7 Reasons to Build Platforms over Websites

27 June 2012
Marek Blotny
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Building new websites based on Digital Marketing Suites like Adobe CQ or Sitecore is one of Cognifide’s specialisations. For some of our clients, like Investec and Roche, we have built dozens of websites. We are obviously, thankful for the opportunity to power all these global websites. However, we realized some time ago that if there is a constant need to launch new websites, building one website after another is generally, not the smartest and most cost-effective approach.
   Investec Platform
Of course building yet another website involves quite a simple and safe approach as each website has a separate budget, each website is a separate project. Complexity is usually low therefore risk is low and it makes such projects fairly easy from the management's point of view.
   However quite often, in scenarios like this, all websites are very similar to each other. They share similar functionality, exactly the same brand guidelines and as a result, similar designs. Oh, and they are deployed to the same hosting environment as well. Behind the scene, the same editorial team also works with your CMS. Moreover, the websites are usually just a small part of  the  bigger marketing campaigns. Which means that, to some extent, process is repeatable, and there is a desire to streamline it. Why? Simply, because
  • efficient processes prove to be more cost-effective.
  • Time-to-market can be significantly reduced.
  • Teams can be more responsive to the changing environment.
So what is better than building one website after another?

The approach which we have proposed, implemented and now proved to be successful is to build a platform instead of of replicating dozens of independent websites. Please note that by platform, I don’t mean a single, huge, customizable website. When I say "platform" I'm thinking of an application, built on top of the Digital Marketing Suite, which is capable of hosting multiple websites. Yet, is still flexible; where each website has the autonomy to customize design, layouts, functionality and also expose a number of extension points so that adding new functionality is easy!

We have built such platform for one of our key clients – Investec. Investec Platform is based on Adobe CQ and hosts main Investec.com website as well as number of microsites. Even though, its a really interesting topic, I won't jump into the technical details and architecture of the Investec Platform. I would like to focus more on benefits for the business which the platform brought:

  1. Quicker time-to-market – it now takes us, 1 day from request submission to the point where the new website is ready for content entry. We are able to be this responsive because we have a set of standard designs; a set of components and most important, the flexibility to lay pages out in almost, an arbitrary way. There is no need to do any development to set up new website; it all can be done by configuration at the platform level.
  2. Quicker content entry – their editorial team has been trained to use the platform, they know what the platform can do and how to fully utilize all of the available functionality. We don’t have to teach them everything from scratch for each website. They are effective because they work in an environment which they are quite familiar with.
  3. Lower costs of launching new websites – as I said before; setting up a new website now does not involve any development. There is a bit of configuration that needs to be done and on top of that, new domains have to be set up, which is of course, inevitable. However, the entire process takes only a few days for the engineering team.
  4. Lower risk – risk of launching another website is minimal. All elements have been tested before and are already stable in production environment.
  5. Easier brand governance – all websites live on a single platform which makes changing anything trivial. Single platform also enforces consistency, assets re-use, easier maintenance.
  6. Improved scalability – process of building a website is always the same. It’s well defined, which means that it’s easier to outsource some tasks/aspects to external agencies. And as more companies/agencies can work on the platform, it is easier to scale and jump from 1 -2 launched websites per month to 20- 30+ .
  7. Greater reuse and sharing of components built across the platform – there are always new cases, new requirements or new systems to integrate with. Component implemented once, can be re-used across entire platform, all other microsites can use it. It’s a massive reduction of costs.
Conclusions

 - With the traditional approach, each website would have to go through the full project lifecycle.

It has to be specified, built, tested and finally launched. This process is costly and time-consuming

 -  With the platform it’s possible to re-use existing designs, existing components and functionality.

 Setup of a new website is quick and cheap. Platform can offer number of sophisticated features. It can also involve a baked-in integration with external systems such as your analytics/ testing tools.

Finally, it’s worth investing in a platform because functionality created once, can be re-used on each of hosted websites. Platform can be a toolbox which organizations use in their campaigns. They don’t have to build everything from scratch which gives them more time to focus on core business.