PUBLISHED MAY 2015
by Thomas Young, President, Intuitive Websites, LLC
If you have a publishing business, you need a basic understanding of the technology behind the company website. Because technology is so important today, the leadership in any organization should clearly understand its strategic value for the company and participate actively in technology decisions. Poor or ill-informed technology decisions can have huge negative consequences.
Here is some fundamental information about key areas of website marketing technology.
Open Source Software vs. Licensed Software
The original business model for software was based on software ownership and the sales of licensed software products. This business model became much less popular as groups of developers collaborated to create free software, also known as open-source software.
Developers of open-source software make money by selling software extensions, or plugins, and by offering programming support and development services. They can also use the software to create applications or websites that users pay to access.
Most of the software needed to run a successful website marketing program is now open-source. And the trend toward dominance by open-source software will continue as younger generations use it and fewer people pay for licensed software.
Today, a very high percentage of small business websites use open-source web development software such as WordPress as development platforms.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
The term CMS is used to refer to software programs for website development. A CMS website development platform allows anyone provided with a simple login to edit the website from any browser. This has put web marketing more in the hands of sales and marketing professionals and less in the hands of IT staff.
The current trend in website development is toward using open-source CMS programs, including WordPress, among others. WordPress is currently the fastest growing and most popular website platform in the world because it is free, open source, and easy to use. Most business websites can be built in WordPress at a very affordable cost, and those sites will perform very well.
Plugins and Extensions
The website add-ons known as plugins and extensions add functionality. All the major CMS website development platforms offer hundreds of plugins for relatively small fees. Examples include shipping calculators, form generators, calendars, shopping carts, and database management tools, and there are many more.
It is important to remember that these add-ons must be compatible with the most current CMS version running your website and that they will need regular updates.
Templates vs. Unique Designs
There are two approaches to website development in a CMS platform such as WordPress. The first involves building a site with a predesigned template, and the second involves converting a unique design into WordPress.
Design template plugins can be purchased for little cost and can make the development process go quickly. However, you’re limited to the scope of the plugin and if the template becomes popular, your site may look like lots of other sites. I recommend creating a unique design for your company based on the strategic vision of your web marketing plan and the needs of your target market.
E-Commerce Marketing Options
If your company can sell products and/or services online, you should have an e-commerce system to develop new revenue streams. Many options are available in a highly competitive software market space.
Although WordPress does not have an e-commerce system as part of its software, lots of e-commerce plugins and systems are compatible with it and suitable for sites with minimal e-commerce needs.
Sites with high-level e-commerce needs should use dedicated online shopping development platforms. These platforms are available in CMS, open-source, and proprietary systems.
Once you make the leap into e-commerce, you must make the commitment to learn all you can about the technology that powers online sales.
Website Technologies and Multiple Devices
Long gone are the days when the Internet was available only on a desktop computer. With dozens of screen sizes, tablets, smart phones, and other alternatives people will be using to find your website, you must be aware of the different percentages of users coming from each, and of the different experiences they may be having on the site. Accordingly, you should review Google Analytics data and visit your company’s website using a variety of popular mobile devices.
Various approaches allow you to display and update a unique site on different devices from one administrative area. Responsive web design (RWD) is an excellent option. It gives your website the ability to modify each individual web page automatically according to a user’s screen preferences, letting web content be viewed on a variety of screen sizes. You might also consider providing a mobile website or app for smaller screens and tablets.
Web Marketing Reporting
There is a technical component to selecting, tracking, and setting up effective web marketing reporting tools. The Internet is loaded with tools for tracking e-mail, social media, content, web leads, web stats, and just about any online metric. Google continues to be the leader in web marketing reports with Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and other Google apps.
A Technology To-Do List
Web-based technologies are the means of implementing your web marketing strategy and making it a reality. Most IT professionals will recommend the options that they know best, but those may not be the best alternatives for your business. Understanding the technological basics lets you play an active role in selecting the right tools for your company’s online growth.
Action items are:
- Make time to learn the fundamentals of web marketing technology.
- Build your website in an open-source CMS platform. Evaluate WordPress as an option for your website development platform.
- Do searches to compare various e-commerce platforms and make sure your IT person or department explains the pros and cons of each system.
- Set up Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and other Google programs as the core of your web reporting.
- Make sure your technology is enhancing your web marketing results and not getting in the way.
- Visit BuiltWith.com to see what technologies are used to build any website and for stats on the most popular website development platforms.
Thomas Young, who has 25 years of experience in marketing and sales, is president and owner of Intuitive Websites, LLC, a Colorado-based website design, development, and marketing firm, and the author of Intuitive Selling. He has presented around the United States and Canada on Internet marketing and web usability. This article is derived from his new book, Winning the Website War: 4 Steps to Marketing Success. To learn more: WinningTheWebsiteWar.com.