Websites & Apps

Talk nerdy to me: Finding the best website tech for your B2B business, part 4

In part 4, Motum’s VP of Technology Mark Whiting breaks down the pros and cons of a custom-built website. By Mark Whiting December 8, 2017

Custom website, built using open-source framework

Examples: Zend Framework, ASP.net, and Pure Play PHP.

A custom crafted website is the most time intensive undertaking of the four main web technologies we’ve talked about. Investment into custom means your company is making a commitment to create a website that is built to do long-term duty as a multi-purpose business tool. Is that approach right for your project? Maybe… but also maybe not. A custom-built site is the Lamborghini of websites — fast, elegant and powerful, but overkill for projects that only need to go to the grocery store and back.

Motum B2B always begins new web builds with a discovery exercise that helps determine your business’ big picture and long-term needs, and aligns them with the right web tool for the job.  Discovery and design is a critical step in mapping your businesses’ immediate requirements and balancing them against long-term goals for the coming months and years. Sometimes when we do this, we find that the custom approach is… well… overkill.  Your short-term tradeshow microsite doesn’t need the Tesla treatment.

 

Deep flexibility, long-term capability

From a long-term perspective, custom site builds represent the most open-ended and “anything goes” approach to long-term business tool development.  We’ve often seen a client’s small website grow and evolve to become a customer portal or sales app. Building deep, flexible customization into a project from day one creates a strong foundation that helps smooth out these long-term concerns, so you don’t have to worry about what happens when your product engine from 2015 has to integrate with a CRM app that didn’t exist at the time it was built. Custom means never having to worry about the “is it possible” question. The answer is almost always “yes.”

Custom builds also represent total design freedom on both the visual and data level. The more nonstandard your requirement, the more sense custom makes as a development paradigm. They are also (over time) cheaper to extend and customize than off-the shelf solutions. It might surprise people who are more familiar with templated CMSs to learn how quickly costs can escalate and functionality can diminish when you need to go off-book from the standard library of templates and widgets that come with these more formulaic packages. This is not a problem with custom builds.

Product calculators, shipping trackers, and other super sweet business tools

More than any other tech, custom sites shine brightest at times when your company’s data needs to interact with other peoples’ data in an unorthodox way — product calculators, shipping trackers, custom portals, apps, unusual search requirements, VR/AR or integration with 3D party APIs — you name it. Custom sites excel in situations where a website has matured from being just a presentation billboard to become a true functional business tool that provides value across each link of the business chain. If your sales team, customers, and internal staff all need something different from your website on a daily basis, you’re in the realm of custom code. 

Many companies don’t ever get there, or even need to get there — at least not with every web project. But almost all our B2B clients who have done a custom build understand the concept of up-front investment and its relationship to “long game” ROI. These stitch-in-time clients appreciate the kind of foundational value that comes from knowing that no matter what the future brings, their website will be up to the job.

Here's your breakdown

What is it? The most custom-crafted solution, but also the longest to roll out from vision to production.
Right fit for: Enterprise level websites, sophisticated business tools, apps, sites with complex data, third-party connections or integration with other tech.
Not suitable for: Microsites, landing pages, sites without an admin back-end.

Pros Cons
  • Most secure technology
  • Longest development time to get initial prototype off the ground
  • Total flexibility across all components, front and back
  • Requires extensive discovery exercise and thorough planning process to execute
  • Integrates most completely with your process and business requirements
  • Build out of the admin backend takes more time and effort compared to other solutions
  • No trying to shoehorn requirements into off-the-shelf templates
  • Frontend of your site must still be explicitly built out — no templates, no drag-and-drop
  • Fastest to customize or maintain once established
  • No WYSIWYG unless it is explicitly built
  • Easiest to customize for speed
  • Requires developers at every step of the process, including post-launch support
  • Can still leverage framework libraries for database connections, API connections, authentication, etc.
  • Search solution must be explicitly planned out — no “out of the box” search engine

 

  • Can require special hosting requirements

Feel like binge-learning?

Read the rest of our four-part series for more website tech options for your B2B business.

Part 1: Finding the best website tech for your B2B business

Part 2: The pros and cons of WYSIWYG Site Builders

Part 3: The pros and cons of open-source all-in-one CMS + website engines

Pressed for time?

You can download all four parts in a summarized version. Press here if pressed.