Why use SharePoint Publishing for public internet sites?

Is SharePoint the best Web Content Management System you can get? Is it the best platform for your internet sites? Maybe not. There are specialized WCM platforms like Tridion, SiteCore and EPIServer that might be better. But there are many reasons why you would use SharePoint over the many alternatives.

Strategic platform for many organizations – SharePoint is a platform that works great for intranets and extranets. It is often selected as the strategic web platform within an organization. There is a SharePoint unless policy. So why not do the public facing web sites on SharePoint as well?

Unified web platform – In these organizations SharePoint is used as the unified web platform that is used for team, divisional, intranet, extranet, and internet sites. This unified platform promises to reduce cost and increase agility.


With respect to the Internet this vision is also promoted by Microsoft as Microsoft’s Internet Business Vision with focus on IT Control (existing infrastructure, low TCO) and web agility; one platform to rule them all:


See also: Microsoft's Internet Business Platform Vision Part 1, Microsoft's Internet Business Platform Vision Part 2


Reuse of knowledge and people - Unified Development, Unified Infrastructure; the same skills can be reused for development and maintenance.

Existing relationships – the Communication department (focusing on Intranet/Extranet) and the Marketing department (focusing on Internet) are either the same group of people, or working close together.

Support from the community – SharePoint is one of the Microsoft server products with the best community support in blogs, support sites and open source projects. For example on http://codeplex.com you can find 1300 open source projects related to SharePoint, versus for example 27 projects for EPIServer.

SharePoint is a development platform – SharePoint isn’t just an out of the box product, it is a development platform that you can extend at will, like an infinite number of companies already did to provide you with tools for all the (many) gaps that exist in the out of the box SharePoint offering.


But if you look at the Internet sites that are built with SharePoint Publishing, some people are a bit disappointed. Microsoft’s classic showcases like http://ferrari.com and http://www.hawaiianair.com deliver pages with 1000+ lines, and 100+ validation errors when you run the W3C validator. But there are also a lot of great sites that use the SharePoint Publishing platform. Have a look at http://www.wssdemo.com/livepivot/ for a nice overview of those sites. In a future post I will describe our approach to delivering quality HTML on the SharePoint Publishing platform. We call this approach DualLayout.


  • After managing several SharePoint based web facing projects, I am not too excited about using SharePoint for that end. The development required to get an appealing as well simple to manage website overrides most of the OOTB SharePoint functionality. Try training your administrative assistant as a content editor that needs to configure a WP and assume that there are 100 of them. In my opinion Microsoft was so far unsuccessful in extending the portal to support public websites development. I just hope that they will do it right in V5.

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