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With the recent release of Microsoft SharePoint 2013, we've been observing a spike in the number of questions asked by clients and prospects as to whether the SharePoint product would be a good platform on which to build a Web site. As was the case when SharePoint 2007 and 2010 were released, SharePoint 2013 purports to be more capable of managing external Web site content than ever before. Alas, the question remains - should we build a new Web site on SharePoint, or build on  Drupal or another platform?

Let's start by discussing what we believe SharePoint to be. SharePoint was originally created as a document management system and has over time, through continuous expansion and new features, taken on some similarity to a content management system. 

SharePoint's true strengths lie in:

  • Team collaboration
  • Internal intranets

If you happen to have system needs in any of the above categories, and you have a preference for Microsoft-based systems, SharePoint could be a good choice for you. However, organizations who have suffered through the management of a SharePoint based external Web site would never, ever confuse the system with Drupal or any of its CMS brethren!

An excellent CMS like Drupal is at its core geared specifically for management of Web based content and administering Web sites.  Drupal's benefits include:

  • Very minimal limits in terms of future scalability and integration with additional systems.
  • Wide-open graphic design possibilities, including responsive design
  • Intuitive organization of content and backend features, both which help shorten the learning curve for new administrators.
  • Unlimited customization of both the public facing and administrator portions of the Web site
  • It's built in PHP, a language known by a significant portion of the development community. Important caveat to keep in mind: most modern systems allow for bi-directional exchange of data through Web services, making the underlying technology less of a decision factor

For all of these reasons and more, as a firm Blue Coda has not yet recommended to anyone building a site on SharePoint. We've heard way too many stories over the years of failed projects where teams struggled to overcome the inflexibility of SharePoint in implementing graphic designs or customizing/building desired features.

But why take our word for it? Check out what one loyal SharePoint developer states are the  3 things not to do with Sharepoint. Note the author of the aforementioned blog post has been developing on SharePoint since 2001 and wrote this post in the fall of 2012.

Here are a few highlights as to what not to do with SharePoint:

  • Build public facing Web sites, as "SharePoint requires a lot of time, effort and expense to kick it into shape as a website content management system." Not noted in this article is that given SharePoint is a closed system, building in desired features and functions requires a workaround in almost every case.
  • Customize the graphic design, as Microsoft's own recommendation is that the interface NOT be customized but used as is. Many former colleagues of ours have also found that Sharepoint's approach to templating to be quite inflexible and limiting.
  • Treat it as a database, while SharePoint does sit on a SQL database, it is not accessible or exposed to users. Instead SharePoint relies on the concept of lists, which are not a good substitute for the power of a relational database.

We reference Drupal multiple times above since we believe it is one of the best CMS platforms available, however it is not the only CMS available.  Contact us to learn more about how your organization could benefit from the use of Drupal or another CMS in building or redeveloping your Web site.

Further reading:

 

Written by  Jason Schaffer. Jason is Blue Coda's CEO.