Does Bespoke Still Matter?

Anyone can have a website today. From your handsome ass Grandpa to your neighbor’s annoying turd of a niece, Becky—they can have an easy to manage a website that looks great and can be deployed in minutes, not hours; not days; not months. So why then do people still charge for building a website when anyone with time and a half-formed idea can launch one themselves?  Because what they will build will be soul-less and shitty. Let me explain…

:  custom-made <a bespoke suit>b :  dealing in or producing custom-made articles <a bespoke tailor>

Bespoke is often used when describing crafting hard goods like clothing, swords, or other neat stuff. Custom made often elicits the notion of higher cost, more expensive; they take more time to create. It’s all true. These things do take time, money, and consideration.

Legendary toy maker and illustrator, Todd MacFarlane was asked the question: “Why does it take so long for you to put out your comics every month?” I’ll paraphrase MacFarlane’s response: Well, sure, I could turn out shit in a day. But a fucking rose takes time.

Another illustrator who has issues with deadlines is Travis Charest

Travis Charest

Photo Cred: Travis Charest

Charest is notoriously slow, and that’s cost him jobs in the past. But if you want something like the above illustration it takes time. It doesn’t come out of some magical press. Sure, you can copy the above image, maybe you can edit it in photoshop to get it to look the way you want. What does that net you? A cheaply altered copy that doesn’t look better and doesn’t create value.

If custom “bespoke” websites are so cool, how come you never see WordPress, Drupal, or something similar do big ad spots?

Why don’t platforms like WordPress or Drupal advertise? They’re just tools—hammers and chisels—that skilled artisans (designers and developers) use to build simple and great things. There’s very little fanfare over a well-crafted website and better-planned deployment. They happen and life goes on, quietly. The quality is obvious at first glance!

I’d signup for Squarespace in a hot minute. That’s John Malkovich, staring into a screen and cussing at Bootleg John Malkovich’s fishing website! It’s funny. Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and the like spend several million on ads every year to grow their respective platforms. They make money, and thus they spend money. If you’ve ever listened to a podcast, you have likely heard that Squarespace is a sponsor.

I’ve used each of those platforms and have even recommended them to a few people I consult with at the Small Business Development Center. While none of these platforms is hard to use, they are opinionated and strip some of the creativity and innovation from the build process. Users never start from a blank canvas and while that provides a great head start, it curtails creativity.

A quality product doesn’t require advertising for someone to know that it’s good. 

I’ve heard it said, and I’m paraphrasing again: Someone who is cocky, or insecure, will tell you how great they are at something. Someone who is confident will show you how great they are. Bragging is okay, I do it often and if you know you’re good at a thing toot that horn, buddy!

A custom-built and bespoke website doesn’t need advertising, nor do its producer(s). The quality is obvious upon inspection. If you go to a website and you have an easy time getting what you want, it’s done its job. If you look at a site and you buy something without thinking twice, then the quality of that site has done its job, whether you knew it or not. Design and development hold hands, working together to build a cohesive and immersive experience that allows the user to experience the site without confusion and interruption.

A custom product is painstakingly thought out; it’s tirelessly put together to not only look good, work well, but also deliver value to both the user and to the site owner. Put another way; a bespoke website is one that is built and designed with a goal in mind and serves the exact needs and desires of the client and their customers. It’s not an “off-the-shelf” solution. It’s a one-size fits only one type approach which leads me to solutions…

Taking creativity and innovation to the garbage bin for the sake of churn and burn value.


When something flashy and edgy comes onto the scene, something that purports to be “easy” and “better” it creates panic. People are out there saying that the new thing is coming to eat your lunch!!! It’s a cliché I hear a lot.

The panic causes a lot of people to get creative in building a response to the new kid on the block. Typically these new solutions compete on the features or even on the price. It often leads to a sacrifice in overall quality and innovation. Professionals are thinking of how they can deliver a similar solution as the competition with fewer resources. In the WordPress development space, I’ve seen it literally everywhere. To stay viable, one needs reliable streams of income. I get it. But watering down the goods helps no one—which is why it’s important to always bring your A-game to everything you work on, that’s how you beat your competition or, if you can’t beat them, stay relevant.

The solutions that get rolled out are bad. I’ve done them myself and I hated it. Website in a day? I did that, ran some ads, sent out a newsletter, and got a referral. I had five projects I put together. Here’s a secret: All of the websites took more than a day to build. I was miserable, four out of five clients were happy with what they got. I put in a lot of work for not too much reward both monetarily and spiritually. When you’re connected with the work you do, you get a “spiritual kick” from the process. That “kick” was absent from these projects.

When the competition comes for your lunch, double down or GTFO!

There’s a business that does website maintenance called WP Site Care. They were one of the first to offer WordPress-specific website maintenance plans. Not too long after, they had a gigantic field of competitors. Just about every competitor was offering something similar, same pricing, same features and what not.

Wp Site Care took a risky step. They increased their prices so they could focus on what they did best and they wanted to do that for customers who valued what they did. If some customers fall off, that’s okay. You’re left with customers who value your product.

Some folks may not agree with this, but when the competition gets to, er, competitive, it’s time to raise your prices and double down on the things that differentiate you from the crowd. Do you make the best handknit ugly sweaters ever? Double down and charge more for that quality. People who appreciate quality and aren’t fooled by cute ads will buy that ugliness right from under your nose! Are you a designer who makes beautiful designs for sites? Then let your design do the talking and avoid shoddy solutions that destroy creativity and craftsmanship. Double down on what makes you great. A friend of mine likes to say When you do what you love the money will come—I think he’s right.

You don’t need no stinkin’ advertising

I wasn’t born yesterday; I understand the need to advertise. That said, I don’t, not in the way a Squarespace does. Also, there’s nothing wrong with putting big money on ads. If you have the budget, then do it. However, your work will speak for itself through referrals you get from your customers, from fans of what you’ve created and more. Quality is your calling card. People who value quality will pay more for it and all the stuff that goes into creating that quality.

Bespoke products mean more now than ever.

In a world where automation, efficiency, and instant gratification are the standard it’s become increasingly important, even crucial, for makers to continue to make. If you design, then let your heart bleed all over your desk as you fearlessly put out your best work. It doesn’t matter if you counsel people; it doesn’t matter if you create culinary delights; it doesn’t matter if you’re an attorney—just be the very best version of the professional doing what it is that you do.

Go out there, double-down, and make the things dammit!

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