Your website needs to be able to keep up with the times. For many, this means a facelift on an existing site. Front-end design is typically updated at regular intervals, a standard of about every two to three years (according to just about every article you find on a search for “website redesign”).
But even with a fresh design and the inclusion of relevant content that follows both SEO and SEM best practices, the performance of your site may not be meeting your expectations. This is a critical sign that it is time to go beyond redesigning your website and instead focus on replatforming your digital experience.
What does ‘replatform’ mean?
Replatforming digital experiences is more involved than simply redesigning. It involves evaluating the core systems that make digital experiences possible: the content management system (CMS), the database, and the servers that deliver your content to the masses. The options available to replatform present a complex matrix of choices that need to align to your organization’s requirements.
When evaluating your options, consider the following three areas of your decision to find what fits your organization:
- Hosting: Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS), Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Managed Service Provider (MSP), on premise
- Solution type: open source, licensed software
- Capabilities and integration
Consider the hosting options
When you start looking into hosting, there are many different infrastructure options to consider. In a nutshell, your platform approach -- whether self-managed (on premises or IaaS), managed hosting (MSP), or PaaS -- determines the level of investment in people and process you need to make to keep a secure, high-availability digital experience up and running for your customers.
When considering these options, pay close attention to your service-level agreements. Who is responsible for maintaining the hardware, software, and website code?
Do these service levels align to your business requirements and current support capabilities? Ultimately, your choice in where your digital experience resides is going to be based on a variety of factors including:
- Headcount required to manage the system
- Investment in capital equipment
- Operating expenses
- Maintenance requirements and expense
There will be a balance between the capital, operating and maintenance expenses that best fits your business needs.
Think about the future of the software
Understanding your requirements today is a great place to begin evaluation when migrating to a new CMS, database, operating system or other core component. However, this is only the first step. In order to make a fully informed decision,you need to consider your future digital experience roadmap and make sure your selected software aligns to it.This is where open source solutions, like Drupal, start to make more sense.
Like all open source software projects, Drupal enables you to develop new modules and features to fit your roadmap, rather than wait for a software vendor to prioritize your requirements.
Understanding the direction of your provider’s offering, alignment to your objectives and whether critical features and functions will continue to be supported in future versions should be top of mind in considerations. For example, Dries Buytaert recently posted in his blog that Drupal 9 will be backward compatible to Drupal 8, meaning now more costly projects to upgrade to the latest and greatest will be a thing of the past.
If you are considering a DIY model (IaaS or on premises), you need to repeat the evaluation of your CMS solution with your web database and operating system. Be sure to validate that the systems you choose are interoperable as you go forward. Gain an understanding regarding the frequency of updates to each component of software and the expected downtime you have per site.
As you evaluate developing the backend of your digital experience, keep your eyes on the horizon. What are the current trends among your customer base that may represent future challenges? Can you mitigate those risks today? Let’s look at the impact mobile devices have had on digital experience as an example.
For any website, responsive design is a must. According to Pew Research, looking at the United States alone, adult smartphone penetration is near 100 percent.
Responsive design addresses only how your experience will render on user’s screen, not how well the experience is designed to accomplish a given task. As you replatform, will you have the tools to quickly develop, deliver and manage a micro interaction designed for a mobile device?
Recognize integration needs
It would be nice if our experiences stayed neatly packed in their own digital space but it isn’t the reality. The truth is we are speeding toward a future in which interactions will cross between the digital and physical worlds and back again on the path to gaining customers. There are three dominant ways to integrate digital experiences: APIs, SDKs and hooks. Organizations who are able to use these to their advantage and create seamless transitions are the ones who will see continued growth and success.
Interactions are not going to be driven by a single platform. This is where integration is so important. The ability for digital experiences to quickly and seamlessly share information among systems is critical. Paired with proper integration design, your digital experience can be seen anywhere.
Customers can connect with your brand through mobile, IoT devices, in-store screens, or conversational UIs. A digital experience can seamlessly integrate with your CRM, marketing system, an iPhone or Android app, Amazon Echo, a wearable, or something we haven’t invented yet; an opted-in, known customer can have an experience with a brand that encompasses both the digital and physical world.
Do you know if and when your digital experience platform will support that?
Maybe your digital experience platform isn’t showing the frayed corners of age yet. While you may be well equipped to handle yesterday’s digital experience requirements, will your current experience satisfy consumers’ desires in the future? When evaluating your next move, instead of just focusing on the design elements, consider your platform as part of the investment.
When looking at your digital platform remember the three keys to your requirements:
- Hosting model: Make sure your platform can scale for big events, meets your security and compliance requirements, and provides the SLAs as needed.
- Software: Does the software roadmap align to your digital experience vision? What options do you have if they are misaligned? How big is the community of developers to help you make your vision a reality?
- Integrations: The future of digital experience requires multiple systems to seamlessly integrate. While consolidation of systems may occur, a flexible system is required to enable you to choose the best of the best for your vision. Consider the availability of APIs, SDKs and hooks for your varied integration needs.
With selections that align to the quickly emerging IoT, wearables and digital assistant channels, and a scalable platform, you should be able to easily address your challenges for both today and tomorrow.