I speak, quite constantly, to small business owners about their presence on the web. One of the things that seems to confuse them the most is the types of websites they can have. The two general categories are static and dynamic, each can be custom or “canned”. Each has a trade-off associated, and both can come in on a low budget.

Static. This used to be the only way to go if you wanted “low cost”. You hire a web designer or pick a template from a hosting company, get some html pages up, and you are set. At least until you want to change something. Something as simple as a menu change probably requires someone to go in and modify every page on the site. If you have 15-20 pages, or even 5, for that matter, you have to hire someone to do it or risk going in and blowing up the site by making the changes yourself. These days, it’s akin to giving a man a fish.

Dynamic. These generally means you have a scripted front end that calls a database to get the content of the site. You will probably pay some setup and hosting fees because there are literally hundreds of software packages that can do this stuff at low or no cost. Getting it configured correctly out of the box is pretty important. The upside of this method generally blows away the downside. You control the content by logging into an administration panel and doing it your self through some kind of editor. ┬áThe upside, you can control a lot of things about your site without involving a developer or web designer. The downside, if you want some feature that is really custom, you will have to hire a developer to do it for you. Far and away, this better represents the “teach a man to fish” method.

Which one do I prefer? Well, my billable hours are certainly safer under the first method. But, I think it’s a bit disingenuous to push that model. I rarely run into a client who needs a custom written Content Management System or a complex static page. I rarely run into a client who actually needs custom anything. I’m often pretty shocked at some of the quotes they get from people who tell them they do need those things. I am also more than shocked to see some of the “Content Management System” rentals that are going on. I’ve heard this type of mentality defended as “salesmanship”. I tend to call it “snake oil”.

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