Should you own your website? This question has come up a lot over the last few years as the web design industry is just beginning a state of transition that many industries have already been through. We thought it would be a good idea to share some perspective on this important topic.
This post may be a bit long, but do yourself a favor and read it. The information we provide is crucial to your understanding the pros and cons so you can make your own educated decision about what’s best for you and your business. It’s important for you to know, Q4Launch is the only company that gives you the choice instead of propagandizing our opinion for our financial benefit. Read on to learn more and watch our recent webinar on this topic.
The ‘Typical’ Website Design Process
As an industry, website design has been stuck in a relative status quo for the last 5-10 years. This has led to a heavy commoditization of the service resulting in everything from $500 to $500,000 websites, and honestly, at times it can be hard to distinguish between the two (maybe not at those extremes, but you get the point).
In its current state, people engage a website designer after a long search. It then takes anywhere from 90-365 days to get their website “done,” and it’s essentially out-of-date as soon as it launches. When you think about your last web design “experience,” you probably feel a little queasy. Most people we talk to describe it with fear and trepidation. Even if the website finally launches, if you want to make changes to it, it’s often a slow and expensive process.
The result of this process is that the majority of websites out there are neglected and significantly out-of-date. Plus, business owners are left fearful of starting the process over again to get the website they need and want. Perhaps the biggest issue is that by sticking with what they have out of fear and frustration, businesses are losing out on countless opportunities and revenue. You’ll never know the bookings you lost because you have a bad, out-of-date, website.
We believe it’s a broken system built to favor the designer/developer, not the customer.
We believe there’s a better way, and have made big investments to be able to deliver it.
We believe your website should be a Future Proof® Platform, and it turns out a lot of people agree with us.
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: faster horses.”
For years, we’ve heard people complaining about the status quo in the web design world, and we were bold enough to dream of a better way. We can’t take the credit for being the Henry Ford of this though … we actually borrowed a lot of inspiration from the software industry.
Why Change Is Good
Many of you who have heard me speak at conferences know I grew up in an entrepreneurial home with a software programmer for a dad. He taught me Visual Basic, and I was coding pretty basic stuff at 12. Growing up in an entrepreneurial home taught me to challenge the status quo and to dig deeper into the root of a problem. It also taught me to question freely and think independently.
I bring this up because the software industry has already gone through the same transition the website design industry is going through right now. Five to 10 years ago, you would buy software, get a CD, install it, and own it. Every 1-3 years you’d have to buy the latest version. That’s how it worked. The software industry saw the flaw in that methodology and eventually moved to what has become known as SaaS, or Software as a Service.
With the SaaS model, customers pay a subscription fee for software hosted in the cloud. The beauty of this is that it automatically includes ongoing updates that are easy to deploy in the cloud, ongoing customer support, and a continued commitment to customer satisfaction by the provider. This model also alleviates the large upfront costs associated with purchasing software and replaces it with monthly subscriptions that are more affordable and easier to work into your budget.
As a hospitality industry, we’ve already embraced this change. Now, nearly all property management systems and booking engines are SaaS or cloud-based. In fact, due to the myriad benefits and ease-of-use of a cloud-based system, most new customers don’t even bother to ask, “Should I own my reservation system?” Still, we do have a few customers who insist on using the out-dated installation of their PMS/booking engine simply because they “own it and it’s already paid for.” But this mindset is costing them bookings by having outdated software that has a bad online booking experience. The same is true of people with old websites. They often refuse to update it because of the high cost and painful process. Their outdated website lives on, costing them bookings they can never quantify because their potential guests book with a competitor instead.
The software industry has already solved this, isn’t it about time the website design industry did as well?
So What Does Future Proof® Platform Mean?
With our Future Proof® Platform, the website we build for you can be the last website you ever have to “launch.” Here’s how!
Future Proof® Platform Defined
Because our platform is cloud-based, the majority of the code lives in a central database. As a result, we can push updates, new features, bug fixes, etc., to all of our customers with the push of a button. Fix it once, and everyone benefits. As a result, and as a part of our core value to Get Better Every Day, we’re constantly working on new features and functionality for our Future Proof® Platform. In the 18 months that our platform has been live, we’ve already pushed over 80 updates to make our customers’ websites perform and work better. And it all happened without any additional investments (time or money) from our customers. Constant updates like this aren’t something you get when you own your website unless you pay for the updates or have an in-house development team.
We have a development roadmap that stretches well into the future. It reflects our ideas as well as suggestions from customers. And as we release each update, everyone benefits. We’re proactively improving your website on a continual basis, essentially making it a Future Proof® Platform.
New Every Three™ Guarantee
It’s been said that with the pace of change, your website has about a 3-year lifespan. A lot of this has to do with your design.
After we figured out how to make the backend (or platform) get better every day, we turned our attention to the front end. We made a bold decision to offer a New Every Three™ Guarantee. What that means is that we’ll redesign the look, feel, and layout of your website, every 3 years at no charge. This ensures you’ll never fall behind your competition or appear outdated to your customers, and your website will always have the latest in design style.
When we made this decision, we went back to existing customers and made it available to them, as well. Can you imagine getting this call from your web developer?
“Hey Susie, You know that website we designed for you 3 years ago? We’d like to redesign it for you, and we’d like to do it for free.”
I bet you’ve never received a call like that.
Custom Design Every Time
One of the important things to us in building our Future Proof® Platform is the ability to offer mass customization quickly and efficiently. We built our platform so that it functions kind of like Legos. You recognize each piece, but there are infinite combinations to create anything you want!
Custom Not Complicated
While we build websites with mass customization in mind, you’ll still see similarities between our designs. Why? Because we know what works. We tell people all the time not to allow a desire for a “custom” site to over complicate the process or the buyer’s journey. When you do this, you make it hard on your website visitors and decrease conversion rates. We know what works and make data-driven design decisions based on real testing.
Go Live in 30 or 45 Days
In Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders last year, he spoke to the pace of change we’re seeing in technology and that companies who learn how to change and iterate quickly will succeed. Those that don’t will fail. We agree, and we believe it’s important for your website design process to be fast and efficient. With our scalable Future Proof® Platform, we’re able to get hotel and bed & breakfast websites live in 30 days. Vacation rental websites go live in 45 days.
When your website takes 90+ days to design and develop, that translates into more money and time spent, and more frustration. In addition, new features could have been developed during that time frame that makes your “new” website out-of-date as soon as it’s published. We’ve proven that it doesn’t take 90 days to design, so why settle and wait that long?
With the traditional website approach, once you’ve spent all that time and money on your new website, you then have to pay $25-$500/month just for hosting. With Our Future Proof® Platform that’s included, no extra charge. We have also been offering secure hosting since 2014 at no additional charge. So, you can bet we’re staying ahead in this area, too.
Of all the stories we hear from prospective customers about their existing websites, the No. 1 complaint is timely and cost-effective support. As a company, we originally started in 2008 because we saw a huge gap in customer service and support in the digital marketing and website design industry. That commitment to exceptional customer care is what has driven our growth to become an Inc. 5000 company and continues to drive our company culture and core values.
With our Future Proof® Platform, we put the pressure on ourselves to continually provide great customer care. Otherwise, people won’t stay on our platform. We’re never “done” with your website like a tradition web developer. Instead, we continue to provide ongoing support to our customers.
Our platform is built on top of the WordPress content management system which makes it incredibly user-friendly. If you need support, an hour per month is included, and our team is available. In any given month, less than 1% of our customers get billed hourly support.
At Q4Launch, the Choice Is Yours
I mentioned in the intro that at Q4Launch, the choice is yours. In this article, we’ve made a case for where the website design industry is going, and why you should come along. But we believe the choice belongs to the customer. As such, we’re the only company we know of that offers both options.
If it’s important to you to “own your website,” we’re happy to build it that way. Our prices start at $9,997, and I’m happy to be transparent in that selling you a $10,000+ website is WAY MORE profitable than a monthly subscription fee.
Honestly, I think that is why so many website designers are preaching this message of “own your website.” They have a very profitable business model and are seeking to protect it. The horse and buggy companies worked really hard to convince consumers that cars weren’t safe. You can’t fault them; they were protecting their way of life.
We want what’s best for our customers, whatever they decide that is. And sometimes we agree that a custom website that you own is what’s best. Here are a few examples.
When Should You Own Your Website?
Our Future Proof® Platform isn’t the right fit for everyone and here are a few scenarios it may not be.
You have complex, custom needs
In order to keep our platform scalable and easy to update for all our customers, there are certain limitations to customizable features. If you have complex needs, we’ll separate your website from our others and build a custom site. In this case, upfront costs go up and we lose the scalability of a Future Proof® Platform.
Think websites like Airbnb, HomeAway, Expedia, Select Registry, Bedandbreakfast.com. For 99% of hotels, vacation rentals, and bed & breakfasts, their needs are pretty consistent across their vertical. We do maintain separate Future Proof® Platforms for each of these verticals though, as their needs are different than the other verticals.
You Need the Cheapest Option You Can Find
Our Future Proof® Platform, with its custom designs, new features, and New Every Three™ Guarantee is not the cheapest option. We believe your cost of ownership over a 3-5 year period is lower, but more importantly, we know your results will be better. We don’t want to be, and hopefully never will be the cheapest option. We want to be, and believe we are, the best value and create the best results for our customers.
You Think You Need a Portable Website
The idea of your website being portable has also been raised. In the 10 years I’ve been doing website design, I have launched hundreds of websites, and less than 5 customers have asked to “move” their website. If it’s that important to you, though, and you are on our Future Proof® Platform, you can buy your website and move it anywhere you’d like. Of course, that means it’s not a Future Proof® Platform anymore, and you won’t be eligible for any of our website updates.
If You’re Ready for Change, Let Q4Launch Be Your Guide
One thing we all know is the pace of change in technology is extremely fast, and by the nature of it, it will only continue to accelerate. We believe that it’s time we adapt to that pace of change and find a better way. If you’re interested in a better way, request a demo of our Future Proof® Platform today.
Matt Bare | Founder, Q4Launch