Three Options for Getting a Site Built
Once you have decided to build a website and planned what you want it to look like, it is time to consider what technology you will require.
There are essentially three ways to sort out the technological requirements:
1) Hire a development company to build a custom solution
· You should get exactly what you want, but it is often a long and expensive process
· All the costs are upfront when cash is often tightest
· Least advisable route for non-technical people
2) Buy a software package
· You will need to sort out the infrastructure (hosting, security, bandwidth, server monitoring, upgrades, etc.).
· Some technical knowledge is advisable.
· Probably the cheapest route, but price in the value of your time for running the software and dealing with problems.
3) Use a managed service provider
· The easiest solution for non-technical people. Gets rid of a lot of headaches and wasted time running a platform.
· Monthly payments or revenue share arrangements mean cash goes out as you earn it.
· Can be more expensive in the long run.
We will now go into a bit more detail about each of these options. You will have to live with your decision about which solution you choose, so choose carefully.
1) Write a Requirements Documents and Hire a Software Development Company
Up until a few years ago, this was the only way of building a small subscription website. All the complete software packages on the market were aimed at the big publishers and would cost at least £100,000.
Now a good web developer can find lots of free open source components that they can integrate to create a perfectly workable subscription website.
The advantages of doing it this way are that you can specify exactly what you want. Your website can be tailored to your publication with the exact functionality and format that you want.
The disadvantage is dealing with any developer is a bit like taking your car into a garage for a major engine failure. Thousands of pounds worth of work can be done, but when you lift up the bonnet, you have no idea what they have actually done, whether they have done it well and how long it will last.
This route maybe particularly appropriate if you are creating a website for a specific purpose. For example, a dating website will need special functionality for matching potential partners.
If you choose to build your own site, I would recommend using eLance (www.elance.com) to find a developer. Choose a company that has a high feedback score and quiz them about whether they have built a subscription website before.
Expect a self-build project to take at least 90 days to complete.
Please remember that a custom solution needs maintaining. Build this cost into you business plan. It maybe worth using a developer who offers a hosting, ongoing maintenance and upgrade capability.
2) Buy a Software Package
There are good software packages that you can buy off the shelf that will enable you to run a subscription website or large parts of a subscription website. You buy the software and install it on your own servers.
The advantage with this choice is that you will have ownership and control over all aspects of your website. It can also be much cheaper than doing the development yourself.
However, you will be responsible for finding a hosting company, arranging bandwidth, managing security, installing upgrades, monitoring performance, implementing statistics reporting. etc. Ask yourself whether you want this, or whether it could be detrimental to the success of your business.
A client that we recently worked with paid $2,000 for her website software and then ended up paying £36,000 a year for developer and designer to run it for her.
I would only recommend this approach to people who have at least elementary developer and HTML skills, and who are familiar with running websites.
3) Managed Solution
A managed solution is where a third party takes care of the management of your technology requirements. Usually these companies have developed a software platform for running subscription websites. They put the software on their own servers and manage your site from their facility. You get access to all the functionality via an internet browser. This means that you don’t have to worry about the basic infrastructure, software development and day-to-day technology management.
We would recommend that non-technical people choose this solution.
There are different levels of service offered by different companies. The range from basic to advanced is summarised below, but there are many variations in between.
Basic Managed Service
Design your website using basic templates.
Administer the website using an online control panel accessed via a web browser.
Installed basic payment processing, often using Paypal.
Usually they charge a fixed monthly fee ranging from $30 to $500.
There are no UK companies offering this service. If you use a US company, be sure they can process payments in sterling, adhere to UK legal requirements and can use English language spellings.
Advanced Managed Service
Personal account manager
Custom-built site on a managed platform
Custom-designed website based on client design brief
Functionality review with client to decide on the features to implement
Support for payment processing implementation
Support and advice about building and posting content
Hands-on system training
Support and advice about online and offline marketing
Advice and support about customer retention
These companies tend to act more as business partners than as suppliers. Their charging structure is usually a percentage share of revenues ranging from 15% to 30% depending on what they contribute.
Choosing a technology path is a difficult job and in some instances becomes so daunting that it causes people to give up on their online publishing ambitions altogether.
But don't let this decision defeat you. The opportunity is too big to miss because of one decision.
If you are not technically knowledgeable or savvy, then you would be wise to go with a company that has a tried and tested managed solution, such as SubHub (www.subhub.com). Take a look at their other customer sites and maybe give a few of the publishers a call.
Get this decision out of the way and start moving your business forward.