By Interactive Strategies
Mar 19, 2012

CMS Solutions and I.S.: Part Two

In the first of this two part essay on CMS platforms and our agency, I explored our history, which encapsulates the experiences many web agencies have had in the past decade.    In this installment, I will lay out the present landscape of open source CMS platforms and a very valuable proprietary platform, and our consolidation around three systems we feel very confident about for the future. 

Let me start this installment by saying that our experience has been mirrored a multitude of times by forward-thinking agencies the world over.  There has been an explosion of creativity and exploration in the Content Management world over the past decade.  There was much upheaval and a rocket-like speed to developments in the protocols, standards, and practices of building CMS-driven websites.  We see a settling around best-practices, CMS architecture and concepts and in the next great-leap of the presentation layer with HTML5.  This is not to say that any of us can coast, but if we maintain our prowess, we can catch our breath as we expand our skills and competencies in what we feel will be the leading technologies of the next 3-5 years.

The State of The Art and the Future.

One my goals when I was hired as Director almost two years ago was to define IS’s development platform for the next iteration of technology.  Was there one CMS to rule them all?  That depends on the requirements of the client, and it depends on how things are looking like they’re going to shake out in the CMS marketplace, which only just recently has slowed its shifting and pitching.  There are certainly still a lot of vendors and platforms out there, but we think we’ve found a set of solutions for almost every need; solutions that will be stable, flexible and supportable for a very long time to come.

The Big Boys (2009-present)  – There has come a point, and we are in the middle of it now, where Commercial OTSC and Open Source CMS and development platforms are mature enough and have large enough communities surrounding them that we have settled on three platforms to serve our various clients and their specialized needs and budgets.  We are using Wordpress as our brouchureware and small CMS/ application platform.  The system is simple enough that less technical designers and production artists can install and work with it, but powerful enough to deliver rich features to clients without lots of development costs.  For larger CMS and application platform build outs, we are using Drupal 7.  Although the administrative tools may not be the most intuitive, Drupal has come a long way in usability and extensibility.  We still have questions about its dependency under very heavy load, but for most of our client’s needs, it’s an excellent choice.  Both Wordpress and Drupal have a large community of contributors in their developer communities which give us quite the marketplace of modules we can tap in to for plug-n-play modules to fulfill some of the most requested website features.  Most of these modules need some sort of customization to meet our exacting standards of user interaction, and the 80-20 rule certainly holds true (80 percent of development time is spent on the hardest 20 percent of customization), but we see the benefits usually outweighs the costs, and demand for these platforms is exploding.

For our largest corporate clients, we stick with Microsoft’s .NET framework and use the mature and highly scalable Sitecore CMS.  We are a Certified Sitecore Partner with Certified Sitecore Developers on staff.  Sitecore is in demand for large and highly available CMS and web application buildouts and there is a growing community of developers and developer-contributed modules.  Support from Sitecore is second to none and the Microsoft name and muscle stand behind the underlying platform.  Time-to-market with this easy to use, highly customizable, and intuitive CMS is an added bonus that offsets the small licensing fee.  The new Sitecore Customer Engagement Platform allows for the best analytics I’ve ever seen, a rules engine that any business user can use to customize the user experience for any end-user given a wealth of usage metrics and data-points, and reporting second to none.

With these three robust and ever expanding platforms, Interactive Strategies is confident that we can bring the right tool to any job, and with our hard won experience we can bring any requirement or user experience vision to light.

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