Easy answer – Microsoft forced us to.
We use Office365 SharePoint sites. Office365 recently announced that it is deprecating it’s public website offering. That means that you can no longer build public websites on Office365. In addition, they gave people 2 years to move existing websites off of Office365.
At first I was infuriated with this decision. We were happy with our public website. We used all the new techniques to build it (HTML5, CSS3, Bootstrap, Responsive Design, etc…). And, we used all the great SharePoint 2013 offerings to convert HTML into MasterPages. It was great. We showed how a first class company can actually use SharePoint to create anything in a public site.
However, there were issues with SharePoint public websites:
- Blog – the SharePoint blog is just not that good compared to other tools like WordPress. It was clunky to use. Hard to do comments. Etc…
- OGP support – OGP is Open Graph Protocol. It allows website to put social media content (images, links, authors, etc…) when posts are published to social media (like Facebook). This was impossible to do with Office365 (believe us, we researched intensly). Now, there is an Office365 app from Microsoft that claims to do this. But, it doesn’t work with the SharePoint blog posts (the main reason to want this). So, anytime we linked a new blog to Facebook or Twitter, it didn’t look right because of the lack for this support.
- Plugins – WordPress is built on public website facing plugins. Need spam support – there’s a plugin for that. Need better caching – there’s a plugin for that. I mean, let’s not recreate the wheel here – there’s usually a plugin for that. We missed this severely with Office365. The app concept behind SharePoint 2013 does not lend itself to all the possible scenarios you need in the public website world. It is much more for building custom applications on SharePoint.
- SEO – the SEO integration into WordPress is top notch. Especially when using the correct frameworks (like Genesis). The SEO integration into SharePoint is an afterthought. It allows you to put some descriptions and stuff on the page. But, it’s really hard to do true SEO practices.
So, after we calmed down, we realized Microsoft did us a favor. We moved our website to WordPress and couldn’t be happier with the results.
Well, we are still unhappy Microsoft ever promised public websites on Office365 in the first place. We wouldn’t have gone down this route if they had a clear roadmap (we are not big fans of Microsoft adding functionality and removing it later on). We feel Microsoft could have made their public websites great, but instead they chose to discontinue. That is fine. It was just the process they took to get to that decision (i.e.: after launching and promoting) was disheartening.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to show how great RePoint Technologies is (self promoting plug). We were able to take this unique HTML5, CSS3, Bootstrap3, Responsive design and implement it in both SharePoint and WordPress. The end users have no clue either way. It is pixel perfect the same. In addition, we used best practices for both. Our WordPress theme is a custom child theme of the Genesis Framework. No shortcuts here. I am truly impressed with the RePoint team in what they can accomplish. Not just the best SharePoint developers in the world, the best developers in the world too.
So, in the end, we have the exact same website. But, we have a better blog, better Facebook/Twitter integration, better SEO and it’s easier to maintain and enhance. Thus, our frustration of Microsoft’s inability to create a sustainable road map has turned into a blessing in disguise for our company. A costly blessing (in terms of time spent), but a blessing nonetheless.