Over the last 3 or so years a question I’ve been asked more than almost any other is whether someone should opt for a bespoke website or an off the shelf platform such as wordpress. Given I must have answered this more than a few hundred times now its surprising its taken me so long to put pen to paper. I could have simply forwarded people to this link! It would have been so much easier if I’d done so earlier! Anyway, hindsight and all that….
As special days go, the best was undoubtably my wedding day. A beautiful location, Two Bridges on Dartmoor, all my closest friends and family and banter a plenty. Rewind six or so months before the big day and I had a difficult choice to make, do I purchase an expensive bespoke suit, do I buy something off the shelf or do I rent…a choice I’d imagine faces most grooms. After a discussion with close friends and particularly my brother I decided that such a special occasion required a special suit – one that fitted me perfectly. I certainly didn’t regret it. My choice of Tailor (Dress2Kill – ask for Sam and mention my name) was epic – An old friend had recommended him and he didn’t let me down. A few months later and after a number of trips to London for all important fittings, I had a suit which fitted one person and one person only – me. It’s a dark navy blue herringbone which is a perfect slim-fit cut for my sleight figure. It has a bright purple silk lining inside to make it really ‘pop’. It has the date of my wedding and my initials hand sewn into the inside pocket as an added touch. Still to this day when I put it on I feel special. I feel like Harvey Specter!
As I drove across the country today I had a lot of time to think. It struck me that the parallel between suit choices and websites is pretty darn close, close enough to get a useful blog article out of it. You see, building a bespoke website is a lot like having a suit made by a tailor and having an off the shelf site using a Wordpress theme is quite like buying a (good quality) suit from John lewis.
So where do the similarities lie? Like Tailors, true bespoke developers have honed their craft over many years, often specialising in either front-end or back-end development. Every piece of code they write is streamlined for efficiency and used only for the reason it was written. Just as a tailor will handpick every button and sew it on with care, the coder places great importance on choosing the correct function calls and stitching them together so the client gets a fast and efficient website with no unnecessary or bloated code. If the website has been thought through and specified well, the client gets exactly the product they want and it will almost certainly deliver.
I also have suits I’ve bought from shops. They are great. They are cheap, they are pretty good quality and I get it the same day I want it. A wordpress site (especially with a theme) is also cheap, pretty good quality and you’re going to get it a lot quicker than a bespoke site. Another interesting parallel and a tick in the box for the off the shelf supporters.
But what happens when you want something changed on your suit from John Lewis? If you ask for the arms to be shortened you’re probably ok but if you ask for much more you’ll get some odd looks and told to look up a tailor. Its the same with WordPress – there is probably a plugin that does what you want but taking the obvious security questions aside if you want it to do something very…well…bespoke…then you’re probably not going to get there very easily. Unfortunately in my game there are a few too many trying to adapt their suits from John Lewis – the problem is often the client isn’t technical enough to know whats happening.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this to put down off the shelf products or even to big up bespoke products. There is a time and place for both. Ive written this to help educate the masses of people out there who don’t understand the difference so they can make informed choices next time they are talking to their web agency. They can choose what is important to them and at least ask the right questions.