The website at www.withinreach.com.au is a relaunch on new technology. The update of website technology was somewhat forced upon us by our use of SharePoint Online public websites which is a feature being withdrawn from Office 365.
A replacement for SharePoint Online public websites
In 2013 we made a heavy investment in developing a SharePoint Online website running under Office 365 and using Azure hosted webparts to provide functions like our contact form, marketing list subscription and content carousels.
We wanted our own site to use the same technology we recommend to clients, and to learn on our site before creating others.
On reflection, we put too much faith in the longevity of the Office 365 platform for our website and drove down a dead end street that it's taken a long time to reverse out of.
This post isn't a blamestorm, it's about how you can back out out of the SharePoint Online public website dead end if (like us) you find yourself there.
If you are currently using SharePoint Online to host your public website, you'll need to do something. Support is deprecated from May 2017 and in general the longer you leave it the deeper the hole you'll need to climb out of.
SharePoint or not?
One way to move forward is to lift and shift your SharePoint Online website from Office 365 to a dedicated SharePoint cloud or on-premise environment.
The scale and complexity of your existing SharePoint Online website will dictate if this is practical or not. The cost of a dedicated SharePoint environment is much higher than within your Office 365 subscription.
What you will achieve by sticking with SharePoint is a lower switching cost as much if not all of your content and customisations will be reusable. So if you have a large amount of content, or a high degree of customisation the ability to migrate from SharePoint Online to SharePoint Classic may outweigh the higher long term costs.
We decided not to do this and moved our website from SharePoint Online to Wix.
The alternatives to SharePoint Online for your public website
There are lots of options for how to create your new website. Most of these can be self implemented and/or self managed.
We are still amazed to hear of businesses being quoted tens of thousands of dollars to create simple sites, or using technology that's so complicated that they need costly ongoing IT services to add content, change images, rank in search engines or launch campaigns.
There is no need for that level of expenditure or to be locked in for updates.
Lots of choice can sometimes be confusing though, so when picking your replacement technology, think about your fundamental requirements;
Do you need eCommerce capability?
Is there a pre-made template that suits your business type and structure?
Will you be writing a blog?
Do you need to plug in to eMail marketing?
Will you take bookings from your site?
Is search engine optimisation important for your reach?
Are the device types and browsers people will use to get to your site supported?
Do you have content that requires sign in or is everything public?
Can you plug in analytics?
Will someone with normal typing and technical skills be updating things?
Do you want managed hosting that you don’t need to bother about?
In our case we needed all of the above, and Wix could deliver this, so we went with it.
There are alternative and some of the leading options are compared here.
The process of re-implementing your SharePoint Online public website
To tailor the template to our needs, recreate our content, point all existing pages on SharePoint Online to the Wix equivalents, plug in contact forms, booking calendar, and purchasing for our pre-built SharePoint solutions took 3 days.
The time was shortened by having access to the content for copy/paste, and we didn't lose Google rankings because we could list all the SharePoint Online links that needed to be repointed (which is another great feature of WIX).
From here on in, availability of the site is managed for us, the security certificate is managed for us, the domain name is managed for us, and the content is managed by us so the carrying cost is minimal.
Although there is an implementation cost (that was internal time for us) the ongoing costs for the Wix site are in line with the costs we had for our website on SharePoint Online in Office 365.
We are happy with the outcome and can fast track your move from a SharePoint Online website to a Wix website should you need help.