When it comes to website platforms or systems, I genuinely sympathise with the small business operator.
Because seeking advice on just what will work for you will yield a hundred different options and hundreds more opinions.
But as we have banged on about here time and time again, few of these opinions are impartial around the correct website platform for the unique needs of your business.
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It’s really quite a unique and confusing situation.
Put a call out on your favourite social media group about the best website platform and four out of five people will recommend ‘open source’ website platform WordPress; 80% is compelling in anyone’s language, so it must be credible right?
Alas, in most cases, no.
What WordPress is good for
WordPress is indeed fantastic if your functionality need is unique – that is, you need it to work in a way that is unlike most other websites.
Special forms, calculations and customer rewards are great examples of this. In fact, getting some functionality built exactly to your specifications can be a brilliant asset for a business.
But the functional requirements of most small business are not unique. In most cases, their functionality requirements will have been done many times before and so are likely to be standard or ‘out of the box’.
In turn, common functionality means a lower price both upfront and in future, when it needs to be maintained or upgraded.
So why does WordPress come so highly recommended?
Show me the money
Quite simply because it rewards web developers much more than its competitors when it comes to accumulating ‘billable hours’.
In fact, its competitors offer web developers very little at all because their platforms require so little development labour – particularly for smaller business.
Developers also love that WordPress is ‘open source’ – i.e they can go in and alter the functionality at the ‘code’ or programming level to achieve the specific functionality they want.
Locking up the code
Company owned or ‘closed source’ platforms deliberately don’t allow this. The moment they do, they can no longer guarantee the performance of their own platform because a third party has come along and fundamentally altered their product.
It’s a situation that is rarely replicated in business circles. Very few businesses would allow enthusiasts to toy with their product so as it can be customised to their unique requirement.
But web development is a different beast. In addition to being populated with large software companies, it is also inhabited by literally millions of enthusiasts and small businesses, many of whom collectively are able to promote themselves to smaller business much more effectively than larger businesses.
And its these smaller players who make their presence felt in social media, often where large companies cant infiltrate.
Where companies can’t tread
For example, Facebook doesn’t allow organisations to join Groups, their forums for a wide range of special interests. Even if they did, the small business nature of many of them may preclude employees of larger organisations being admitted anyway.
So when it comes to gathering opinions, the voice of the larger and generally more secure and cost effective companies rarely gets a look in.
And asking a WordPress developer what the best platform is, is quite obviously, like going into a Ford dealer and asking what the best car is.
What’s more, many respondents in Groups like this don’t even bother to disclose their own conflict of interest in being WordPress developers and designers. Therefore, getting a genuine impartial opinion is nigh on impossible.
A billion flies
What often happens is that smaller business go with the (biased) body of opinion, only to end up with an expensive, insecure and difficult to use website that makes their job much harder and expensive than it really should be.
The only real way to ensure impartiality is to really interrogate the respondent around their technology preferences. Questions like how many platforms do you work in and which company-owned platforms do they also work in will can help uncover their particular bias.
Unfortunately in such an unregulated industry, the chances of getting truly impartial advice remain very slim 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.