How to future-proof your website

It’s an unfortunate reality of most business websites.

While the cost of establishing your website might seem reasonable, it’s the future costs of improving or renovating it that can often uncover an unexpected surprise.

As we pointed out here last year (despite the protestations of many in the industry), there are some web professionals who completely fail to future-proof your website by choosing the wrong technology platform, incorporate an inflexible design or in some cases, fail to offer a Content Management System (easy website editing) from the outset, or if they do, provide one that’s almost impossible to use for the average business operator.

Inadvertently or not, that situation means that you will soon outgrow your current website and need to fork out not inconsiderable sums to make what these days may be basic improvements.

So how does the unsuspecting business owner take the necessary precautions to avoid these unforeseen future costs?

There are three key considerations when it comes to future-proofing your website, as follows.

Level 1: Changing content

The days of the “static” or never changing website are rapidly declining. Website visitors now expect that your website – especially its content (as distinct from its design) will change as constantly as your new products, services, specials or developments.

Therefore it’s now imperative that your website comes with a Content Management System (CMS). These increasingly feature-packed systems allow those with quite basic computer skills to edit, add or delete content and menu headings.

In the past many designers have argued that no ordinary computer user has the skill to leave their carefully crafted art pieces looking good and so don’t even consider providing a CMS.

But a good designer will construct the site in such a way that such tampering with the design is either impossible or minimised.

Even if you still have your web professional make the content alterations for you, the inclusion of a CMS from the outset means you can take it back over whenever you need to.

Level 2: Changing design

A good designer will also set up your site so that its overall “look and feel” can be altered at any time without affecting either of the existing content or technical features.

In other words, they can “overlay” the design, leaving the rest of the site intact.

This approach will minimise your costs of refreshing or renovating the look, as only the visual aspects require replacing instead of part or even the entire website.

Level 3: Adding features and functionality

In the wrong hands, this level of alteration can be the most costly, because it can involve much skilled labour which usually means much cost.

But good web professionals will establish a website system or platform that can easily and affordably grow with your requirements.

This is done by either providing a system where new functionality needs only to be enabled with as much as a tick of the box, or is compatible with a range of affordable and convenient modules.

While there may be a small charge to upgrade to these features, this will be small bickies compared to hiring a developer to build in the new functionality for you.

Exceptions to the rules

Like most things technical though, there are exceptions to these rules. Most of these occur when the functionality you require is so unique that it simply hasn’t been developed before, at least not in the way you want it.

In these cases, you may well require a web developer to scope and build the functionality for you.

But don’t be misled here. Most features have been thought of and made available to businesses before. Because software is easily duplicated, that means that the required functionality can be purchased relatively cheaply rather that re-inventing this wheel.

There is now a growing pool of professionals who can assist you through these issues. And the best ones are those who have used a range of website platforms instead of just their favourite one or two.

But these guidelines will best ensure that your website and associated technology will grow with you in the most seamless and affordable way possible.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the small 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. 

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