You can't go too wrong hiring a web designer right? So long as they can show you some good designs, and know about digital marketing and conversion, you're home and hosed?
Well nearly. Even after getting all these things right, there is one key, often not talked about, element that can have the biggest impact on your ongoing costs, and on your web companies ongoing revenue. And believe it or not, it all comes down to the type of system they use to run your website.
What the? How can the system impact my ongoing costs? Isn't that just the hosting cost?
Well no. Web systems can be separated into two types: open source, and proprietary. And it's the proprietary systems that can not only cost you thousands more, but stop you from keeping up with the latest web developments and in the long run, send your clients to your competitors.
What is a proprietary system, and how can it cost me?
If your website is built with a proprietary system it is usually exclusive to one developer. This means that only they can make changes to your website. No one else has access to make changes.
This may seem like a big deal - I mean, you're likely to have a long relationship with your developer, and you're likely going to give them all your work anyway.
The truth is that no matter how good your developer is, there is no way they canstay up to date with everything that is happening online.
How Proprietary Systems can Cost you
Say, for example, say you find a new revolutionary selling tool for your website. You've found a web developer who is an expert at implementing the tool and are ready to rock. You contact your current developer and ask them to give your new specialist access to implement the system. You're probably going to be out of luck. The developer who has built your website will not open up their system to the specialist. So the next logical step is to move the site to the specialist. But your developer won't let you do that either.
So now your web developer has you over a barrel because they control the code. You're going to have to work to their timetable, and pay whatever fee they quote you. You can't get an alternative quote. The only alternative is to start from scratch.
The same issues arises if your developer is taking too long. Imagine if the developer is dealing with other client’s changes and has to delay your work for a number of weeks. You cannot go to another developer to complete your work as your current developer won't allow them access.
Your sales can also be affected. Proprietary system are often weak when it comes to digital marketing. And on top of this, Google can have trouble reading proprietary systems, and won't show your site in their search results.
To be fair, proprietary web systems can be amazing. But they generally have huge teams working on them, and are targeted at corporates, and cost tens of thousands of dollars. But if you're the owner of a small to medium sized business, you're not going to be able to afford this.
Well, there is an alternative, and it's a great one.
Introducing open source systems.
Open source systems are exactly that - the system made openly available for anyone to access and is usually free.
Some well-known open source systems that you may have heard of include WordPress, vBulletin, Umbraco, Linux, Drupal, and many more. Anyone can add to these systems and make changes. And that's what tends to happen.
Open source systems keep pace with changes, and have huge amounts of functionality. Communities popup around open source systems, and these communities start to add features. They write plugins and addons and so the system starts to grow exponentially. When a developer works out a way to increase sales on their site, they write the code and share it with the community.
Since an open source system is open, it will be easier to keep your website up with current trends. If you need to make changes, you'll be able to get multiple quotes, and if your developer gets busy, you'll be able to bring someone else onto the team.
Overall, with an open source system, making changes is often much cheaper because they are more flexible.
So whatever you do, when you're choosing a website developer, make sure they use an open source system.
Help - I'm stuck with a proprietary system and it's costing me $1000's
There may be a way out.
In some cases it is possible to copy the front of your website, and place it on top of an open source system without having to do a complete rebuild.
And often the cost to do this is less than the annual fees you're being charged already.
Find a developer who works with open source systems, and talk with them about your options.
Hiring a web designer
There are another couple of things you should check with when you're hiring a new web designer.
You'll want to review:
- their design
- their understanding of conversion (getting people to do something on your site)
- where they host
- their references
But to those who are looking to build a new website there is one thing you must know to avoid extra costs.
Before you sign up to a new web company, the first question you must ask your web developer is "Do you use an open source system?"
And whatever you do, make sure that you have the flexibility to keep updating the site to work for your business.
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