Easy. Custom. Scalable. This is the holy trinity for digital tools, and yet there’s a hitch: you can only pick two.
When it comes to implementing a new company website, this becomes quite evident. Marketing wants a website that’s easy to update and add content on the fly. Executives want a custom site that stands out from competitors. And IT demands scalability so that the website can grow with the business.
Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to achieve all three. Here’s why:
Easy & Scalable: Websites that are both simple to update and highly scalable win the popularity contest on the web thanks to CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla and others. These template-driven sites allow users to easily upload new content and make simple changes without digging into code. The biggest complaint? When you want to do something different, you need to bring in specialists to code new templates or features.
Easy & Custom: Ever hear the term drag and drop? This is the epitome of customization and ease of use. Anyone can add new widgets simply by dropping them in place. The issue with many drag and drop platforms is they lack universal scaling across your website. For example, manually dropping in a new custom headline with a fancy font typically won’t apply those changes across the site—meaning you have to painstakingly make changes across the board.
Custom & Scalable: To get a fully featured, custom site that scales, you often have to remove the ability to make changes on the fly. The background logic that allows your website to scale typically means it needs to be programmed by experts and bug tested for all scenarios. This tends to leave the marketing team on the outside looking in, and puts future web updates in the hands of IT and development teams.
Picking what’s right for your organization
If you want your new website project to be a success, you must take the limitations of each pairing into consideration and match them to your organization’s dependencies. You can start by answering the questions below:
What internal resources or teams do we have to manage the website?
Many small and medium sized businesses can’t afford to keep a fully stacked IT team on hand to manage their website. If you find yourself strapped for technical resources, you’ll likely want to consider an option that includes “Easy” in one of the pillars. This ensures that you can keep the site up to date with new content and features.
What is our budget for building the site, and what is our budget for ongoing maintenance?
Customization often adds the biggest budget to the initial build out of your site. It can increase design burden, bug testing and the planning phases for a large site. And custom CMS platforms like Kentico or Sitecore can easily cost you five or six figures a year in licensing and maintenance costs.
What are my “need to have” and my “nice to have” features?
Start with a big list of everything you want your site to be able to do. Live chat? Chuck it in! Member logins? Put it on the tab! Interactive location map? You get the point. Once you have your dream list, begin to choose the mission critical features and place them in a “need to have” column on a spreadsheet. Then dump the rest into a “nice to have” column. This way, you can map out the price and complexity of the site before you engage an outside agency or internal development team, and move features into the appropriate column as needed.
What do I want the website to accomplish?
The goals of each website should be a driving factor in picking the right mix of attributes, and its up to your business to determine these goals before hand. Does your brand rely on cutting edge design to stand out in the market place? If so, you better make sure you’re not using a cookie cutter template. On the flipside, if your audience is an older B2B crowd, you’re better off making your site predictable and simple to navigate. Here, complexity and customization take a back seat to a scalable design.
How often do you update your site? What’s the shelf life?
Finally, you’ll want to know how you will be using the site long-term. If you plan to grow your website from 20 pages to 2000 pages in the next five years, you need something that’s highly scalable. On the other hand, a website for a one-time event doesn’t have to have any scale factor. In this situation, using drag and drop to get the job done quickly might be a much better use of your team’s resources.
Understanding the relationship between scalability, ease of use and customization will save you time, money and countless sleepless nights in the future. And this advice doesn’t just apply to new websites—it can relate to several technology-based decisions for your business.
Need help planning your website? Take a look at our free Web Design & Planning Questionnaire.