Regular readers of WWWorkshop will know that we like to re-visit themes that are either important, susceptible to change or are worth bringing to the attention of those new to the digital world.
And understanding the three core components of your website is fundamental to your online success, so is worth repeating.
Unfortunately many still see the website as a single entity, which for convenience sake it is. But really a website is the culmination of three separate but inter-related core components:
The critical thing to understand is that if your website has been built correctly and with your future expenses in mind, both the content and design layers of your website can be changed relatively easily and affordably, saving you considerably on replacing the entire website in years to come.
Let me explain how wise choice of technology platform will pave the way to these savings.
1. Technology layer
This refers to your underlying website platform, often referred to as content management system or CMS. Actually the reference to the entire platform as a CMS is actually a misnomer because the CMS is one of many website management features your platform should contain.
A website platform should have all the tools your website will ever need, including:
- CMS (for adding and editing your content)
- ecommerce functionality (to enable online sales)
- Statistics (to measure your success)
- Email marketing system (to send personalised, graphical emails to many simultaneously)
- Form builder (for creating survey or questionnaire forms)
- And many others
If it doesn’t already include these features from the outset, it should be configured or structured in a way to make these features available to you either freely or cheaply in future.
Unfortunately understanding your future needs, whilst not rocket science, is something few developers rarely get right, leaving you exposed to future, significant development costs.
But once you do get your technology platform right, you will be able to evolve your website cheaply and easily.
2. Content layer
Your content layer comprises all the words, pictures, links and downloads that make up the pages of your website.
If your CMS is relatively easy to use, you will be able to change your content freely and regularly using an interface which essentially resembles MS Word and which keeps your website fresh and helps attract the attention of search engine spiders, which reward you with greater prominence than those websites that remain static and stale.
New information should be reflected on the front page of your website by way of a news ‘feed’ or featured content area which attracts the attention of visitors.
3. Design layer
This layer refers to the overall appearance and aesthetic of your website, whether it be a fully customised appearance or if on a budget, use of the rapidly improving design templates which are becoming hard to distinguish from their custom designed alternative these days.
Again if established correctly, your design should be able to be altered or renovated without having to alter either of the content or technology layers. This capability represents a really significant saving on having to replace your entire website.
Typically this layer is altered by a web professional rather than the business operator. Professional design – even if using a design template, is important to get right and is worth investing in or you risk turning people away or spending unnecessary time altering it yourself.
What to ask for
There is so much jargon in the digital world that it’s often difficult to know just what to ask your web pro for in achieving this layered approach.
The key to this is to not just ask for a quote for a website but for ‘a website and website management platform’. Simply by stating this it will be clear to the web pro that you will want the benefit of separate design, content and technology layers.
Unfortunately many have been burnt by simply asking for – and being delivered a website only, then getting a shock when that website required any future alterations of any kind that could only be performed by the web pro in question, and attracting the costs that go with that.
Make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.
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.