When building a website, you need to think about your business needs, resources and budget. While this may seem obvious, it is often contrary to what I often find. I’m surprised how many retailers defer something as important as building a website to a developer or the IT person managing the computers in their stores. While there was some validity in this approach 15 years ago when everything was new and had to be developed, it is simply not valid today with the plethora of sophisticated e-commerce platforms and services.
Rent Vs. Buy?
Before getting started on a new website, you need to ask yourself if you want to “rent” or “buy.” The best way I know to explain this idea is by using an analogy. Imagine you just got married and need to find a new place to live. For most of us, we didn’t have the means or desire to go out and purchase a new home. Instead, you rented an apartment in the city and enjoyed your life with your significant other. This allowed you to go out to dinner, socialize and have a wonderful time without having to worry about the water heater breaking or fixing a leaky roof. However, we all grow up and very often decide to settle down and have children. The first child arrives and your little apartment becomes cramped. By the second kid, the apartment becomes unbearable and you decide its finally time to buy a house in the suburbs.
Building a website is very similar and if you’re new to e-commerce, you should not try to build and own a home because the upkeep will be time-consuming and the maintenance will be costly. Instead, you should “rent” a website using a hosted e-commerce solution like HipCommerce, Shopify or Bigcommerce. These solutions take much of the burden of building a new website off your shoulders and allows you to focus on merchandising your products, order fulfillment and marketing. When something breaks, your e-commerce service provider will fix it free of charge. Additionally, they will also make sure your website is PCI / DSS Complaint so your customers’ credit card information is safe and secured.
The Need to Build
So why do so many developers believe you must build your own website to be successful? I believe there are two reasons why developers will tell you it’s better to “own” than “rent.” The first reason is unquestionable: developers like to build things. I suspect this urge dates back to when they got their first Tinker Toy set for Christmas. They opened up the box and were instantly mesmerized by all the pieces and parts. Putting together these little parts and building something made them immensely happy. The second reason is of course for financial reasons. They simply cannot charge you as much if someone else has built the house and all you need to do is paint and decorate it.
The Right Time to Own
I’m not saying you should never build and own a home. On the contrary, as your online sales and your knowledge of e-commerce grows, you will undoubtedly consider building your own house. However, with the success of your online business and a knowledgeable and seasoned staff, you’re now prepared to build your own website. This is often needed to accomplish some business goal or to satisfy your desire to separate yourself from the pack by doing something completely unique online. These are valid reasons to build a website and position yourself for the future.
Luckily, when you’re ready to build your website there are some really good e-commerce platforms to get you started. Platforms such as Magento have an almost unbelievable amount of features and functions built-in, giving you a solid foundation to build your website upon. Magento also has a thriving community of developers who offer a near endless supply of extensions to extend the power and functionality of your website even further. Modern Retail always looks for extensions in the Magento marketplace before building the same functionality from scratch for our clients. This approach allows us to create higher quality websites at lower project and life-cycle costs for our customers.
Hopefully, this has helped you on your quest to get your new website up and running. If you’re active in the decision making process and question your developer on the “rent” verses “buy” decision, I believe you’ll succeed with your online endeavors.