Why lease when you can own your website?

Template-based web design systems might make things easy, but most of them have major drawbacks

Mar 23, 2015 @ 12:01 am

By Christopher Norton

In today's digital world, the front door to any business is its homepage. As advisers continue to embrace the digital wave, and internet technology continues to evolve, so do the number of website solutions available to business owners of any kind.

In the wealth management industry, advisers leverage websites as a way to inform current clients, and some to attract new ones.

Service providers have popped up in droves to meet the demand. Whether industry specific or not, the market is saturated with template-based web design systems that purport to offer elegantly simple website templates with varying levels of customization. On the surface, these templates seem to be a fantastic opportunity for independent advisers. The templates are easy to use, relatively inexpensive and promise to get a website up and running "within minutes."

(More: Upgrade your website or drive away business)

However, most of these template-based website systems have one major drawback that advisers don't realize: the website is not yours. Not really.

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU

When you build a website using one of these systems, you are doing so entirely within their eco-system. Which means that while the website is yours as long as you continue to pay your monthly fee, should you choose to leave, you leave everything with it. You don't take your code and you don't take your template. In most cases, you don't even take your photos or your words.

You take nothing.

In other words, with template-based website systems you do not own your website. You are simply leasing it.

In many cases, these systems are proprietary and built on top of content management systems, like WordPress, for example. WordPress is an incredible open-source architecture that can enable advisers to create beautiful, responsive websites while having access to a wealth of APIs (application program interfaces), which is how websites talk to each other, that will connect the website to a wide range of financial software systems. However, proprietary template-based website systems can close off that access, while potentially hindering important updates to the WordPress system core. These updates are generally designed to address browser compatibility issues, add new features and address malware threats. Delaying or ignoring the updates may leave the adviser not only behind, but vulnerable.

(More: Where advisers need to go to find new technology)

THE 'LATEST' VERSION

Most of these proprietary website systems combat these challenges by recommending you move to a new template every year or two. By doing this, you get the "latest version" and the benefit of a shiny new website. By migrating within the system, you avoid much of the cost of a completely new build. Again, this may seem like a fantastic opportunity to have a new website on a regular basis, right?

While almost everyone will agree that a website is something that should not remain static, a "new" website every year may not be the best solution either. A website should evolve with a business. It should expand with your team, your product offerings, your client needs and your view on the markets. It should be a digital storefront that is the hub of your digital world, and the main tent-pole of your brand identity.

If you change your website every year, you at best lose much of the benefit of the brand identity and at worst risk appearing like fly-by-night organization that suffers from identity schizophrenia.

So when your firm next evaluates your website, something you should do often, consider three points:

• Is your website built on an open-source platform? Do you have access to the ever-growing connectivity of our industry, or are you closed off?

• Can your website evolve? Do you have the ability to grow your site with your firm, or are you limited by the confines of a template?

• Are you leasing your website, or do you own it?

Christopher Norton is creative director at Blu Giant, a multi-disciplinary creative firm.

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