Why SaaS Web Builders are the Way of the Future

It's 2015, and you don't need to hire someone to build a website for you. With website building services like Build, you can create them easily yourself. Find out more after the jump.

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It makes sense to first define what SaaS actually is so this article makes sense to you.

SaaS - Acronym
Stands for "Software as a Service". Instead of installing and maintaining software, with SaaS you access it via the Internet. This frees you from having to manage complicated software and hardware. SaaS is also sometimes referred to as Web-based software, on-demand software, or hosted software.

If you make use of software like Basecamp, Trello, Google Docs or Blogger, you're already familiar with software as a service. You didn't need to install any of those applications yourself and there is a good chance you don't even know where exactly they're hosted or how they're built. You don't need to upgrade the software and all that you need to access them is a web browser.

To give this article some purpose and meaning, I'll try to steer the topic in the direction of identifying the benefits of a SaaS solution when it comes to creating a website for your business.

In this day and age you have a huge number of options when it comes to creating a new website. There are likely more website designers out there than there are dollars in your bank account. Some of them are good, some of them not so much.

The Human Factor

You'll face an entire spectrum of website creators if you actively set out to find one. From the hip, trend setting studio employee on a Mac Pro that consumes only the finest beverages made from pre-digested coffee beans through to the basement dwelling hermit that bashes away at a cigarette burnt keyboard and burns his retinas on an old 14 inch CRT monitor. The one will burn a hole in your pocket and the other will burn a hole in your soul.

There are those somewhere in between and I won't dispute the fact that there are good teams and individuals out there, but whichever way you look at it, you're looking for the best match. You're ideally going to need to choose people that meet your needs in skills, price, speed of execution and whether or not you're able to work with them. A big ask. I call this the human factor.

Finding a suitable web designer or team is an art unto itself. Having been exposed to project hand-overs throughout my career, it is quite obvious that there are a lot of reasons for a working relationship to go sour.

I've seen designers / developers at fault, I've seen customers expecting more than what is reasonable. Whatever the reason, it seems to be incredibly hard to find that perfect match.

Where SaaS comes into play here is that if your digital requirements are met by a piece of software that is suitably easy to use, possibly at a lower cost (and it covers the business requirements) then it is well justified to make use of said software.

The Technology Debacle

The other major aspect that comes into play when deciding on how to approach the creation of your website is what software you're going to use.

If you are technical by nature, you'd be inclined to take more of a DIY approach to save costs and well... because you can. This approach will normally involve one or all of the following for a simple site that sells products:

  1. Setting up hosting

  2. Registering a domain name

  3. Installing a CMS on the server

  4. Designing and skinning the CMS as well as inserting all your content

  5. Setting up SSL for secure transactions

  6. Setting up a payment gateway account and integrating it

  7. Testing and bug fixing before deploying

A fair bit of work, and it unfortunately doesn't end there. Once your site is live, you will need to continually make sure that all the technology does not break. Some of the issues you expose yourself to when using the DIY method explained above include the following:

  1. Server changes - If you're using shared hosting (likely for most small - medium sized sites) you won't have control of the server configuration and should the hosting provider choose to change settings for security purposes or upgrade the server, you will have to make sure that your site is not negatively effected by the changes. Adjusting your site to accommodate these changes could cost you time and or money.

  2. Outdated software - If you're not keeping your software up to date, you expose yourself to vulnerabilities that are discovered in the version you're running. This opens you up to being hacked. It happens more than you think. Keeping your software up to date needs to be a regular task and if you leave it long enough, you could end up facing a difficult and costly upgrade path.

  3. Security vulnerabilities - Sadly, even if your software is up to date, unless you know how to install the software securely -which often entails some unorthodox practices that hinder usability- you're probably already quite vulnerable with a default installation.

  4. 3rd Party changes - If a third party (eg: payment gateway) rolls out an upgrade to their software, there could be unforeseen integration issues that would cause serious issues with your users. It can also be costly and time consuming to fix.

  5. Expiring SSL Certificate - If you somehow manage to let your SSL certificate lapse, your customers are going to be warned about it in their web browser when trying to buy your products. This will fatally effect your customer's confidence to purchase from you and likely in future too. I wouldn't consider this worth the risk.

  6. Manually install new features - If you are hosting and managing your own site, you don't have anyone behind the scenes constantly adding new features for you to tap into. If you come across plugins you want for your site (eg: advanced commenting, ), you'll need to install it yourself and there is a good chance the plugins could clash with others or be incompatible with your version

As can be seen, there are more than a couple of reasons to be hesitant in jumping straight into one of the DIY options and it would be a good idea to research alternative models.

SaaS to the rescue

Not to paint a biased overly rosy picture of software as a service, but I struggle to see a convincing argument for the alternative if you're a small or medium sized business. If you're a large business that is able to dedicate skilled resources to the deployment, management and ongoing development of your site then perhaps you have a good case for it, but probably not if otherwise.

Writing a refutation of all the points mentioned above that a manual website creation approach entails would be rather a waste of time. Each point above is countered with quite the opposite in most, if not all cases. For clarity however, here are the benefits of using a SaaS offering to make your website:

  1. Setup is painless and can be done by anyone. Hosting, domain, software, everything

  2. Security is usually far better considering the provider needs to secure all their client's sites, not just one

  3. Stability will be better and down-time will be less prevalent when your provider is using content delivery networks (CDN's) and cloud services that provide incredible data redundancy.

  4. Additional features will constantly be added and made available to you as the SaaS provider constantly pushes for their software to be better than their competition.

  5. The phrase "tried and tested" sounds like a cliché but nothing sums it up better that the technology you'll be using is already in use by hundreds or thousands of other people. They have effectively cut their teeth for you and improved the system for you.

A system like Build ticks all the boxes and it allows you to focus on your business, not the technology and people that hinder your progress.