Why hosting a website on your own sucksJun 08, 2011
We are used to web services like Facebook, Gmail and Edicy. Sign up and go. No tech side to worry about. Data is securely online. All upgrades are automatically delivered, all hackers are routinely repelled. A dedicated team is taking care of it silently.
Wait, some of you aren't really there yet. The beautiful, thoughtfully crafted websites made by web agencies are most likely not built on web services. Instead, they are running on custom installed pieces of software called CMSs (content management systems) in the servers of some local hosting company.
It's time for a change. Drop software. Let your agency build your website on Edicy, Squarespace or some other web service.
It sucks to be the owner of such website (unless you're a web developer), because:
- Tech becomes your responsibility.
- Customization of any engine becomes a future cost.
- Any CMS is feature- not user-centric.
Tech becomes your responsibility.
Any custom hosted website needs to be set up in the server first. That's the simple part. Agency takes care of everything — till the end of the web project. After that there's no one left in the room to take care of the website day and night. No one is responsible. No one really cares but you.
Hosting company manages everything "under" the website engine — hardware, underlying software, connection. Web agency can help you with everything above — design, content, marketing.
The people developing the engine should be helping you out with the middle part. But it doesn't work that way. They can't help you to execute. Their updates and bug fixes reach you only if and when you ask web agency to do it manually.
If something happens, the process to get it right is slow and costly. Being responsible for something you have no expertise in isn't worth the risk. You could just switch to a web service instead.
Customization of a web engine becomes a future cost.
Developers love customizing software. Changing a piece of code to make it fit with some random idea you had. Programming. It's like practicing a language you understand. And he gets a reward — you are happy to see your idea implemented along with other changes.
Enter everyday. Two months later you accidentaly hear that the particular version of the open-source CMS set up for you is easily exploitable by hackers. They could just deface your website and replace its front page with some steamy porn.
Turns out that the developer from your web agency is on a long vacation. Some other developer is allocated for you a week later. It takes him 2 days to upgrade the CMS behind your website. It should have taken only 30 minutes. But the piece of code written specifically for you didn't work with the new CMS verion. The other guy wasted time rewriting it.
And then you get the bill. It's generous. You only pay a couple of hundred of Euros. And it even didn't take a whole month to get it done!
It sucks. Instead you could've just used a web service and never have had to bother. There's no waiting, no extra payment, no need to point out the exploits yourself. It wouldn't have been your responsibility.
Any CMS is feature- not user-centric.
One way of creating an application is to build everything around what user wants to acheive. It's an ascetic path. The key is to keep it simple. To drop any excess step, any unnecessary decision point, any long tail tool. It's about predicting the workflow. It's about constant improvement. Edicy is born this way.
Another aproach is how the CMSs are made. It's about building everything around features. And there's any feature or plug in you can imagine. Not to mention the unimaginables. All this fun comes with a payoff. No one curates this load. Your experience is bloated with options, decision points, excess tools.
The drawback is huge. Simple tasks take time and effort because the interface is too crowded. Every new user needs to be trained as the workflow isn't intuitive. Behavior differs per plugin. The only optimized thing is the developer experience.
Combined with everything else that sucks about owning custom hosted websites, you should think twice before investing in them.