Web design is like fashion. It’s always changing and you have to keep up. Most people don’t feel the need to always be at the height of fashion, but at a certain point we all look in our closet and say… enough! It’s time to update my look. So why do you have to update or redesign your site? Here’s why.
Let’s take this for example:
Costume e-tailer Todd’s Costume’s old site needed an update for a few reasons:
- The fact that the store functionality was so behind current standards was negatively impacting sales, because it undermined trust and credibility
- The old site was missing up-do-date marketing functionality, such as a blog, mailing list sign up, social media integration, and more
- The graphics featured costumes that were no longer so popular with customers (I mean… who still dresses up as Xena the Warrior Princess?? That show got cancelled like 10 years ago)
These three reasons for updating the site are the same three reasons that most businesses have for seeking a site redesign:
- Outdated functionality causing lost sales
- Lack of marketing capability
- Outdated design
In the example, of Todd’s Costumes, we upgraded their look, their marketing and their store with success. But it turns out that they put Xena back on the homepage.
Could it be that it’s time to consider a redesign of your site?
We often deal with clients who are looking to give their sites a facelift. Sometimes a complete redesign is desperately needed (think brown corduroy slacks and a handle-bar mustache). Other times, a few design tweaks to being it all in line with the latest trends, can make a huge difference.
Most of the reasons they advised against a hosted solution revolved around possible future concerns: you could eventually outgrow the platform, in terms of features and price; the platform could halt updates or go out of business, leaving you stranded; you will be forever tied to a third-part and what if their support fails?
All of these concerns are valid, but they fail to consider the many advantages of hosted solutions over open source, and the many disadvantages of OS platforms.
Two years ago, elasticated belts was a hot fashion look for women. Last year, it was skinny belts. This year, it’s chain belts. Next year, if you’re caught dead wearing a belt, you are going to look like you shop at goodwill (not that there is anything wrong with thrift shops – you just don’t want to look like you shop at one!).
Don’t you love look at photos from the the 70s? When everyone seemed to be wearing brown corduroy flares, a handle-bar mustache while posing on a brown shag pile carpet.
They thought they looked sooooooo sharp!
Sitting on point of this list is not to say that all OS ecommerce software is evil. We work with OS software regularly for clients and have delivered amazing results.
My point here is that you need to be realistic about the not-so-hidden costs of working with an OS shopping cart.
Of all the OS Ecommerce platforms we have worked with, we prefer Magento due to its outstanding flexibility and supportive developer community. It is an excellent option for a small- to medium- sized company which has the necessary resources.
On the other hand…
A Hosted Ecommerce Platform is Best if…
- You don’t have an in-house developer, or plan to contract an external company to service your ongoing development needs
- You are satisfied with the range of features offered by the hosted solution (and the good ones offer extensive features)
- You have a limited budget for start-up costs and ongoing development
Maintenance and bug fixes are free and fast. One of the biggest benefits of SaaS platform is their ability to push upgrades, bug fixes and new features quickly. Fundamentally, SaaS e-commerce are multi-tenant, hence upgrades are made available to all the store deployments within seconds without requiring it to be done individually. No separate hosting required. SaaS e-commerce platforms are hosted on cloud and you do not require to buy separate hosting.
For instance, 39Shops.com (SaaS ecommerce platform) provides free data storage, unlimited bandwidth with all its plans. Hence, buying separate hosting is completely ruled out. Designers take charge of the driver seat not developers. Expert designers are easier to find than open source developers.
Unlike open source platforms, developers don’t have much role to play when it comes to store implementation and customization. Designer next door, with good XHTML/CSS skills can do the design customization and implementation. At times, basic changes can be done by a non-techie user as well.
Support is integral part of SaaS offering Most SaaS provider offers direct e-mail or phone support to their customers. No separate SSL certificate required SSL checkout is essential and most new SaaS e-commerce platforms (Example: 39shops.com) provides SSL checkout included with its offering at no extra cost.
Although, open source are free but the end cost can go significantly higher compared to SaaS. If you are small business owner with less budget, less requirements and wants to do away dealing with developers, SaaS platform is ideal for you. If you are large business with higher budgets and custom requirements, you may choose open source. But make sure that the changes to open source are no more than 30%, if you require modifying more than 30% code base of the open source e-commerce platform, you might want to consider developing your own.
An Open Source Ecommerce Platform is Best if…
- You plan to work closely with a PHP developer specializing in your OS cart of choice, at all times (this could be in-house or a trusted external team you have contracted)
- You need total flexibility and ability to customize your site in highly specialized ways
- You have a significant budget for set-up costs and ongoing development
Open source ecommerce software may be free to download, but before you use it to start your OS store, be prepared pay the following price:
- Setup costs of php development for code customization, template integration, testing, implementation
- Hosting fees – note that your needs will vary according to the season and you will have to occasionally upgrade and downgrade your server capacity to avoid crashes during peak seasons and overpaying during low seasons. Each time you do this, expect glitches and expect to pay your trusty developer to help out.
- Lack of proper documentation and no support from the software’s developers means you will have to pay privately by the hour for all support, and the success of your business will be dependent on your developer’s availability (and skill). And yes, you will absolutely need emergency support at times! So be sure to hire a reputable team with reliable support and not a single brilliant geek who may be backpacking in the Amazon or having a baby when you need them most (imagine: it’s December 15th and your shopping cart suddenly malfunctions).
- OS gives you greater freedom to customize but each feature you add or remove will involve another round of pricey testing, implementation and bug fixes.
- Any customizations of the code will have to be integrated with future versions and bug fixes released by the OS software developers. This process can causes major headaches, so expect to pay for extensive redevelopment every time you need to upgrade.
- Hosted ecommerce platforms push out upgrades, bug fixes and new features to all the store deployments automatically, without requiring the store owner doing it individually.
- An SSL certificate for an annual fee, plus an expert to install it
- An SSL certificate comes with all the better SaaS ecommerce platforms, and several include PCI compliance