Custom Web Design Services vs. Website Builders – Which Is Better for Small Business?

Published 03 July, 2023 Updated 06 October, 2023

What are the pros and cons of custom web design services versus automated website builders? Find the answer to this crucial question in this blog post.

Custom Web Design Services vs. Website Builders – Which Is Better for Small Business?

You understand the importance of establishing an online presence and have decided to build a website. Great! Now all you need to do is make it happen. You may wonder: Should I invest in custom web design services provided by experienced designers or go with a website builder that offers limited customization options but comes with a smaller price tag? 

If you plan to use your website to represent your brand, and it may become the primary point of contact for potential customers, you probably understand you should not leave its design up to chance. Still, if you know little next to nothing about website building, you might feel lost and confused. If that is the case, outsourcing web design might be the right move.

Regardless of how you design a website, it is crucial that you weigh all options beforehand to guarantee professional web presence and brand reputation. What are the key things to consider between a custom web design service and a website builder to make a well-informed decision? Is there a better alternative to either option? Let’s find out.

Key highlights

  • A custom web design service involves working with professional designers to create a unique and personalized website tailored to your brand’s image.
  • Popular website builders allow creating websites by yourself using pre-designed templates and drag-and-drop functionality, which means they are beginner-friendly.
  • While website builders are often more affordable and suitable for quick website setups, custom design services offer enhanced website optimization and functionalities. 

What is website design?

Web design involves creating and arranging a website’s visual elements, layout and structure. First impressions matter, and that holds true when building a website from the design perspective. 

If you sell products, your website is like a virtual storefront for your business. If you promote services, it acts as the perfect business card. Ultimately, how your website looks shapes the visitors’ and customers’ perception of your brand. Think about it. Would you trust a business website without a logo, an inconsistent color scheme or hard-to-read text?

A professional website is, without a doubt, a digital marketing asset that can leave a memorable impression on first-time visitors and, ideally, convert them into customers. Whether you build your site using the services of a custom website design company or website builders, the key design aspects to consider include aesthetics, functionality and accessibility


A website’s visual appeal is essential to keep visitors engaged and make them want to return. The following elements contribute to a website’s overall appearance, so paying attention to them during the design process is crucial.

  • Color: Colors evoke emotions and shape perceptions. So, choose colors that align with your brand image and personality. For example, it is no coincidence that websites selling eco-friendly, organic products often use green color themes.
  • Fonts: The text your visitors find on your website can affect their overall user experience. While the message is the focus, the right font is just as important. The right font should make the text clear and easy to read regardless of the screen size and resolution.
  • Graphics: Images, illustrations, icons and other visual elements help enhance your website’s appeal and convey information more effectively. Whenever possible, use your own images instead of stock photos to make your website appear more authentic and unique. Also, make sure images are high quality and relevant. 
  • Layout: Your site’s structure and flow should be logical and intuitive. The positioning of the various web page elements, including text, images and interactive components, should help site users navigate easily in just a few clicks.


Your website’s purpose is to attract web visitors and drive conversions. For that to happen, you want to entice your potential customers to take action. Here are some key things to consider when enhancing a website’s functionality. 

  • Navigation: Users should be able to explore your website with ease. You can ensure this by adding easy-to-use menus, making links or buttons clickable, organizing content in logical categories and implementing additional functionalities, like a search feature.
  • Content: The quality and relevance of content help your website perform its intended purpose. Your site content should be search-engine friendly, valuable and well-organized to guide user actions and achieve business objectives. The right content management system can help sort this out.
  • Forms: You should add contact forms to your website to collect data for lead generation purposes. To capture more leads, you can reduce input fields and optimize viewing for smaller screens.
  • Security: Visitors should feel secure when browsing your website. You must implement robust security measures like SSL certificates and encryption protocols to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches. 


One hallmark of a well-designed website is that everyone, including people with disabilities, can browse it without issues. Making a website accessible requires technical expertise. However, you can lay a solid foundation by taking the following factors into consideration. 

  • Contrast: Contrast is the difference in visual properties, like colors and brightness, on a web page. Use effective contrast in your website design to ensure your site’s content is readable and legible.
  • Text size: The physical dimension of a website’s text is another factor that affects its legibility and readability. So, make sure your website’s text is responsive and adjusts to different screen sizes and devices.
  • Alt text: Alt text, short for alternative text, is the short description added to images on a website. Visually impaired people rely on alt texts to understand website images. Moreover, adding descriptive text can help your images appear on search engines.
  • Keyboard usability: To make your site accessible, you must design it in a way so that visitors can click buttons, links and other website elements with a keyboard when they don’t have a mouse at their disposal. 

Custom website design services vs. a website builder

Before choosing how to build your website, you must consider your budget, design preferences, timelines and technical expertise. Assessing these things will enable you to make an informed decision. So, let’s look at the pros and cons of both web design services and web builders.

Pros & cons of custom website design services

Using a custom design service is like having a personal architect and builder for your website. Professional web developers will work closely with you as business partners to understand your brand and create a unique website that reflects your vision. 


  • Unique and personalized design: Building a custom-made website or online store means building it from the ground up while aligning with your brand’s style and image. To ensure accurate representation, a web design expert will ask you critical questions regarding your business needs to create something that not only functions but also stands out. 
  • Better user experience: Although website builders provide pre-made templates, they generally offer limited features. On the other hand, web design professionals can implement as many features as necessary to optimize your site’s look and feel. You can rest assured that if a particular layout or feature can improve your site, the expert already knows about it and can make it happen. 
  • Scalability and flexibility: As your website grows, you may require updates, modifications and optimizations. With a custom design, you can easily add new features and integrate third-party tools to make sure your website grows and evolves to support long-term business objectives.  
  • Enhanced security: Custom websites allow more control over security configurations. You can implement extra security measures like robust user authentication systems, encrypted data transmission and secure hosting options to make your site less susceptible to cybersecurity attacks. 
  • Personalized support: Depending on who you end up working with, individual attention from a custom web design service may be available. In this case, the design experts will address any questions, concerns or opinions you have before and after your website’s launch.


  • Higher costs: A custom web design provided by a freelancer can cost between $1,000-$3,000, while web design agencies may charge even more than that. The high pricing reflects the time, effort and individual attention the design professionals invest in your site to create something fully functional and unique. That said, free custom web services are available.
  • Potentially longer development timeline: If you have worked with a website builder before, you have time and you want something simple, you may launch a website relatively quickly. On the other hand, building a custom website involves consultation, planning, designing and testing. Each phase may require careful attention to detail, collaboration with the client, and multiple iterations to achieve the desired outcome. 
  • Dependency on external support: If you take the custom route when building a website, you may have to rely on the availability and expertise of a design professional to make changes or updates to your website. This may lead to working with multiple different professionals throughout your website’s lifespan.

Pros & cons of website builders

Wix, Squarespace, Shopify and other popular web builders enable creating a website without needing coding or other technical skills. You can build a simple website using pre-designed templates and the drag-and-drop functionality relatively quickly and cost-effectively. Of course, these website builder pros cannot exist without some cons. 


  • Affordability: If you want to launch a site without  paying a lot, you may lean towards website builders. Although you can find a tool promoted as a free website builder, in most cases, it is not a free plan but a free trial that you are being introduced to. On average, you have to pay around $20-$30 per month, meaning the price per website continues to add up over the years. For example, if you run a website for five years at $30/month, that will round up to around $1,800 in total, and that does not factor in potential pricing changes or the growth of your website. 
  • Ease of use: With a website builder, you do not have to learn to code or hire a web developer to build a website. Web builders provide user-friendly and intuitive tools that enable you to create simple websites using customizable templates even if you aren’t technically experienced.
  • Quick setup: Site builders feature an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and ready-made modern templates. This allows you to assemble a website relatively quickly. Of course, that depends on how much free time you can spare.


  • Fewer customization options: While many website builders offer customizable, pre-designed templates, you are limited to the design options that are available. You are less likely to create something unique and outside the box with the same templates many other websites are built on.
  • Less flexibility for growth: A free website builder may not have robust features to keep up with the needs of a rapidly growing business. You may need custom features and functionalities to improve your website’s capabilities, which your chosen website builder may not be able to provide. Unfortunately, you are likely to be restricted or have to spend more money on premium features.
  • Time investment: As a beginner, you need time to explore and familiarize yourself with the interface and features of the website builder. Plus, you could spend significant time troubleshooting and resolving technical issues resulting from a trial-and-error approach. If you have other business-related tasks you need to worry about, this could be a significant burden on top of it all.

WAcademy web design services: A custom website for free!

Do you want a unique, custom-built website but do not yet have the budget for it? WAcademy has the answer to this dilemma. Our internship program matches small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that need websites for their online stores or business representation with interns who require practical experience.

This is how we are able to offer 100% free custom web design services to small business owners. Yes, you read that right, and more than 30,000 small businesses already have custom-built websites, thanks to WAcademy interns!

Our interns are trained before they start working on real-life projects. And each intern is supported by a dedicated project manager who also communicates with the client. We are dedicated to a 20-30 workday turnaround, and the client can request changes once the first draft is presented. This means that, with WAcademy, you can also save time, not just money.

Besides offering a custom website design that can include a basic logo design, we can also offer additional functionality to your fresh new website with our comprehensive web services, such as Google Analytics, social feed, live chat, GDPR cookie banner, pop-up and under construction page integration or website administration services.

Curious to learn more about the WAcademy program and how we offer free web design services for small business websites? Explore our offer and take your brand to the next level!

Please note that the WAcademy project provides free web design services, but domain name registration and hosting fees are outside the project scope. The good news is that our partner Getspace offers a package that includes hosting for your custom WordPress site, a free domain name, reliable data backup, an SSL certificate and up to 5 professional email inboxes. You also get an Elementor Pro license for ongoing website management.