Bill Grunau

Beware of Proprietary Website and CMS Platforms – Don’t Create a Legacy Site!

proprietary CMS and website platforms lock you inRecently we have dealt with a number of clients that somehow got smooth talked into creating websites and blogs on proprietary platforms and now they are stuck with poor performing sites that very costly to migrate. A proprietary platform is a hosted website application that stores and displays the pages for your website. This means that the hosting company controls the files and any databases, giving you little to not access to core components of the site; you can’t copy files or backup your site on your own. If your website is hosted on a proprietary platform your site is a legacy website (obsolete) from day one since it cannot be moved or upgraded.  In addition most proprietary platforms create ZERO SEO for your website (see below).

Below we explain why some website hosts love proprietary platforms, how to identify if you got roped into one, and how to select a website platform.  If you somehow got sweet-talked into a proprietary platform don’t panic, the move is painful and difficult, but you can migrate away from it.  We have done many successful migrations from proprietary platforms and legacy websites to open source and portable platforms such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal which is what inspired this blog.

Why some Website Hosts & Design Firms Love Proprietary Plaforms!

If there are so many problems with proprietary platforms why do some website companies push them so hard?  The answer is simple and two fold.  First and foremost it locks clients in and makes it costly and painful to change.  Secondly, and much more subtle, is the fact that many of these proprietary platforms have an architecture where the client websites create more traffic and improved search rankings for the hosting company platform since the client websites are often sub-domains of the hosting company website.  This does two things for the hosting company, it gives them more traffic to brag about to prospective clients and if a client leaves they loose all of their traffic since no SEO or search rankings have been developed for their own domain!  Again, locking the client in.

How Identify Proprietary Platforms

  1. Sub-Domain urls or your own:  Look at the urls for the client for your website.  If the domain name is www.ExampleHostingCompany.com/Your-Company-Name or www.Your-Company-Name.ExampleHostingCompany.com then your website is a sub-domain of the hosting company and you are building ZERO SEO for your own domain and website.  Your are trapped and building a legacy website.  Traffic, SEO, and search rankings are not being built for your website and your domain name.  Not to mention that they own that subdomain and you can’t take it with you. The minute you leave traffic and rankings from the subdomain are lost forever.
  2. CMS (Content Management System):  This is vital, is the CMS opensource or used throughout the industry or is it a proprietary CMS the hosting/development company created.  If it is proprietary, you guessed it, you are locked in.  If it is proprietary and hosted by the company, then it is almost certainly not portable. If you decide to leave that company, you can’t take your files with you without migrating to another platform. If it is a proprietary CMS and it has a good website architecture you may still be in luck .  While migration is not simple or seamless migrating from a CMS is much easier than a pure HTML site where each page is designed separately and uniquely.
  3. Who owns the code:  Who owns the code for your website.  This can be tricky as you will not own the code for plugins or applications, but you must ensure that you own the code and copyright for graphics and content for the website design itself.  We have even seen some agreements stating that the client has the right to use the design, BUT the copyright is owned by the design company.  Make sure you own the copyright for your own website!

How to Choose a Website Platform and Hosting Company

  1. CMS:  Ensure your website is designed on a CMS (Content Management System) platform where your company can manage the content on your own.
  2. Open Source or Commercially Available CMS:  Make sure the CMS is a system that is publicly available and commonly used and not a proprietary system.  We use WordPress which is an Opensource platform and the most popular website platform in  use today.  In fact 51% of all blogs use WordPress.  Drupal and Joomla are other Opensource platforms and although not our preferred platform, they are open source and portable.
  3. Website and Design Copyright : Make sure you own the copyright and design of your website, or at least have license to use it and that you can move it to a new host or platform if you choose to.
  4. Website Transfer:  Make sure your hosting agreement or agreement with the design firm states that they will transfer or export your code and website design to a new hosting or design company should you choose to change firms.