It’s one of the most common technology mistakes SME operators make. And most of the time they don’t even realise they are doing it.
It happens when they decide they need a new website.
“Whats so wrong with that?”, I hear you protest. “Everyone needs a new website sooner or later”.
On the face of it, they probably do. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that a faulty website can be costing its owner considerable business.
But it’s not until you dig a little deeper that you find the fundamental “website” is actually not in too bad shape.
Repair vs replace
In fact what the website owner is saying is that their website needs a new design. Or needs improved content. Or needs to be better optimised for search engines. Or perhaps all of the above.
In fact, providing the underlying website “platform” is sound, the website in question needs nothing but a makeover in one or more of these areas.
By being specific around what your website really needs, you could well be saving yourself 50% or more on the cost of a completely new website.
If this happens more than once, you would be saving yourself a very handy sum of money over time.
Your vehicle for the information superhighway
The reality is many SME operators don’t even realise their website can be made-over in this way, without dispensing with the entire website.
It’s not really that different to a car. A novice will tell you the car is so “broken” it needs replacing, whereas anyone who’s been around cars long enough knows a car can keep on keeping on with good maintenance and replacement of worn parts.
I mean you really wouldn’t dispense of a Maserati because it had a flat tyre!
But this is pretty much what many website owners are doing.
The sum of its spare parts
What the business owner hasn’t been told is that like a car, a website is in fact the sum of its parts. The most important part is the underlying technical ‘platform’, which is overlaid with a design, and in turn, your content.
If your web professional has done the right thing by you and installed a platform that allows both the design and content to be altered easily, you are on the way to saving yourself a considerable sum of money on both minor and major alterations.
Unfortunately few web professionals get this right. Most are more concerned with their ability to alter the underlying programming to do whatever it is they need to at that level, rather than choosing a more “modular” platform that either has all the features you need in the first place, or can be easily and cheaply upgraded or altered to your new requirement.
“Out of the box” functionality
The reality is most website platforms for smaller business have already had this programming completed and it can be altered at the operational (interface) level rather than the programming or code level.
This means new functionality can often be achieved simply by switching it on or by upgrading to a more fully featured plan, as opposed to hiring the web developer to either create or integrate the functionality for you.
Again, websites are like cars in this way. For a lower price, you can have the bare bones vehicle as “standard”. But if you want all the bells and whistles a car can have, obviously you will add these and pay accordingly.
Like cars too, website parts and features can vary in quality.
Ways to skin a website
If your website is “open source” (for example, WordPress, Joomla, Magento), there are literally thousands of plugins on the market – ranging from those provided by large development companies to those literally working out of their backyard. Extreme care needs to be taken by your professional when sourcing these as some of the less robust plugins can be a security and maintenance nightmare.
If yours is a “closed source” platform (for example, Business Catalyst, Squarespace, Big Commerce) where third party features and plugins are either not available or need the approval of the company in question, you may simply require either an upgrade to a new plan that includes the feature in question or it can be added by your web professional – with considerably less risk than the third party plugin route.
I’m not going to get into the debate here about why one approach is better than the other, suffice to say that while open source websites may initially be less expensive to create, over time their ongoing maintenance can soon mount up to be well in excess of the closed source or proprietary alternative due to the ongoing upgrade and maintenance requirements of plugins.
Either way, when it comes to fixing your website, make sure you don’t replace aspects of it that really don’t need replacing.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.