We’ve been recommending open source website technologies for our clients, namely WordPress. There are many benefits, but there are also some disadvantages to these cost-effective, “easy-to-use” website platforms. Here’s one of the biggest.
For most businesses, it doesn’t make good business sense to get a website developed in a proprietary platform that only the website developer can modify. With today’s open source technologies, costs have come down and website owners can more easily update their site, making text changes, adding blog posts and even adding pages. Open source websites like WordPress are less expensive and put more control and power in the hands of the site owner, which is great. But we’ve seen open source websites go terribly wrong.
The biggest problem with open source websites like WordPress
We design, develop and deliver a site that has standardized, pre-set fonts, colors and graphics. We make sure all the features work and all pages are consistent. We optimize the site for the search engines and make sure critical marketing features are in place. We test the site, go live, train our client and turn the site over to them. It may not be in the first few months, but often we will see our clients go into a site and randomly change font styles, colors and add widgets and plugins, even removing links from pages that facilitated site navigation. Soon the site looks nothing like what we delivered.
It’s like not following the guidelines provided with your new logo
A comparison can be made to the process of having a logo designed. Most of us wouldn’t try to design our own company logo (although some do – ugh, that can be the subject of another blog post). We pay a professional designer who comes up with rough concepts, we choose one, they refine the logo and finally deliver final artwork for printing or online work. If they are pros, they also provide guidelines for logo use, including how the logo can be used in black and white, with or without a tagline, and more. It the logo guidelines aren’t followed, sometimes people will begin adapting the design. Soon, brand consistency is lost and the (hopefully) elegant and expensive design you paid for doesn’t look the same way it did when it was delivered.
What’s the solution to users who fail to keep their website consistent?
Keep a web developer involved
The best solution to keeping a site consistent and running well is to keep the original or another website vendor involved. I recommend setting up an expectation that the vendor will do a sweep or review of the website on a regular basis (this could be every quarter, but monthly is better), reviewing what is visible on the pages as well as what visitors can’t see. Behind the scenes the vendor should be keeping the site updated to the latest release of the technology (whether it be WordPress or another), looking for any incompatibilities and hacks (my web developer once found that a client’s site had been hacked, and they had no idea).
Document your website’s standards
The other part of the solution is to document the intent and purpose of the website, as well as what standards to follow as blog posts, pages and features are added. The standards should include font sizes and colors, content layouts for blog posts and pages, and what type of language should be used. All of this should be based on who your visitors are, so that the site appeals to your target audience. If this changes, you may need to change your website, but that should be done with a strategic plan based on the heeds and wants of your new audience.
All marketing should be designed with a strategy in mind, and it also should be maintained for consistency over time. To do this right, you should have written guidelines for all of your marketing, including your website. If your look and feel, your messages in social media and on your website, or your other materials – your brand consistency – keep morphing and changing, you can lose the trust of your customers and followers. Since a website is often the first thing a prospect sees about your company, it’s critical to your brand identity.
Are you about to update your website? Need to create a new site? Want to have more control of the content? Contact us at New Incite today. We’ve updated and created hundreds of websites, trained clients and provided documentation on how to maintain them, and provided ongoing support.
photo from Flickr by Kenny Louie. Some Rights Reserved.