Set your website for scale with modular development

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Mashbo reveals how simplifying website management could reduce costs and free up some time.

Technology should enhance and not inhibit the ability of businesses to scale. However, when organisations need to make changes to amend or expand an existing website in line with business growth, they often face significant technological challenges.

The fact is, many websites have been built within restrictive templates that require the time and expertise of external developers to make even the simplest of changes. If a site has been passed through a number of different developers or web agencies it is likely that they will also have been enhanced by extensive numbers of plugins and hacked-together code, creating an unstable foundation.

Ultimately, websites like this will always reach a point of limitation and it will be necessary to start again. It is this point that so many businesses are reaching now and they are asking the same question - how do we avoid getting here again?

Modular development

Creating websites with extensive and restrictive template libraries is, quite frankly, old fashioned. It does not allow organisations the flexibility to make reactive changes to their digital properties and it creates a dependency on technical specialists to make changes or great new pages. So what is the solution?

The answer is modular development, building CMS-manageable content blocks that can be arranged in almost any way to quickly create new web pages with a wealth of functionality - by anyone, not just developers.

Build through blocks

Even the godfather of the website theme, Wordpress, has acknowledged this shift, with its recent Gutenberg Update. This is the rebuilding of its editing system that allows for media rich pages and posts, bringing flexibility of design and build through blocks.

Modular development is possible through Wordpress or similar bespoke systems, like the one we developed recently for the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), a client with multiple brands and digital properties to manage and develop.

Rather than being restricted to a set template library or having to commission a whole suite of bespoke templates to meet every requirement of your business, modular development breaks down overall website designs into small components or ‘blocks’ that can be built and arranged in any order to create exactly the page you need. This can be delivered within a small selection of templates, within which these content modules can be added.

Future-proof approach

To ensure a new website delivers exactly on what is required now and in line with future business plans, a scoping session can be used to map out every type of content that you might need and these can be created, for continued use.

What’s more, as a business develops and the content landscape changes, this suite can be enhanced by simply having a new ‘block’ built, rather than a new template or even new site. It’s a future-proof approach that gives you bespoke control over layouts, reducing the time needed for changes and development costs.

Benefits of modular development

The benefits of modular development, versus traditional website development techniques, are significant. The flexibility and ease of use allows businesses to be more reactive to business and content changes. The potential number of combination of blocks allows business to create a more unique identity than when using static templates, as well as reducing the number of templates required, simplifying and streamlining website management.

Simplifying website management also brings cost and time efficiencies, with less reliance on outsourced development work, as changes that would once have been relatively complex can be actioned by internal staff members trained on using CMS.

Modular development in action

As well as the bespoke modular content platform for the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), we have also used modular design to create a solution for global life and health insurance provider, iptiQ, using the new Wordpress editor Gutenberg, to create a block-based flexible content platform from which the business could easily roll out new sites, using internal resource, as it expands into new territories.

Modular development is just one of the subjects covered in the new report ‘What’s Your Problem: a guide to harnessing the transformational power of technology for your organisation’ from Mashbo, which can be downloaded for free.

Gavin Sherratt is a managing director at Mashbo

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