A great online experience is a crucial investment for any small business that needs to win and keep customers. But when the most commonly offered solutions fail to deliver results, leaders begin to see their website not as an investment, but an expense to be minimized.
So Critical Mash is rethinking how websites are designed, built and hosted to create more opportunities for its clients.
In its early days, the internet promised to be the great equalizer, helping small business and organizations use technology to compete globally. In other words, Information Technology would take the place of David's sling. Instead, the lion’s share of technology's benefits have gone to the world’s largest companies. For small to medium sized businesses and non-profits, the typical online experience is slow, bug-ridden and difficult to use. This is because the cost of creating a great online experience is out of reach for these organizations.
Small businesses face huge obstacles in getting returns on their online marketing investment. The most common tools and strategies available to SMBs are ill-suited for today’s needs.
Bigger organizations overcome those obstacles given their large budgets, dedicated staff and scale: Higher traffic is handled by scaling hardware; Security issues are dealt with by using dedicated cyber security professionals; Art and copy is kept current by dedicated content creators; And a large company’s high volume of Web traffic is constantly analyzed to find new opportunities.
I’ve personally witnessed smaller organizations struggle to keep up with these needs.
When things go wrong, we need to reexamine our assumptions and question dogma:
We believe it’s time to rethink the web.
At Critical Mash, we’re building the tools, team and tactics to help small businesses and non-profits compete in an ever-evolving online world. In the process, we reassessed the best practices and habits in our industry and how well they been serving the needs of our clients (not well, it turns out). Out of this came the decision to rethink how we design, develop and host websites.
Websites should be designed to meet the clients’ business goals. That means the first step in the design process should be to define what those business goals are and what role a new website will play in that.
Next is really understanding your audience today, including the devices they use. Even for B2B websites, the number of mobile visitors are climbing. Critical Mash embraces the mobile first philosophy of web design, where the mobile version of the site is designed first instead of the other way around. This often provides the benefit of a more easy to use desktop site: A win-win.
For over a decade, dynamic Content Management Systems have been the go-to solution for building a new website. These types of sites store content in a relational database and generate pages as users request them. Content creators use a CMS backend to add new content to the database, freeing them from having to learn HTML.
But like any other successful paradigm, the CMS is running out of steam. CMSs make a tradeoff between content creator’s convenience for increasingly complex and fragile applications. The rise of mobile browsing has placed new demands of performance and usability on websites that CMSs struggle to meet. Popular CMSs like Wordpress are also a popular target for hackers who find dynamic database-backed websites a target-rich environment for exploits.
We’re rethinking development by introducing JAMStack to our clients. JAMStack isn’t a new technology, but a way of using existing, proven technology in a new way. All website pages are generated beforehand on a secure server then automatically pushed out to a content delivery network (CDN). Interactivity is provided by code running in the user’s browser or by narrowly focused APIs.
Traditional CMS’s, like Wordpress or Drupal, require expensive hosting plans to get enterprise-class performance. Their database-backed storage also makes deploying changes from staging to production slow and error-prone.
Critical Mash’s preferred hosting vendor provides a frictionless deployment and hosting experience at a great price. All we do is check in our code and their system creates a fresh build and distributes it to their world-wide network of redundant CDN servers.
Over the coming months and years, we plan to reassess, test and measure what works, and what doesn’t. We’re just beginning our journey, and already what we discovered is amazing. New opportunities to better communicate and serve your clients await. Breaking from old habits and “tried-and-true” practices can be scary, but business doesn’t evolve without it.
I hope you’ll join us.
President, Critical Mash