Building a Business Website? Avoid This Costly Mistake

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Custom website development is usually too complicated and costly in the long run.

I often work with clients who are rethinking their current website -some are simply outdated; others need a fresh design to optimize responses and increase traffic. But the ones that cause the biggest headaches – both for my team and the customer – are those built in a complex code language.

Let me give you an example. A new client of mine, which sold diet and weight loss foods, was getting plenty of traffic to his website, but wasn’t converting visitors to customers. We did a website analysis which revealed some reasons why: the homepage didn’t immediately communicate that it was a product driven, e-commerce site (versus informational), the most popular products weren’t featured prominently, the navigation was ineffective and the checkout process was cumbersome and confusing. Overall it didn’t provide a very intuitive or user-friendly experience.

From a marketing perspective, those issues are easy enough to fix. The big issue lurked in the site’s back-end programming. Because of the code language this site was built on, it would cost the client thousands of dollars to correct these otherwise straightforward problems.

Don’t Get Locked Into the Wrong Platform

This site was custom-made using Microsoft’s .NET framework and an older ASP programming language. Over the years, the client had hired several different developers to make changes to the site, and this caused a major problem. Every developer had added their own quirky bits of code, creating a ball of “code spaghetti” in the back-end. It would have be nice if each programmer had left detailed instructions as to what code changes they made, but they didn’t, which meant that when something doesn’t work right it becomes a nightmare to straighten out – even the simplest updates became time-consuming and expensive.

For example, we needed to change the hosting service for the website – a process that should have taken a few hours at most. But code idiosyncratic and workarounds with the shopping cart slowed things down to the point that it actually took more than 20 hours to complete.

That’s the problem with choosing a complex custom systems for your website, if you are dissatisfied with your current web developer, it’s not going to be easy to pick-up your site and move it to another firm – unfortunately its a unethical way to keep you locked-in and limit your options. So unless you’re will to scrap the site and start over, you options are limited and going to be expensive. In reality, only larger companies require those custom programming solutions and have the budget to maintain them.

Choose a well-known and supported CMS Instead

The client was understandably shocked by the cost to update his current site. What would I recommend instead? Well, my team would have built the site using one of the more popular and free Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla; something well-established, widely supported and robust. These platforms are easy to use, enjoy a large user base and are supported by a number of programmers and developers that provide frequent bug and security fixes.

In addition, these CMS’s offer a wide-range of pre-made themes (a website template) for under a hundred bucks. So you can have a professional looking website without spending thousands on website design. Because these CMS platforms are becoming so popular, there are thousands of widgets and plug-ins that provide almost every type of solution, flexibility  or functionality you would need in most websites – from shopping carts to search engine optimization, to polls to blogs.

You don’t have to know a lot about programming languages to select the right developer to build your next website, but you should do a little due diligence before hiring a web development firm. Here are 10 questions to ask a prospective web developer:

  1. What programming language or platform are you using to build my site?
  2. Why did you choose it?
  3. What are its strengths and shortcomings?
  4. What problems could it cause in the future?
  5. Will it be easy to update, redesign and move my site?
  6. Is it scalable?
  7. How about reliable?
  8. How large is the user base?
  9. Is it widely supported?
  10. Is there a more cost-effective option you haven’t presented and why?

Web development and design is moving towards implementing simpler CMS platforms and already own the majority marketshare. And designers are coming up with hundreds of new templates for them every month. So don’t pay more to reinvent the wheel – or, more accurately, to reinvent the entire car. Because when it breaks down, you’ll pay through the nose for parts.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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  1. Pingback: Reach More Mobile Customers with Responsive Design | InSight Marketing Blog | Marketing Westchester NY | InSight Marketing of Westchester NY

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