The Website You Want & The Website You Need

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  • common question: why build bespoke
  • think you already know the answer?
  • SS == simple, bespoke == complex?
  • Some truth in that but it’s a simplification and we should dig a layer deeper

  • state what we’ll learn from this, remember it’s a sales pitch
  • Find good language to reframe this problem
  • some comment that I’m old and tired enough that I pretty much don’t have a dog in this fight any more and I do actually want people to build what’s right for them.

IMAGES: - Some kind of image describing the whole debate as a constant amount of time/money/energy that gets distributed differently. - Big part of what companies call ‘website development’ is actually the developer helping them do a lot of business development and making brand and other decisions - Let’s bring those decisions out of the development black box - Either you can do that biz dev yourself if you’re set up to do it, or have an agency help you with it - It could well be the case that you can’t afford agency rates for them to help you with the biz dev, and have to do it yourself but don’t be fooled that you don’t have to do it - May also think you can get a separate team to do the biz dev, branding, long-term tech planning, and actual development — and you may be able to! — but probably not, if you have the cash flow it’s almost certainly better to work with an agency - If it’s a big company you could well manage a website project in-house but you may look to an agency for a different reason: to get some outside ideas and inspiration. A good agency will present a design that can be build in-house, or build something and train in-house staff to continue with it; plenty of options and not something to be scared of.

On ‘Complexity’

  • tradeoff between features and complexity misunderstood
  • discuss: for the usual usecase, squarespace/bespoke both make some things simple and others complex
  • what is the cost of certain kinds of complexity?
  • discuss: using an off-the-shelf e-commerce solution and accruing years of incomplete/incorrect data, eg. the whisky investment info which was needed for tax purposes at a later date but which was not well-organised


  • Is it as straightforward as SS == simple, bespoke == complex?
  • Of course not
  • Should talk about client’s level of investment
  • What’s wrong with common position of ‘go away and make me a website’
  • Most of the work and ‘complexity’ associated with bespoke is just doing the upfront work and putting the time into understanding what your business needs out of its website and tech.
  • This work should be done regardless of the technical solution
  • Part of what you’re paying for with bespoke is for someone to help you do that work; it’s part of business development
  • Some organisations have the resources and structure to do this work themselves, others would do well to pay for an agency to help them do it as part of a website offering


  • The usual web development company shtick is to say pay once upfront for a quality product rather than paying a subscription forever
  • I agree with the quality statement
  • But software, especially websites, are never finished as requirements are continually changing and new functionality integrations
  • You’re going to be paying more in future for website work (or you’re fooling yourself or are going to end up with a website that no longer does a good job)

Bits and bobs:

  • software as an industry is very young, web only 30yo, full of cowboys and well-meaning amateurs
  • As with the cost item, for cross-browser a template may be better as in principle it might be well-tested. While the bespoke site developer has the expertise to create something with good cross-browser compatibility, the end result depends on how the project is managed and what time tradeoffs are made. As usual, it’s a control thing. You have little control over the template’s quality (even if you’re able to edit it) whereas you have complete control over the bespoke code and can choose to spend more time on some aspect whenever you like.

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