. This cost does not include domain and hosting fees which will run you an additional 100 – 200 yr depending on the service you need and which company you get it through. Now to be clear the website cost is a one time expense.

Let’s look down the road for a moment, a website builder may cost less at the start but will continue to cost your business until you cancel your website subscription. Custom websites, on the other hand, are a one time cost and you are able to walk away with your website intact.


When you go to a web design / digital marketing agency to build your website not only are you getting a professionally built website but you own the website. What I mean by this is maybe you get tired of hosting with GoDaddy and decide that you want to shop around for a better price … you can. If you do find a better price you can simply transfer your website’s files to the new host with very little downtime.

Website builders, on the other hand, have you locked into their system. I am not saying all builders don’t allow you to take your website and go … but if they do it is not an easy task and you will likely need to hire a professional to do it for you.

Take Control Of Your Website

One of the main selling features of a website builder is the ability to take control and build it yourself without hiring one of those pricey web agencies. Well their claim is technically true, you can build a website yourself … but should you is the real question here.

Here is how most of the builders work. Once you have made it through the signup process and have selected your level of subscription you will be prompted to begin building your website. You will then select a theme for you to work within, these will vary between basic themes (free), to the themes you want to use (paid). You have your theme now it’s time to build! Most of these types of builders use a drag and drop system, meaning that you grab an element you want to use then drop it where you want it. You then change the images, text, background colours, and font types. Now you have a website!

Easy right … well here are some things that you didn’t consider when building your website:

  • Did you optimize your images and videos (file sizes), this will affect your websites page speeds.
  • Did you create your website’s architecture? The architecture of a website helps you to understand and plan the user flow, create an effective call to action, create consistent branding and styling. All of that small list will have a massive impact on your conversion rate which is directly related to your overall ROI.
  • Is your call to actions engaging and effective? Did you set up tracking to make sure they are converting?
  • Have you used the correct layout and tags to promote better search results?

By going with an agency to create your own custom website, you will not need to worry about the items listed above (or the ones that didn’t make the list) because that is what you are paying for. When you think about the price of a website try to look beyond a pretty site because a website is not just that, it is an extension of your brick and mortar shop, your website will also act as the very first interaction that a consumer will have with your business and you know what they say about first impressions.

Now to tackle the control aspect. Most agencies will create systems that you are able to manage yourself. Pixel to the left for example will build a system that is intended for you to be able to manage yourself (we do offer maintenance if you want it), we also take it a step further by providing training (for free I might add) for you and your team so that you can manage your brand online and not be at the mercy of a developer. Being in the industry as long as I have been, I can tell you with certainty that we are not the only ones to offer this.

So to sum up, you get a website that you can edit/modify, you can have peace of mind knowing that your website is built to maximize your ROI, and that is 100% yours to do with as you please.

SEO and Digital Marketing

One of the most important parts to your online brand but also one of the most underrated, misunderstood services out there, and more often than not compared to snake oil and magic. Let’s tackle a few of these myths before we compare builders vs custom shall we.

  • Companies can guarantee 1st place rankings. Complete and total nonsense, algorithms change, new websites are built, search trends change, industry terms change … stuff just changes period! Digital marketers cannot predict the future, we can make educated strategies based on past data and trends.
  • Rankings and results happen overnight. Again complete and total nonsense. Results vary from industry to industry. Any marketer (good and honest anyway) will tell you that one needs to have short term plans that will lead to the long term goal. When I sit down to create a strategy I break my down to yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals. I have worked on campaigns where we got to month six before we started to see any real gains and that was quick because of the industry.
  • SEO friendly websites. Again a big old nope, SEO and digital marketing take constant work. Most of the time campaigns need to be somewhat fluid in a sense that course corrections are needed as the campaign matures, this requires constant attention to the web site’s analytics, aging demographics, and search trends. This can not be accomplished by doing a few tasks and forgetting about it. Also the term SEO friendly really just means a well-built website so the term is misleading, to begin with.

Now let’s dive into the differences between a custom and builder site.

I find the main issue with website builders is that they fall under the last item in the above list. Their websites are marketed as easy to build professional-style websites that will perform as SEO friendly websites. What they have really done is added a few spots to add your keywords, some metadata, link your Google Analytics / Google Tag Manager, etc. These items in themselves mean next to nothing if you are not experienced in the world of digital marketing, for example, keywords themselves mean next to nothing they are simply phrases that you wish to rank for. If your content does not match your keywords in an organic way then it is useless since keywords have no actual impact on your websites overall rankings.

When you go to an agency these services are often offered and billed differently because they are not the same thing. Digital marketing and web design are related in a sense of course however just because you have a well built “SEO friendly” website does not mean it will market itself, as mentioned above it takes work … a lot of work.

At the end of the day, it is about what is right for you and your business. I hope this article (rant) helps you in your digital efforts and as always Pixel is here to help with any of your digital needs. Thank you for taking the time to read this and wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

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