What Platform / Language / Technology Should Your Website Be Built With

Although marketers and business owners usually want to be hands-on when it comes to building their company’s website, very few take the time to research or ask questions about the technologies that will be used. While it’s not your job, nor the best use of your time, to dedicate yourself to figuring out the intricacies and nuances of the available technologies, understanding a few basic principles may save you time, money, and headaches in the future.

Licensed vs. Sold
Licensed websites have caused more confusion and regrets for some people than anything else related to their site. When you talk with a vendor about creating a website for you, the foundation of the project will either be that the website is licensed or sold to you. When it’s licensed, you’ll typically pay a recurring fee to maintain the rights to use that website. When it’s sold, you pay a one-time fee but you then own the website and can use it indefinitely without paying regular fees. While each has its advantages, it’s important to understand the fundamental differences between these two methods.

Licensed – The different forms of a licensed agreement can be very broad, and therefore there are no hard and fast rules. Not all licenses even require a regular fee. For example, when I build a website for a client I sell them a license to use my code, but I don’t give up ownership. This means that they’ll have the full source code, and can always make modifications to the site I gave them, but they are not allowed to use my code for sites they sell to other people. So I own the code, but the company I build the site for has unlimited rights to do whatever they want with their site, all for one set fee. But in most cases a licensed site will be a site that another company builds, hosts, and maintains for you. You’ll typically pay a small setup fee, and then a recurring fee that covers the hosting and some maintenance. These vendors usually have their own website platform that they build their sites on, and as long as you stay with that vendor everyone is happy. But should the time ever come to part ways, usually you are given a very scaled down version of your site, or no site at all. These web development shops spent a lot of time and money building their platforms, and if you want to host your site somewhere else they would need to give you their code. For their own protection, they aren’t willing to do this. When a site is sold to you, you can take it and host it anywhere you want, and can cut ties with your vendor without losing the ability to continue using your site.

So which should you choose? It depends. Licensed sites often time have much smaller up-front costs, because the vendor can make up costs by selling you their hosting and maintenance. Since you cannot take the site with you to another host, you’re only option for hosting and updates is them. Typically I only recommend licensed sites of this nature if you¬†absolutely¬†need more features than you have budget for. But whichever way you decide to go, make sure you fully understand the abilities and limitations with each approach.

In nearly all cases your vendor is going to build your site using either php or ASP.NET as the language. (Note: some may want to point out that php is a language, but ASP.NET is in fact a framework with languages on top of it. While this is technically correct, for the purposes of this post-and its intended audience-I am referring to both as languages) Though it may come in many forms, most company’s websites with any sort of functionality are built with one of those language at the base. There are other languages in widespread use like Java, Ruby on Rails, python and countless others; while not as widespread as php or ASP.NET they each have their own benefits.

Visit pretty much any community forum on the internet where web developers hang out, and you’ll see countless debates on which language is better. The thing to remember is that your website can be built using any language. What’s more important is that the developer be comfortable using the language. A good php developer can build you a great site in php, while a good ASP.NET developer can build you that exact same site using ASP.NET. To you and your users, there need not be any functional difference.

The main consideration here is hosting. There are a large number of hosting options for both ASP.NET and php, so having your site built with one of these technologies will give you maximum flexibility in your hosting selection. Beyond those, the hosting selections start to narrow significantly.

For all of the above reasons, I would recommend you choose the developer who you like the best, and let them choose if they will use php or ASP.NET to build the site.

There are no blanket rules that will fit every scenario, so more important than my recommendations
is that you have a basic understanding of the differences between hosting options, licensing options, and programming languages relating to your site. At the end of the day, your particular situation may require an altogether different approach. The most important take-away is that you should be armed with the information you need to make an informed decision.

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