At Reaktiv, we pride ourselves on creating scalable web platforms for industry-leading organizations. But what is a web platform? And more importantly, how can it elevate your organization’s digital strategy? You can get almost anyone to build you a site, but organizations may require a holistic system that can accommodate multiple websites, each tailored to different audiences but operating under a unified framework. This is where the concept of a web platform comes into play.
In this article, we discuss why you may consider a web platform, the benefits for creating one, and the integral components that make this an important digital tool for your organization.
What is a Web Platform?
A web platform is a scalable, modular, and dynamic system for creating and customizing one to many websites.
Why does this matter?
There are many ways to quickly build a website these days, so why should you spend the effort on building a web platform? We have identified a set of criteria for those considering a web platform even if you only have a single website.
Reasons you may need a web platform
- You have more than one site, or a future need to expand beyond one site
- You have a defined brand that you would like to keep consistent across your sites
- You would like to reduce maintenance required across all your web properties
- You need separate sites for different geographies
- You need multilingual capabilities
- You want a system to quickly spin up sites for new initiatives
- You want to be able to roll out changes quickly across your fleet of websites
- You offer websites as a product to your end customers, and need a stable and repeatable platform to manage them
- You’re tired of the traditional redesign and rebuild cycle
Who needs a web platform?
- Education institutions. Higher education, school districts.
- Multinational corporations: Many geographic locations, subsidiaries, departments
- Companies that provide a hosted service along with a website to contain that service (e.g. ticketing, booking, ecommerce platforms)
- Enterprise companies with multiple independent brands
- Municipal, State, and Federal Governments
The Benefits of a Web Platform
Decreased maintenance costs
Having a centralized web platform means streamlining maintenance processes. Instead of updating and maintaining multiple individual sites, changes to core components can be done once and propagated across all the websites on the platform. This not only saves time but also significantly reduces the cost associated with site upkeep and the likelihood of issues arising from inconsistent updates.
Empower editor creativity and flexibility without sacrificing consistency
A well-designed web platform offers a suite of tools and components that editors can use to create and customize their content “on rails”. This empowers them to be creative and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape while ensuring that there’s a consistent look and feel across all sites. This harmony ensures brand consistency, which is vital for establishing trust with the audience.
Longer life cycle between full rebuilds
Websites that aren’t built as a platform often require frequent rebuilds to stay current with technological advancements and user expectations. With a web platform, the modular approach allows for individual components to be updated or replaced without overhauling the entire system. This translates to longer life cycles between full site rebuilds, ensuring that the platform remains modern and relevant for longer periods. This idea of continual improvement and interaction is built into the process and design of a web platform.
You end up with a system through which you can iterate and improve the same web platform over many years rather than a static image of a site at a point in time.
One of the core strengths of a web platform is its scalability. As your organization grows, the platform can effortlessly accommodate new sites, features, and users. This adaptability ensures that you won’t outgrow your platform, but rather, it will evolve with your needs. If you have a need for many sites with similar features and branding, you have an easily repeatable process to deploy hundreds or thousands of websites using the web platform’s features.
Administrators can oversee all platform sites from a single dashboard. This simplifies tasks like user management, configuration, and content updates especially when combined with a multisite management tool like Site Architect.
By centralizing the system, enabling a cohesive administration, and putting design consistency “on rails” the overall governance of your web platform is improved. A robust web platform also provides detailed control over user roles and permissions. This ensures that the right individuals have access to the right tools and data, enhancing security and minimizing the risk of errors. The granularity of this system also ensures that workflows can be streamlined and specialized, as individuals can quickly perform their specific roles without unnecessary roadblocks.
The components of a scalable web platform
A successful web platform has the following five components:
- Modular Design System
- Content Management System
- Component-Based Editor
- Platform Governance
- Plan for Ongoing Maintenance
Modular Design System
Gone are the days when you design a page once and leave it that way until your next redesign. Sites today need to live and breathe with the needs of their audiences, and respond to changes quickly.
With a design system, your web platform can maintain brand consistency. It’s easier to update content and maintain consistency across pages and even across different sites, especially when combined with a content management system and component-based editor.
Maintenance is easier as the changes you make to one component are made everywhere, which also increases consistency.
Content Management System
Implementing that design system in a content management system (CMS) allows for consistency and flexibility without requiring development help for each change. Reaktiv prefers WordPress for our CMS projects, but you can build a web platform on any CMS that supports the requirements of a flexible web platform. Multisite features allow you to create and manage many websites within one installation of the CMS, which helps with ongoing maintenance as the platform grows and makes new cross-platform features possible. It’s important that your design system is built with the end CMS in mind to ensure a smooth implementation.
The page editor experience goes hand in hand with your design system. A modular design system only gets you as far as your ability to implement that system. A component-based editor enables your non-technical staff to use the design system components directly without needing developer resources. Templates and patterns ensure your design system is implemented more consistently than classic WYSIWYGs (What You See Is What You Get), while providing greater flexibility to site editors than a fields-based approach. Your site users get more capabilities to produce stunning pages while ensuring your brand identity remains intact. Reusable blocks and patterns allow quick and efficient creation of new content.
As essential as technology decisions are to a web platform, it’s just as important to decide how the platform will be governed. Some of the questions that should be answered include:
- Who decides which features are supported, built and rolled out to the sites?
- How does a new site get created?
- Who can request a new site?
- Which user roles have which capabilities?
- How do you deploy features and upgrades across the network?
- Who can manage connections between sites?
- What kind of editorial and design constraints should be placed on site administrators?
- How are security vulnerabilities addressed?
Having the processes in place to determine how and when changes are made is critical to the long term health and longevity of a platform. The technology alone won’t help your platform succeed.
Plan for Ongoing Maintenance
Your web platform is not finished when it’s launched. The goal is to build the platform in an evergreen way. When you are on the redesign and rebuild cycle, you may launch a new site, dust off your hands, and put it in autopilot mode for a couple years. With a web platform, it needs continual investment. This does require additional effort and budget but in return you aren’t locked into the design decisions you made a couple years ago. You are able to iterate over time on top of the solid foundation, and without throwing away all the work you’ve done over the past few years. It also gives you the chance to collect data on how your site performs and feed that back into the changes you make to the site over time.
Unlock the Benefits of a Web Platform
A web platform offers many benefits over a traditional website approach for organizations looking for scalable and consistent web experiences. As you consider your organization’s digital future, remember that a web platform isn’t just an investment in technology—it’s an investment in longevity, adaptability, and success. Contact Reaktiv if you’d like to learn more about how to bring the benefits of a web platform to your organization.