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Don’t Let Your Website Development Box You In
June 12, 2019 •James Elhardt
Building a website is one of the most important things any company can do. In fact, Allison Gibbs, our Director of Marketing Success, likes to say, “Your website should be your best-paid salesperson.”
There is a multitude of vendor, platform, and capability choices to make when it comes to designing your website. It’s not just about having a modern site that helps you achieve your goals. Your website needs to grow with your company and goals as they evolve and change.
We’ll cover different aspects of choosing a website design that won’t box you in later.
Side Note: Website development is no stranger to website jargon, if you aren’t familiar with the different terms, then this article breaks down everything you need to know.
Getting Boxed In
Generally, we think about websites in three general buckets; a template/DIY site, a theme site, and a custom site. These buckets can blur together, like a theme site with custom capabilities, or a DIY site with plug-ins and custom code to expand the capabilities.
Template/DIY — Think website builders like WIX, or using a limited template where you don’t have the ability to expand the capabilities. These sites cost the least but come with the most restrictions.
Theme Sites — Built using a pre-designed theme that you fit your content into. Theme sites often require a dedicated web development staff or an agency partner. Theme sites are a great way to get a professional site with expanded capabilities. Oftentimes themes cover everything a B2B business needs for general use.
Custom Sites — This is where you get to choose the capabilities and let your marketing brand and strategy drive the show. Built from the ground up with modules, specific capabilities, and design. Custom sites require the most effort and require a developer, designer, and content writer at a minimum.
Each of these options serves a different role. Just because a custom website can give you all the capabilities in the world, it also costs the most to develop and update. A DIY solution might not give you the capabilities you need down the road, but sometimes the budget won’t allow for anything else right away.
We often talk to prospects that chose an option that didn’t scale with their needs. For example, a theme site may have worked when it was chosen, but as the company evolved they needed a custom interactive product page or a new form of listing and demo pages.
Web Shelf Life
Let’s get this out of the way. Websites have no preset shelf life.
Content, design, and technology changes are constant. You should expect to invest in your site annually. Remember, it should be your best-paid salesperson.
No matter which option you choose from the three buckets above, this is going to be true. The question is, will you be able to make the updates you want? The flexibility of your choice and proper pre-planning mean that you can update your site so it keeps providing you with much-needed prospects.
Content Vs. Capabilities
There are two main ways to think about your site. The first is purely a capability and design standpoint. This generally applies to templates and theme sites where you choose a look and then either create or modify your content to fit within those bounds.
The other is thinking content first and fitting the website to the content. Sometimes this works with theme sites through the use of modules and placing them together to build a web page, and other times this is a completely custom website.
Both of these are completely viable options. However, unless you are willing to go with a very custom build you likely have to choose one of these two approaches.
Your site may not have a static shelf-life, but through proper strategic planning, you can make sure your CMS platform and site works with you for the long haul. Before building a new site, gather your website team, or marketing strategists and agency partner to think about where you are now, and where you are going
You can’t know it all, so think about the current vision for your company, and be willing to be slightly flexible. There are many factors you could consider depending on your business, but if you aren’t sure where to start, these can help be your springboard:
- Products - How are your products planned to evolve over the next few years? Will the content fit within the capabilities of a template or theme? Or will they require something unique?
- Growth - Is your business set to expand its scope? Are you integrating vertically or horizontally? Does your growth plan require specific features such as an expanding leadership page, or a wide range of work example capabilities?
- Branding - How often does your branding change? What defines your branding? If you use custom elements like diagonal lines and parallax scrolling are those possible to change?
- Your CRM or MAS - Does your marketing automation software cover your marketing needs or does your website need to provide you these capabilities?
Starting with these questions you can build a roadmap of potential future needs. While you don’t have a crystal ball, you’ll be able to determine what is mandatory for future expansion, and what to put on a wish list you can add later.
Leveraging Your Site
To make this a little more concrete, we wanted to show you two examples. The first example is our website. The Mojo Media Labs site is a mostly custom build, with design modules heavily emphasized.
Elements like our home page include little extra touches (did you know you can click on those little dots in our background and they’ll react?). Our team met and scoped out what we wanted, and what we needed. Elements like the ability to feature work, expand our product services, and showcase our capabilities and our culture were all ironed out. You can see how this came together on our work examples page, as well as our team page.
Our second example is a theme site with some custom elements. Virginia Elite Volleyball Club needed a new site, yet had a fixed budget. We were able to collaborate to find a theme that covered most of what they needed while developing custom capabilities beyond the theme that are easy to update by their team or ours. In this case, the content was planned to work well inside the theme, and the end result is a site that achieves their goals while being authentic and very fun.
Avoid Future Roadblocks
Give your website the chance it needs to grow with you. Think of it as a member of your sales team and not just a tool. If you can plan ahead, be honest about what you need versus what you want, and focus on the goals of your leadership team, you can avoid being boxed and create a site that works with you.
Wondering how your website is holding up today? Use our website self-audit toolkit to evaluate your website:
James Elhardt has spent time in his career working in social media, event marketing, brand management, content creation, and account management. His true love is content creation and writing, working with brands and digging into what makes them resonate in the marketplace. He went to the University of Minnesota and graduated with a major in Journalism, and a minor in Photography. When James is not working he is likely playing board games with friends, playing a competitive tabletop game with little tiny spaceships, or spending time with his family and their pack of dogs.
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