website as a service or a website project - image shows a set of scales

Website project or website-as-a-service (WaaS): which is better for your business?

Posted by Maddie Saunders Picture of Maddie Saunders on 14 December 2023
Marketing copywriter specialising in writing about technology, marketing, branding, strategy and thought leadership for Articulate Marketing.
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Subscriptions are now entrenched in our personal and professional lives. They serve us everything from content management systems to bingeable comedies.

But what about your company’s website? Over 250,000 websites are created every day, so it’s a market primed and ready for its Netflix moment. Are we looking down the barrel of ‘website-as-a-service’? Or, are website projects still a thing?

What is WaaS?

Website-as-a-service (WaaS) is an emerging approach to website design, development and maintenance. You may be familiar with its more popular cousin, software-as-a-service (SaaS).

WaaS providers offer packages that include website design, development, SEO, hosting, maintenance and security. All costs are included in a monthly service charge. You can approach your WaaS provider each month to make changes to designs, content and functionality and lean on them for maintenance and troubleshooting.

So far, so good. But which is truly better for your business: a partnered website project or WaaS? Well, we’ve identified a few potential benefits of WaaS:

  • Your audience is trend-driven: Many audiences like to see on-trend features and designs that break up the boredom of endless scrolling. Trendy might not be what’s right for you (like bedazzled velour in the noughties), but if you want to keep up with the cool kids, WaaS means you can make regular, short-notice changes every month.
  • An easier conversation with Finance: Cash-strapped start-ups might find it easier to secure budget for a recurring monthly payment vs. large project fees, especially if the package incorporates multiple website-related costs.
  • You need to launch fast: Most WaaS providers aim to get a basic launchpad website live within a few weeks from the point of engagement. A conventional website development project can (but doesn’t always) take a few months.
  • You don’t want more to manage: Many CEO-founders and marketing managers have to spin several operational plates while they grow their business. Having a single team you can contact every month with changes or questions can help remove a plate or two.

What are the downsides of WaaS over a website project?

While you may be thinking ‘Hey, I should check this WaaS thing out…’ we invite you to keep reading. It’s not all sunshine and roses:

  • Your website is tied to that provider: One day you might decide you’re no longer happy with the service they provide. It happens. You might also decide you need functionality that they can’t offer within the package or with the capability of the platform they use. Your website then hangs in the balance as you navigate handover and migration. Crucially, if you’re stuck in a years-long contract, there may be zero scope for negotiation.
  • Good, fast, cheap — pick one: This adage still makes the rounds because it continues to ring true. In order for the WaaS model to work for its providers, something has to give. It could be the quality of the design or build through the use of lazy templates. It could be the service level due to the high volume of clients required to make this model profitable. Or it could be their employment and working practices (which impact service level in turn).
  • You are expected to provide the copy and content: SEO is included in most WaaS packages, and some providers also offer content planning. But you will still need to provide the copy and content or outsource it to another supplier. A full-scope marketing agency can provide web copy and thought leadership content alongside a beautiful new website.
  • Service limits and unexpected costs: WaaS packages will include a certain number of support hours each month. Say one month you need significant design changes, but you also discover a list of broken backlinks that need to be fixed to preserve your ranking on search. You will have to choose which takes priority.

Why a website project might be the right choice for you

Although the as-a-service model has a place within marketing, at Articulate we prefer to think of new websites as projects. Yes, they form the basis for further projects and workstreams to optimise conversions or build out new functionality. But, there is a clear beginning, middle and launch! There’s something solid and reassuring about that…

  • Clear scopes and timelines: Half-baked is only appealing if we’re talking about cookies. Websites should be a dynamic marketing channel, with iterations tied to business goals. But without key goalposts, you may be doomed never to finish what you set out to achieve. Armed with a scope of work based on a robust discovery process, both you and your supplier have clear deliverables, deadlines and expectations for what you need to create and when it needs to go live.
  • Deeper audience and market understanding: Websites and content that truly differentiate businesses require a focused and immersed approach to the industry and target personas. This deep dive can be built into your website project scope. If you’re worried about the complexity of your market or products and services, you can also seek out suppliers who already have experience in your industry through their previous clients or in-house expertise.
  • They can still implement all-in-one platforms: SaaS marketing platforms like Hubspot include hosting, monitoring and security as standard. This means you can still bundle those services and contact one support team if your website project partner uses them for your website (ahem, like we do!).

WaaS or website project: it depends on your churn rate

A new website project or website redesign can mean different things for different businesses.

For consumer-facing businesses that need regularly refreshed designs, a fast launch and an easy sign-off from cautious finance teams, WaaS could be the answer.

For B2B technology businesses aiming for long-term differentiation in a complex industry, a partnered website project with a clear launch, delivered by an experienced supplier, is still likely to provide the best return on investment.

Wish you could summon a team of marketing engineers to craft your new website? No magic lamp necessary — we build marketing-optimised and scroll-stopping websites to help brands achieve their ambitions. Read a few of our success stories right here.

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