As one of the leading marketing agencies in the construction marketing space, we see a lot of briefs for new websites. One of the most common occurrences we see is companies deliberating over what platform to use.
If you’ve had the joy of leading or being involved in a website development project or if you are embarking on a new website project, this may resonate. After all, it’s a big decision for your business.
Typically this new adventure will commence by the assembling of a project team made up of individuals from departments such as IT, marketing, product and perhaps a board member. And so, the journey begins.
In recent months, we’ve seen 3 or 4 instances of companies spending lots of time and energy in relatively unproductive meetings, with lots of conflicting opinions and not much progress, specifically because of platform choice.
On top of internal opinions folk have accumulated over their careers, the team is often tasked to go and ‘research’ potential platforms.
There is so much noise out there about which platform is best and each of them shouts about a million features, partners, software integrations etc. Before you know it, you’re overwhelmed with comparison tables, reviews and lists of pros & cons for each platform.
By the time you’ve collated a list – other platforms come into the mix because ‘Dave’s friend built a website on it and thinks its the bee’s knees’. Frankly, the choice is enormous and it’s no wonder it becomes a major topic of contention.
So how do you choose your platform?
Answer. YOU DON’T.
I must have read 100’s of website platform reviews over the years. None of them tell you what you need to know.
That’s because they don’t know what your website needs to do! Reviews are a guide to the very top level functions of a site, but they cannot identify issues that could be a show stopper for your project.
What they are not, is a selection tool to help make the right choice. We regularly see companies relying on these reviews, or their own knowledge or IT personnel to make major decisions about the next website investment.
I mentioned the IT department specifically for good reason. Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t rely on IT personnel to pick your platform…
- IT don’t understand website design/development
- IT don’t understand SEO and the SEO needs of a platform
- IT isn’t driven by your business goals
- IT doesn’t understand the needs of your audience
- IT isn’t interested in marketing
It’s a bit like someone asking a marketer or web developer advice about your office LAN network. Ummm. Wrong person.
Your IT crew are fantastic at what they do and can add value to your project team by contributing to issues like data organisation, security, network restrictions and connectivity with other platforms.
But ask yourself a simple question, is your new website an IT tool or a marketing tool?
We believe, as well as millions of others, that your new website is your most powerful marketing tool. Don’t worry, we can back up this claim. For 20 years, we have worked with companies and built websites that deliver quality traffic and most importantly, convert. Your website should serve your audience and drive leads to your sales team.
Our websites are successful because they are led by business goals and an aligned SEO and UX strategy to help achieve those goals.
I have personally been developing or helping develop websites and applications since 1998 so I’ve seen a fair few different platforms and technologies over those years.
What’s funny is that, in all these years, I have never seen an article that says;
Let your website technical specification choose the platform for you (a document detailing exactly how your site will work).
- Review articles are there to get traffic and earn from advertising or affiliate linking. They don’t know what you need and lots of them are pushed out by the website platforms themselves to promote how good they are.
- The platforms themselves (at sales pitch stage) will say the answer is “yes we can do that,” regardless of the question.
- Platforms want to sell their own platforms and invest heavily in great sales techniques to help them do it.
Nor have I seen any agencies say;
“Let’s choose your platform after we work out what you need.”
Most web agencies or code houses have desks full of developers. Those developers will be either php guys, building in WordPress, Magento, Drupal or similar. Or .net guys building in Umbraco, Kentico, Sitefinity or Sitecore. When someone comes through the door asking for their advice on which platform to use. If they are a Kentico specialist they certainly won’t recommend Drupal. That’s like walking into a BMW showroom and asking the salesman if a Mercedes is a better choice.
You and your IT guys may have a “nice to have” list of features, but does this align with your audience’s wants and needs? And what about SEO, security and back-office processes? Simply listing a feature that says ‘Integration with SAP’ doesn’t allow you to select a platform. Integrations are complex by nature. In my experience, no ‘out the box’ plugin truly addresses the business logic that is required to make the integration work seamlessly with your back office.
So, c’mon then I hear you ask… How do I choose what platform my business is going to commit £££, time, blood, sweat and tears into?
I’d like more companies to be saying…
“Let’s choose the platform after we work out what we need.”
We recommend letting your specification decide.
Work with your MARKETING agency to gain an independent perspective on what your new MARKETING tool should do and how it should function. After all, they should know your audience pretty well. This is a marketing project.
If you are not using a construction-specific agency to help build your site, be prepared for a rocky road ahead whilst you try to educate them about the supply chain and your persona needs.
If you’re considering a PIM platform to run your website, please just don’t. PIM systems are not geared up for the web, especially when it comes to the B2B environment. Mostly because they are closed source, out of the box and don’t consider how web data differs from back-office product data. But that’s a whole other post.
We have personal experience of building in WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Umbraco, Imis, Sitecore, Sitefinity, Bespoke .net, Bespoke asp, Bespoke php. We’re not tied to one. We like elements of all. But most importantly, we select the platform once we know the granular detail of what your project requirements are.
We’ve built up a vast knowledge of restrictions and we can spot them before those vital decisions are made, meaning you don’t end up wedding yourself to something that’s not right for the business. The wrong choice will result in;
- Lost rankings
- Lost opportunities
- Frustrated customers
- Turned off prospects
- Marketing battling with IT
- Lots of unproductive meetings
- Microsites/campaign sites being created to get around restrictions
- Buying twice
We’ve built around 100 sites for the construction market. This means we’ve come across, created and rolled out lots of ideas and we know what works. Why not let your agency help you define the;
- Goals for your site
- Audience focus
- User requirements (ask them)
- User journeys
- Search strategy
- Lead generation strategy
- SEO requirements
- Hooks that entice people in
- Hooks that keep users coming back
- Ideas and tools that add value to the audience
- Integration intricacies that are essential to the wider business need
- Security requirements
- Bespoke features
- And on and on and on…
When you know all of this, the platform will choose itself.
Key takeaway – STOP BUYING a platform first!
Start working out the needs of your website and work backward from there. The technical document is needed anyway to make your project a success.
Simply commit some of the overall budgets to do this bit first. The alternative is;
Guess and get it right
Guess and get it wrong
If it’s number 2, you will face a rebuild in 2 years’ time when everyone is exhausted, frustrated and disillusioned. After years of effort, your website is still not performing and you are back to square one. Meanwhile, your competitors are another 2 years ahead.
To start your next website project, come and talk to us about how to avoid the pitfalls. We’ve got plenty of examples of how to get it right.