On frigid Friday afternoon, just as I was closing up shop for the weekend, I got a text from the owner of a local HVAC company.  He had been updating his CMS website when it “crashed.”  It was displaying the dreaded 500 Internal Server Error message.

Error

This is an error message that appears when something unexpected has happened. There is no further explanation. In other words, something went wrong, but your computer doesn’t know what. When this message appears on a WordPress and other CMS website, the user has no access to the administration panel and no way to troubleshoot the problem without access to the hosting company’s server.

Most people who have opted for a DIY website rely on the user interface to create and update their sites. Even if they had access to the File Manager on the hosting company’s server, they would have no idea how to understand, let alone fix, a problem.

While having a website disappear is never a good thing, for a heating company to go “dark” during one of the coldest months on record was a significant problem.  Many of his regular customers used his website to contact him, and would not be able to reach him. New customers, who might have called him, would now call one of his competitors. There was a distinct possibility that he would not only lose business during the time his website was out of commission, but might lose or miss some business forever.

websiteThere are many companies that offer great interfaces that allow almost anyone to publish a website.  However, there is little latitude in the design – which is fine if you don’t want anything unusual or different. More significantly, because the prices are so low, getting technical help can be difficult. Many of these sites direct problems to their “forums.” If your question is not answered there, you may be offered the services of a technician (for a hefty fee).

Professional website developers understand how to design a website that is both pleasing to the audience and search engine friendly. They can modify templates to give clients a website that does not look “cookie cutter,” and they know how to add features that give viewers a richer experience. However, one of the main advantages to hiring a professional is having someone to call on a snowy Friday afternoon who knows how to resurrect a website that has crashed.