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Bespoke Web Design

Small busi­nesses often ask for bespoke web design. Some know exactly why they need it, but others aren’t quite so sure. Still others see it as a waste of money. So does bespoke web design really help? Is it really essential?

Well, yes — and sometimes.

How Bespoke Web Design Boosts Business

So what can bespoke web design do for you? Well, as any web designer will tell you, first impres­sions matter. Visitors assess your website almost instantly, and visual design con­tributes a lot to that.

Still, there’s far more to it than pretty pic­tures. There’s a stronger business point to be made.

Selling online ulti­mately depends on two things — traffic (i.e. site vis­itors), and con­version rates. Traffic can either be bought (e.g. paid ads), or earned (e.g. search engines). Conversion rates are the per­centages of visits that lead to pur­chases or whatever other actions you’re trying to promote. Basically:

Sales = Traffic x Conversion Rate

So, just as search engine optim­isation (SEO) boosts low-cost, earned traffic, con­version rate optim­iz­ation (CRO) boosts con­version rates. Trust and audience tar­geting are critical to CRO, and good design helps with both of those. That, in turn, can make any invest­ments into getting traffic that much more cost-effective.

For instance, paid ads can easily cost around £1 per visitor. Often, less than 3% of those are ready to buy, and less than 1% actually will. So with that con­version rate of 1%, each sale could cost you £100 in paid ads. Just doubling that con­version rate through good design could halve that cost per sale.

You can get good-looking design from tem­plates these days, though — so why bespoke design?

Because the more pre­cisely you can appeal to your target market, the better your con­version rates will tend to be. There’s a limit to how effect­ively tem­plates can do that, even if they look good. And yes, in a highly com­pet­itive world, some­times that dif­ference can be business-critical.

So firms like Apple don’t spend mil­lions on bespoke design and mar­keting because they have money to waste. That’s what made their money. They know it’s a sound investment.

Amazing, pro­fes­sional service and speedy com­mu­nic­a­tions. Very impressed and highly recom­mended. — Barbara H. Web Design: (5/5)

Common Misconceptions About Bespoke Web Design

Still, many people think web design is some­thing that it isn’t. So before we go any further, let’s clear up a few common misconceptions:

  • Design isn’t just about making things pretty and freedom of expression. That’s art. Design iden­tifies con­straints and makes things work within them. So it’s also about making sure your site layout and structure is user-friendly.
  • Web design isn’t just about building web­sites. That’s like assuming a brick­layer is an architect. Both are valuable skills, but they aren’t the same. Similarly, cus­tom­ising pre-built site tem­plates really isn’t bespoke web design, despite what some website builders claim.
  • Websites aren’t printed pages. They are sets of inter­active content that adapt to the devices vis­itors use to view them. So good web design is responsive web design, changing to fit various sizes and ori­ent­a­tions of smart­phone, tablet or desktop screens. So pro­fes­sional bespoke web design really delivers several layouts, not just one. Sadly, even now, some designers (mostly those with print back­grounds) still overlook this.
  • Effective design focuses on serving the end user, not just the site owner. As a site owner, achieving your goals depends on helping vis­itors achieve theirs. Forgetting that and focusing on per­sonal pref­er­ences is often how DIY designs fail. Web designers see lots of data on how website vis­itors really behave, and it’s often unex­pected. So part of our job is to act as user advocates.

So with that said, how does the bespoke web design process work?

Excellent and pro­fes­sional work from beginning to end. Pete was open to ideas and able to make sug­ges­tions on how to develop my site. — Lisa P. Web Design: (5/5)

The Bespoke Web Design Process

Bespoke web design pro­cesses can vary a bit depending on the size and nature of pro­jects, espe­cially for web applic­a­tions that require bespoke pro­gramming (as opposed to just layout coding). Generally though, here’s how I approach bespoke web design projects:

1.   Getting To Know You

We start with a free initial dis­cussion to outline your goals, assess the project scope and make sure we’re a good fit. That leads to an initial rough estimate, though con­firming that usually requires a lot more detail — which is what the next phase is about. Still, estimates mean little until you know what achieving your goals would be worth. Startups are often unsure about that, so I can help you work that out too, if needed.

2.   Discovery

Discovery is a deep dive into key details like your target audience, products and ser­vices and so on. This can take a lot of time, espe­cially for complex pro­jects, but it helps to refine the initial estimate. Sometimes it turns up new oppor­tun­ities — and some­times unex­pected pit­falls or extra costs. Either way, it’s better to know these before com­mitting to the whole project. So I gen­erally recommend treating Discovery as a sep­arate, pre-paid project that pre­cedes the main one.

3.   Planning

Once you give the main project the go-ahead with an initial deposit, we can start planning it in detail. For larger pro­jects, that may include cre­ating simple dia­grams of site structure (aka “sitemaps”) and page layouts (aka “wire­frames”). This depends on what’s needed to have a clear dis­cussion about what content and fea­tures each page will require.

4.   Content

Ideally, as the expert on your business, you’ll already have created the content, or can create it quickly after the planning stage. Writing for the web isn’t like writing normal business com­mu­nic­a­tions though, so I can offer guidance on this if needed. Alternatively, if you can provide a clear, detailed brief, I can get content created for you.

A note on rebuilds: if you have an existing website with existing content, a content audit will still be wise. Pushing out­dated content into a new design rarely helps much, and if we’re changing plat­forms, URLs (page addresses) may need to change. It’s important to do that the right way, as the wrong (simpler) way can destroy any past search engine rankings you’ve built up.

5.   Design & Build

Larger pro­jects often split this stage into two phases, starting with design mockups for key pages and pos­sibly inter­active pro­to­types where rel­evant. That lets us review and mod­ified the designs, before we start building. For smaller pro­jects though, it’s now more cost-effective to use flexible design frame­works and “build in the browser”. Doing that on a private “staging” site lets you log in to see how the designs really work on your own com­puter, tablet and phone.

6.   Training

Business web­sites aren’t static, fire-and-forget pro­jects. They need tech­nical updates occa­sionally (which I nor­mally provide along with hosting), as well as content updates. So most sites now include a Content Management System or “CMS” (usually WordPress), to let site owners do the content updates without having to pay for more coding. That often requires some training, which I can provide. If you prefer to send updates to me, that’s fine too, but will be bil­lable. Still, the web changes so often that a support plan gen­erally helps either way.

7.   Launch & Support

Once you’re happy to launch your website, we’ll make it public and inform the major search engines. We’ll also add things like ana­lytics, which don’t really apply until your site is live, and have a chat about how to use them to keep your online business growing. I gen­erally offer 30 days of free support to deal with any teething troubles, after which any further support will be bil­lable (at lower rates on a support plan).


Whilst tem­plated designs can be passable if your fin­ances are stretched, bespoke web design can increase sales and reduce mar­keting costs. It doesn’t really do that just by looking pretty, but by appealing more pre­cisely to your target audience.

Does that sound like what you’re looking for? If so, let’s get started:

Tell me about your goals