When I was a kid, I had dreams. Simple dreams, I might add. Climb the tallest tree in the neighborhood? Check. Sled down the biggest hill after a snowstorm? Check. (Scary as hell, though.) 360 slam-dunk on the basketball hoop in the neighbor’s pool? Check!
I also dreamed of starting my own lemonade stand. This one, however, presented me with challenges that weren’t quite as simple as the others.
When conquering the tree, the options are basic: climb limb, don’t look down, climb the next limb, don’t look down, and so on. Sledding down the biggest hill? Wear extra padded clothing, point the sled down hill, and let gravity do the rest. 360 dunk? Jump, spin, and make sure to do it over water.
With opening a lemonade stand, I wanted to do it right. I wanted to acquire customers, retain them, and use my branding to grow the business. Sure, you could do it with a small table, chair, lemonade, cup, and a sign. If you wanted real results, though, you had to start making decisions that would impact your customers, especially first timers. The same thing can be said for how you approach building your website. Let’s start with the comparisons.
“All-In-One” Website Templates – aka “Lemonade Stand In-A-Box”
Even though the idea just came to my mind with no prior knowledge of one, I had to google “Lemonade Stand In-A-Box” – and sure enough, it exists! Here’s the perfect example. This stand comes pre-fabricated with instructions on how to put the base together. Once finished, it’s all up to you to add the design within the template’s capabilities.
It’s the same concept for “All-In-One” websites. You either purchase a theme or sign up for monthly fees (from sites like Wix, Weebly, 1&1, etc…), and they typically come with a set of instructions on how to get your basic website up and going. After that, it’s all up to you for branding and design – as long as you “stay in the lines” with the functionality offered. Venturing beyond those limitations is typically not allowed.
Benefits of the “All-In-One” include:
- Start up costs are inexpensive, and unless you hire a web designer, theme building and content placement are on your own time/dime. Seriously, who wants to spend time building a lemonade stand in the summer heat?
- As long as you have the time and patience, you can quickly look professional. Pretty pictures, simple copy, plenty of space – in a sense, your stand would be FDA approved!
- Most platforms already offer built in “E-Commerce” – you just add the details. Quickly offer the addition of simple syrup without having to make it by hand!
- No need to set up your server, everything is pre-configured. Your stand comes pre-nailed, pre-glued, and pre-quality controlled by inspector #24.
- Maintenance-free – your stand is warrantied and maintained by the manufacturer at all times.
Disadvantages of the “All-In-One” include:
- You’re locked in to their offered functionality (including E-Commerce). This is a deal breaker for most companies. Want to install an ice machine? Offer lemonade subscriptions for only 1 month? More than likely, you can’t.
- There is a greater chance you will look like other sites before and after you.
- No access to the server – meaning running even simple cron jobs (ie. connect to a shipper) aren’t possible.
- Again, unless you hire a web designer, you have to spend the time creating your design. Even if you hire a designer, they’ll have to spend initial time just to learn the builder interface – even if it’s simple. At least the stand’s instructions aren’t in brail!
- Companies always have requests that require designers to think/design/code outside the box – and it may not be possible with the template.You can quickly get your “Lemonade Stand” up and going if you’re willing to sacrifice complexity, uniqueness, and not mind potentially mimicking others in your neighborhood. You can have a professional clean look – but at what cost to your future growth? How will you ensure that you stand out from the crowd?
“Custom-Built” Website – aka “Not-Your-Father’s” Lemonade Stand
You have high expectations for your stand. Professionally blended concoctions of strawberry, raspberry, and “sparkling ginger”. Special umbrellas to protect your customers from the sun. Even shaved ice! Anything you envision can become a reality because your stand is built with your specific needs – and future – in mind.
Turning this dream into reality – building a custom website from scratch – might sound expensive and/or exhausting. So many options, where to start?! Well, the process simply starts with hiring a qualified and knowledgeable web designer who understands the entire process. They can help you architect the framework, design your custom theme, and integrate the two seamlessly with your content – all while ensuring your site will grow fluidly with future expansions.
Benefits of the “Custom-Built” include:
- You get the exact theme you want. Custom countertops? Some sparkle in the paint? Show off your stand’s style!
- You get the exact functionality that you want. Want to make your stand mobile with sand tires for the beach? Done – and increase your customer base at the same time!
- Need to API with a 3rd party? Let’s make that stand integrate with lemon farmers!
- Have a specific gateway you’d like to use to process e-commerce transactions? Be confident even the local credit union will accept your $2 transactions. (Hey, lemonade is expensive these days!)
- Your entire office can work the site with a custom-built interface and personal in-depth training. Everyone can run the stand, and you don’t even have to know the lemon-to-water-to-sugar ratio!
- Want your website to grow with you in the future? This stand will accommodate even a custom juicer to get the most out of those mangoes.
- Price? It actually might be cheaper than you think – especially in the long run. Designers won’t have to “learn someone else’s interface” and instead can quickly build one with your framework in mind.
Disadvantages of the “Custom-Built” include:
- Price – especially if you want your stand to have extreme functionality, like having your stand to predict orders.
- Time. Sometimes it can take up to 5 months to build everything you need. Making your own shaved ice machine (see – now we’re getting fancy!) will take awhile.
- Maintenance required. You might have to (we encourage you to) do some light up-keep on your stand. However, if built correctly, this should take you mere seconds a few times a month. Besides, you don’t want anyone stealing the lemons!
- E-Commerce installations/additions can be time consuming. Patience is key here – make sure customers are seeing your exact vision.———That summer sun is beating down on you, and cars are already flying by. (Slow down, people! Children play here!) Make sure you have a game plan before you grab the hammer and nails. Are you looking for a quick solution with the “All-In-One” route? Are you down with getting your hands dirty on a “Custom-Build”? Whichever way you decide, the key is to lay out the game plan on building your stand so you aren’t frustrated along the way.A qualified web designer will be able to guide you step by step through the IA (Information Architecture) document, designing the perfect theme, integrating the content, and finally “flipping the switch”. Simple dream? Your perfect website may be a bit more complicated than you think.