Own your code
Maintain full code and content ownership, transforming your site into a value-driving, future-proofed asset rather than a monthly cost.
Maintain full code and content ownership, transforming your site into a value-driving, future-proofed asset rather than a monthly cost.
Implement an enforceable design system, enabling your creative team to deliver clear and engaging pages that conform to brand.
Scale across the organization’s digital needs with minimal changes to tooling, architecture, or development practices.
Employ a developer-first composable microservices architecture, enabling tooling and environment choice, which helps your engineers stay focused on building scalable code and reusable components rather than pixel-pushing tasks.
Create a unified, comprehensive, and stable editing experience, empowering Marketing to create, edit, and publish pages autonomously while seamlessly operating within branding guidelines.
These principles can be applied to websites written in any programming language which use any combination of headless content management services, APIs, and databases. The more principles you adopt, the more time and money you’ll save.
The authors of this document understand all too well the challenges and pitfalls of web development. We have been directly involved in the development of hundreds of websites, and have witnessed the development, operation, and scaling of countless more via our work on Stackbit, the business website-building platform.
This methodology synthesizes our experiences and observations from a wide variety of business websites. It identifies ideal practices for website development, with particular focus on driving immediate, maximum impact, improving collaboration between site stakeholders (Engineering, Marketing, and Design), and replacing the cost of software rot with the benefits of robust, maintainable, and extensible architecture.
We are motivated to raise awareness of the systemic problems in modern website development and to offer a comprehensive set of conceptual solutions.
If you are a technically minded business leader, or you are buying or re-engineering a medium-to-enterprise business website…YES.
A slow publishing process creates a death spiral for a company’s website.
The trouble usually begins when Marketing can’t complete seemingly easy tasks on its own, like changing copy, adding a call-to-action button, or publishing a page. Engineering sees these tasks as tedious and low priority, so they often end up in a ticketing backlog. This dependency causes Marketing to publish late, driving significantly less impact than if they had published immediately and potentially missing crucial deadlines.
Because of frustrations with website architecture, when major changes are needed, like adding a new component or integrating a third-party tool, teams often compensate by making “hotfixes,” or single-use code updates to plug the dam. These fixes work in the moment, but their unscalable nature makes future site updates harder and harder. And before companies know it, even hot fixes themselves turn into arduous tasks because the codebase is ridden with dependencies.
As these processes repeat, friction grows between teams as stakeholders struggle to use the site. Soon, only critical changes are made to the website and, since the stakeholders aren’t empowered, those changes take even longer.
"The No. 1 thing a business should consider when re-platforming their website is why they are re-platforming. I have seen re-platforming fail when stakeholders are not aligned on why the change is needed and what they want to achieve from their new website. Knowing the ‘why’ clears the path for all future decision-making and helps build consensus across various teams."
— Brian Lloyd - Chief Strategist, Platforms @ Apply Digital
An X Factor website enables Marketing to create, edit, and publish pages independently. When major changes are needed to the website, Design and Engineering can move quickly using the tools they know best, deploying without depending on the status of any in-progress tasks.
Empowering your teams to work on their own accelerates workflows and reduces frustration and downtime.
Even when teams need to collaborate with one another, shortening the time to market is the most important indication of a healthy, impact-driving website.
What is a design system? A design system is the collection of colors, fonts, shapes, layouts, etc. that together deliver a clear and pleasing experience while conforming to your brand.
Very few non-designers can create a compelling, to-brand web page without acting in accordance with a design system. When you build pages that deviate from your brand and voice, you lose trust and create disconnects with your target market that you’ll have to repair later.
To ensure Marketing feels empowered to build pages and components independently, two rules should be followed:
Use a system with set guardrails. Marketing should not need to worry about finding the right shade of blue or adjusting the padding of elements. Design should have already created a full system for this. An X Factor website enforces the design system so Marketing can build pages fast while automatically staying on-brand.
Consolidate to one system. With an X Factor website, Design can work from their tool of choice. After they’ve completed an update, Design can simply click “Publish” in their tool, then instantly import that component’s relevant guardrails to the website builder for Marketing to use.
Implementing these two rules allows Design to work on the most impactful things without repeating work or getting frustrated when their guidelines are ignored. It also means that Marketing is empowered to build pages and components independently, without worrying about doing the wrong thing or not following company brand.
The number one obstacle keeping a company from adding critical features to its site is that they don’t fully own the website’s content and code.
This problem stems from monolithic site-building platforms, which are designed to support millions of websites. To support this scale, monoliths set boundaries for what the websites that use their platform can and cannot do. Without these limitations, the monolith’s business couldn’t scale. But that’s their problem — the issue is when it becomes your problem.
”In our experience, we have found that re-platforming is often part of an effective solution when clients are looking to address technical debt concerns. When making the decision, it’s important to balance your business goals and expected outcomes with both the financial and opportunity costs from the time it takes to properly re-platform without interruption. Choosing a technology, partner, and implementation strategy that allow you to minimize these risks is key.”
— Rohit Ravikoti - CTO @ Novvum io
For example, say your SEO expert recommended adding specific fields to some content types. If the feature isn’t supported, your business must decide whether to move forward without it, devaluing your website, or rebuild the site from scratch. This concept is called “vendor lock-in.”
The fact is, one day you’ll need to make bespoke updates to your site or work processes. When that day comes, you want to have the option to implement what the business needs without jumping through hoops.
An X Factor website retains full content and code ownership. Because you own your site, you can implement whatever your business needs quickly, without having to create technical debt or engage in a full website overhaul.
Every dependency you add to your website is a new potential point of failure. Some good indications that a tool add has made your site more vulnerable:
2. Your production site can’t run independently of their platform
3. You get charged based on traffic and proxies of your data
An X Factor website eliminates these problems.
The component library you build becomes an asset that evolves and grows over a long period of time. It should be built according to your businesses’ needs and preferences. Re-writing or adjusting it every time you switch frameworks is extremely costly and can prevent you from making timely updates.
Your business should only pay for tools that host your site and your media assets. Why should you pay for tools that charge you based on traffic?
An X Factor website has as few dependencies or sources of failure in its stack as possible. This gives your business the highest possible uptime reliability and maximum control of your site’s code.
If your website isn’t driving business impact, you can get by with a no-code website builder. But large and growing companies will need a developer at some point in their website’s life.
X Factor websites are built for optimal engineering effectiveness. This allows you to:
When Engineering can work effectively with your company’s website, you’ll have the ability to make important changes fast with short development cycles.
Get rid of the monolithic tangle of legacy website builders. The tightly coupled architecture of bundling tools together slows development cycles and needlessly complicates scaling.
“To achieve the best outcomes, leaders must first and foremost design their new website architecture to support the ability of their teams to get their work done – from design through to deployment – with as little friction as possible.”
— Bertrand Karerangabo - Chief Strategy Officer @ Rangle
While a tool that does everything sounds convenient, website builders have learned a few key lessons the hard way over the decades:
Engineering works faster when concerns are separated into independent, specialized systems.
Modular systems future-proof your web operations, providing flexibility to replace and upgrade individual components without impacting the entire site.
The ecosystem of web offerings has bloomed exponentially. With new microservices, deployment platforms, and web technologies entering the marketplace every day, a nimble, agile architecture is the only way to continue to take advantage of new opportunities.
An X Factor website supports the tools best suited for your business for each subsystem. Its built-in flexibility also gives your business the ability to add, remove, or change any of them separately, at any time.
Unbundling your platform can be a huge relief to Engineering. But you can’t just pass the confusion down to Marketing.
"If we must be trained for hours on how the back end system of the website works, then it isn’t intuitive or well designed. Marketers and designers need to spend our time on value-driving activities, not wasting it learning random systems we’ll use sporadically and forget by the time we need to update the website again."
— Shira Abel - CEO @ Hunter and Bard
We just explained why microservices are so valuable for developers. They can, however, create a dance between different publishing systems (a CMS, an e-Commerce platform, a personalization engine, etc.). The last thing you want is for Marketing to consistently struggle to find where a certain string is stored and then have to log into that system to change it.
Without the ability to see their changes in full context, Marketing’s work can end up slow and sloppy. Changing the content of your website should be intuitive and fast. It only makes sense to simplify and streamline that side of web development as well.
An X Factor website empowers marketers by placing all their tools at their fingertips, in context with the website. Actions like updating text, swapping an image, viewing analytics, personalizing variants of a component, and even publishing microservices all happen in one place with full context of the site itself. This way, your team can build the pages they need in the shortest amount of time.
Business websites need to integrate an endless number of tools during their lifetime: analytics, form submissions, email campaigns, CRMs, etc.
Some monolithic site builders will tout endless pages of possible integrations. But, as time passes, there will always be one missing service your team desperately needs, or a custom integration with your organization’s internal application or database that they can’t provide. These could be user profiles you want to showcase, a real-time system status you want to make visible, or some still-to-be-invented application.
To solve for this limitation, X Factor websites use an open architecture. This allows you to integrate with any tool you choose and write any custom integration that might be needed. That way, you’re prepared no matter what the future brings.
When anyone at a company can change anything on a website, you inevitably end up with accidental, never-before-seen versions of a page on the live site. At best, these errors drain company time and resources, At worst, they can launch PR crises and open you up to legal liability and even government sanctions.
Every business can benefit from a publishing process. Whether yours restricts editing permissions to specific teams or individuals, or requires legal approval for certain publishing, understanding your needs can help you discover the process that works best for you.
An X Factor website applies your governance requirements and publishing workflows so your teams stay focused on ROI-producing tasks, rather than on avoiding — or picking up the pieces from — disasters.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but fostering an environment that promotes independence between teams actually promotes teamwork.
"When content and logic can evolve independently, Marketing and Engineering can focus on what they do best, reducing coordination overhead."
— Barak Naveh - serial entrepreneur, ex-Meta, Founder and CTO.
For most companies today, collaborating on a website update is a Herculean task. These unsuccessful efforts usually look something like this:
Marketing tries to publish a page on its own, but they hit an error and file a ticket for Engineering to fix it.
Engineering prioritizes other urgent tickets, so it takes longer than Marketing had hoped to publish the page.
When the page is finally published, Design gets frustrated because Marketing didn’t follow the design brand book.
This constant friction means that not only does work get done much slower than it should, but also destroys the morale of all teams involved and drives animosity between them. Worse, these problems compound over time, further eroding trust and making each iteration less likely to start.
With an X Factor website, teams work with their tooling of choice independently and set guardrails so the everyone can complete their own work effectively and drive impact. This means:
Though all these teams use different tools to get their jobs done, the collaboration is successful because each handoff respects the integrity of the other team’s work. By reducing dependencies and eliminating bottlenecks, the coherent organizational strategy can take shape around a common architecture, comprehensive design system, and supportive tools and platform.
See what an X Factor website can do for your organization.