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The Difference in Value Between Digital Agencies and Web Design Commodities

By Snap Agency June 7, 2016

As a website designer, I have asked myself the question, “Is my client getting more value by paying me to design a custom website for them or would they be better off using something like Squarespace?” I will admit, website commodities like Squarespace, Wix or Weebly have beautiful design templates to choose between, however, I strongly believe they lack the value that is vital to the success of your business.

  1. Cost vs. Investment
  2. Custom vs. Generic Functionality
  3. Custom Design vs. Template Design


Cost or Investment

Here is the truth, the lifespan of a website is two to three years; after then it is considered outdated. Your decision should create profit in sales and better brand perception in the mind of your users. Your audience is out there and the best place to reach them today is online. Agencies want to make you successful because they have to earn representation among their competitors. Your success equals their success and the bulk of your decision should hinge on actually liking the people who would be working on your project.

Commodities will charge a maximum of $30 a month: That’s $360 dollars a year. I wouldn’t take the annual price for a freelance job as it just wouldn’t make sense for me or for my client. However, getting something up is better than nothing if you are just starting out, but that is clearly not a long-term plan. Now, if you need a website just to show off you work or have it act as a gallery site, I think website commodities do a really good job for that specific niche. If you need to drive traffic to your site or do anything remotely custom for your brand, those are things Squarespace, Weebly or Wix simply can’t do for you. They sell templates and there is nothing custom about them. In fact, that is how they have become successful. They generalize you and place your brand into something you’ve seen on your competitor’s websites. Naturally you think “that’s what I need to do, too,” when actually, you need to focus on what’s different, not similar.


Custom vs. Generic Functionality

Sometimes you need or want people to behave a certain way on your website. Template functionality doesn’t provide new solutions to any problem. In fact, everything is based on past solutions that work OK, but they don’t give your brand anything better than anyone else’s. If you don’t do anything different than anyone else, how can you expect people to remember you? It is a designer’s job to provide tailored solutions for your brand as this allows your customers to receive information quickly, get what they need simply, and receive a positive lasting impression of your brand, products, and/or services.

There is another factor you need to keep in mind when making the decision between a commodity or agency. SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, or, said differently, driving traffic to your site through users’ behaviors on search engines. This is more than difficult to establish well on commodity sites because they have code that stands between you and your customers. These site-building companies do this because they want to use your website you are paying them for to make them more popular, not you. If you want your website to stand out and be found on search engines over your competitors, it will be difficult unless you migrate to another platform.


Custom Design vs. Template Design

Hypothetically, let’s say you have a beautiful Squarespace website for your business. While the beauty of the design looks high-quality and you think it’s an accurate depiction of your brand, you’re most likely wrong. I specialize in website design and conversion rate optimization at Snap Agency and if there is anything I have learned and know today, it’s that assuming things makes an ass out of you and me, and loses a lot of money! You don’t know if it is an accurate depiction of your brand because you are only one person with one option given to you. You can’t read the minds of people buying your thing, or can you? The answer to that question is “yes”—through a series of user tests and by engaging with your audience. Ask them questions and you can learn what they want from you and your brand. When you deliver those things to your customers, they will feel like you can read their mind and buy anything from you almost instantly. After learning and doing theses things you can adjust the look of your brand based on what you want and what they need.


At the very least I hope this informed you that website commodities can look great and are great options for portfolios or simply having something up rather than nothing. However, when you makes investments into your business, don’t allow Squarespace, Weebly, Wix or what have you to be a partner in your business’ online success.