So here’s another general response that pops up all the time when I’m counseling at SCORE.
The question is usually something like “Is $1400 too much to pay for a 5 page website?”
So my answer is usually something like this…
If I knew more about the type of business, the better I could tailor my response here, but in general, you’ll want to go Open Source.
Open Source software is publicly licensed. It’s underlying code is open and available for modification and to top it all off, it’s usually been tested and tweaked a thousand times before you use it so you’re less likely to have problems or need support contracts.
Also, if you find something that’s close enough to what you want your site to do function wise, you’ll only be paying a professional to shine it up for you. So instead of months of custom code that will need complete bug testing you’ll be looking at a week or less to get things up and running.
You’ll also need to think about the site in two ways… What’s behind the scenes managing content, catalog and check-out process – usually the database portion of the website and your admin panel. Then how that data feeds out into your site.
The good news, the graphical layout is really a minor detail once the back end is working properly.
You’ll usually have a template of some sort (Cascade Style Sheet – CSS or XML) for the graphical layout with snips of code to indicate where the various components go. Menu on the left or the right – no problem. Don’t like the colors, again, no problem. Simply tweak the style sheet and all your information will fill in just where it’s suppose to go.
Every page will have a similar look and feel while allowing you lots and lots of dynamic space for content.
You might even be able to find an open source template that you can modify to suit your needs.
For instance, http://on-disk.com/ is http://demo.oscommerce.com/ We have modified the code and the database to meet our needs, but the sky’s the limit on graphical modifications. We’ve kept somethings the same, but there’s no need to be stuck with anything.
Another example is Webpath.net The back end is a custom wiki/blog hybrid that we created a long time ago, but the layout started out as a free template called Invention. I liked the general layout, but wanted it co-branded to the On-Disk.com website so the color scheme and graphical elements needed a quick change. All in all, the updates took about an hour to complete and most of that was time I spent looking and deciding if I liked it or not.
But these are just examples. You’ll have lots of choices with Open Source Shopping carts, Content Management systems and loads and loads of templates to choose from.
Just think of your business functions in Must, Should and Can features. Knowing what you need will help you sort through options as you research components for your site.
What must the site do from the beginning? What should be included in phase 2. What can we integrate now for future upgrades so that we don’t have to re-write the code?
Have I overwhelmed you? In any case, let’s stop here for now. Comment with questions.