This question, “Can SharePoint be used for public websites (in addition to intranets)?” comes up a lot. The knock on previous versions of SharePoint (2010 and before) has always been that it can be expensive, it doesn’t do search engine optimization (SEO) well, it has trouble with mobile, multiple language support is weak, etc. While we have been delivering excellent SharePoint sites for a long time, it really takes a good level of expertise to pull it off correctly.
With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has promised a better, less expensive extranet experience. Have they delivered? According to Rob Wagner, who posted this article “Prediction 2013: An Explosion of SharePoint Internet Sites… and a Grain of Salt” on CMS Wire, there are some really nice features in SP2013 for extranets, but still some gotchas. Here are some of the pros and cons offered in the article.
- A snippets gallery allows designers to see what their pages look like when generated by SharePoint, which will help eliminate the back and forth between design and developers.
- SharePoint 2013 allows for SEO friendly URLs, which will help with getting higher up on search engine results.
- Device channels allow you to target page layout to specific devices, so you can design a much more responsive site.
- The new integrated search engine works great out of the box. In fact, Microsoft is pushing the idea that you can create a search driven website and dispense with hard-coded queries altogether. This is implemented in the Content by Search Web Part.
- Licensing for the use of SP2013 in public internet sites is now included with SP2013, where previously it was an additional charge.
- SharePoint 365, the cloud-based version of SharePoint does not yet have all the same features of SP2013. For example, while there is a big push for the Content by Search feature as mentioned above, this does not exist in SharePoint 365 yet.
- While SP2013 now includes the public internet license, Rob says that list prices for SP2013 have gone up 38%. Depending on your license deal with Microsoft, it may be more or less expensive than SP2010.
- The contribution or content authoring experience is still cumbersome in SP2013. For example, you can drag and drop images into a document library, but not into a content editor.
Here is the bottom line I take from the article: There are many great improvements in SharePoint 2013, but you probably still require some expert assistance to implement truly great public websites. What do you think?