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The Commoditization of Websites

[lead]Technology marches forward at an astronomical pace. In a span of 66 years, mankind learned how to fly and took that knowledge to successfully put a man on the moon. With the Internet coming of age, we now have a near limitless repository of information that can be shared across continents in real time. As the Internet moves forward, overnight billionaires are made on the backs of timing and a little luck. If there’s a digital task to be done, certainly there’s an application that can do it.[/lead]
Enter websites – the cornerstone of the widespread, real-time information sharing that has created significant lifts in worldwide economies. It may be a strange source – an agency who has a specialty in website design and development talking about the commoditization of that specialty. Our job is to paint a realistic picture of the state of the marketplace and where the industry is heading.

No doubt you’ve heard of off-the-shelf products for the casual DIYer or even professional looking to get a presence online or refine an existing presence. Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy offer comprehensive website builders that certainly do the job as advertised – they enable casual people in all walks of life to publish websites, shopping carts, and everything in between.

I certainly don’t undervalue or disrespect the services they provide, although some are better than others. They provide an ends to a means and have certainly created a valuable commodity to grow their business.

The keyword here is commodity. What you’re buying is an IKEA manual of sorts and it’s ready for you to assemble the pieces into a finished product. What they cannot successfully commoditize is you. They cannot begin to know you, your company, your marketplace, your competition, or your customers or clients. To play further on the IKEA analogy, you are the allen wrench but that key tool is missing from the kit. And rarely will all the screws be of a standard size. It’s up to you to figure that out.

That’s where we come in. The website itself is simply a tactical piece to a greater strategic puzzle. To understand why we’re building a website, we must first and always know what your audience is expecting and what your business goals are. These two pieces help us create websites that don’t just exist, but draw users in, educate them, and engage them in ways that off-the-shelf service providers can’t begin to understand.

While commoditized website builders can certainly give you the tools to technically create a website, they lack the ability to tell you why you should be building the website. And it’s this piece that is make or break on simply being a part of the fray or standing above the fray with succinct language and a user experience that is expected by your target audience.

Commoditized services are great for people who are well versed in marketing with the industry experience needed to put together a piece of a larger puzzle. It’s a great tool for starter websites when something needs to be online now while taking the time to build it thoroughly later.

Although countless advertisements and large marketing budgets from these types of companies will try to persuade you otherwise, a robust marketing plan (of which websites are always a key piece) cannot be leveraged by a piece of technology built with the lowest common denominator in mind.

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