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Custom web development vs Templates and No-Code

Portrait photo of Øyvind Østmo
Written by Øyvind Østmo
- builder of brands and businesses since 2000
April 01, 2022
7 minute read
Logo mashup - Sanity, Webflow, WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace

Choosing the right web technology, frameworks, and content management platform is an important first step on the road to success.

Let's have a look at when our go-to headless Sanity CMS for high-end custom website development outweighs the benefits of the ease and speed of platforms like Webflow.

53% of mobile users abandon sites that take over 3 seconds to load.

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15 advantages of going custom in website development

We always consider technologies and platforms individually after digging deep into the current and future business goals of our customers, but here are the top reasons we typically go custom in website development. We have compiled this list based on developing on Sanity headless CMS with the frontend frameworks Next.js and React.js that we use to build solutions that are future-proof, flexible, and lightning-fast.

01

Future proof

Build anything! Unlimited possibilities for features and growth. You may not need a bunch of complicated functionality now, but what is your business going to look like in 2-5 years? How are you planning to grow? Is your website functionality going to evolve? It’s hard to plan ahead, but it can save you time and money in the long run if you start with modern technology that won’t hold you back.

Build what your customers want and what’s best for your brand, not what the template and plug-ins allow you to build.

02

Speed is king!

The Sanity + Next.js tech combination hosted with Vercel (yes, I let the geek out) features super-fast websites for better usability. Slow load times are sales killers, especially on mobile. Google: 53% of mobile users abandon sites that take over 3 seconds to load.

03

A better editor experience

Totally customized editing that fits your content. Content is built with custom blocks and layouts making it easy for the editor to build and update pages without needing help from developers.

04

Content as structured data can live through several iterations of websites and applications

Sanity CMS desk interface

With a headless CMS like Sanity, the content of your business is stored as structured data, totally separate from the presentation. That means that when it's time to design and develop a brand new website, your content can live on and be presented in the new solution without starting from scratch.

05

Limitless e-commerce

Customized shopping experiences with no template restraints. Combine e-commerce with other web content seamlessly. When we couple Sanity with headless e-commerce platforms like Centra (a perfect fit for the Nordic market), the solution is extremely powerful and future-proof for growing international brand stores.

06

Better collaboration and content control

Real-time content collaboration and advanced version control.

07

Custom integrations

Integrate with just about anything. Send and receive data to any system that allows it.

08

Better content distribution

All your content in one place with a “headless CMS” that totally separates content and display, allowing you to distribute your content to the web, emails, apps, anywhere. Easily share by email newsletters recipes, products, or whatever content is relevant to your customers, manually or automatically.

09

Better image handling

Sanity has amazing image editing and processing that is easy for editors and provides fast load times for users.

10

Localization

Easily handle multiple languages on one site. Even simple low-budget (or in this case no-budget) websites like the non-profit Support not Protect feature the option to speak to their audience in their native language.

11

Control who has access to what

High level security and granular editor permissions.

12

Add memberships to your site

Fully integrated member and payment handling for membership sites.

13

Responsive videos

Upload videos directly in the Sanity editor, and they're uploaded via the MUX plugin in the background, which processes the video, and makes source files in different sizes for different device types automatically that we can access and display on the website.

14

Invest now, save later

If you spend 50-100k NOK (5-10k EUR) on a simple solution in Squarespace, WordPress, Webflow, or Wix now, that money is lost when your needs exceed the possibilities of the platform.

15

Build like the best

Successful brands like Nike, reMarkable, and Sonos build their site on Sanity - the best modern CMS.

Sanity CMS

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When is custom development not a good idea?

There are plenty of businesses and projects that have no need for the advantages of a custom-developed website. If the needs of the business can be covered for the next year or two with the features of Webflow, that can reduce the initial investment by 50-75% compared to custom development on Sanity and React.js / Next.js.

Here are the typical reasons that make us recommend businesses to go for Webflow rather than custom development with Sanity CMS:

01

Budgets

Sometimes we simply can't afford what we want or should have. If a custom high-end website that would be perfect for your business costs 300k NOK and your budget is 100k NOK, we will help you evaluate if the benefits of going custom will cover an increased investment short term or if it's better to start simple with Webflow and re-evaluate in the future.

02

Functional requirements

If a platform like Webflow covers all the business needs now and in the near future, we will recommend this lightweight approach instead of custom development.

03

MVPs and testing

For early-stage startups and companies who need to test concepts that will evolve rapidly and potentially get dropped, building great websites and user experiences on Webflow is a great way to go. Within the limitations of Webflow, we can build exactly what we want how we want it, so it's an amazing tool for prototyping.

What are the options for a no-code or template-based approach?

First of all, let's just all agree that WordPress is an absolute disaster. We cover that in this somewhat personal article.

In the space of "site builders" we typically point very low-budget clients to Squarespace. The platform requires very little knowledge about the web, but is also very constrained and limited in various ways if you want to go outside their box.

Wix is another popular alternative. This one can be dangerous though as it offers a lot of freedom to non-technological users, which can result in suboptimal results. We generally advise customers to stay away from Wix.

Our tool of choice for simple websites and MVPs/testing is Webflow, where we build sites exactly how we want them from scratch, using a graphical interface instead of writing code. That speeds things up and allows us to iterate quickly.