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  • Writer's pictureGayle Carpenter

Bespoke Vs Off the Shelf Websites.

What should SMEs consider when investing in a website?

2020 has taught us a lot of valuable lessons, particularly about the true power of digital.

With brands like Primark initially reducing their revenue to zero as a result of having no e-commerce strategy and B2B businesses that previously relied on trade-shows forced to transfer online, the value of having a strong digital brand presence is now more important than ever before.

The compelling truth, however, is that business leaders have known this for many years, but often choose to neglect it - expecting potential customers to find and engage with their brand without the incentive of a user-friendly website or consistent social media presence.

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, business leaders have also been presented with the opportunity to evaluate what is and isn’t working in their organisation. For many, their existing website will be top of the list.

However, with continued advances in technology and an increasing number of ‘off the shelf’ products now readily available, it can be difficult to know where and what to start with when developing a new website.

In truth, it comes down to the individual needs of the business:

What do SMEs think?

In March 2020, over 500 Senior Representatives from UK SMEs were surveyed to evaluate their digital brand presence and what it means to them. This included analysis of their current website, where the results demonstrate a clear divide in web build decisions:


of respondents advised they used an ‘off the shelf’ product to develop their company website, with no input from an external agency


of respondents advised they used a platform with creative and/or technical input from an external agency


of respondents advised they built a bespoke company website

Choose the Best of Both

The truth is there is real value in both off-the-shelf products and bespoke builds and business owners shouldn’t feel pressured into investing into a totally bespoke build that they cannot afford, if it isn’t something that is either needed or would benefit their brand.

The key is maximising the opportunity of what is available and enhancing it.

Know the Limits of each Platform

When developing a new website, it’s just as important to understand the limits of each platform as it is to understand your own limits as a business in managing it.

Although some ‘off the shelf’ platforms seem simplistic, the easy route won’t always be the right one. Opt for a platform that is right for your business and for the future development of your brand, even if that means bringing in the experts to provide additional support.

Remember, cutting corners with cost may seem like a good idea in the short-term, it will cost you more in both time and money in the long-term.

Know your Limits in Time, Resource and Knowledge

It is equally as important to understand that ‘building’ a website using an off the shelf product with no external support will result in limitations in both creative design and technical development capability.

In opting for an off the shelf product, you still need to ensure your user journey and UX [user experience] works flawlessly and that your brand and content are well-positioned to engage target audiences, are cohesive with other digital channels and can drive resulting growth.

Once launched, it’s important to remember that a new website may offer a new way to showcase your business, but it doesn’t enable you to truly build a brand. A brand is something that is built over time through the consistent delivery of content, imagery, video and other digital assets all shared across various channels to engage target audiences and drive them to your website.

For every business embarking on the development of a new website, a shift in mindset is required to understand that a website build isn’t a standalone project, but is something that constantly evolves and develops to strengthen your digital brand presence. Ultimately it just takes 4 simple steps:

1. Brand

Have a strong clear brand with well considered and designed content

2. Build

Carefully assess and choose the right platform for you

3. Connect

Utilise and connect with other apps and social channels

4. Repeat

Consistently maintain and develop your website and digital presence

To find out more about Sparkloop’s recent research, download a copy of the SME Digital Brand Presence Report 2020 here.


Sparkloop is a creative agency that helps businesses find their competitive edge through branding, design and creative content. Start a Spark-Up Session today.

We have built bespoke and off-the-shelf websites for several clients over the years. We have gained real insight as to what the best short and long term solutions are that match up to to a clients needs, not ours.

Gayle Carpenter

Creative Director, Sparkloop


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