Kathy Smith
Sr. Website Designer

Behind the scenes: Website templates versus custom development

When do you need to call in a professional to design your website? What is the difference between a website template and custom development?

I’ve wanted to write a blog on basic HTML for a long time to give laymen an idea of what goes into programming a site. Making a website can range from very little work to a lot of work, depending on the features and level of professionalism needed.

For example, using a blogging tool as your main site is convenient and easy. But it is a bit limiting, as you cannot necessarily have all the features you need. Some of those features might be:

  • A personalized domain, i.e., one without the word “blogger” in it
  • Email using your domain name
  • Custom graphic design that completely matches the personality of your business or organization
  • Versatile page layouts

At the other end of the spectrum, some businesses and organizations have need for completely custom web database applications; these can be fairly large scale. At the high end, eBay has at least six data centers and thousands of web professionals to manage its typical 106 million active auctions.

Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations about how far their particular budget will go. Certainly many tools are available that can create very sophisticated websites with a lot less work than it used to take. Many “open source” solutions – in other words, free – are available, created by the accumulated labor of many website development professionals who volunteered their time. People can implement sophisticated ecommerce and websites with many features for very little money.

Still, it takes quite a bit of programming work to create a completely professional web presence, at minimum involving considerable graphic design.

Marketing and business professionals can benefit by learning a bit about what makes websites work. Many open source content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla let the layman edit websites with a text editor. But to make some of the widgets work it’s a good idea to know some HTML for formatting.

We recently coded the website www.hogan-transportation.com. You can see much of the programming that makes a website page by going to the page, clicking on the page with your right-hand mouse button, and clicking “View Source” from the popup menu. Try it on this page  and you’ll see something like this:

Sample code of website

Although it might look complicated to the layman, this is actually a very simple site. But never fear, the code in this is more complex than what you’d have to code for widgets – small, self-contained bunches of code – in a marketing role. In my next blog entry, I will walk through the basic anatomy of a typical HTML page, and then cover an example of how to create a WordPress widget, which is simpler than creating a web page in its entirety.

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Kathy Smith has developed more than 200 websites – everything from n-tier enabled applications to ecommerce to your friendly brochure-style website. She is senior developer at Lakenetwork.net, a website development company in Eastlake, Ohio.


about lakenetwork

Lakenetwork is a family-owned business providing website design and development for companies, professionals and organizations in the Cleveland, Ohio area and beyond. We specialize in providing the most cost-effective and appropriate solutions for clients’ online needs. We are located in Eastlake, Ohio.

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