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What's the problem with SaaS Website Platforms?

Crossroads - decision making
"Software as a Service" (SaaS) has been a growing trend for many years now. SaaS can be defined as subscription-based software accessed over the internet, rather than software that gets downloaded to your local computer. The customer pays a monthly or yearly fee to access the software.

Website design and development has been at the forefront of the SaaS movement with companies popping up over the years like WIX, SquareSpace, Shopify, ChamberMaster, and BigCommerce. Even platforms such as EventBrite, SalesForce, Facebook Shops, Etsy, and Amazon fall under the SaaS umbrella. In reviewing their selling points, these SaaS solutions look shiny at first glance. They boast of easy-to-use creation tools and a quick launch. So, what's the problem with software as a service website platforms?

We have experience in several SaaS platforms, whether it's been to provide support to a new client that initially chose a SaaS solution before coming to 3by400, or moving a new client from a SaaS solution because they quickly outgrew it's capabilities. We'll describe the biggest problems our clients and ourselves have experienced in using a SaaS solution in this post.

Your data is not your own.
At the core of "Software as a Service" (SaaS) is the proprietary software and storage to which you’re subscribing. Once you have added content, pictures, and customer information to your SaaS website your data is just as much the property of the software service provider as it is yours, if not more in many cases. You are not afforded the flexibility of moving your website elsewhere if you outgrow the platform’s capabilities or become unhappy with the service or support. You’re stuck and so is your data in the proprietary form it’s being stored. Your only option at that point is to start over with a new solution and lose your previous investment.

The price tag is more than meets the eye.
While the "starting at" price advertised by SaaS solutions look tempting to a startup or small business, that's never the final price. Some may even lure you in by advertising a "free" solution, however, beware of the fine print and limitations of these subscription levels. Once you go beyond the catchy advertising and compare the subscription levels, the majority of even simple websites are going to require more than the SaaS "Basic" package. It's important to pay close attention to what is included in each subscription level. Also, many platforms and their 3rd-party developers, such as Shopify, charge additional hefty monthly fees for add-on features that are often a necessity to a functioning website. In addition, if you plan to sell products or services from your website (aka eCommerce) often times SaaS platforms will take a percentage cut of each sale above and beyond the fee you'll be charged by the payment gateway.

It's out of your control.
The proprietary nature of SaaS strikes again when it comes to the lack of control you're afforded. The SaaS company owns and fully controls the software so only they determine if a feature gets removed or changed. This could be devastating to your business if you have grown reliant upon a particular function of your website or the way it operates. But, if that feature doesn't fit within the SaaS's future development path or isn't widely used by a large number of their customers it could find it's way to the chopping block or be significantly modified.

You can't think outside of their box.
Being stuck within the SaaS proverbial box is one of the most frustrating problems with software as a service web development. If not initially, most businesses will outgrow the capabilities of a SaaS solution over time. Since the SaaS provider is in full control, they aim for a "cookie cutter" solution that is generic enough for the largest number of customers. As a result, your growing business will have to choose to either force the "square peg" business processes into the SaaS "round hole" limitations ... or start over with a more robust solution but lose the SaaS website investment.

You're a number not a partner.
Technical support is not a strong suit of software as a service solutions. In our experience, you'll never receive support from the same person twice and often times there are language barriers that hinder the experience. SaaS Training, if available, is provided as generic videos available on their website. The training is not specific to your website needs or business requirements. You also miss out on the consultative relationship of having a true web development partner that listens and understands your business goals and provides recommendations on the best path forward for you.

We get it now, but what's the alternative?
Rather than being stuck in a solution that you may outgrow or become unhappy with, or with which you lose your investment when you move on from the SaaS solution out of necessity, invest wisely from the start in a platform that grows with you and belongs to you! This is why we strongly recommend and specialize in developing websites in Open Source solutions like Joomla! or WordPress.

Open Source means that no one person or entity owns the software. Everyone is free to use it or alter it to meet their needs. The software is downloaded and setup on a web server of your choosing and can also be freely moved to a different web server, hosting provider, or web development partner at any time. There are also very large communities of developers that develop additional features for the platforms that can extend functionality when needed. The community also works together to improve the software.

Because open source platforms are downloaded and in your full control, functionality and feature changes only occur when you're ready for them to. You'll also never have to make the difficult decision to lose your investment when your business needs change. You are able to build upon the original foundation through the use of extensions that add simple to very complex features to your existing website. And, if an extension doesn't already exist that meets your needs, we're able to custom develop an extension that will.

At 3by400 we develop your website to meet your specific organization's needs based on a consultative relationship with you. We always begin a client relationship by meeting with you and building an understanding of your goals. Because Open Source is so flexible there are always multiple paths to meet a functional requirement. Through listening and understanding your unique needs we are able to recommend your best path forward. We also provide one-on-one custom, live training using your actual website, provided in-person or via an online meeting. We want you to feel comfortable maintaining as much or as little of the website as you desire, and we can take care of the rest. Reach out to us and let's get to know one another!
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