I think its probably true to say that most people recognise that these days every small business must have a web presence even if it is just to provide contact details and a little bit of background information on the company, so I'm not going to argue that point in this blog post.
What I intend to argue is that small enterprises should not for the most part be 'buying' a website but rather they should be 'renting' one.
Let me explain the problem when a small business buys a website and I may be shooting my self in the foot here as they represent 90% of our customer base! However a common scenario for clients is they buy a website we build it it's all shiney and new - eventually the front-end needs updating and tweaked but really they don't want to pay us to make the change. We have usually used a CMS like Joomla and Wordpress and shown them how to use it but they forget or lack confidence, so the site becomes quickly out of date. More worryingly, although it probably never crosses the clients mind is that nobody is applying security patches to the CMS.
Generally they pay us about £399 for the site, they pay £40 a year to host it somewhere and whatever the domain name costs, if they are consciencious and once a year ask us to patch the CMS for them that's £100-£200 dependning on how much needs to be done. Then if they want any amendments we usually charge about £25 per hour. In small business overheads matter a lot so only the hosting gets paid each year and the updates never happen. And having an out of date website can look really bad and unprofessional, my own accountants at the minute for example still has at the top of their website (I didn't build it) 'Tax Return Deadline January 31st 2012" now if I didn't know they are absolutely excellent I wouldn't think they were on the ball from a headline like that.
The alternative to this scenario is something I have been trialing for a couple of years with Independent Financial Adviser over at www.adviser-websites.co.uk. For a fixed monthly fee for IFAs it's current £30 per month we build, maintain and host a website. This means that the client gets to come to us for updates, we keep the site secure and provide ongoing support with changing the content either us doing it or showing the client how. The downside for the client is we start billing from the month following the placement of the order and not when the site is complete as we would on a 'bought' site. We do this because we are investing lots of time and effort in the front end which if you leave us in less than 2 years we will never recover and it's a hell of an incentive for the client to prioritise getting us logos and words etc emailed over if they are already paying for the service!
In the next couple of weeks we are going to roll website 'rental' out to all client types so if you're interested let us know, any questions though just use the comments box below.