Four Levels of Website Design

As a design and technology firm, we get asked some variation of two questions on a daily basis: “Can you help me?” and “What are my options?” The answer to the first question is pretty much always, “Yes! We can help you!” but the next question is a little more complicated to answer. That’s because, whether the client realizes it or not, the real question that’s being asked here is:

“How much will it cost me and what do I get for my money?”

When this question comes up – as it inevitably will – we find that it’s often very helpful to break down the various website options into four “levels” to provide some context for the question.

Just a note before we dive in: The solution types listed below are designed to be general reference groups that reflect the majority of web solutions out there. These descriptions are very high-level and somewhat broad in nature. The reality is that there are a wide variety of options available across this whole spectrum and some solutions may fall between these levels.

LEVEL 1

The DIY Site

These are the “build your own” sites done by many hosting providers or built using simplified software. These services and software suites provide you the tools that you need to create your own site, but they don’t provide you any expertise to lean on. NOTE: AM doesn’t provide this level of website. If a church or nonprofit organization wanted to build a site on their own, they wouldn’t be talking with us in the first place!

PROS: They are usually inexpensive to create and can be a good starting point for start-ups since you can be up and running fairly quickly depending on your skills with the tools provided.

CONS: The burden of designing and building the site lies entirely and squarely on your shoulders. You don’t have a stable of website professionals – talented designers and brilliant developers – at your disposal to make sure that your site is amazing. Support – if there is any – is usually very limited.

LEVEL 2

The Fully Templated Site

Fully templated sites come with a CMS (content management system), a full set of website features, and a design already in place. Generally speaking, you are able to plug in your logo and maybe swap out some colors to match your branding, and that’s it – you’re done with design.

PROS: These are also fairly inexpensive and someone else has already done the work of creating a decent-looking and fully-functional user interface so that you just have to worry about content. Templated sites also tend to come with a set of tools and features which may be more powerful than the cost might reflect. This is because the company that created the site can save money by duplicating the tools without customizing them.

CONS: You don’t get very much choice or flexibility over how the site looks or how the functionality works. The template is set and it is not unique to your organization. You also don’t generally get any say in the tools or features of the site – you get what they’ve built in already and nothing more.

LEVEL 3

The Custom Templated Site

Like fully templated sites, custom template sites come with a full set of website features already in place (generally created by a whole team of developers and designers). However, rather than having a design set in stone, custom template sites start with a design template which can then be customized to fit your branding and personality. Many times this level of a site is offered by a web design firm which means that you may also have the opportunity to work with an experienced website and user interface designer.

PROS: They are less expensive than a fully custom site while still allowing a significant level of customization in the design. Generally speaking, these are offered by companies who support their solutions since they have had a hand in building and designing your website.

CONS: While you have some flexibility on design, you don’t have the flexibility of starting the design phase with a blank canvas. Additionally, the admin portion (or CMS) of these sites are generally already determined – you get a pre-built set of features – and you have very few options for additional or customized functionality

LEVEL 4

The Fully Custom Solution

This is the top-of-the-line, best-of-the-best website solution. When you create a custom site, you partner with a design and technology firm to create every piece of the platform specifically for you. Every line of code and every piece of design is conceived, approved, and created specifically for you and your needs.

PROS: Your site is unique to you on every level. It exactly matches your needs, your demographic, and your personality. You have the chance to be a part of the design process from the very beginning and your designers start with a blank canvas. You determine the features and tools that get built for your site. This level of website generally comes from a full-service web design and technology firm which means that they will offer full support for their work.

CONS: Fully custom websites are not cheap and they may not be the best option for everyone due to financial considerations.

As mentioned previously, these are very broad descriptions. There are a lot of options when it comes to building your church or organization’s new website. If you would like more information or have specific questions about any of these levels and what they mean for your organization, we would love to speak with you. Please contact us today!

Give us a call today at (817) 503-8870