How to choose the right technology and platform for your website
In our previous article we claimed that you should start your business with a simple website (don’t want everything at once), but it’s equally important to think ahead and have a website which has the potential and flexibility to grow. For this reason choosing the right technology and platform for your website is crucial.
Let's take a closer look at the systems available so that you know your options.
New entrepreneurs usually don’t know that there are basically 3 types of website building methods (platforms) that a small business can consider:
- So-called online website builder systems
- CMS - Content Management Systems
- Custom development
All three solutions have advantages and disadvantages.
It would fill a book to list and explain all of them, but the most important ones can and should be highlighted now. Let’s have a look one by one.
1.) Online website builder systems (eg: Wix, Squarespace)
Technically, a website created with this method can only run on the single service provider that provides the service. Once you have a Wix website, you can’t move it to another web hosting provider.
- Low or zero start-up costs
- Low monthly fees.
- If your website content fits well into the chosen template, you can have a nice website quickly.
- You have less freedom: You can only choose and use features and functions that the provider has created. If you need a bespoke function which isn’t in the system already, you can’t have it.
- Bespoke solutions are not possible at all, and a website like this can't be turned into a bespoke system later on.
- Although in theory you, as a non-expert, can edit and manage the website, my experience is that most “non-techy” people struggle with it because they are quite complex.
- They cannot be moved to another web hosting provider.
It can be ideal for e.g. coaches, personal trainers or, you can build an e-commerce website as well - but you shouldn’t ever forget its limitations.
2.) CMS - Content Management Systems
The most typical one that sureléy everone has heard of is Wordpress. But that’s only one of the many CMS. The total number of CMS is about 150.
These are - in principle - free systems: Their source code is free to download, free to use. They can be installed and used by anyone, on any web hosting service.
- Free basic system
- Many free templates, which are quite “simplistic”
- Many nice, advanced templates as well: most of them are not free, but reasonably priced.
- In theory - you can edit and manage everything on your website, and even make the whole website yourself. But only in principle, because it’s rather complex.
- Although many WP designers "entice" you with the promise that you will be able to edit your website, in the last 18 years we have hardly met any clients who actually took advantage of this opportunity. This is because the system is complicated to use, although little (if any) programming knowledge is required.
- Many Wordpress sites are quite “code-heavy”, hence slow. An improperly designed Wordpress site can be so slow that it can take up to 20 seconds to load. This is obviously unacceptable. Website visitors don’t wait that much, they just leave the website.
- Every new feature requires a new so-called “plugin” to be installed. Many of these are free, but you need to pay extra for professional ones.
- Wordpress sites that are not properly maintained are potentially vulnerable. There is a high risk of a website being hacked without ongoing maintenance.
3.) Custom development
As its name suggests, it’s based on bespoke coding.
- Secure (because the so-called “source code” is hidden)
- Flexible, scalable, any unique idea can be implemented.
- If you want to edit certain areas yourself, you get a customised interface that's easy to use
- Contrary to common belief, development costs are not higher than of other platforms.
- Many business ideas can only be implemented in a custom system.
- You can only edit certain parts of your website. This can be considered as an advantage as well, because you cannot mess the website up.
- In fact, you will find somewhat fewer custom developers than Wordpress designers. But that doesn't mean that it’s only the one developer who built your website who can actually modify it. There are many custom developers, and if there is a problem with your developer, another custom developer can take the website over.
Now that you know a few facts about all three options, how do you decide which one you should choose?
- Consider the pros and cons of the systems you can choose from.
- Make your decision based on your plans & needs and not the other way round. It’s not a good approach to first choose a platform and then try to adapt your needs to the potential limitations of the platform.
- Don't make up your mind based on advertisements & on what your friends, family and acquaintances tell you. (None of these are perfect sources because they are biased. The provider wants to sell the service; and friends, although well-meaning, are not professionals and can only recommend what they know, tried or have heard of.)
- Even if you go for a very basic website at the beginning, tell your web designer your future plans so that they can help with choosing the best platform which can be developed further, as your business needs change. If you miss this step, you might end up with a website which is a dead-end and can’t be developed according to your needs.
Avoid the common mistake of making a decision based on the look
To conclude this topic, let us give you a real life example about a new client's former e-commerce website, without mentioning any names, of course.
This person is selling special food packages as a business, hence he needed an e-commerce website. He chose the platform and a template himself, and unfortunately, he based his decision on its nice look only. However, he didn’t realise that the template he liked had been designed for selling T-shirts. As a result he ended up with a system where he had to use measurements XXL, XL, M, S, XS instead of volume and weight options that he really needed for his food web shop.
However nice it looked, certainly, it wasn’t really fit for purpose, so after he had been struggling with it for a while, the client and our team had to start everything from scratch with the right approach.
We discussed the needs, created a detailed plan and re-built the website on a different platform at the end.
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