One of the most notable technology trends we’ve witnessed in recent years is the migration from product-based website solutions to platform-based website solutions for the online delivery of content. This transition comes as no surprise and the benefits for such a move are manifold. But what are the main motives for publishers taking this path? What are the common pitfalls? And what should publishers be looking out for as they switch to a platform-based environment?

Websites are immensely important for publishers – they not only showcase their products but they also reflect their brands and identities – so naturally, it makes sense for them to have complete control of this.

The case for platform-based solutions

One of the main shortcomings publishers frequently encounter when working with product-based solutions is that the websites they produce are often very similar, both in terms of look and feel as well as functionality and features. Many publishers also find that they can’t realistically take control of their website delivery and bring their individuality to it when they are having to work within the confines of a specific product. Increasingly, publishers don’t just want to be in a position to improve their content, but also to improve the website’s entire user experience.

When it comes to platform-based solutions, extensibility is often one of the main drivers which leads publishers to make the transition. Traditionally, once the website has gone live, the publisher inherits the ability to enhance and customise the website to a greater extent, without being totally reliant on the technology vendor, who progresses the platform in the background. This agility means that publishers can adapt their solution according to their needs, as opposed to what the vendor wants, and they can be as hands on, or off, as they choose.

Another advantage is speed of implementation. With the product built on a firm platform, in a stable environment, there is limited risk for the publisher. They can test new market strategies, features and revenue streams with ease, without huge levels of investment.

Avoiding the common pitfalls

When transitioning to platform-based solutions, there are several common pitfalls which need to be considered and avoided. First and foremost, the technology vendor needs to ensure that specific features, which might not be relevant in the future, are not “baked” into a platform and are kept separately as part of the implementation process.

Secondly, a platform can easily become too bloated, as the development teams add to it. This can include customer-specific, industry-specific or territory-specific functionality. Avoiding bloating the platform is a fundamental approach in the maintenance of a more stable solution. Technology vendors need to bear this in mind and resist adding too many features to the platform in the development phase.

In addition, having too many stakeholders using a platform from a certain segment could impact and de-stabilise the experience for end users. It is important to ensure that customer-specific or territory specific functionality is kept out of the platform and is delivered as part of the implementation for a publisher – on top of the platform.

A growing trend

This migration to platform-based systems is a trend which has been prevalent in the media industries for many years, particularly in the worlds of newspapers and magazines where user experience is vital. Conversely, in the academic publishing space, where the focus has traditionally been on content as opposed to the visitor’s journey, product-based solutions are still commonplace. Yet many publishers are slowly realising that their offering needs to be about more than just content, and that customers’ expectations are now far more advanced and sophisticated.

In this day and age, publishers of all types are feeling the pressure to keep up with emerging technology trends while prioritising and satisfying the needs of their customers.

More than ever they need a higher degree of control and autonomy over their content and their brand and migrating to a platform-based website solution facilitates this. As with any bold business decision, the transition isn’t easy. There are obstacles to overcome and lessons to be learned, both during implementation and from an ongoing maintenance perspective, but overall the benefits of switching to platforms far outweigh any negatives.

By David Montgomery, CEO, Ingenta

In September, 2015, David assumed the role of Ingenta’s CEO. He was previously Chief Technology Officer, where he was responsible for driving all aspects of the company’s IT strategy, including its vision, innovation and roadmap. In addition to defining the technical architecture and development of the company’s core products, David continues to manage their testing, rollout, and on-going support, working in close collaboration with the company’s customers to ensure that product strategy and development is aligned and with client requirements. Prior to Ingenta, David was Managing Director of Software Operations at Inspired Thinking Group (ITG), a Tech Track 100 company, where he was responsible for overseeing software hosting, application management, software development and customer services. Prior to that, he held various senior positions, including Chief Innovation Officer, at software company Atex, 10 years as Director of Technology at 5 Fifteen and spent 9 years as Director of Technology at Anite plc (previously Autofile).