Adobe Announces End Of Business Catalyst
On March 26, 2018 Adobe announced the end of development for the Business Catalyst platform it first acquired in 2009. This was a shocking announcement to the development community that has supported the platform for nearly a decade. The Interactive Dept. currently manages 52 websites on the Business Catalyst platform, and we currently have two sites in development. There are many of questions about what happens next, specifically as to how organizations running Business Catalyst websites can go about "converting" to a new platform. We don't have all the answers yet, but here is what we know at the moment.
What Are The Key Business Catalyst End-Of-Life Dates?
According to Adobe's announcement regarding the end-of-life for Business Catalyst, starting August 27th, 2018, no new Adobe Business Catalyst sites can be developed/launched. If you already have an existing Business Catalyst website that is currently live, this deadline will not affect your site. However, at this moment, Adobe is stating that all Business Catalyst websites will be shut down on March 26, 2021 (originally this was set for 2020, but after protest Adobe agreed to extend things for another year).
Adobe has said it will continue to support the platform, making updates for security needs and fixing any mission-critical bugs. All of the tools will continue to work as intended, so if your site is currently working, you can expect that it will continue to do so for the next two years.
If your organization has a Business Catalyst website there's no need to panic, as you certainly have some time to plan. We all know two years on the Internet is a lifetime, so likely updates/upgrades to your website will probably be needed anyhow by 2021. However, you will want to make sure to be fully up and running on a new platform before March of 2021, as this is not a flexible deadline. Once Adobe shuts down the platform, your site will no longer exist.
Can I Transfer My Business Catalyst Website To Another Platform?
All content management systems (CMS) have their own proprietary codebase used to manage the various tools/services that run on the platform. Adobe Business Catalyst is not simply "hosting" – it is an application that literally runs your website. The codebase cannot be transferred to another provider. As such, even if you were to download all your files from the Adobe server via FTP and install them on another server, the site would not display or run as desired. If you decide to switch to WordPress or Drupal or SquareSpace or any alternative CMS - you'll have to develop the site using their codebase. You can certainly copy over the content, images, graphics, fonts and other source files that make up the look/feel of the site and its core content. However, new templates will have to be developed on that platform, and things like forms, eCommerce, blogs and secure member-only areas will have to be re-developed with new tools.
What Platform Should I Migrate To From Business Catalyst?
This question really depends on what tools your website utilizes. If you have a relatively straightforward website of text and graphics with maybe a few forms, then switching to WordPress would most likely be your best bet. The WordPress admin is very similar to Business Catalyst, and its very solid from an SEO standpoint. It has a huge collection of plugins that can handle things like integration with popular email marketing platforms, social media tools and other widgets that can assist with everything from image galleries to directories.
If your website is more of an eCommerce site, then you might want to utilize a platform that is more optimized for that. For basic online shops, platforms like SquareSpace, WIX or Shopify offer a really easy-to-use interface optimized for sales. Both platforms have a large collection of very professional looking templates that can be customized with photography and various layout settings to create a unique and personalized look that does not feel like a clunky template. Alternatively, you could utilize a platform like WooCommerce that is focused on eCommerce, but is still an open-source platform built on WordPress.
For more complex e-Commerce sites with very custom needs, you might have to invest in a more robust e-Commerce solution such as Magento, which will require a strong development team (and budget) to build, but can be completely customized for almost any business needs. A recent article from Inc. Magazine does a good job of comparing the most popular e-Commerce platforms and the pros and cons of each.
If you're an organization that utilizes Business Catalyst WebApps or Secure Zones, you will need to review each of these areas of your website and determine which platforms and plugins might work best to accomplish those same tasks. While these tools can't be transferred, they can most likely be replicated pretty painlessly. If your organization currently has recurring payments, this will be affected as well. We are looking into possible ways of maintaining these recurring payments – but at this moment it appears organizations will have to set up new payments with clients/donors on their new platform.
This Sounds Complicated - Can you Help?
Of course! At this moment we are collecting all the facts in order to understand the implications for our existing clients - especially those who have just recently launched their sites. We are reviewing all the potential alternative platforms and getting up to speed on what Business Catalyst features can be easily replicated on each. While Business Catalyst was our preferred platform, we have extensive experience with WordPress and have built many SquareSpace and Shopify sites as well. We are reaching out to developers on all the platforms mentioned in this post to make sure we have the support needed to assist our clients and anyone in the Business Catalyst community affected by Adobe's decision.
A New Decade Of Digital Marketing
We're disappointed with Adobe's decision, but in our 15 years of business we've learned that as technology evolves so does the way we connect with our customers. Digital marketing solutions that converted five years ago such as email marketing or Google PPC, no longer have the return on investment they once did. New approaches such as paid social and influencer marketing have overtaken them. Companies that don't consistently review their digital marketing strategy will see their numbers continue to fall.
Adobe has given us thrww years. 2021 is going to be the start of a fascinating new decade that will change everything we know about communications and marketing. Voice is going to replace traditional text search for millions of consumers. Virtual and Augmented Reality is going to change the way we show visitors our products and venues. The migration from desktops to phones and tablets will continue to make large, text-heavy websites seem burdensome at best.
Still Have Questions?
How will your business compete in the next decade? It's a question we would love to help you answer. That starts with a conversation (a free one at that) where we discuss your organization and what you're currently doing online, as well as goals and budgets to get an idea of what might be possible. We'll then put together a proposal with a variety of options, so you can determine the best path forward. Even if you're not ready to take action now, at least you'll have a clear picture of the road ahead. Fill out the form below and we can schedule a time to have that conversation.