Does your business need a custom website?

Whether you sell products online or not, the rules of scalability and performance for website development are similar.

Your website is the most important demonstration that your business really is different than your competition. You have a unique message, a unique market and demographics, unique price points and services, your own unique way of doing things.

We aim for the stars when planning for success but we are often limited due to the inadequacy of our systems.

Our entire business is about helping you with all forms of your business communication needs.

Your website is equally as critical as your phone system and other business communications technology.

With all of the ecommerce and other business website service providers out there, how does a company with multiple SKU's, categories, advanced customer needs (groups, discounts, etc), customer reward systems, customer review systems and more, really know when it time to reinvest? Lets get started.

Before you buy online website hosts and services

There are many online website service providers, hosting companies, platforms and more.

For ecommerce, the most well known are Shopify, Square and Big Commerce. Armed with very little to no coding skills you can have your e-commerce website up and running in no time. However, you will simply end up with the basic functionality required to put products into a shopping cart and sell online.

Which may be great depending on your business, but what happens when your website starts to get busy?

Potential issues with limited scalability platforms

1First, always consider the bigger picture. Not just today, think 5 - 10 years in advance. Your business website is what your customers will use. Often, its the first impression they will come to about you. That’s important.

Many companies began their internet presence with Wordpress and other "self-managed" systems. In a lot of ways, Wordpress is very powerful. Depending on your business, it may in fact be all you need. However, when it comes to selling things online (and other advanced applications), this is when the pain begins with the wrong solution.

Imagine spending 100 hours to load up your online inventory (or other custom and unique needs. For example, our Assessment Tool). Everything is loaded, images look awesome, SKU's and pricing are all set and more. You click publish (turn off Maintenance Mode) and walla, you are open for business!

You let things run for a couple days and then the phone starts ringing with customer calls about products not being available for purchase (or your custom tools are broke). This does not begin to factor the lost customers that did not call you and have left with a bad impression about you.

You have not made the volume of sales to run out of any product so you are scratching your head in wonder. You check the physical inventory and the items are in fact in stock. You check the online inventory system and to your amazement and disbelief, the fruits of your labor (the 100 hours you spent the other day) are all inaccurate, mismatched, products are no longer correctly set and more. Frankly, it is just a big giant mess. It is also not the way you left things the other day.

In other words, your inventory management system (or other functions) failed. We have many of our own examples of these types of issues over the years. We also have many examples from our customers. If critical systems and applications are failing, it is a clear indicator that it's time to make a change.

You want a higher conversion rate and customization

2Small businesses come in all shapes and sizes. What worked for this business, may not work for that business and so on. Your own website is the easiest example that the one-size-fits-all approach does not work.

This is assuming that your situation has already surpassed the rookie mistakes level. Lets say that your website is a success and everything is great. However, that day that you have been dreading comes along and you realize that you have exceeded the basic and even somewhat advanced design capabilities that you originally "developed" on (or were originally provided).

You now need to seriously work on things in terms of optimization for a higher conversion rate. Meaning, you understand your online shopper (or target website visitor) behavior, retention rate and more. You may also now need your website to look, but most importantly, function in a unique way. Your marketing efforts have also determined that unique customization needed.

The first step for most small business owners is to find the cheapest Developer who knows HTML, CSS, JavaScript and more. You also need someone that can do things quickly. Ultimately, you need to find someone who can convert your marketing ideas into the real code. For larger companies, they attempt to assign this task to the IT Department. Just for clarity, that IT guy/girl has an entire mess of other things that he/she is an expert in and website development is not one of them. The majority of IT people are not website developers simply by default. That's like saying that you can fly an airplane simply because you know how to drive a car...

After days of searching, you finally find someone that you can trust. They have completed their initial testing (a lot goes into that) and have some bad news for you. He/she says that your current design is simply not a desirable, nor stable foundation to expand on. In other words, everything that you have done on your own is just not up to snuff. Most professional website developers would rather tell you the truth and set proper expectations upfront. Most other types of developers (that you want to avoid) will simply say "oh yea, we can do that" and in no way be able to actually deliver later.

Ultimately while at this stage, this is when the do it yourself/minimal approach really becomes a problem. However, you knew from day one that you are not an expert on the subject, hence there should really be no real surprise at this point.

You tried your best, but the truth is that you have built everything in a chaotic way. You also have not used a systematic approach. You did not plan for success and you simply just needed to get the job done. And now the maintenance and expansion of such a codebase is a nightmare.

Due to the limitations of your design, new changes can not be implemented. Bugs and site issues appear more and more often. And as a sole website "developer" you are no longer capable of keeping the website in a working condition. This is another clear indicator that it's time to make a change. However, it's actually going to cost a lot more money now.

Your website needs unique or complex functionality

3Many SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms can provide you with the functionality required for a slew of typical online implementations. A lot of them can enable some quite complex features.

Inventory systems, customer orders, shipping, database management and more. But what if you want custom features such as GEO targeted search? What is GEO (location)targeted search?

Let’s say that you have a set of products or services that are dependent on the customer’s physical location.

To keep it simple, lets say that you have physical (brick and mortar) stores where customers can choose to pick up their orders. The chances are very high that they will make additional purchases once they get to your store, hence, this feature makes a lot of sense. When someone searches for a product on your site, you ultimately want to display the item that is in the store located conveniently closest (in distance) to the customer. Oh yea, that sounds really cool! Unfortunately, you can not simply do this with an eCommerce platform out of the box. Moreover, this is an example of unique and complex functionality.

Another example is a website that has a complex structure of products with a user interface that allows for customer customization of products. The standard implementation of intense product variants within basic SaaS websites may be a problem.

Let’s say that you sell custom made bicycles. A standard website will allow customers to purchase "model x" in the colors available such as red, white or blue. We don't mean to be difficult, but that is not quite a "custom" bicycle. More to the point, that is an example of a simple product "variant".

A customer shopping for an actual custom made bicycle wants to select from custom and different parts of the final product. They want a specific material, size and color. They want to select from different types of components such as brakes and gears. They want to decide on the handlebars, seat, wheels, tires and so much more.

Ultimately, if you can dream up a "proper" customization design (for your needs) the chances are very high that it can be done. However, not with a standard implementation and certainly not with an out of the box design package. To us, proper means it can be engineered with scalability and performance in mind.

Managed vs Unmanaged Hosting, Hacking and Cybersecurity

4If you have surpassed the basics (such as Shopify, etc) and want to get your website online, you’ll need a hosting plan.

There are many types of hosting plans available, such as Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting, and Dedicated Hosting. However, you’ll also have to choose between "managed" and "unmanaged" service levels. You’ll most likely have to choose between these types service levels if you are interested in a VPS or a Dedicated Server plan.

While unmanaged hosting offers far more control (Root Access, API functionality, Advanced Webhooks, etc) over your site and server, you really need to know what you are doing when it comes to security. Unmanaged is better suited to companies that require more freedom over what their sites can do (the true custom bicycle shop scenario for example). However, someone on your team must be an expert and very familiar with the daily tasks required to manage a server and keep a website optimized and secure.

With a managed hosting plan, on the other hand, it’s likely that your hosting provider will carry out the majority of those daily tasks (ie. automated backups, regular updates, and constant security scanning) for you. The specific services provided will vary depending on the company. However, due to legitimate security concerns, root access and other things will not be allowed thereby limited some capabilities.

Cyber Security. Cyber-attacks are usually targeted at accessing, changing, destroying and stealing sensitive information; for the purpose of money extortion; disrupting your normal business processes, or utilizing your resources (website computing power). Implementing effective cybersecurity measures can be quite challenging simply because hackers are becoming more innovative. We have a page dedicated to the subject of Cyber-security here.

In summary, there is a lot to consider. And of course, we can help with all of it. In addition, there are many free and discounted, fast and affordable website services and tools from large scale providers that are not publicly advertised. Email us at [email protected] or click here to contact us. Better yet, take our Business Communications Assessment and help us understand your entire environment so that we can help you with all of your business communications needs.

Whether your business website sells products or not, the rules of website design scalability and performance are similar.
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