4 Web Site Platform Options

Choosing a web site platform is a key decision when building or overhauling a site, since it directly impacts your digital strategy. There are 4 main options:

Industry-Specific Managed Platforms

For some industry-specific uses, like real estate, a proprietary platform can be a practical solution. If the platform includes a constellation of otherwise hard to consolidate tools, like MLS listing integration or a secure mortgage application, it might provide a proven, supported, all-in-one box. But managed platforms mean you give up some flexibility in doing things that fall outside of that very box, and the costs are generally higher. If it’s just a repackaged bundle of tools available elsewhere, from a company that has decided to make money by “specializing” in an industry niche, flavoring their marketing accordingly, the tradeoffs are probably not worth it. Choose a proprietary platform when there’s a clear technological advantage, not just because they target your industry.

Open-Source Platforms

A platform like WordPress, that you install on your own hosting, can provide much more flexibility in design and functionality than managed or proprietary platforms, but there’s a trade-off. The platform is generic and, while suitable for any industry, customizing it with specialized functionality means drawing on a number of 3rd party plugins and tools. The upside is that you’re spared the cost of bringing on a team of developers to reinvent every wheel when you need a new site feature. They’re often supported and routinely updated (unlike something you custom develop), and you can usually change out plugins, if you don’t like the way they work. With an open source platform and a constellation of easily available plugins and scripts, you can build almost anything, and it’s the most sustainable solution.

Custom Developed Platforms & Sites

A 100% custom coded site can range from 500-1000% more costly, initially and, because the code is proprietary and unique, it locks you into one set of developers for maintenance, upgrades, and improvements. Jet manufacturers do not usually build a whole new engine for each plane they design – they choose tested, tried, and true models of the appropriate size, price, and maintenance history, because that dramatically lowers cost and keeps planes in the air. They don’t reinvent the wheel. You should only choose a 100% custom site if there’s a definitive business reason to do so. Besides cost and scope of the project, they rarely keep pace with current technology (social media integration, for instance, is evolving several times per year) or with evolving design trends, and modifications are generally pricier and take longer. When a new trick rolls out, the usual answer in open-source platforms is ‘yes, that can be added to the site’. With proprietary ones it’s usually ‘well, that’s a ways off, but we can custom develop that for you for a stiff fee’. If you do go this route, make sure your desired functionalities are outlined well in an initial specification and, if there’s enough custom functionality to make it worth doing, be prepared for some costs rolled into crafting the final spec – aside from the site itself. There are few advantages to 100% custom sites; you can get exactly what you want, down to the pixel, but then good luck if your design and functionality choices weren’t optimal for an ever more refined marketing strategy, or if you want to change providers.

Generic Drag and Drop Builders

Anyone can build a good looking web site these days. It takes no special knowledge, and thats easily illustrated by tools like SquareSpace. Remember that when choosing who builds your site – it’s not whether they can deliver a certain look – it’s whether the choices in technology and content will support your business model – in particular your marketing goals (e.g. reach, engagement, conversion). A web site has a marketing purpose, so the look, content, & functionality should be in unison for that purpose. Drag and drop tools are useful for putting up a site immediately at low cost, but they won’t serve you well if you want to grow the business through digital strategy (they often lack the critical functionalities and flexibility inherent in effective marketing platforms). Since these are managed platforms, ability to customize the various functionalities is quite limited.

Make the fundamental purpose of the site the basis for choosing the platform. Is it a fixed presentation of pre-written content intended more as a visually beautiful listing than for ongoing marketing? A generic drag & drop builder will do that just fine. Need maximum control over the visual layout and functionality once, but don’t intend to evolve it much in the future? A 100% custom site might be the answer. Do you want maximum flexibility & sustainability? Use an installable open source platform like wordpress. Do you want a specific set of otherwise hard to bundle tools that are unique to your industry? That’s an industry-specific managed platform.

If you need help creating an efficient marketing department for your company or organization don’t hesitate and call MadPipe today.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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