CTO Advice: Choosing the Right Corporate Website Solution

Andrew Weaver
February 29, 2024

Sometimes, community threads turn themselves into ready-made blog posts. This one, which deals with proven ways to manage a corporate website, definitely deserves a wider audience.

Feel free to comment and ask questions here, but your best option is to join the thread on our Slack #ask-the-community channel.

Back to our thread…

Ken, a Texas-based CTO asked the one question every tech leader is asking these days: 

What is the current opinion on the best choice(s)/practice(s) for handling the corporate website?

Ken is looking for solutions for three immediate challenges:

  1. What to implement?
  2. Whom to engage to migrate content?
  3. Whom to engage for small continuous ad-hoc updates?

Context:

“As tech leaders, we all dig in on managing and running our product development”, Ken explains, “But the corporate website generally gets short-shrift and runs off to the side.

Current security posture considerations have pushed me into changing that off-to-the-side mentality, as I have had global bank partners vulnerability scan the corp site, calling out failings, and seeking evidence of data protection (PII and GDPR, for example). This is all critically important (there was an SQL injection opening in the search), but the ease of the business and marketing managing the website content is critical as well.

We are in the middle of a rebranding effort, and it is the perfect time for me to completely change how the website is built, run and managed. Currently, it is a home-built LAMP stack run in AWS EC2 self-hosted, with an outsourced dev team that isn’t performing well for the cost.  

The website is fairly straightforward, with blogs, press releases, case studies, search and SF/Pardot tracking for marketing, but not much else (no e-commerce, for instance).

In one of the MBA course lectures on Brand, it was Julian I believe who talked about your user support experience being a part of your brand. I’ve always viewed it as another component in your Product Offerings Portfolio and should be treated that way.  

This is a SaaS site that needs to be branded for white-labelled customers, cohesively matching the general branding and tailored to the different needs of different personas who will use it.”

Along with Ken, Brian, Director of Digital Technology in Massachusetts, is also looking at WordPress to replace their current small off-the-shelf CMS for a large (and multiple-site) footprint on a self-hosted stack. More specifically, they are looking at the WP Engine and Kinsta to take hosting off their hands. 

Brian and the rest of his team are aware that it will require some work to get multisite up and running and set permissions for individuals/groups to restrict access to certain sections of the site. That is the core of their current CMS. But they also think that it is one of the issues with WordPress. 

Additional Questions:

In Ken’s opinion, WordPress has always been a strong choice, especially if you run it on something like WP Engine (he has friends who worked there a long time).

But he’s also wondering if modern low-code platforms like Webflow or Wix are the way to go. If so, should it be cloud-hosted (as intended) or should they take the effort and limitations of self-hosting (which can be done), use Webflow for building it, and then just export and host it on their own? Or is it some completely different way?

Advice From Our Global CTO Community

Sid, Fractional CTO and CTO Academy Contributor

“While WordPress and low-code options are super user-friendly and quick to set up, I tend to lean towards Next.js for a few reasons.

  • Next.js is awesome for SEO, making sure your site gets the visibility it deserves, especially important during a rebrand. 
  • Finding developers is easier and more budget-friendly than you might think. 
  • You get top-notch performance and full control over your site. It’s like having the best of both worlds – flexibility and power under the hood.

Every platform has its perks, but if you’re looking for something that scales well and gives you more customisation, Next.js is definitely worth considering.” 


Paul, CTO, Manchester

“Good question, Ken. We too have had the same questions fired over about our corporate site. When we refreshed our site, we used Webflow. However, that was mostly because the CEO wouldn’t commit any budget or resources to it, but that’s a story for another day.

The right solution will ultimately come down to the skill of the resource you have to maintain it.

I’m going to assume that this kind of site stays mostly the same except for news updates and a contact form. 

If that’s the case, a static site with a headless CMS is worth a look

You’ll negate any need for hosting aside from a CDN such as Cloudflare or Netlify. With zero admin panel or dynamic things happening, like in WordPress for example, it’s much less prone to security vulnerabilities (eg, Cloudflare Pages or Gatsby/Docusaurus.

Webflow is a good low-code tool that supports integration with Figma. There are, however, a couple of fundamentals regarding security (not supporting HSTS, for example).”


Tome, Head of Engineering, USA

“I think Webflow is pretty good for static pages and simple CMS needs. You do need someone who knows it well to utilise it; otherwise, it will likely turn into a mess.

I would look at hosted Ghost if you want more of a real CMS. It is a lot slicker than WordPress and has good out-of-the-box SEO support. Ghost is also easy to set up. The framework comes with a GitHub repo. It contains a base setup for creating themes which is, pretty much, straightforward.

WordPress is definitely capable; it just feels so cluttered and ancient to me personally.” 


Ravi, CTO, Washington

“For corporate sites that do not change often, I would stick to WordPress.

(I have not used Webflow and others as much).

It’s simple enough and easy to find theme developers or builders for any changes. Contractors and even non-engineers can make a lot of content changes if not all.”


Jayson, Head of Cloud Platforms Transformation, North Carolina

“I have some direct/indirect experience with a few of these in question and here’s my take:

  • Wix – Great for cookie-cutter websites, easy to configure, has advanced things like a lead magnet, distro list, blogs, etc. On the other hand, it can be pricey depending on needs, and painful when doing custom things.
  • Webflow – Offers more control over the pages, you can do custom design, but the trade-off is the learning curve and also their responsive interfaces are a little quirky.
  • WordPress – I’ve only hosted my own. You can go to AWS Lightsail and install one in minutes. It is a pretty straightforward setup (no code unless you need to do something custom). It’s also great for advanced web features like e-commerce. For static pages, however, it may be overkill.

To summarise, if you are looking for a quick migration and don’t need a unique/custom-looking website, then Wix may be worth an eval.”


Byron, CTO, Cape Town

“I use Ghost for my personal site. But it’s not as simple to set up custom things because it’s a post or page only. Therefore, you have to do some creative queries for dynamic content (think blocks or custom post types in WP terms ). 

I’m fond of Next.js and use it for a lot of projects. But if you want ease of use, no/low-code, Framer is also a great option. It has a Figma integration. We used it at my previous company for the marketing site.

Wix also has a powerful backend that allows you to write custom JS and run things like APIs etc. But if you don’t mind the effort, using Ghost as a backend (headless CMS) with their API and then putting a Next.js layer on top, it’s pretty powerful. And Next.js standalone builds make it quite lightweight.

For WordPress, I’ve used the Sage theme as a boilerplate/skeleton. It brings Laravel’s blade templating and has better integration with Composer, so you can bypass a lot of the plugin bloat with WP.

A note on the Ghost and Next.js docs. They are a bit dated and the Ghost content API package hasn’t been updated for a while, but the gist is there.”


Stanislav, Co-CTO, Serbia

“I had a chat with our Websites Delivery Manager and a Team Lead, and here are key takeaways from the discussion:

We would select Webflow or WordPress for simple websites if monthly hosting costs and development time are of utmost importance.

If there are other more critical non-functional requirements, we would propose Umbraco CMS. There are several reasons for that:

  • The corporate websites are mainly based on complex designs that follow current trends and best practices. These require flexibility to adapt to those designs.
  • Umbraco follows .Net releases (updates after each major release).
  • Being an open-source CMS, there is a strong community behind it.
  • It has built-in support for multi-website and multilingual content structures.
  • Compared to WordPress, it requires more time for site development, but the development team has full control over the code, and it is less plugin-dependent, providing high flexibility.
  • A built-in headless support allows the decoupling of backend and frontend implementations. In this case, there are no design limitations, allowing developers to follow the best practices, including SEO optimisation.
  • The back office is user-friendly, and content editors can easily update content. Content editors have full control and flexibility over site content and its structure.
  • It ticks the boxes of security and performance out of the box and can support thousands of website users.
  • It can be hosted on-premise, in Umbraco Cloud or any other cloud platform, such as Azure, AWS or GCP. Umbraco Cloud could be a bit pricey with a monthly subscription of 250+ euros, but in this case, we would revert to either on-premise hosting or deployment on a preferred cloud provider.

Of course, there are many other options above those mentioned. Our advice is to assess what are the non-functional requirements for the website (eg, security, performance, scalability, flexibility, extensibility, development time/cost, pricing, user-friendliness for content editors, etc.) and go with a solution that satisfies most of them.”


What does your experience say? What is the best choice and whom to engage for migration and day-to-day maintenance?

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