You’ve decided this is finally the year you’re going to replace your clunky old website. “No problem, I can do this easy,” you think, and you start the search for the best website development platform. With so many do-it-yourself solutions nowadays, this will all be done by lunch.

A little research later and you have a lot of questions and a very big headache. You learn of dozens of possibilities, each one promising its better than all the others. You’re soon dizzy from all the technical acronyms and jargon, and no further along with your project. Worse, you’re now worried that everything on your current website won’t work on a new platform.

Why is this so difficult? Why can’t your website content, databases, blogs, product pages, forms, widgets, modules, nodes, etc. all seamlessly just transfer into a new site? Aren’t these online, ready-made site builders supposed to be easy?

Yes… and no. There are pros and cons to every solution; here's what you need to know about website development platforms.

Related: 5 Questions for Evaluating Website Development Vendors

The Basics

Websites are developed using HTML, which is the base code. In the simplest terms, it dictates the overall structure, or bones of a site. HTML has evolved many, many times over the years – the current standard is HTML 5 – so what you may have dabbled in back in the day is ancient history by now.

CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, control the look and feel of a site, and help bring the design to life – it’s the skin. It too has advanced over time; the features of the current version, CSS 3, have opened a world of new design possibilities. Web designers and developers have a full toolbox of cool technologies available now: JavaScript, jQuery AJAX, etc., all of which can be customized in an infinite number of ways.

The point is this: Technology always marches forward, and web development is no exception. That website you built (or had built) years ago likely leverages development standards that are now obsolete. Moving to a new modern platform that utilizes current standards is difficult, but the payoff is certainly worthwhile.

Related: 6 Must-Have Elements of a Great Website Design

Options & Challenges

Most websites have some sort of tool to manage information – these are typically known as a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS is either a proprietary program/software/platform or something that’s open-source and available to all. The end user never sees it, but the CMS is the engine that allows site administrators to add, edit and delete content, such as blog posts, news, events, images or on-page copy.

Without getting into too much detail, (that’s a whole other post!) platforms like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace offer these systems straight out of the box. Customization is tricky, so you need to adapt to how they work, not the other way around. They’re also an all-in, pay-as-you-go model, so good luck if you ever want to leave.

There are many other frameworks as well, such as WordPress, HubSpot, Joomla, Drupal or ASP.NET, Microsoft’s solution. These are usually used for more advanced projects because of their flexibility and scalability – you can customize any way you see fit. They’re completely built-to-suit, however, they typically require a seasoned development firm.

All these examples use different development languages, or particular nuances and disciplines within those languages. That means a website built using one technology won’t necessarily function within another. A site developed in PHP will not work within the ASP.NET framework; a database that utilizes MySQL doesn’t translate correctly to an SQL structure. A feature in Squarespace won’t just magically migrate over to say… WordPress. It needs to be rebuilt using the tools available in the new platform. Unfortunately, all this techno-speak isn’t apples to apples; it’s more like apples to pineapples.

All of this means that unless you know the finer details of web development and design, you really need experts to help build your new website.

Related: 7 Emerging Trends in Web Design & Development

The Solution

A professional, modern website that attracts visitors and converts them into customers takes time, commitment, and a solid understanding of how web development technologies work. Can you do it yourself? Maybe, but who needs that headache?

Don’t be afraid to invest in a professional web team to do the heavy-lifting. Unless you’re up-to-date on current web design and development techniques, standards and practices it’s not a do-it-yourself job – there’s just too much ever-changing information. Sure, you can choose an inexpensive, ready-made platform, but you’ll be bound by pre-made templates that are a dime a dozen. How does that differentiate you from your competitors? (Yes, that’s deliberately rhetorical!)

The web development experts at Ironmark are here to be your partner in building your brand, and website design and development are right in our wheelhouse.

Take the guesswork out of your next project, and let our website experts help!

ASK A WEB EXPERT TODAY 

Written by Rich Cook

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