Jason Deacon Team : Web Development Tags : Web Development

What platform is right for your next website project?

Jason Deacon Team : Web Development Tags : Web Development

When you get a website made there are many, many decisions to be made. What should the design look like? What is the best way to upsell products to your users? What payment methods should it accept?

Those are all perfectly valid questions however there is one very important question that most people never ask, and you should ask it, because it could mean the difference between a site which continues to adapt to changing requirements over the years and one that remains stagnant, despite effort poured into it.


What platform should it use?

Typically agencies will sell black box CMS products which cater to the masses which are geared toward the generic eCommerce or marketing websites which all have the same basic requirements. Which would be fine, if all sites were generic eCommerce or marketing websites with all the same basic requirements, which clearly they are not.

Instead, the requirements of the website need to be taken into account when deciding upon a platform at the start of the project rather than trying to shoehorn everything into a common platform. The choice of platform will impact every area of your site:

  • The effort required to add new features post-launch
  • The number of concurrent users the site can support before user experience degrades to the point where it's unusable
  • Googles ability to optimally crawl your site for SEO purposes
  • The effort required to update and create new content at high frequency, which drives users back to your site
  • The ability to scale your website across many servers to handle more users

The common theme with all of the above points? They cost the client (you) money on an ongoing basis after the site is launched. By choosing the right platform up-front (and potentially paying a little more for it) you save yourself money in the long term by avoiding costly changes or SEO problems that could otherwise be mitigated by a different choice of platform. As always, proper planning prevails.

At Wiliam we currently decide between two different platforms when starting new sites; Umbraco and bespoke MVC. They both have pros and cons and almost every project could be made to work in both, but by playing to each platforms strengths the desired outcomes (be it flexibility, performance, scalability or others) are achieved with far less effort which translates directly into time and money saved for the client.

Umbraco's primary strength is serving/managing content pages and forming relationships between different types of content. If you have many pages of pure content which you need to serve (a blog, a news site etc) then you can do this very quickly and easily since Umbraco provides the support to create and edit pages right out of the box. There are a number of weaknesses with an Umbraco based solution which mainly relate to the performance, deployment and stability of the end result. That's not to say that Umbraco can't be performant or stable, but it just takes more effort and care.

This is partly due to the nature of Umbraco; it's an open-source community driven CMS platform which needs to be flexible to accomodate a wide range of usage scenarios and this inherently introduces code bloat and layers of architecture which typical projects simply don't need. I'm also not saying that open-source products are bad, it's just that due to the large skill set disparity of the contributors the code (and therefore behaviour) doesn't follow consistent standards or practices which can lead to issues if the developer working on the project does not know what to look out for.

On the other side of the coin is a bespoke MVC solution. MVC relates to the Microsoft MVC technology which we utilise to build the sites. I'll start with the major weakness of this approach: you don't get anything 'out of the box'. Since MVC is a framework of technology, there are no built-in capabilities, anything you need has to be built from the ground up. With that said, it's the only weakness. Because this approach is from the ground up, everything is built exactly as it's needed to accomodate the specific requirements of the project. Additionally, because there are almost no contraints on what can be done from a technology perspective, almost any requirement can be met over the life of the site, not just at the start during the development process.

So next time you look to get a site made, enquire about the platform and ask questions about not only why your agency thinks it's the right platform for you, but how it will help your site evolve and adapt over time in order to meet any changes in your business or marketing plans.