Building a basic website is not hard. All that is required is a notepad application, a browser to check the look of the website and some files with code references for looking up how to program simple commands. But that is like a builder delivering just a basic shell of a house—no water, electricity or gas, and certainly no decoration to make it stand out from others.
Today, websites have moved on from being static brochureware, frequently produced on very small budgets and merely advertising a firm’s services, perhaps allowing for purchases to be made online, but rarely offering any higher level of interaction. Clients nowadays are ever more demanding in terms of how their website should look to differentiate their services, including having the latest architectures and gadgets built in.
To build more attractive, interactive sites, more advanced tools are required, including development tools, platform technologies and server products. This will be nothing new to a professional team of web designers and developers, as even a small team will have the people in place to deal with specific issues in the lifecycle from designing the site to publishing it. However, that process requires a wide range of tools be used. Bought as an entire package, this can be an expensive proposition, whilst integrating a bunch of tools from different manufacturers can take up a great deal of time and effort, and the costs of training users on all the toolsets can lead to costs rising dramatically.
Since building advanced, feature-rich websites requires such an array of tools, many smaller web design and development agencies will find themselves struggling to cope. What is needed, as well as provision of tools, is a community of professionals and service providers from which help and ancillary services can be gained. This is where a package of tools and services such as that offered by Microsoft WebsiteSpark comes into its own. Not only can design agencies use the portal to find potential partners and customers, but they can access the latest web apps and gadgets for more efficient design and greater functionality, all based on industry standards for interoperability.
One of the features of services such as WebsiteSpark is that they can provide access to service providers that can provide ancillary services that are beyond the means of many smaller web design agencies. In particular, the issue of hosting the website for a client is an area that many smaller agencies struggle with. Hosting a website requires the use of server software, which must be run on physical servers.
This requires that security controls be put in place, both in physical terms to guard against damage from adverse physical conditions or theft, as well as requiring backup servers for business continuity. The ability to find partners that can offer hosting services is a particular advantage for the micro design company who can easily find a hosting partner through the community that the service offers in order to avoid the headache and expense of running servers or even a data centre themselves.
In short, the benefits of having a wide range of design and development tools in one package, with all the tools integrated so that they work together efficiently are many. But, if anything, these advantages are outweighed by the provision of services such as the ability to find business and hosting partners, gain expert advice and support, and the ability for developers and designers to receive training online from a community of experts. Many larger agencies will have the resources to find and afford such services themselves, but for the smallest, micro design firm under stiff competition, such an all-encompassing service will be vital.