The most important part of these considerations is to ask each question in terms of current needs AND future needs! Picking the right DXP means you’ll have the right choice today, and still be happy in three years, five years, dare we say it—10 years—down the road.
Do you need Content + Commerce?
Mashing content and commerce the wrong way is a great way to accumulate technical debt, fast. To bring content and commerce together, you need to decide on:
Which commerce platform you’ll use
Whether you will integrate the commerce system side-by-side with the content layer or go headless ( this is critical)
There are many leading client platforms right now. Here are some of them:
Magento: Full code control, open-source, enterprise-scale, PHP
BigCommerce: Enterprise SaaS, less expensive, less flexible
ElasticPath: Leading headless API commerce platform, best for narrow shopping use cases
Acquia Commerce Connector: Compelling for large scale Drupal + Magento or Hybris
Shopify Plus: Leader in SaaS commerce goes enterprise
Hybris: If you use SAP, this can make sense. Otherwise, use Magento.
If you have a traditional browse-and-buy experience (think J. Crew or Patagonia), we recommend any of the leading cloud providers that have a lower total cost of ownership and foster your team’s innovation with high developer velocity. For more information on selecting a commerce platform, check out our article on third-wave digital commerce platforms.
Does the platform support your unique creation, curation, review, and publishing needs?
Complex organizations have complex content needs. Here’s a favorite example: We have a client that can’t make changes to their site without first getting approval of the content changes from the federal government of Mexico.
Many organizations will need legal, product, and other departments to review content changes before they are live. And many organizations have a variety of business units, each with their operational and regulatory needs. Don’t forget about multilingual operations, which impact performance, editorial workflow, and translation integration needs.
At a minimum, you are going to need a DXP that supports storing revisions of content, tracking future revisions (so an editor can store a proposed new version of a live page without impacting the live page), custom notifications for workflow changes (so others in the content curation flow can be notified automatically when they need to take action), scheduled publishing, scheduled content state changes, and multilingual support throughout all steps in this process. For multilingual operations, you will need to ensure your DXP supports not only tracking content in other languages, but also, crucially, locales. Remember, you may want to track a version of your page in French for Haitian users and a separate French page for users in France.
Does the platform have the analytics you need?
Data can tell you any story you want. To tease out the truth, or at least the truth most helpful to you, you have to have a goal in mind. Ensure that you map out your analytics requirements and goals thoughtfully first, then look at potential analytics solutions. If you start with the tool first, you are only going to answer the questions that the tool is best able to answer.
Keep in mind that even with a closed DXP provider like Adobe, you can still use Google Analytics, which your team might be more comfortable with. In most cases, a closed DXP will limit your integration options, but this isn’t the case for analytics (almost a saving grace, but not quite enough).
Does the platform have strong support for regulations?
A confluence of recent events — the Edward Snowden revelations about domestic spying, the Wikileaks saga, Facebook being used as a tool by foreign governments to influence U.S. elections, and the Equifax security breach — have focused attention in the United States and Europe on the need for greater privacy regulation. The next decade will undoubtedly see new regulatory schemes and laws.
Think beyond GDPR, HIPPA, FERPA, various state and local data privacy rules, and website accessibility guidelines (very importantly, rather recently). Given the current and likely future needs, you want to make sure your platform is flexible enough to not create problems down the line with new compliance needs.
All platforms can be made to be compliant, but the project will vary in effort and support from the platform. For example, Acquia Drupal has the strongest (and oldest) commitment to WCAG/ADA support (the best we've seen). This support has been built into the platform for almost a decade, years ahead of most companies even allocating budget to compliance. This commitment is increasingly valuable, as lack of website accessibility creates real litigation risk for organizations.
How will your future needs be met?
Last year, data scientist Aaron Baughman used machine learning with one of the most powerful computers in the world, IBM Watson, to go undefeated in his fantasy football season. Think about that for a minute. Machine learning, a relatively newly available approach to solving tricky computer problems, has democratized so much that it can be used by a hobbyist for the (admittedly noble ) aim of crushing his friends at fantasy football.
What will the next five years bring? For the last 20 years that has been an absolutely thrilling question to ask, and it remains so. The point is, make sure your platform is flexible enough to handle what’s ahead. To paraphrase Don Rumsfield, what should worry you most are the things you don’t know you don’t know (the unknown unknowns). The very architecture of an open DXP embraces this unknown future by offering a flexible set of APIs that are designed to support the use cases that we don’t yet know will be necessary tomorrow.
We’ll end with this: Does the platform spark joy?
Stay with me on this.
Look, I understand that digital experience platforms are not about to make a debut on HGTV. Still, we are a full 20 years into the modern Internet. That is an entire generation, time for those that graduated college at the start of the modern digital era to now be in control of multinational organizations. Some of the greatest fortunes in the history of our species have been created in the last 20 years, dwarfing the comparable wealth of the last 2,000. Digital platforms have evolved through at least three major eras, with each wiping out and laying waste to the last. Sure, the underlying technology has changed, but since 1999, has the customer experience of a website really gotten any more complex than it was?
As the underlying technology of these platforms gets commoditized, what becomes valuable is the customer experience, and in this instance, I’m not talking about your customers. I’m talking about the people that have to use a DXP to do their jobs. Which (finally) leads me to my point: For any DXP platforms to thrive, they are going to have provide such incredible ease of use that they spark joy.
Yes, technology is still hilariously complicated, but it won’t always be. And that new horizon is not as far off as you think.