Most of you will have had the experience of going to a website and being confronted with something that is a) obviously impossible to navigate because b) it needs you to download a piece of exotic software to run the stupid thing and c) is so large anyway that you don’t have the bandwidth and / or d) the time to wait around and see what it finally has to say.
All of this is a function of the wild enthusiasm of platform developers, who are often far more focussed on the means of communicating, rather than the end of actually saying something. The result of their enthusiasm has been a wide variety of competing platforms with highly nuanced differences, all of which make the choice of platform extremely difficult.
The situation is made yet more complex by the phenomenon of varying bandwidth and varying technologies that are used to implement the platforms, as well as the difference between open source platforms and proprietary software.
Worse yet, the impermanence of web developers, typically young, restless and open to offers of employment from others once they discover that their ambitions are not matched by money, mean that the platform implemented and used by one developer may not be within the field of expertise of his / her successor.
This has been the easy bit. Mobile devices have a number of platforms on which development can take place. These platforms are also be expected to control the mobile devices as well. So, without ironclad strategies, not only may the website not display properly, but the user may not be able to use his or her cellphone.
All of this is slightly terrifying.
The solution lies in one simple phenomenon: research. Before setting up any internet presence more complex than a straight-forward web site, the organisation or enterprise needs to research every aspect of the user’s need and the user’s electronic capability.
First and foremost, like the example noted above, there is no point in implementing a system that is too technologically advanced for the user’s system. This is particularly important for those who want corporate browsing. Note, for instance, that due to the threats of compromise of their systems, many corporate systems administrators block Java applications outright.
The next steps lie in researching the platform. The first aspect that needs to be examined is the question of open source systems versus proprietary systems.
Open source systems are generally free and are developed continuously. However these require individuals with open source capabilities, who do not offer continuous support unless hired or contracted as a part of the outsourcing function.
Proprietary systems offer ongoing support, but this often comes at a vast expense. In addition the system has to be licensed to the user and development or evolution of the system may come at a cost. The fact that the proprietary system will not be easy to integrate with other systems should also be taken into account.
This column will not go into the matter of proprietary software, other than to note that it should be considered very, very carefully with a close look at long range costs and applications.
There are a fair number of open source platforms. Some are more popular than others or have wider acceptance. Wider acceptance implies a greater community that represents both a pool of abilities and a pool of development and knowledge.
If open source is identified as the route, then serious consideration must be given to the Joomla which offers productivity applications with fair degrees of ability to integrate other applications. WordPress is geared more to publishing.
Although the choices are difficult, they need to be made. Once again, the choices and uses influence competitiveness, cost-effectiveness and operational differentials, locally and globally.