Nick Carter PhotoToday’s guest post is by Nick Carter, author of “Unfunded: From Bootstrap to Blue Chip Without the Fuel of Round-A Capital.”   This is the story behind the story, untold tid-bit that didn’t make the book’s final cut.

For a newly forming business, there is perhaps no greater piece of the marketing puzzle than the website. Yet, for many business owners, the realm of website design and development remain shrouded in mystery. What is the difference between WordPress and a custom PHP-programmed site? Why do some vendors advertise websites for bargain prices like $99, and other firms won’t even talk about websites for less than $10k? Is there really that great of a disparity?

There is. Allow me to shed some light and make some recommendations for the budget-minded business owner.

First, let’s talk about design. Design is a skill. Design is a professional service. It takes time and there are some who are good at it and some who are bad. I never appreciated art until my wife (an artist) unveiled the many intricacies in it. Masterpieces selling for millions are so sought after because the artist created beauty from nothing.  Artists don’t spend hours, they spend weeks, or months, or even years carefully applying each stroke. And, when it is all done, only one exists. This painstaking process and utter exclusivity often fetches a very high price.

Perhaps the reason I was so slow to understand this value in art is because I was accustomed to buying a print and a frame for a quick buck at the mall. It looked okay to me, and hung well in my dining room. I called it wall art. But, while it may have been on the wall, it was far from art. This piece can be sold inexpensively because it was produced in mass. Countless other people have the same so-called art on their walls. It was cheap, but my house could be decorated exactly like my neighbors.

In websites, these are the two extremes. On the one hand, you have websites that are designed uniquely by artists—or graphic designers, as we call them today—and offered exclusively for one customer. On the other, the $99 website template is inexpensive for sure, but there could be thousands of other sites on the web that look exactly like yours.

So, how does the budget-conscious business owner pick? Simple: use a blend of the two.

Instead of hanging a mass-produced print on your wall, what if you could commission a true artist to spend a day (not weeks or years) applying  just a little new shading here and there, a touch of color where you would prefer, all-the-while using the underlying work to fill the majority of the content? The painting would be distinguished from its fellow templates, yet the most labor-intensive part of creation was foregone.

I would rarely advise a business owner to select a WordPress theme and use it as-is. But, with a few subtle modifications, such a predesigned template could bear many of the benefits of a custom design at a fraction of the artist’s cost. The website, though stylistically similar to thousands of other sites using
the same template, is visually unique.

Design aside, there is one other aspect of websites which can dramatically impact costs for much the same reason. It’s the matter of functionality.  And, like design, functionality can be created anew for your business alone, it can be a template (known as “off-the-shelf” software), or it can be a blend of both worlds. It is no accident that WordPress offers thousands of plugins that each offer their own off-the-shelf functionality. But what if you need something different?

In almost every case, an existing plugin can be found that meets some portion of your functionality requirements. Starting from this foundation, a developer can usually customize the plugin faster and less expensively than programming from scratch.

So, with so many templates and plugins available, where should you begin with your next website project? With the right partner. Experts like the team at Roundpeg are your guide to knowing what template and what plugins with which to start—what foundation on which to build. Decide on a budget and let your website vendor tweak the template(s) that are right for you.

To read more about Nick Carter’s framework for startups, visit

Need help? Contact Roundpeg, an Indianapolis web design company.