Burn microsites, burn

One of the banes of most web team’s lives is the proliferation of microsites. They’re everywhere!

For a while, every time a new project or service started up, a new website would be just around the corner. It’s understandable that people want to get the word out, harnessing the power of digital in communicating and engaging with people, but having loads of microsites around can be a bad thing for a number of reasons.

  • There’s usually lots of duplication of cost and effort, especially for hosting
  • Different hosts for different sites means some are likely not to meet good standards around security
  • Lots of different sites on different hosts also means lots of upgrades to do, making it easier for things to go wrong or be overlooked entirely
  • All manner of different content management systems will be used and this will involve staff paying for and attending training, and having to remain familiar with lots of different (often old and bad) systems
  • There is reputational risk in having lots of websites out there which are not under the control of the web team, where any kind of content could be published and there’s no consistency in message or brand

There are probably lots more.

Many of the microsites that are out there could easily be closed. In fact, the vast majority could be rationalised down. But amost all organisations find that they have a select few that need to remain, begging the question: how they can be managed effectively and made better while avoiding the problems outlined above?

There are lots of good ways to approach this problem, and there’s lots of technology that can help. Part of the process should be to identify tools and services that work for the sites you need to run. But we’ve often found that WordPress is a really good solution in this situation. Its Multisite functionality means that you can run as many sites as you want from one WordPress installation, maintaining central control of plugins and branding for all of them, while delegating publishing responsibility to whoever owns each site.

Some other advantages:

  • One set of files to keep updated, backed up and secure
  • One common platform for content editors to learn how to use
  • One web host to deal with, so that problems can be dealt with once for everyone, covering all your sites, and there’s only one bill
  • All sites managed within a single dashboard so the web team can keep a grip on what sites there are and which are doing what

Of course, the technology only provides part of the solution. There’s also a cultural shift in rationalising the number of microsites, where you need to challenge colleagues on whether there really is a user need for a new microsite, or whether another solution is best. These conversations can be quite difficult, and a good discovery phase is often helpful so that you can approach these teams with real user needs and the evidence to back them up.

However, being able to bring all microsites into one place to be managed should result in all sorts of efficiency and quality gains: apart from having a single contract to manage, you also gain the benefits of a consistent publishing experience, reduced training costs and the ability for your teams to share best-practice and collaborate more easily.

If this rings a bell, you might be wondering where to begin. There are lots of excellent options for scalable, secure WordPress hosting, and a bit of time on Google, or the Government Cloud Store, will turn up some results for you.

And, of course, if you’d like to discuss your situation with us, we’d be happy to chat. Our contribution to the world of WordPress is GovPress, dxw’s dedicated WordPress hosting platform that’s available on G-Cloud and built especially for the public sector.

Give us a ring to find out more, or if you prefer, ask us a question in the comments.

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