On one side are the Marketers

Not so long ago, getting a well designed marketing web site which allowed you to manage content would take a few months and cost say $40,000. This would involve some design and planning, content, and then the technical build – ending up with a site where you could manage content and add new pages.

Today, there are thousands of theme sites. These allow you to browse different site designs. Pick a design you like, buy it, grab a hosting package and install your theme into Wordpress. You can even tweak the theme to use a different colour palette. All that is left is to add your logo and write some content.

Web design as a product

This has turned web design into a product – one you can buy instantly for $40. This has flipped the process on its head- instead of spending time upfront planning and creating a brief, you’re picking from an existing range. Lack of choice isnt an issue- there are millions of themes to chose from. The only draw back is that there lots of people with the same site as yours.

Economically this works too – the company making the theme might have spent say $40k designing, developing and testing the theme. But at $40 a pop they are nominally ahead after 1000 customers.

flip

The CMS is free

Wordpress itself is free – so you’re probably not going to want to pay money for a proprietary CMS. Many of these CMS tools have rebadged themselves enterprise as if that makes a difference (I know I always feel better when I’m browsing a site made with an Enterprise CMS).

and hosting is cheaper

At the same time, low end hosting is also easier and cheaper than ever. What used to take a day or so (sometimes weeks) now happens in real time. And you can grab a domain and set up your analytics at the same time.

= pricing tsunami

All of this is a pricing tsunami, putting incredible pressure on digital agencies that make this kind of marketing site. There is no CMS license to sell, no expensive hosting or setup to manage, and the client is weighing up whether they need to pay for designs and templates or just download.

On the other side are the Makers

The other side of this chasm are the Makers – companies making digital products. These are quite different – providing some kind of utility to the user and/or data capabilities. They are the sites that you can do stuff on – send messages, collaborate, buy things, learn something, etc etc.

Making these digital products is much more involved – these do take a fair bit of planning and the options available are quite immense. Not to confuse things here, but some people do use tools like Wordpress, Drupal etc to build products – so the fact that a site is built in Wordpress doesnt in itself categorise one way or another. These tools can be extended to have some of the basic features that a digital product might need – like comments, membership, profiles etc. After a certain point it makes sense to use a framework like Ruby on Rails or Django – they are much faster and more powerful. Into that plugs in various database, caching and server technology options.