It’s not uncommon for us to receive requests to build, maintain and/or host Drupal websites on Windows servers.
Here are the main reasons why:
Familiarity – The client is aware of the Windows brand and trusts it.
Experience – The client has existing IT staff, well versed in administrating and maintaining Windows servers.
Costs – The client wants to make use of their existing Windows environment to save costs.
Integration – The project needs integration between a Drupal solution and Windows specific software such as a back-end office, ERP or CRM.
Setting up Drupal on Windows server might seem like the logical solution, but here are a few things to consider when considering deploying Drupal on a platform that is not naturally optimized for this use:
- If set-up, deployment, development and testing tasks take longer, then development costs will be higher.
- If core updates, security patches and contributed module work takes longer to implement, then ongoing maintenance costs will be higher. If these tasks are skipped because they’re difficult to implement efficiently, then the chances of a security breach are increased.
- Drupal is a big beast and performance optimization is essential to a successful project. Slow loading pages increase friction, create stress, cause abandonment, and may affect your visibility in Google search.
1. Development Skills Crossover
The Drupal community now numbers over a million individuals (based on active drupal.org member accounts). Let’s be conservative and say that a quarter of that number is developers.
That’s a pretty healthy talent pool to dip into but is dwarfed by the number of skilled Windows technicians there are out there. The problem is that there is not as much overlap as you might hope between the two.
No developers are well versed in every available technology, and most will focus on a number of associated technologies or disciplines, so a Drupal developer is likely to be highly up to speed with PHP, MySQL, Apache, Linux, and quite possibly other CMS’s, programming languages, etc that go together with other parts of that knowledge base, (e.g. Wordpress, node.js, etc).
Likewise someone who has the skills to administrate a Windows server is quite likely to have experience with .NET, SQL Server, IIS, etc.
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true… An individual that’s dedicated a large amount of their career to open source development (which is probably the case if they’ve ended up being a Drupal Developer) is less likely to have the same skills as a Microsoft certified technician and vice versa.
Now I’m being careful to use words such as ‘likely’ here, since there will be many exceptions; highly talented and technologically agnostic individuals who can fit into both sets of shoes, but it’s safe to say these are very much a minority.
Which means that the large talent pool we were looking at before has now shrunk significantly. There’s no reliable source of numbers here but I’m guessing that you’d be looking at most a few thousand individuals worldwide… many of whom will not be available to contract in.
You can imagine that it will be difficult to find the right people and probably more costly when you do.
If you do already have any tame Drupal Developers who are also Windows server administrators on the side then you’re in a fortunate position, but bear in mind that you would be in the same position if they become unavailable or the relationship breaks down.
Drupal can and does run on Windows… There are almost certainly examples of Drupal sites on Windows out there.
However installations on Windows will be a significant minority. Again it's difficult to get hard numbers on this but I wouldn't be surprised if less that 1% of Drupal sites run on Windows.
If the proportion is 1% then that means only 1% of site building and maintenance time is occurring on Windows based builds, and if we assume that Windows sites get the same average traffic then only 1% of end user interaction occurs on Windows hosted sites.
In addition, the vast majority of development of the code within Drupal itself and contributed modules and themes is likely to have been done on a LINUX/UNIX based operating system running Apache.
The upshot of this is that if there are issues with Drupal (or it's modules/themes) that only appear on one operating system or server software then they are far more likely to have been found and solved already on say a LAMP stack then on Windows/IIS.
During the process of putting together any software, including content systems such as Drupal, hard decisions have to be made based on performance.
An optimization that might improve performance in one set of circumstances could reduce it in another, and sometimes in these situations the developers end up join deciding that the improvement for the many trumps the degradation for the few. In the case of Windows / Linux / Anything else, it's pretty easy to imagine which system will end up getting the most benefit from optimization.
The individual decisions may not make much difference on their own, but the combined effect of many such performance decreases across a system as large as Drupal will likely be significant.
Additionally, there's far more chance that performance issues that exist in Drupal on Windows may not have been identified / isolated / resolved purely because of the much smaller amount of time that can go into testing and developing on Windows.
I'm talking about support from Drupal core developers, module maintainers and the community in general here.
If you encounter an issue that occurs in Drupal on Windows and is down to some low level difference in the way that Windows or IIS works, and it cannot be solved without Drupal core or a module being modified then you may find it difficult to get the help you need.
This could be because the relevant people (e.g. the maintainer of the module in question) don't…
Have the relevant experience in the differences that are causing the issue to identify or resolve it
Have the facilities readily available and set up to replicate it
Regard it as a priority… This may seem churlish but in reality if they have an issue queue with 20 open issues which could all effect 99% of users then how much priority do you think they will give to issues that only effect 1%?
Whilst Drupal can run on Windows, it may not be possible to run your particular project as efficiently on Windows over a Drupal tuned hosting stack or cloud instance such as Acquia.
If you can’t, then less efficiency means more development and maintenance cost, less reliability in certain instances, and a potential increase in friction between everyone involved in making the project a success.
Just to be clear, we don't have any kind of anti-Windows agenda here. There’s no suggestion that Windows is in any way inferior as a hosting environment, you just need a very unique combination of expertise to match what’s possible with a Drupal specific environment that’s been designed to make workflow, performance and security as good as it can be.
Cloud based Drupal hosting with network support and a suite of performance and security optimization tools. Acquia was founded by Dries Buyert, the inventor of Drupal, and is a specifically optimized product than runs on the AWS Cloud (Amazon Web Services).
Pantheon is a logical alternative to Acquia. It’s also a Drupal tuned environment that uses Rackspace at its core. It’s a different configuration but a real alternative. Unfortunately, at the time of writing there are no Pantheon servers in the EU.
If you want to lease a dedicated server, or even investigate Hybrid Cloud hosting, then Rackspace is an alternative. They also offer ‘Fanatical Support’ and have plenty of advocacy to back this up.
2014 State of Digital Marketing – An infographic by the team at Webmarketing123
You will doubtless have noticed an increase in focus on the subject of Content Marketing over the last year or so.
In fact, Content Marketing has become such a buzz, its given rise to a whole new area of career development for savvy marketers. It’s not uncommon to see job roles such as Content Strategist and Content Marketer making up a digital team now.
In this article, I’d like to explore what’s behind the move towards Content Marketing as fundamental part of Digital Strategy, but first, let’s look at the difference between an Organisation Centric culture and a Customer Centric culture:
You can see that an Organisation Centric culture puts most of its trust and faith in product and service feature sets. There may be a sprinkling of perceived benefits thrown in, and a lot of time will be spent crafting the business introduction and About Us sections of the site to try and demonstrate differentiation.
This strategy worked fine when competition in the digital landscape was less fierce, but now that it is, we have to look at engaging audiences much earlier in the sales cycle.
The following diagram demonstrates a typical search journey with an overlay of two very important factors:
Key Factor 1: 80% of users start their search journey in this way
Key Factor 2: By the time a prospect engages a business for comparative pricing, they are more than 70% commited to a single prospective vendor. This is one of the main reasons a business may witness lower lead or sale conversion rates.
The second statistic is particularly important. The majority of users will compare at least three suppliers to benchmark price and value in the final stages of purchase. However, the typical user who is completing this search journey will already be showing a 70% intent to a preferred vendor.
So targeting customers in the Tracker Phase with an Organisation Centric culture can be highly ineffective because you are relying on countering the feeling of trust, integrity, reputation and value that has been fostered by a more effective Customer Centric culture in this scenario.
Organisation Centric versus Customer Centric Web Development and Content Curating Strategies
See how this translates into two different approaches to website development and content curation:
Six Steps To Adopting a Customer Centric Culture
If you are interested in exploring the benefits of a customer centric culture for your next project, here are six steps to get you started:
1. BENCHMARKING » 2. PERSONAS » 3. USER JOURNEY » 4. CONTENT » 5. CAMPAIGN » 6. MEASUREMENT
Help your board members and stakeholders make decisions based on metrics...
- Produce a Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard to agree which metrics and KPI’s are most relevant to your organisation
- Produce a central hub of KPI metrics that can be recorded on a month-by-month basis. Ensure you have a column for MOM Growth, and group your metrics based on RACE (Reach, Act, Convert, Engage)
- Use advanced Google analytics to help curate metrics for above
- Integrate an advanced metrics dashboard into your Website CMS reporting
Ditch assumption and use real data to profile your audience and create accurate personas...
- Segment your market
- Discover your persona goals
- Discover how your customers learn
- Discover their goals
- Discover their challenges and frustrations
- Discover their preferences
3. USER JOURNEYS
Armed with a factual in-depth understanding of the issues, needs and challenges your audience faces you can now define the following with greater accuracy:
- Key user journeys or the ‘red routes’ your audience needs to follow
- The information they need
- Content and functional requirements that will drive engagement
- Rich media elements that will provide a more compelling experience
User journeys can be mapped on schematic diagrams or static wireframes, but by far the most effective way of demonstrating this in a Rapid Prototype.
A Rapid Prototype is a clickable version of an intended Website. Prototypes can by built quickly and tested in various ways to ensure the requirements of the market segmentation and persona requirements are managed effectively.
Consider what content needs to be available for the different stages of the buying process and define this in a Content Strategy.
What content will answer the questions and concerns your audience has around whether to buy your product or service?
You’ll need to earn your audiences permission to speak to them by whichever channel they prefer (telephone, contact submission, quote request, product demo, whitepaper request etc.) – how will the content on your website achieve this?
What content can you publish to demonstrate your knowledge leadership and how easily can your different audience types get to it?
Here is a logical flow charting the lead and sale generation process:
So armed with knowledge about your audience personas and the kind of content that will engage them, you will be able to plan refinements to the structure and content in your current Website, or drive a better outcome for a new Design & Build.
Now it’s time to develop inbound marketing initiatives such as SEO, Paid Search, and Social Media Marketing:
- Benchmark your Digital Marketing Capability with a score based situation analysis
- Produce a Digital Marketing SWOT adapted to recognise Strategies
- Produce a Digital Marketing Plan Summary
- Produce a Digital Strategy Summary
- Prioritise digital marketing initiatives
- Develop a long-term strategic initiative roadmap
You can search the web for free resources to help with Digital Marketing Planning, team up with a web agency that can help in this area, or choose to work with a dedicated inbound marketing agency.
The skills you currently have in-house, and the scale of your business operations will govern the choice of approach.
"What's measured improves." - Peter F. Drucker
Analytics is the cornerstone of inbound marketing strategy and armed with your Benchmarking tools you can quickly…
- Demonstrate the impact of incremental increases in Conversion Rate Optimisation
- Help departments assign budgets based on ROI rather than percentages of last year’s turnover
- Help to join up what can be a disjointed picture of your online activities
- Help react quickly to changes in customer behaviour
- Help sales and marketing departments align in more efficient ways
The appeal of inbound marketing as a cultural change is driven primarily by its ability to deliver increases in online performance that can have a dramatic effect on sales revenue.
Moreover, this lift in sales revenue comes at a lower cost than traditional marketing methods so the effect can be felt directly on the bottom line.
Adopting an inbound strategy is easier than you think, once your team is on-board. Actions and transactions can be tracked, measured and optimised to increase the value of your online efforts.
No more neglecting the real potential of your Website, or struggling to understand how the digital landscape can all be made to fit together.
Just a clear actionable strategy that will bring management, sales and marketing together in a new customer centric culture.
Many people think of graphic design as fairly subjective – beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.
But can graphic design, or more importantly, the standard of graphic design on your website help or hinder sales, and if so, by how much?
I have to confess I am a graphic design standards advocate. In my formative years I cut my teeth with one of the world’s largest Advertising Agencies and learnt all about typography, imagery, quiet space and messaging.
In fact, everything you need to create a compelling visual canvass that people will lock onto.
I’ve tried to instil a culture of persuasive design in D. Agency and its fair to say its one of our strengths. We have a reputation for creating websites with strong visual identity but its not all plain sailing.
On many an occasion, our design work has been dismissed by a minority of people as “eye candy” or “window dressing”.
This tends to happen when companies approach us for work with an “Organisation Centric” approach to web design, or comments come from people who don’t deliver particularly high standards of design, choosing the “a flashy looking website is useless if it doesn’t deliver what the customer wants” defence.
So how valid is the argument for strong design identity on a Website?
If you haven’t tried these tools yet, you really should – they can tell you why people might be leaving your Website and lots of other things as well.
These tools provide you with a real life video recording of how people interact with your Website. You can discover what the initial impression is of your site when a visitor lands on it for the first time, and you can also learn about problems or ‘friction points’ that users find irritating.
Here is a transcript of three responses from a test managed by conversionrateexperts.com on behalf of one of their clients.
“The site seemed kind of amateurish. There was a feeling that the company did not take the Website seriously.”
“In general, I think the home page needs a refresh to make it more attractive – it is now more like a virtual storefront than one from a company as well established as [company name].
“It was unprofessional and amateur looking and hard to find the correct link to use. Regardless of what size company you might be, a website can make you look as though you are the largest company in the UK… in any industry.”
Now see how a small improvement in graphic design gave an overnight 7.4% improvement
In response to similar feedback, conversionrateexperts.com carried out a very simple page re-design. There were no changes to the copy, or to elements on the page or their position – just a re-design of existing elements.
The result was an instant 7.4% increase in conversion rate from 1.78% to 1.91%.
If we take a B2B website with 10,000 visits per month and an average customer sale value of say £5,000, then the new webpage will generate £65,000 more revenue per month or £780,000 more revenue per annum.
All for the right design updates.
If your visitors are concerned about the appearance or professionalism of your Website, you could get a massive boost in leads, sales or advocacy if you re-design it.
What could an increase of say 0.5% in conversion rate mean for you?
Use our conversion rate comparison tool and enter data for your own business case – it’s free to use and you don’t have to register.
The results will demonstrate the increase in revenue from 0.5% increments in conversion rate. Go on, try it now and see what it could mean for your business.
Still not convinced?
Why not try usertesting.com or whatusersdo.com
Try using Likeart based statement responses to prime your testers. Likeart responses normally look for a response to a question based on six levels of response ranging from “Completely Disagree to Completely Agree”.
You can adapt this for user testing to get responses based on peoples “perception” of your company through your website, which is exactly how new visitors learn about your business.
Brief your testers along the following lines:
“Please visit the following website [your website], spend no more than 5 minutes navigating the site and record your response to the following statements:
- “[Your company] is a Top 3 company in its field”
- “[Your company] can help you increase your sales”
- “[your company] can help you become more efficient”
- “[Your company] can help you reduce costs”
- “I would definitely buy from [your company]”
You can tweak these questions to suit your own business but remember this important point:
All sales begin with a person’s perception about your business. It’s impossible for a person to form an in-depth assessment of your company from the first interaction.
The progression of the first interaction comes down to the person’s perception of your business and for that you need image.
An image of trust, integrity and reputation is all you need to flow a contact through to a lead, sale or advocate.
And a professional image starts with a high standard of graphic design.
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