Online surveys are great. I’ve been told of someone sitting in a marketing meeting, opening up their laptop, creating a one-question survey, firing it off to 1000 customers, and getting 100 responses back within the hour, while the meeting was still in progress. Now that’s the way to make decisions.
Anyway, last week I was going to write about website hosting, and I thought: “I wonder what the readers pay?” Within five minutes I’d written a question, and five minutes later I’d emailed it to all of you. It hardly took any time to get a 5% response, which is a lot more representative than most headline-grabbing opinion polls. So thank you for your response!
It would appear that there’s a fair old mix of approaches, unsurprisingly. Those of you just paying for some web space somewhere and managing it all yourselves outnumber those paying for professional hand-holding by about 2:1. For the vast majority, that means your website is costing less than £20 a month to host, but presumably you’ve provided your own content management system, or you’re happy to create and upload pages on an ad-hoc basis. At the other extreme, we do have a few readers whose companies are paying over £100 a month, but you’re presumably getting robust content management systems and decent support in return for that. So it’s horses for courses.
The problem with content management systems is that although there are a few widely-used products such as Joomla, Drupal and, increasingly, WordPress, most of the rest are proprietary and obscure. If you use one of these (especially if it’s run by your hosting company), it’s a bit like having bought a proprietary word processor. Getting your content in is straightforward enough, and you can publish to the world on the web in a standard format, so outwardly, things are fine. But if the content management system’s operator ceases to exist, reverse-engineering your content back out again is going to be a horrible task. They really have got you over a barrel.
What’s more, as I’ve been reading increasingly often recently, most content management systems are fairly inflexible, and reflect when they were written. Taking advantage of recommendations for search engine optimisation, for example, can often be impossible. I’m a bit concerned that one day soon I’m going to get a call from someone saying: “Help. My web host and content management system operator has just closed down. How can I recreate my site somewhere else, instantly?” The answer may be tricky, and one way you might sleep more soundly is to keep a regular backup of your entire site as it appears on the web using a “site grabber” application. Just a thought.