Good & Bad Use Cases for Force.com Sites

Taking a look at different uses for Force.com Sites and some of the decisions as to whether to use the feature or not.

Almost two years ago Salesforce.com released a new piece to their cloud computing platform, Force.com Sites. This new functionality allows for Salesforce customers to build externally facing websites on the platform using VisualForce for the design and APEX for the logic. The unique thing about Force.com Sites is that it allows customers to expose parts of their Salesforce.com instance. Both data and logic can be exposed as part of the website and then distributed over the Salesforce.com content delivery network (CDN).

The question is, what is the right use case to use Force.com sites? These are just some of the good and bad uses cases.

Good Uses

Small Landings: One of the first and most common uses is small landing pages for marketing campaigns. These can be easily connected to a web-to-lead form and Google Adwords tracking. This allows companies to measure the success of their online campaigns without dual entry of data.

Low Function: Force.com Sites are great for low functioning websites, meaning mostly serving up templated content and tracking that use. Things like images and documents benefit from the content delivery network built in and is something that most small to medium website never get to take advantage of.

Salesforce Connected: There is no better way to expose the data housed in a Salesforce instance to the web then through Force.com Sites. With some small bits of code, objects and fields that are tracked in Salesforce can be built into content rich pages and seen by anonymous visitors. It is also a good choice if you are extending the Salesforce.com portal.

Out of the Box: Using products such as Ideas and Knowledge or exposing data to social networks is a great use case for Force.com Sites. The Dell Ideastorm and Starbucks My Ideas are great examples.

Bad Uses

Highly Complex: Websites that range from hundreds to thousands of pages with highly dynamic features are not really well suited for Force.com Sites. While the platform allows for tools such as Eclipse, it is bound by functions of Visualforce and APEX and the hosting parameters of Salesforce.com such as the complexities in sourcing certain types of data. This could limit both development resources and complex functionality that could be had in other systems and languages.

Content Management: While content can be surfaced through Force.com Sites from Salesforce and can inherit workflow and approval processes, it would require a lot of development work to do so. For websites that are creating boat loads of content with a variety of different users, a traditional (if not Open Source) CMS would be a better bet.

Community Based Widgets: The creation of websites with high functionality including such features such as polls, social networking, forums and chat is still best left to the mature market of website creation software where adding in that type of functionality is just a click away.

Takeaways

Overall Force.com Sites offer a great new way to publish anything from landing pages to full websites and the product continues to grow as the platform evolves. Also keep an eye on the AppExchange as partners develop new Force.com Sites products to catch up to the rest of the website market.

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