Evaluating and selecting the best option for a bespoke web development project is an important decision, with a lot riding on it. But with so many technology providers, platforms, and agency partners out there today, that decision can be overwhelming.
In this article, we’ll guide you through this evaluation process, explore the options available, and help you choose the right technology platform for your own web development project.
We all know that a large business or enterprise relies on technology to function. With dozens of sites across different countries, hundreds of employees, and thousands of customers, technology is the heartbeat of your organisation.
You need sophisticated technology to facilitate mission-critical digital assets like your website, mobile applications, staff portals, communications channels, and various other systems. Many businesses also leverage technology to facilitate processes or capabilities that are entirely unique to the organisation, like internal training platforms or bespoke tools for certain departments.
With that in mind, it’s important to find a platform that can meet your specific requirements and enable you to accomplish your strategic objectives.
Modern enterprise systems need to be dynamic, scalable, and intuitive, and achieving that involves some complexity behind the scenes. For that reason, it’s often necessary to take the route of a bespoke development project to ensure your business gains exactly what it needs in terms of both functionality and capability.
A content management system (CMS) is the most common technology platform for businesses to deliver these projects, with almost two thirds (63%) of all sites on the Internet powered by a CMS today. This is a type of software used to build websites and similar systems, allowing you to easily create, edit, and publish digital content across a range of online channels and devices. But determining the best CMS, let alone choosing the right one for your own bespoke development project, can be a daunting challenge.
So, let’s explore the situations in which it’s wise to adopt a CMS to deliver a development project. We’ll then walk you through the next steps, giving you the confidence to make the best decisions for your business along the way.
Enterprise Challenges with Technology
There are plenty of situations in which a marketing team might be struggling to identify the right technology platform for a project like this.
Perhaps you need to find a way to deliver something very niche, like building a new website or internal system from scratch. Maybe your project requires you to build a website on a new platform, and that platform needs to integrate with your internal systems like Salesforce, HubSpot, PowerBi, and other back-end applications.
Or, you may be trying to solve a challenge, like finding a suitable way to replace your current legacy systems. If, for example, your current website is built on a CMS like Drupal, and it’s no longer capable of meeting your requirements, you’ll need to find a new platform and migrate everything over.
A CMS is an ideal solution in each of these scenarios, and many others. Of course, with such a vast technology landscape to navigate, finding the right CMS is no easy task. It’s even difficult to know where to begin for most enterprise marketers.
So, let’s take a look at how you can approach this evaluation process in a cost-effective, efficient way.
How to Approach an Enterprise Web Development Project
Firstly, as an aside, it’s important to regularly review and reassess whether your CMS is fit for purpose, even if you don’t have an immediate requirement for something new.
Modern technology is advancing so rapidly. With that, your users’ expectations – both employees and customers – are evolving as well. You need to keep up with the pace of change and ensure your technology can still meet the current demands it faces from those users.
Back to the task at hand, though. Before you begin looking into different CMS, you should try to define exactly what it is you need from them.
Whether you’re building a bespoke website or migrating an existing site to a new platform, make sure you know exactly what you want to achieve by doing so.
Start by asking questions like:
- What’s the purpose of your project?
- What objectives do you want to achieve?
- What exactly are you looking to build?
- How much budget do you have to spend?
- What existing technology do you need to integrate with?
- What features and functionality do you need?
- What skills and expertise do you have in-house?
Make sure you have a very specific brief and clear set of requirements to take to whichever solution providers and agencies you’ll be speaking to. If you don’t, you’ll struggle to fully understand whether the platforms you’re evaluating can actually deliver what you need.
Once you’ve got that, you can decide which approach is the best for your project. This could be:
- Stick with your existing platform and update or build on to it
- Buy a custom, purpose-built, ‘out the box’ platform or piece of software
- Work with an agency to adopt a new platform and/or build something bespoke.
It’s worth noting that most web development projects for large businesses will have complex requirements that are almost impossible to achieve without strategic guidance and ongoing support from an experienced partner. An agency partner will work closely with you to understand your strategic objectives and requirements, then provide you with platform-specific skills, tools, and expertise to achieve those. We’ll look at this in more detail later in the article.
Defining Your Requirements
As mentioned above, it’s important to have a specific set of objectives for your project and know what requirements are necessary to achieve those. These will also ensure the partner or agency you work with understands your brief and is able to deliver the exact finished product you’re looking for.
When scoping this out, there are some common capabilities and qualities most enterprise-grade platforms should have in order to meet expectations. Here are some things you should ensure your new platform – and the agency you work with, if you decide to go that route – can provide for your business:
- Bespoke development
- Customisable design, features, and functionality
- Migration from legacy systems to a new platform
- Seamless scalability
- A secure infrastructure
- Performance in peak traffic volumes
- Integration with back-end systems like Salesforce, HubSpot, PowerBi, and more
- Ease-of-use in both the front and back-end
- Quick and easy editing capabilities
- Multi-site development for multiple languages across different countries
- Responsive or ‘headless’ design for web and mobile, enabling omni-channel customer experience.
Your Options for Enterprise CMS
Drupal is popular among enterprises because it’s a highly secure platform. It’s also great if your team contains technical resources with good coding ability, as it’s very intuitive for people that have more advanced content management skills.
On the other hand, Drupal can be very difficult to get up and running, and is lacking in terms of simplicity. Because of this, your agency costs will also likely be higher than with other CMSs if you take that route.
Even if you do have that technical skill in your team, however, the platform itself is somewhat limited with customisation. It’s also worth noting that the version of Drupal most businesses currently use (Drupal 7) is soon reaching end-of-life. This has caused many Drupal users to migrate their existing sites to new, more intuitive platforms, such as WordPress.
Sitecore is a robust CMS that provides more capabilities than the average platform. It’s popular because it actually offers a fully-managed ‘digital experience platform’ that delivers most of the qualities mentioned in the previous section.
Sitecore comes with a good level of personalisation and is well suited for bespoke development projects. However, it’s an expensive system, requiring the procurement of licenses to begin using it. It also restricts certain capabilities unless you progress to higher tiers (and costs) of your licenses.
From a practical perspective, Sitecore operates on quite hierarchical, complex workflows, which may not suit more agile or smaller teams.
The scalability of Umbraco is great for large organisations, as it allows you to manage a high volume of pages and build out your website to meet the changing needs of your business.
Similar to Drupal, Umbraco is mostly suitable for users with more advanced content management skills and some development experience. This makes it difficult to use for the average marketing team, which increases the likelihood of higher costs, either through more expensive agency projects or even the need to hire someone in-house.
WordPress is the platform that powers almost 45% of the world’s websites. It’s so popular because it’s affordable, flexible, dynamic, and very easy to use.
There is a common misconception that WordPress isn’t robust or scalable enough for large businesses. However, this continues to be proven as a myth, as some of the biggest brands in the world are now using WordPress for their CMS, from Nike to Bloomberg.
We’ll provide a detailed breakdown of the benefits and advantages WordPress offers in the next section.
Which is the Best Option?
It’s important to remember every web development project will be different, and each of these platforms are good options in their own way. That’s why you should make your decision based on the solution that best aligns with your objectives, requirements, budget, and other factors.
One common point related to all these platforms that’s worth noting is that each of them are exponentially easier to use, and will deliver far greater return on investment (ROI), if you have the support of an experienced specialist partner to guide you. An agency with platform-specific skills and expertise will ensure your business gains the maximum value from the platform you select, and help you leverage it strategically to harness its full potential.
Business Benefits and Opportunities with WordPress
Using WordPress is an excellent option for any business. For large organisations in particular, there are a number of qualities that make it particularly beneficial.
Scalability and Agility
The WordPress platform is highly scalable. This means that the size and complexity of your website, and the amount of traffic passing through it, won’t be a concern. WordPress can also grow with your business and easily adapt to continue meeting your changing needs. Scalability is one of WordPress’s most prominent advantages for enterprises.
Low TCO and Strong ROI
Of all the options listed above, WordPress comes with the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO). Unlike most platforms, you won’t need to bolt on new features or capabilities with WordPress, nor will you have to worry about costly extra work to manage platform upgrades or updates. Additionally, because WordPress is so flexible and rich with dynamic features and capabilities, it’s proven to deliver strong ROI.
Flexibility and Customisation
WordPress is ideal for a bespoke development project because it’s highly customisable. You can use its flexibility to build bespoke features and functionality into your website or create an entirely unique system.
Because of its great usability and simplicity, WordPress allows for a very fast time-to-market, meaning you can deliver your project quickly and efficiently. However, it should be noted that most businesses will need the support of a skilled agency to be able to achieve that.
WordPress is very easy to integrate with other systems, such as HubSpot, Salesforce, and others. This means your business will experience minimal disruption due to integration, whether migrating to WordPress or starting a new development project from scratch.
In the back-end, WordPress is renowned for its usability. As a CMS, it’s extremely easy to use, meaning you can get up-to-speed quickly and share responsibilities across more members of your team.
The performance, speed, and ease-of-use with WordPress are all enterprise-grade when building websites on the platform. This means user adoption and retention will be high, ensuring the success of your project and driving greater ROI.
When working with WordPress, you’ll also gain advantages that will deliver added value to your business, especially if you have the support of a specialist partner who can help you unlock the full power of the technology.
The project doesn’t stop with the initial implementation of WordPress, either. As your requirements change, or your project evolves, WordPress is the best platform to adapt with you and deliver value to your business in the long-term.
Why WordPress is the Future of the Enterprise
WordPress is the most popular and widely used CMSs in the world today. And that popularity has been consistently spreading into the enterprise market over the past decade or so.
This is no coincidence, either. It’s unsurprising to see how quickly WordPress is growing in popularity, as more and more businesses realise the vast potential of the platform and the benefits it can deliver.
When taking into account its unprecedented scalability, flexibility, and usability, not to mention its low TCO, WordPress is one of the leading options for bespoke web development projects for large organisations.
When it comes to evaluating the options for your own project, remember to carefully consider how each platform aligns with your requirements and objectives. Once you’ve identified the CMS that is most suitable to deliver what you’re looking for, consider the value that could be added to your project by working with an agency partner who specialises in that technology.
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- A fully-managed service with 24/7 support
- Automated monitoring and alerts
- Back-up and disaster recovery
- 99.99% up-time
- 100% pass-rate for data centre audits.
- Simple, intuitive navigation
- Clear, logical page and content structure
- Large text that’s easy to read
- Clear input boxes
- Helpful error messages
- Simple password requirements
- Large buttons and clickable icons
- Easy undo, edit, and cancel capabilities
- Reliable refresh and back buttons
- Refresh functions that retain any input information
- Tapping or clicking buttons, rather than hovering over
- The ability to pause and scroll through auto-rotating carousels
- Videos with the option of closed-captioning
- Auto-fill for information input in forms.
- Optimise your site to ensure its pages load quickly
- Make all your site’s content is easy to perceive and consume
- Be consistent
- Give your site a simple, logical structure and navigation
- Use responsive design to maintain usability across different devices and screen sizes
- Use proper headings and sub-headings to organise your pages well
- Make sure clickable buttons and links stand out
- Use distinctive colours and contrast on your pages alongside white space
- Avoid making any of the text, buttons, or other touch-points too small
- Provide clear, useful error messages.
- More efficient and effective digital processes and services (both internally and externally)
- Greater adoption and usage rates
- Quicker, stronger ROI
- Improved user or customer retention and loyalty
- Commercial business growth.
9 June, 2023
Craft vs WordPress: Which Platform is the Best Option for Your Business?
When you’re responsible for managing a new website development process, you’ll have some difficult decisions to make. Two of the most difficult decisions will be finding an agency that you can trust, and finding a content management system (CMS) that will give you the flexibility and performance to drive your business forward online.
Your CMS will play a significant role in helping you meet your specific website requirements and enabling you to achieve your strategic goals.
We’ve compared lots of different CMSs in our recent series of articles, and each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses. In this article, we’ll compare WordPress and Craft.
It’s vitally important to ensure that the platform you choose is straightforward to manage. You’ll want a platform that’s approachable, with a low barrier for entry, to avoid any challenges in the daily running of your website.
Whilst Craft is an open-source CMS, it requires technical development expertise in order to manage the platform once built. Management for non-technical teams will likely be difficult, thus limiting you in your ability to build out content and new features over time.
If you do have expertise in-house, that will allow you to manage your website more easily, as the CMS itself is efficient for publishing and managing content.
Craft also makes it easy to collaborate and share responsibilities across teams without any interference or complications. For example, you can save draft versions of pages and share them with colleagues – with private links that don’t even require you to be signed in – before publishing live on your site.
Conversely, WordPress is specifically built so that content can be managed in-house. WordPress provides you with a convenient, intuitive user interface (UI) that allows quick and easy publishing, management, and editing of content on your sites.
Put simply, WordPress is a more traditional CMS that’s suitable for a wider range of users and teams. It allows you to easily manage the content on the front-end, whilst also facilitating a quick time-to-market for the development of your website.
This ease-of-use also helps to share responsibilities throughout your team.
Flexibility will always be high on your list of priorities when looking for a CMS. Tailoring your platform to fit your own unique requirements is a crucial capability in today’s digital business landscape.
How Flexible is Craft?
Craft is all code-based, which allows you to build virtually any type of website you want, with great flexibility. The only limitations, really, will be with the platform-specific development capabilities of your agency.
How Flexible is WordPress?
WordPress also offers a great deal of flexibility and customisation, but the difference here is that it’s unlikely you’ll need to alter much about WordPress’s pre-existing tools and features to be able to build a website you’re happy with.
With WordPress, you have everything you need to build a high-performance website. But that’s complemented by the flexibility to make enhancements and seamlessly scale the platform with new bespoke features if you wish to.
Before you select a CMS, you’ll need to ensure it can easily integrate with any existing systems your business has in place. Whilst most CMSs will be able to integrate well with a variety of third party systems, it’s important to be aware of any limiting capabilities of the platforms.
Integrations with the most popular third-party platforms are typically supported in Craft through plugins. However, you may need to integrate manually with platforms using API’s.
While this gives you more control over your CMS’s functionality and security, it’s another area in which you’ll likely have to spend more time and money on agency development work. Those integrations will also need to be maintained and updated manually as well, which may be a financial and time burden on your agency.
WordPress’s global popularity means that it’s readily compatible with most of the third-party systems you’ll already have within your business.
You’ll have a wide range of native plugins available that will integrate your WordPress site with virtually any other tool. Even if you have more advanced requirements, it’s usually easier for your agency partner to do this bespoke development work in WordPress than it is with other CMSs.
Investing in a platform that’s supported by a community of developers will provide you with additional benefits and advantages. It’s always helpful to have other users working to continuously create additions and updates to help the CMS grow and improve.
Craft has a passionate community working hard to help enhance the platform, but it’s only a fraction of the size when compared to more mainstream CMSs like WordPress.
Still, size isn’t all that counts here. Craft’s community is very supportive and highly active on channels like Slack and Discord. Craft also has a StackExchange, which is a Q&A forum that many developers use to share learnings as they work through projects.
The WordPress Community
At 20 years old now, WordPress’s popularity and global market share means it has an enormous community supporting it.
WordPress’s community consists of millions of users who work tirelessly to offer support, collaboration, knowledge sharing, events, and much more.
Any questions, problems, or requirements you have are often answered very quickly by members of the WordPress community. This also results in exciting new enhancements and features being released on a near-constant basis to drive the platform forward.
Being part of the WordPress community will also give you access to free events that help users learn to get as much value as possible from the platform.
Cost and TCO
Cost is a key factor when choosing a CMS. It’s also important to remember the up-front costs aren’t the only thing you need to consider here. Since your CMS is a long-term investment, you should be looking for a low total cost of ownership (TCO) for all your related costs over time.
Craft’s Initial Investment and Ongoing Costs
With Craft, you’ll need to purchase either the pro or enterprise plan. Pro comes with a one-time payment of £250 per project, and an additional annual payment to continue receiving updates. The cost of the enterprise plan will vary depending on your requirements and usage.
As mentioned earlier, the costs associated with the platform may also be high. This is due to the need for agency support across many aspects of your project, from setting up your website, to integrations, to ongoing maintenance.
The actual costs of development with Craft may also be higher than with other CMSs because of the smaller scale and more specialist nature of the platform.
It’s also worth mentioning that Craft CMS hosting services are more limited than those of WordPress, again likely making them more expensive.
WordPress Cost and TCO
On the most part, WordPress is a more cost-effective platform than Craft, with a lower TCO.
WordPress is free-to-use, limiting your initial costs to just hosting, development agency fees, and post-deployment support.
As touched on earlier, achieving a much faster time-to-market will allow you to launch a quality website quickly so you can begin gaining strong ROI right away.
Another cost-related benefit of WordPress’s ease-of-use is that if there’s bespoke development work you need your agency to complete, it will usually come at a reasonable cost. Because Craft is such a niche and technical platform, bespoke development work often comes at a premium in comparison to the more widely-used WordPress.
When the WordPress platform receives updates, it’s often fairly quick and straightforward for your agency partner to test and maintain your site.
These advantages add up to create a lower TCO for WordPress than you’ll have with other enterprise CMSs.
Both Craft and WordPress are both great CMSs in their own right, and would serve most businesses. Although, it’s difficult to deny that WordPress is a much more approachable platform than Craft for the average user.
If you’re a team with a great selection of existing development skills, Craft can provide you with some innovative capabilities and could be the right platform for you.
The key thing to remember when making this evaluation is that you should select the platform that directly aligns with your own specific circumstances and requirements.
Every business, and every web development project, is different. Carefully consider your objectives, budget, users, in-house skills, and any other factors that may come into play. That should allow you to determine which CMS is the right one to deliver what you need.
If you need more help finding a CMS for your new website project, read our comprehensive guide to understanding and evaluating the options for large businesses here.
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10 July, 2023
Headless CMS Explained: Understanding Whether Headless is the Right Approach for Your Website
Making the best possible choice of content management system (CMS) is crucial for the success of your website. But, these days, not only do you have to navigate the many different options – from WordPress to Sitecore to Webflow – you also have the added challenge of deciding whether to go “headless” or not.
Whether to take the less conventional headless approach with your CMS is a decision that could cause some confusion. It could even cause some challenges with your website if you end up making the wrong choice.
In this article, we’ll help you understand exactly what a headless CMS is, when you may need to take that approach, and highlight some key considerations to make before finalising your choice.
What is a Headless CMS?
With a traditional CMS, the back-end and the front-end of the system are directly linked. This is how you use your CMS for both the content management (back-end) and to control how the content is presented to your website visitors (front-end).
In this context, the back-end of the CMS is sometimes referred to as the “body” and the “head” is the front-end. In a headless CMS, that front-end is decoupled from the back-end of the system, hence the term headless. With this approach, you use the back-end as normal for content management and the presentation of content in the front-end is handled completely separately.
This is valuable because it allows you to design your website front-end however you like, without any restrictions. However, it also requires more technical work from your development agency as a trade-off.
With a headless CMS, your content is presented to your audience on your live website by using APIs that take it from the back-end of the CMS. This use of APIs also allows you to publish the same content in a variety of different formats via different channels as well, but more on that later.
Scenarios in Which You Might Need a Headless CMS
It’s important to understand that you should only take a headless approach if it’s the most suitable way to meet a specific set of requirements or objectives.
Some scenarios in which you might need to take a closer look at adopting a headless CMS include:
If a large volume of content is a key component of your marketing strategy.
If you’re going to be producing and publishing a lot of content on your website, you may benefit from a headless CMS. Many people find it easier and more intuitive managing websites in the back-end of a headless CMS.
The decoupling of the front-end also means that your development agency will be the ones responsible for ensuring your audience is presented with dynamic, engaging content.
If you expect to have high volumes of traffic and need to maintain performance.
If the size of your website’s audience will put a heavy demand on your CMS’s performance, a headless system could be a worthwhile investment. Using APIs, and leveraging other intelligent techniques, the headless approach often delivers faster loading times, reduces the workload on your servers, and offers greater scalability.
If you have a multi-channel marketing strategy, or need to publish content across multiple digital touch-points.
The headless approach allows you to take one piece of content, upload it into the back-end, and seamlessly publish it across several channels, including website, mobile app, social media, email, and even internet-of-things (IoT) devices.
This can help you maximise consistency, while providing your users in each channel an experience optimised for their preferred context.
If you’re prioritising personalisation.
As personalisation is becoming much more important in modern marketing, headless CMSs are becoming more popular in enabling those tactics.
If you need to create personalised experiences for your website visitors based on their demographic data, past behaviour, preferences, and so on, a headless CMS may be the right option. This is a useful approach for delivering tailored content to individual visitors, improving your engagement and increasing conversions.
If you have a multi-lingual or multi-regional website.
Delivering the same content to visitors in different languages, across different locations, can also be made easier by using a headless CMS. Your localisation process can be streamlined by managing the content for all users just once in the back-end, then delivering it seamlessly in its different forms based on location or other conditions.
Key Considerations and Potential Pitfalls
While a headless CMS can be a great choice to deliver on the requirements discussed here, it’s still not a straightforward decision in these scenarios.
Firstly, it’s important to note that a traditional CMS like WordPress can still help you achieve all the things listed above, especially with the support of an experienced, talented agency. Secondly, there are some downsides to the headless approach that need to be considered while you’re evaluating your options.
Security is an issue that needs careful consideration when looking into the headless approach. The headless architecture, and use of APIs, create more security vulnerabilities than you’d have with a traditional CMS.
It’s also common for a headless CMS to require more hands-on management in key areas such as hosting and compliance, as well as more thorough and frequent testing.
When you ask your development agency to build, manage, and maintain your website using a headless CMS, you’re asking them for more complex work than they’d be facing with a traditional system. This complexity is something you need to be aware of, both in your selection of an agency capable of delivering your requirements, and in the additional workload you’re asking them to complete for you.
Following on from the previous point, more complex development work often results in a longer time-to-market for your website.
Developing a website using a headless CMS may require more time and resources from your agency to deliver the work for you. If you need to get your site up and running quickly, or if you may require future development work to be delivered quickly, a regular CMS may be a safer bet.
Publishing content with a headless CMS may be easy, but if something goes wrong, or you need something changed, you’re unlikely to be able to do it yourself. A headless CMS requires more technical skills and development experience to maintain than a traditional CMS, even for small tasks. If you don’t have these skills in your team, you’ll be more reliant on your agency partner than you would be with a normal CMS.
Total Cost of Ownership
All the points listed here will add up to a higher total cost of ownership (TCO). When accounting for the higher volume and greater complexity of work you’ll require from your agency, you’re likely to spend a lot more of your budget on a headless CMS.
Unless you have specific complex requirements that demand the use of a headless CMS, it’s usually the more cost-efficient option to go with the more traditional approach.
With all that said, it’s also important to consider whether a headless CMS is even necessary based on your content strategy.
Unless you have an intricate, wide-ranging content strategy that spans various channels and platforms, it might not be worth adopting a headless CMS at all.
Most of the requirements you have can likely be delivered by working with a reliable agency partner using a sophisticated, flexible CMS like WordPress.
It’s also important to note that WordPress can be used in a headless context as well. This offers you a balance between a familiar, easy-to-use system and a more dynamic UX for your visitors in the front-end.
The Benefits of a Headless CMS
If you do decide to take a headless approach, your CMS can deliver a wealth of benefits and strategic advantages. These include:
The headless architecture will enable you to build out your digital presence rapidly, on a large scale, across multiple channels. This scalability will be crucial for your website as your business grows and your requirements evolve.
Both the back-end of your headless CMS and the front-end presentation of your content are entirely customisable, tailored to your specific requirements.
Headless CMSs provide a great deal of flexibility in terms of your selection of technology, content creation, and implementation of a multi-channel market strategy.
If you work with a skilled agency partner who can set up and manage your system for you, publishing and editing content with a headless CMS becomes quick, easy, and efficient.
Delivering your content seamlessly – and consistently – across a wide range of channels and digital touch-points creates a far greater UX for your target audience.
The headless architecture removes the need to render pages on your server. This creates the faster loading times and improved performance discussed previously, which also contributes to a better experience for your visitors.
As mentioned earlier, the headless approach allows you to create a truly unique UX. In an increasingly crowded, noisy online landscape, this can help you differentiate your website and stand above your competitors.
A headless CMS allows you to easily change or upgrade the technology you use for your front-end without having any impact on your back-end. This will help you become more agile and adapt quickly as new technology trends emerge in future.
Making the Right Decision for Your Unique Requirements
Ultimately, you should base your decision here on the specific requirements you have for your website and the circumstances you find yourself in.
While a headless CMS does offer a range of innovative capabilities, the additional costs and resources you’ll need to invest may not be worthwhile. For example, the traditional use of WordPress can provide you with most of the benefits discussed earlier.
Carefully consider your objectives, your strategy, and the resources you have available. Use those to weigh up all the pros and cons listed in this article in relation to your own website project.
The key thing is to clearly understand exactly what you need from your CMS, and use that to select the option that aligns best with your requirements.
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9 February, 2023
10 Tips to Improve WordPress Security and Minimise Risks
Cyber security and data protection should be top priorities for your business right now. Of course, this is particularly important for large businesses, and those in strictly regulated industries like financial services, where the outcome of a cyber attack or data breach can be catastrophic.
As these security concerns continue to intensify, you must be increasingly careful and vigilant about the technology solutions you use. You should also take more proactive steps to ensure everything in your tech stack is built and managed in a way that minimises your risks.
When it comes to WordPress, there’s a common misconception that the platform isn’t secure enough for large businesses. This misunderstanding tends to come from the fact that it’s free-to-use, so it was originally more popular among smaller independent businesses and B2C blogs.
Today, however, WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), and for good reason. Considering a significant percentage of that user base includes global enterprises, you’d think such popularity would be enough proof that it’s a secure platform.
On the contrary, large businesses still ask us on a regular basis, “Is WordPress secure enough for us?”
Is WordPress Secure?
The answer to that question is, yes, WordPress is a secure, stable platform, even in its “out-of-the-box” state. WordPress’s core code is thoroughly tested and quality-checked by a team of security experts continuously. Not only that, but the same team regularly releases security updates and reinforces any potential weaknesses before they can be capitalised on by cyber criminals.
In fact, the speed at which security updates are implemented in WordPress is arguably the fastest in the world today when compared with other CMSs.
Additionally, WordPress is open-source software, meaning all its code is available to the public. Users are constantly suggesting changes and updates, often to fix bugs in the code and minimise opportunities for cyber criminals. This keeps the platform safe and secure for everyone else.
But while WordPress does have the ongoing support of some of the most talented and devoted developers in the world, it’s not immune to security vulnerabilities. No software is, unfortunately.
That’s why it’s important to be aware of, and work with, some fundamental best practices for security. Listed below are some steps you can take to further strengthen the security of the WordPress CMS.
Best Practices to Strengthen WordPress Security
1 – Secure Hosting
The hosting service you choose for your platform will determine how secure and well protected your data will be.
It goes without saying that WordPress should be hosted in a secure environment, overseen by an experienced provider who prioritises security within their services.
Some things you should consider essential for a hosting provider include:
Before choosing your hosting provider, do plenty of research to ensure they’re able to provide these measures. Most businesses will work with a development agency partner for WordPress, and that agency should be able to help you with this process.
2 – Back-Up and Disaster Recovery
Following on from the previous point, any good hosting provider should also offer back-up and disaster recovery services. These are like safety nets that will allow you to protect, save, and recover all your data in the event of any losses.
3 – Be Careful with Plugins
Plugins are a great way to enhance the WordPress platform with new capabilities and features. But you should only ever use plugins from reputable, credible sources, otherwise you could experience security problems.
It’s also important to keep all your plugins regularly tested, maintained, and updated. Again, this is an area where a WordPress agency partner will help you.
4 – Always Keep Your Platform Updated
When you’ve built a website with WordPress, you’ll often receive software updates from the platform. Any time this happens, it’s because a bug has been fixed or some improvements have been made to the software.
Keeping up with these updates is so important from a security perspective, because they’re designed to keep your site secure. By letting your site run on an outdated version of the platform, you leave yourself at risk of a known issue being exploited by a cyber criminal or some malware.
This is another thing that a good agency partner should take care of for you, so you don’t need to worry about keeping your platform up-to-date.
5 – Never Auto-Update Your Plugins
You have the option to enable auto-updates within your WordPress platform. While this may seem like an easy way to keep your CMS up-to-date, doing so can create technical issues and security risks that simply aren’t worth the convenience.
Each plugin you use will have its own button for you to turn auto-updates on or off. Any good agency will advise you to turn those auto-updates off and instead opt for a more secure approach to your updates, to maintain the resilience of your platform.
6 – Use Security-Specific Plugins
Another way to reinforce the security of WordPress is by implementing security-specific plugins like WordFence, Sucuri, or Defender Pro.
These handy tools will do a lot of the hard work for you, monitoring your platform and spotting potential vulnerabilities so you can fix them before they’re allowed to have any negative impact.
7 – Enable SSL
A secure sockets layer (SSL) is a protocol which encrypts the transfer of data between your website and your users’ browsers. Enabling SSL makes it more difficult for cyber criminals to steal or compromise data online. Don’t worry, though, as this will be taken care of by your hosting provider as a standard practice.
8 – Avoid Tools that Open Direct Access to Your Site Database from the Dashboard
Some tools and plugins will enable direct access to your site’s database from within your CMS dashboard. While this can make certain aspects of website management easier for you, it also creates security vulnerabilities. This is something you should always avoid, because these additions are often severe security risks.
9 – Encourage Your Users to be Mindful of Security
The biggest security risks, and many opportunities for cyber criminals, come from unsafe user behaviour, poor platform maintenance, and badly built sites.
Your behaviour, and the behaviour of your end-users – and your agency – should always be mindful of security. If it’s not, sooner or later you’ll encounter problems. Some security best practices you can introduce include making strong passwords compulsory for all users and implementing measures like two-factor authentication.
10 – Find a Trustworthy Agency Partner to Support You
We understand that following all these steps sounds like a lot of work. Of course, when you’ve got your own job to focus on, the last thing you need is to be spending time struggling through complex website security processes.
That’s why it’s so valuable to find a reliable, trustworthy agency partner when using WordPress to build and manage websites. A good agency will ensure everything is secure and up-to-date for you, so you can spend more time providing outstanding services and experiences to your customers.
It’s always worth taking time to find an experienced agency with a strong track record of building robust, secure sites, to give you the peace of mind you deserve. That means they should handle your secure architecture, testing, monitoring, updates, and ongoing support for you as part of their services.
Being Truly Secure is an Ongoing Process
When you’re selecting a content management system (CMS) to build critical digital assets like your website, security must be a top priority. It’s for that very reason more and more large businesses are looking to WordPress as their platform of choice.
However, it’s equally important to choose an agency you can trust, and one that has these security best practices incorporated into their approach. This doesn’t just stop at the delivery of your website, either. True security is a constant ongoing process, and your agency partner should help you through that.
Following the tips listed here will give you everything you need to build a resilient, secure website on WordPress, suitable for the enterprise.
Interested in learning more about WordPress? Discover how a global enterprise achieved game-changing results by using WordPress to build a secure, innovative, bespoke solution. Check out the story of RedeWire from Rede Partners LLP here.
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9 February, 2023
Usability Explained – How Better User Experience Can Help You Grow Your Business in 2023
Usability is crucial to the success of any website, but it’s something that most businesses are still struggling to get right. This article explores what’s required to design a website with good usability, highlights common mistakes you should aim to avoid, and provides advice to help you improve the usability of your own site.
Digital Business Success Depends on Good Usability
Almost every business today has a website. At this stage, it’s safe to assume your business falls into that category. In addition, you may have gone beyond an ordinary website and carried out a bespoke development project to create something entirely unique for your business.
In today’s digital business landscape, having a great website is a necessity. And while developing a business website is no easy task in itself, it’s a challenge you’ve almost certainly already worked through. However, a challenge that you may still struggle with – like many other businesses we’ve spoken to recently – is mastering the usability of your site.
Providing a user experience (UX) in line with the standards of today, that meets the demands and expectations of your target audience, is a complex problem that may be holding your business back from achieving certain goals.
Of course, a complex problem is best solved by breaking it down into simple steps. So, let’s start by looking at the issue of usability, and why it’s so important to businesses today.
What is Usability?
According to ISO-9241, usability is defined as “the extent to which a system, product, or service can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”
In this case, the product in question will usually be a website. And, while user-centric design is an approach to creating a website that’s easy-to-use, usability is the measurement of how well that design has worked.
Essentially, usability is about making the experience of using your website as convenient, simple, and reliable as possible for all your visitors. This is equally important for all kinds of users, whether they’re prospects you’re hoping to convert to customers, or employees accessing an internal process or system.
In a real-life example, if your business had built an internal site for your employees to access corporate resources and training material, usability would be determined by how easy – or difficult – it is to perform basic tasks. This includes actions like logging in, navigating the site across various pages, consuming the site’s content, inputting information into the system, and resolving errors quickly and efficiently.
We each have experiences with usability hundreds of times every day, as we access websites and apps like LinkedIn, Amazon, Gmail, and so on. But there lies the key
Good usability on a website is something you don’t even notice. Bad usability on a website is something you notice, and will remember the next time you have the option of returning to that site or looking for a better experience elsewhere.
Usability can often be the difference between users adopting or rejecting technology. It could be the difference between your website’s visitors bouncing off the home page or converting to become customers.
Common Mistakes with User Experience (UX)
One of the most common, and damaging, mistakes businesses make is assuming they know how their users will think, behave, and interact with their website.
It’s always a risk to assume your users will respond well to decisions you make because you feel they’ll make things easier for you, from the development or management side of things. You should also try to avoid assuming users will understand certain things just because you do.
Often, the opposite is the case.
For example, certain structure and functionality of website menus may be something you assume your users are comfortable with, but are actually difficult for some people to use. You may assume that your users are happy using a website that has pages that infinitely scroll, when in reality that causes a negative experience for them.
A common mistake we see lots of businesses make is deciding what kind of design and functionality they want, without considering who the target audience is and what they need from their experience.
Remember your users are the ones who will determine the success or failure of your investment in this site, so their perspective is the one that should be taken when making important decisions during the design and development.
By making those assumptions, not only will you provide your users with a more inconvenient or frustrating experience, but you may also drive them to find alternative means of completing their task at hand. If that task is purchasing a product or service, poor usability could begin to have a negative impact on your business.
What Do Users Want in 2023?
People expect a seamless experience when using technology, meaning they want websites to be simple, quick, and convenient.
This involves a lot of components, not just in your design and navigation, but also by finding the right balance with things like passwords, pop-up messages, audio and visual content, push notifications, and more.
Typically, a positive user experience will come from:
Users become frustrated when things are presented to them outside of their control or choosing. For example, some of the most maligned features of websites include push notifications, chat window pop-ups, pop-ups requesting feedback, prompts to install apps, requests for access to their camera or microphone, security questions, and so on.
It’s also likely to create a negative experience by presenting things in a way that doesn’t align with the logic of most of your target audience. For instance, if a website has an unclear structure and navigation, many users will be more likely to leave the site rather than persist in trying to use it.
A Word on Accessibility
Usability is sometimes confused with accessibility. While they are related, they are actually different concepts. Accessibility refers to the practice of making technology accessible and easy-to-use for everyone, equally, with a significant focus on those with disabilities and other difficulties.
Web accessibility is covered under the Equality Act of 2010 in the UK. Many organisations now have a legal – as well as a moral – obligation to ensure their websites are accessible, by following a set of principles and standards known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). If you’re working with an agency, they should already have accessibility best practices included in their approach to design. Be sure to check this anytime you’re evaluating agency partners for a project.
While accessibility and usability are different, all websites should be designed and developed to be accessible to everyone. This will include some of the same conventions mentioned above, as well as ensuring you cater for people with impaired vision and hearing, cognitive difficulties, those that need to use assistive technology, and so on.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming article taking a deep dive into web accessibility.
Tips and Advice for Improved Usability
1 – Keep it Simple
When it comes to UX, the simpler the better. If something is complicated in its design or functionality, it will likely be complicated to use as well. Always try to keep things as simple as possible to give your site the best chance to achieve great usability.
2 – Get the Fundamentals Right
Similar to the issue of making assumptions about your target audience, it’s important to understand that certain aspects of usability are more objective than they are subjective.
Yes, some people may prefer to hover over a drop-down menu rather than click it, but there are some fundamental principles every website needs in order to provide a satisfying UX. Get these right, and your site’s usability will be in good shape:
3 – Learn from Experience
Draw on your own experience in your personal use of the web to put yourself in the shoes of your users. If you encounter a feature or process that gives you a bad UX online, make sure you don’t have similar features or processes within your own site.
4 – Test With Real Users
Test your site with real end-users who are part of your target audience. The best way to give your website great usability is by asking people to test it out, gather their feedback, and put those learnings into practice. This is known as usability testing, and is a phase of the design and development process that should be planned into your timeline at the beginning of any project.
5 – Know When to Ask for Help
To ensure your site is built with usability as a priority, you’ll require the support of a good agency partner. Work with a web development agency who can provide guidance from their experience delivering dozens, if not hundreds, of similar projects successfully in the past. A good agency should also help you with crucial processes like usability testing and user acceptance testing (UAT).
6 – Use the Right CMS
Your selection of content management system (CMS) or platform is another decision that can have a significant influence on the UX your visitors will be given.
Some CMSs have a reputation for being clunky, difficult to use, and slow. Others, such as WordPress, are specifically designed to make websites as easy-to-use as possible for visitors. For example, WordPress is built with plenty of functionality that promotes accessibility for those with difficulties using technology.
For more insight into this issue, we recently produced a series of articles comparing the pros and cons of the leading CMSs available today. You can read that here:
The Benefits and Opportunities of Better Usability
Working hard on your usability to create a great UX is something all businesses should be prioritising in 2023 and beyond.
As technology continues to become more convenient and pervasive, people’s tolerance for slow, unintuitive websites and frustrating functionality is rapidly shrinking.
If you do create a site that provides your users with what they’re looking for and meets their expectations, your business will begin to benefit from a number of outcomes:
2023 Trends and Future Predictions
While users’ preferences for speed and convenience haven’t really changed much over the years, their frustrations with poor UX and their demand for greater usability have increased.
With technology now present in so much of our daily lives, people’s pateince for bad experiences is getting smaller and smaller. When it comes to web design, the best way to manage this is to stick to what’s proven to work and give your users what they want.
The most important usability trend in 2023 may be to focus entirely on those fundamentals we mentioned earlier. Keeping things clear and simple is likely to be the most effective approach to UX design for the majority of businesses right now.
Always Ensure Your End-User is Your Priority
You’d be surprised how many websites fail because they don’t provide their users with a straightforward experience that aligns with their expectations. When you’re investing a significant amount of time, effort, and money into building a site for your business, you can’t afford to overlook the importance of usability.
Whether your target users are prospective customers, existing customers, or your internal workforce, tailoring the UX to that specific audience is absolutely crucial. If you do, not only will your users have a better experience, but your business will also benefit from advantages that will begin to drive increases in business growth.
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5 January, 2023
WordPress vs Sitecore – Comparing Both Content Management Systems
Large businesses and enterprises in need of a content management system (CMS) today are spoilt for choice, because there are plenty of excellent platforms available. From WordPress to Sitecore to Drupal, the technology currently on offer is highly intelligent and intuitive.
But so much choice can make the task of finding the right CMS for your own specific business complicated and time-consuming.
Selecting a CMS is an important decision that requires a lot of research, followed by careful evaluation of all the various options. Of course, those processes can be very time-consuming. When you’re already extremely busy juggling dozens of other priorities, it’s challenging to give this the attention and effort it deserves.
To solve that challenge, we’ve done the bulk of the hard work for you. In a new series of articles, we’ll provide you with direct, objective comparisons between some of the leading options for CMSs, helping you relieve the headache of researching and evaluating them yourself.
In the first article of this series, we’ll be looking at the comparison between Sitecore and WordPress.
How Does the Security Compare for Both Platforms?
As we face ever-increasing concerns with cyber security, data protection, and various other digital challenges, finding a platform with robust security should be a top priority.
Sitecore has a reputation of being the leading CMS for large businesses, guaranteeing an enterprise-grade experience that includes a high level of security.
Sitecore’s security is also strengthened by the vast range of in-built features within the platform, which we’ll discuss in more detail later. There’s no need to purchase more third-party software or plug-ins to enhance its functionality, which means you won’t be creating any additional vulnerabilities or risks. The platform also receives frequent security updates which bolster your protection even further.
If security is a concern for your business, Sitecore should be high on your list of potential candidates for a CMS.
For a long time, many people believed the misconception that WordPress isn’t secure enough for large businesses. However, industry leaders such as global investment firm Blackstone, the NHS in England, global research and advisory leader Forrester, and multinational bank Standard Chartered now use WordPress for their CMS. This goes a long way to proving that wrong.
In fact, WordPress is already a secure, stable platform out-of-the-box. So, where did this myth come from?
Well, vulnerabilities can arise in certain scenarios. Firstly, strong security with any technology is dependent on a well-managed hosting environment. If you have WordPress hosted in a secure environment from an experienced provider, with proactive security measures in place, your risk will be extremely low.
Secondly, plugins are something to be cautious of when it comes to security, both in terms of where they come from and keeping them properly maintained. Security threats will be minimised if you only use plugins from trusted sources. You should also ensure you always keep them tested and updated, ideally working alongside security-specific plugins like WordFence.
We appreciate this may sound like a lot of work. That’s why all the examples of the businesses succeeding with WordPress have the support of an agency partner who ensures all these things are taken care of during the development stage. It’s worth noting, though, that this will also be the case when adopting any CMS in a business setting.
Which Platform is More Scalable?
One of the most important aspects of a CMS is its scalability. A CMS is a long-term investment, and this is one of the most influential factors in determining whether that investment will be successful or not.
You’ll need to ensure your site can evolve as your business grows and your needs change over time. This will require an infrastructure that can quickly and easily scale with more pages, additional functionality, and perhaps even more sites, without the burden of hefty costs for more development work.
How Scalable is Sitecore?
Sitecore is designed specifically for large businesses, so its scalability is up there with the very best. Sitecore is a robust platform that allows your digital presence to grow seamlessly as your business grows, even if you need to build multiple sites to serve different groups of users in different languages.
How Scalable is WordPress?
WordPress is another highly scalable platform. Despite some still mistakenly believing that WordPress is suited to smaller businesses, you can use the CMS to build sophisticated, industry-leading sites. Like Sitecore, WordPress is agile and scalable enough to grow alongside your business and adapt to your changing requirements.
How Capable are these Content Management Systems?
The main purpose of a CMS is to provide a software-based infrastructure upon which you can build and manage websites and applications. While most CMSs are similar on the surface, with the same fundamental functionality, they each have unique features and capabilities that differentiate them
For example, one critical indication of quality for a CMS is how easy it is to use. Once you’ve adopted a platform, you and your colleagues will need to feel immediately comfortable using it on a daily basis. If a CMS can’t provide good usability, it’s probably one you should avoid.
Sitecore as a Content Management System
Sitecore is actually considered a fully managed ‘digital experience platform’ that comes with more capabilities than the average CMS.
Most of its best features are readily available as soon as you begin using Sitecore. That allows you to get a high quality site live very quickly without additional work within the platform.
However, Sitecore typically provides quite hierarchical, complex workflows that might be frustrating for small or agile teams. This can also create longer development cycles than usual, giving you a slower time-to-market than more intuitive systems like WordPress.
WordPress as a Content Management System
WordPress is easily the most popular CMS in the world right now, with around 45% of all websites built on the platform. One of the main reasons for that is its ease-of-use, with simple and efficient content management
This usability allows you to get up-to-speed quickly and share responsibilities across several members of your team, even if they have no previous content management experience.
WordPress also makes it convenient to edit content on a page-by-page basis, saving you valuable time, with its block-based design an ideal method for customisation and site management.
How Much Personalisation do they Provide?
The ability to customise and tailor your site’s content to your target audiences is more important today than ever before, with so much of modern business now taking place online. Therefore, this is another important point to consider when choosing between your various CMS options.
Personalisation in Sitecore
When compared with other platforms, Sitecore’s personalisation is excellent. Sitecore will provide you with a great deal of control over the structure and design of your pages, allowing you to tailor your user experience and drive greater performance for your site.
This is particularly useful for larger businesses with high volumes of potential site visitors, delivering competitive differentiation and driving increased conversion rates.
Personalisation in WordPress
WordPress is also highly customisable. You can use its flexibility to get creative with your design, and build bespoke features and functionality to better engage with your audience.
There’s not much to separate Sitecore and WordPress in this area. The gap in personalisation becomes even smaller if you find an experienced agency with WordPress-specific expertise to help develop your site and improve your customer experience.
Integrating with Other Systems
Before your business invests in any digital platform, it’s important to ensure that technology can integrate easily with your existing software. Whether it’s your customer relationship management (CRM) or any other marketing systems, any digital tools you currently have should ideally be compatible with your new CMS.
How Sitecore Integrates with Other Systems
Sitecore integrates well with other systems. It allows you to achieve out-of-the-box integration with most of the leading CRM software, and plenty of other digital tools and platforms.
How WordPress Integrates with Other Systems
WordPress tends to be the easiest platform to integrate with your existing systems, because most brands and other SaaS products have already made themselves compatible.
This means you can deploy WordPress with minimal disruption, regardless of whether you’re building a new site from scratch or migrating your current site from a different CMS.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Of course, you’ll also want to ensure you’re getting a solution that will deliver good value for money. With a CMS, the total cost of ownership (TCO) can vary greatly from one platform to another, due to factors like licensing fees and update-driven maintenance.
Sitecore Initial Investment and Ongoing Costs
Sitecore is an expensive option, even if you have a large budget to work with. You’ll be required to purchase licences for the platform with an ongoing renewal fee each year. These licenses come in tiers, so if you want to access the full range of benefits from Sitecore you’ll have to opt for the most expensive offering.
On top of that, you’ll also need to account for development costs with an agency, hosting costs, maintenance and support fees, and various other expenses that give Sitecore a very hefty total cost of ownership (TCO).
Furthermore, Sitecore requires ongoing management and maintenance to handle regular large-scale updates to the platform. When updates occur, new versions of the software come with a big price tag and may cause you to pay for additional development work to get your site up-to-speed.
However, this could be a worthwhile investment if Sitecore’s features and capabilities are necessary for your specific requirements. If you’re looking for a quality, trustworthy enterprise-grade platform, Sitecore can justify the cost.
WordPress TCO and Value
Conversely, WordPress is a much more cost-effective solution with a drastically lower TCO. Licenses for WordPress come at no cost and the software is entirely open-source. That means your implementation costs would be limited to just hosting, agency fees, and post-deployment support.
If you decide to use any plugins or extensions of the platform, these will be licensed and paid for separately. However, businesses rarely need to bolt on many new tools or capabilities because WordPress is such a feature-rich platform already.
When WordPress is updated, unlike Sitecore, managing and testing your site can be done in just a few hours at a much lower cost.
A Word on Agency Partners
One thing both Sitecore and WordPress have in common is the small selection of platform-specific agencies who can build high performance sites for large businesses using this technology.
A CMS becomes far easier to use, and easier to drive strong return on investment (ROI), if you have a specialist partner supporting you.
Finding an agency with the necessary experience and expertise to help you leverage these platforms to their full potential should be another important influence on your choice. From integration, to development, to maintenance, all the benefits and advantages of the platforms will require an agency to help you fully unlock them.
How to Make Your Decision
So, with all that information, how can you decide between the two?
Both of these platforms are excellent options that would serve most businesses extremely well. After all, there’s plenty of good reasons why some of the biggest companies in the world use Sitecore and WordPress.
Ultimately, when looking for a CMS that’s the right fit for your specific business, you should make a detailed assessment of your strategic objectives, unique requirements, budget, users, and other important factors. Use that to determine which solution is most capable of meeting those needs.
If you still need more help working through this process, read our comprehensive guide to understanding and evaluating the enterprise options for large businesses here.