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A general overview of your website options

November 24, 2010

Thinking of building a website?
Want to know your options?  How do you even compare companies to each other? This blog post is a basic explanation of the main types of services available out there. There are plenty of variations to these three options, but these are the most common choices you will find. This is not a post about design principles, calls-to-actions, measuring results, or calculating ROI. As a general rule of thumb, a website should last you three to five  years.

Option 1: The free version. 
Basically, you can sign up for a free website (or a near free website) at about a million places. These websites are template based and are not  unique to the millions of other template based websites.

Pros: This is a great way for a business to prove out a concept or a need for a website. A lot of non tech start-ups begin here.  Obviously, you get what you pay for and this is the cheapest way to get a presence on the internet. You can always upgrade later.

Cons: Your site will look like a million other sites out there. You should be able to include your logo and you will have a limited ability to change content and customize imagery on your site.  The bottom line: there is nothing special about this type of site, but at least people can look up information about you and your company.

Where to go:  Microsoft has the best free website option out there. – NOTE: When it’s time to move from Microsoft’s free template site to your own custom site, it is a huge pain in the neck to work with the Melbourne registrar (where Microsoft register’s your domain name). Expect your website to be down for 5 days and if you don’t download your emails, you will lose them.

Pricing: $0 – $20/month

Option 2: The custom static site  
Basically, this site will give your company a uniquely visually stimulating representation on the web.  This site is basically a collection of HTML web pages with pretty graphics on it.

Pros: If your business needs that professional look and feel and you must be able to present a specific image to your clients and potential clients, then this is the site for you.  No one else will have quite the same look and feel. Development time is usually fast. You can always upgrade later.

Cons: The biggest problem with these types of sites is that you will usually have to rebuild each page when a change is needed. That means paying a programmer $100-$200/hr for future changes. After a few years the costs can add up. Another drawback is lack of functionality.Typically these sites work great for ‘information only’ websites. If you need to build any functionality or use e-commerce, this type of site will not support it. The only way to get special functionality to work is to link offsite to other systems and you have no control over those other systems.

Where to go:  A wide range of options including: design shops, any great graphics person, your nephew, a kid in highschool, etc..

Pricing: $3,000 – $8,000 and $100-$200/hr in support.

Option 3: The Content Management System (CMS) website
This site will give your company a uniquely visually stimulating representation on the web PLUS the ability to update information at any time of your chosing without having to pay a programmer PLUS allows for any amount of special functionality to be built within the platform.  This is the type of site successful businesses and corporations use.

Pros: This site gives your company a professional look and feel that no one else uses.  Need Survey’s? No problem. Need a shopping cart/e-commerce? No problem. Need integration to an accounting system? No problem. Need integration into your corporate intranet and Active Directory? No problem. This type of site can do anything that is needed. It is 100% custom to your business. It is also the type of site that should have the lowest total cost of ownership and puts the most control into your hands.

Cons: The cost. This type of site has the highest initial purchase price even though it should have to lowest total cost of ownership. The development time is usually a lot longer than any other option. The quality of the site depends on the graphics team AND the development team. Make sure you have a great team on both fronts.

Where to go: (Shameless plug) or any top-tier web development studio. If you do a google Search for CMS + your city name, you should get a  list. These types of businesses are also usually involved in your local chamber of commerce. One of the best ways to find out about these types of companies is to find websites you love and somewhere at the bottom, you may see the web development company’s tag or logo with a link to their site. Make sure you get references. These projects are not cheap but like any of these options, quality does not equal price and references are the best way to get a feel for how well a company executes.

Pricing: $16,000 – $175,000  initial cost depending on what is included in the project.

These three options are the most common types of options out there and are based on our opinion. There are plenty of variations out there. Please feel free to add to this information in the comment section below.


From → Observations

One Comment
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