Any smaller business operator who has had a website long enough will tell you the awful truth.
Your initial website costs are nothing compared to renovating or even replacing it later.
Why this happens is that the more web-savvy businesses outgrow their websites quite quickly and require more features, such as a content management system, an integrated customer relationship management system, a secure shopping cart, search facilities, mobile compatibility, etc.
The list of typical website improvements is pretty much endless.
And how much that costs comes down to two key factors: what technology your website was built in and who built it.
Crystal ball gazing for profit
If your web professional was forward thinking, consultative and ethical, they would have established your website in such a way that adding this new functionality would be relatively painless from both a price and convenience perspective.
The forward thinking professional would have understood your business and the functionality it was likely to require in future and established your website technology so that the impact would be relatively marginal when you chose to add it.
If they weren’t so forward thinking, considerable technical development may be required to build that feature on to your website – and that’s where the costs can easily mount up.
And this can provide a very unpleasant surprise for the unprepared smaller business operator.
Avoiding considerable future expense
Sometimes the cost is so prohibitive that the business in question doesn’t bother with the upgrade. Consequently their website falls behind their competitors and they lose business from demanding online prospects.
The website’s lack of this ‘scalability’ has a double whammy effect of being expensive to upgrade and costing you new business if you don’t.
So how do you ensure that your website can ‘scale up’ in this way?
How to predict the future
Every business is different so there’s no easy answer. However, businesses within the same industry do tend to add similar features over time.
So a good way to understand your future requirements is to have a good look at the websites of your larger and offshore competitors. Go through these websites and make a list of the kinds of features they provide.
Some may provide incentives to sign up to their newsletters. Others may provide forms to collect briefing information. Some may have customer response mechanisms and so on.
Whilst the public website may not fully indicate the extent of the underlying technology, it may still uncover some features you hadn’t thought of.
The more of these you can accommodate with your website – even if you don’t plan to use them for some time – will mean less expense and inconvenience later when you are ready to activate them.
The importance of impartiality
Another way to ensure your future needs are met is by hiring a provider that is not aligned to a single technology platform. Those that are can spend your time and money trying to shoehorn you into their preferred platform – when chances are it was never designed to do what you want in the first place.
A technology impartial or agnostic professional will have enough platforms at their disposal to be able to match a platform to your current and future needs.
These days the benefits of this approach, and the consequences of not taking it, can be very significant indeed.
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. www.theeteam.com.au.