Evaluating Website Technologies
Which Technology Is Right For The Business Model? Part 1 of 4
Revised July 26, 2017
Originally Published October 28, 2008
When it comes to developing a website or website application, there are many aspects to consider:
- What type of website needs to be built? A CMS (Content Management System - like WordPress, Wix, etc), a Shopping Cart (online e-commerce), or does the business model require something completely custom developed?
- Where will the new website be hosted (stored online so that it can be accessed by users and customers)? Should the site be hosted on a Windows server, Linux server, or can it possibly be hosted in-house on the company premises or office?
- Once the new website is live, what kind of on-going maintenance, evaluation and overall analyzation should be expected?
This 4-part series will discuss each of the above factors in dealing with today's available web technologies, and what might work best given a company's industry, business model, budget, and so on.
This discussion should help the average business owner or management responsible for website development and marketing gain a better understanding of each type of website technology, and what decision might be right for the business.
Part One - What type of website needs to be built? A CMS (Content Management System), a Shopping Cart (online e-commerce), or does the company require something completely custom developed?
In order to understand a company's website needs, one must first define what a website is. From earlier articles on Website vs. Web Application, one should note that a website in general is defined as any destination on the internet.
Whether a company needs a very basic, one-page information-only website, or requires a database intensive online banking website that performs complex transactions; both are technically considered websites.
This article will address the most general types of websites (often referred to as web applications), that businesses employ when requiring a website presence:
- CMS (Content Management System)
- e-Commerce (Online Shopping Cart System)
- Custom Applications
- Basic HTML (Often Used for Informational Websites)
CMS (Content Management System)
CMS's (Content Management Systems) are websites that allow for updates to the site to be made on a regular basis without having to know any programming. If a business owner or manager needs to make a change to the general content of the website (perhaps update the Home page, update a calendar of events, etc) all this individual has to do is login to a secure Admin Area and click "Edit".
Everything with a CMS is point-n-click, copy-n-paste, and drag-n-drop. If there is editing to be done, it is done with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor similar to a Word document interface. If you want a word bolded, you highlight it and click the bold "B" icon. Instantly, the word is bolded.
CMS's are designed to be simple and straight forward and allow a company to keep a website updated without having to hire a development firm every time a change needs to be completed. As discussed in other articles, continuous updates on a website are important for good search engine optimization, better ranking in search results, and return customer visits.
There are many CMS systems out there ranging from small inexpensive systems, to large, completely custom, and complex systems. Some of the smaller, entry-level systems may simply allow for website updates; while some of the more complex systems may do as much as perform records management of client records, correspondence, orders, etc.
Depending on the intentions for future development, one can find CMS's for cheap or free. Those looking for maximum SEO, or wishing to completely customize and upgrade as their web business grows, should budget a few hundred to start; depending upon the required modifications, potentially a few thousand, depending upon their particular end-goals.
e-Commerce (Online Shopping Cart System)
e-Commerce is simply online sales. Often online sales are completed utilizing shopping carts that allow a customer to browse a catalog of products, choose, and pay online. e-Commerce can also be the online sale of subscriptions, memberships to websites, or literally any sort of online sale of a product, service, or transfer of funds.
Shopping Carts are normally used to sell products or packaged services to online customers. Often, shopping carts will come with a built-in CMS that allows the owner of the site to manage the entire website content, pages and products for sale. As well, many shopping carts will give customers the interactive ability to check on the order status, whether it's been shipped, request service or return, and more.
Subscription sites are often used to sell membership to a section of a website to customers for a specific period of time. Once the subscription is close to expiring, the customer is notified of required renewal. Subscriptions can be for practically anything ranging from viewing "member-only" pages, to utilizing an online training tool for a set period of time.
As with CMS's mentioned above, there are many different varieties of e-commerce websites available from free, to a few thousand. It just depends on a company's long-term goals and how the website is to interact with the business.
Businesses interested in utilizing an e-commerce website should expect to spend about around a thousand on the low end, and upwards of several thousand or more as customization, intricacies and aesthetics grow.
Literally, if it can be imagined, it can most likely be programmed and developed into a website application. Most every business realizes that it must have an online presence; some sort of website presence. The question is, how can a website be customized to fit an individual company's needs and assist with business functions?
This is where custom applications and programming comes in. When a company submits a specification (spec) sheet of "what" needs to be in the website, a development firm can respond with a solution and estimate as to how best to develop that particular custom website project.
Sometimes this solution may be a combination of many different technologies. However, web development is fluid and as such is one of the most flexible mediums to work with in business. Whether marketing, sales, operations, or customer service, a custom website can help develop and manage that portion of the business and related functions.
Custom website applications can range from an online customer records management system, custom transaction processing (banking), custom booking or scheduling needs, and so on; the sky is the limit.
As well, company's with custom needs should expect to spend a few thousand on the low end, and more likely upwards of a 5 to 6-digit purchase price; again completely depending upon what needs to be developed and what functions the application needs to accomplish.
Basic HTML (Often Used for Informational Websites)
Basic HTML is in a way, the essence of the internet. While HTML is used in practically every aspect of the internet and practically every website in some form or other, it is a language all its own. CMS's, Shopping Carts, Subscription sites, etc are all online softwares built so that the every day user doesn't have to learn a whole new language called HTML. Instead, the every day user can simply focus on their business at hand.
If a business does happen to get a website developed where there is no use of a CMS, Shopping Cart, or other online software, then updates are a bit more difficult for the average user. In order to make any changes or updates to a website built with basic HTML will require one of two things:
- the learning of HTML (Hyper-Text-Markup-Language)
- or hire a developer
This means even the simplest of changes such as a misspelled word can require professional assistance.
Basic HTML development is often reserved for simple one or two page websites with basic informational needs. Normally anytime there is more content or pages requried, a designer will save time by using a CMS system versus coding in basic HTML.
For those looking for basic HTML development, costs can vary from a couple hundred or less for basic HTML updates/changes, upwards of a few hundred or more for developing a couple page HTML website.
Every business, even if within the same industry, will have its own needs. Each business must address which of the above four directions is best for its own website development goals. Whether using a CMS, e-Commerce, Custom Application, or Basic HTML, each has its own pro's and con's for each individual business.
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