What Every Business Should Know About Web Development

As a business owner, I know that business people have more to do than there are hours in the day.  The key to being successful lies in prioritization and delegation.  Understanding what makes a web site effective and a sound investment seems to be a vast topic and not worthy of prioritization.  The result is that few small to medium sized businesses have anyone in their organization that can make a truly informed decision when selecting a web development agency, or choosing between various proposals.  Instead decisions are made primarily based on portfolio, professionalism, networking and cost.  These are all important criteria, but there are vital factors that play an enormous role in the business value of a web site that are not being considered.

Let's start off by enumerating key attributes of an effective web site:

  1. Effectively communicating the Brand and its core values
  2. Aligned with business objectives
  3. Aesthetically pleasing and appropriate for the brand/message/functionality
  4. High performance - fast loading
  5. Highly usable, making it easy for users to accomplish tasks
  6. Current and relevant
  7. Extensible in the future

More Than Meets the Eyes

The branding, visual appeal and speed of a web site are things that most business people are in a position to assess.  To a lesser extent they can also make judgements about the usability of a site from their own experience.  However, the timeliness of content and the extensibility of the site's platform are deep topics that tend to be overlooked in planning and decision making.  The result is a site that becomes stale and ultimately winds up needing to be completely rebuilt from scratch in a few short years.

You might wonder how current and relevant content has anything to do with the selection of an agency or choosing between various web development proposals.  If the site is built with Content Management capabilities, then surely timeliness of content is just a matter of internal processes and the discipline to spend time updating content on your web site.  Although both of these are vital, the initial decision about the web site's platform and the way in which the site itself is built play an enormous role in making updates efficient and future extensibility possible. 

Difficulty in managing site content is the number one reason why sites fall out of date and loose their business value. Not all content management systems are created equal, and not all agencies are equally capable of effectively deploying a CMS.  Let's take a look at a simple division of CMS platforms into two groups.

  • Simple
  • Robust

Simple CMS platforms provide in browser editing of content, and simple categorization of that content.  For some businesses, especially very small business operating on very limited budgets, this can be a sound choice.  However, they are limiting in what they can do, and much more time intensive to update and maintain.

On the other hand a truly robust CMS like Drupal can be shaped to the exact needs of any organization.  Through the use of specific content types and deft configuration of the CMS platform, updating and managing the content of the web site can be incrementally simpler and more efficient process than with a simple CMS.

The skilled implementation of a robust CMS takes a considerable amount of time, and this work obviously comes at a cost.  If you don't understand the value of one approach versus another, it easy to look at two proposal for the same project that carry different costs and assume you are looking at a comparable finished product when in fact you are not.

The video entry for this article provides you with an overview of different types of CMS platforms, and will let you take a look at the actual workings of various real world examples. 

If you have any questions about CMS technology, please free to send them to me using the comments form below.