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Is HubSpot COS Right for Your Website Redesign?

By April 14, 2016March 31st, 2017Web Dev, Web Development

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Web Development” blog series.

Redesigning a website is nearly always a resource-intensive endeavor for marketing departments. There are project plans, design mockups to create, review and approve; templates to build; functionality to create. Then there are the resources you need to create content. Anything that can save time in the website design, development, and management processes has the potential to add considerable value, even more so if it can streamline future website management and updates.

HubSpot COS has the potential to deliver welcome efficiencies to website managers. It may not be as popular with developers, especially advanced ones. But COS does offer one important benefit across the marketing department–it takes control of the company’s website out of the hands of IT and into the hands of the people responsible for using the site to increase sales: Marketing.

First, some background.

In 2013, HubSpot, already one of the leading marketing automation platforms, got into the website development and hosting business when it introduced its Content Optimization System (COS). Most web development platforms (WordPress, Drupal, etc.) call themselves Content Management Systems (CMS). With the new name, HubSpot was signaling why it entered the space and where it could add value–going beyond being a content repository to create a dynamic, integrated platform that has the potential to bundle website development and management with SEO, email marketing, landing pages, lead nurturing, and scoring tools–all features of the HubSpot marketing platform.

Is it fixing something that ain’t broke?

How does this help website developers? Let’s compare COS to WordPress, one of the most popular CMS platforms. WordPress started as a blogging platform and evolved into a powerful, flexible CMS. It is open source, which means its most basic version is free, and there are a vast number of developers that make plugins, sort of like application developers for smartphones, to add functionality. WordPress makes it easy to create web pages and blog posts. You add plugins to do things like create forms for landing pages, implement SEO best practices, insert calls to action, publish on social networks, measure results, and other features that are already built into HubSpot. WordPress has no contact management, email features, workflow or lead nurturing capabilities.

What this means from a practical standpoint is that with WordPress or other CMS platforms, web developers and marketing managers need to constantly shift between the CMS and other applications to implement many digital marketing tools and processes, to run campaigns, and to measure results–whether using HubSpot or other marketing automation tools.

Ask any marketer responsible for digital marketing using HubSpot and WordPress together for inbound marketing, or WordPress and Constant Contact and a host of plug-ins, and they’ll tell you how tiresome it can be to use multiple platforms to build and implement marketing campaigns. But historically marketers didn’t have a choice, which may explain why HubSpot added the COS.

COS without HubSpot? Nah.

Is COS a superior tool without HubSpot? Probably not. One reason is cost. COS costs $300/month–not an astronomical price as it includes enterprise-class hosting and security by HubSpot, but a price many won’t pay just because they don’t have to. Other drawbacks to the HubSpot COS is that there are no database-driven pages and no server-side code (e.g. PHP). If those features are important to a business and their marketing projects, COS won’t do.

If you are a current HubSpot user, on the other hand…

The benefits of COS for HubSpot users, however, can be powerful. For developers, HubSpot COS offers drag and drop template building, free themes, and a WYSIWYG editor with an as-you-type preview that displays real-time edits. You can also view a live preview of how the site will appear on mobile devices and tablets. WordPress offers drag and drop templates and has recently added WYSIWYG editing Visual Composer and/or plug ins. It offers thousands of themes–many are free–but most are developed by third parties and you have to hope that they will prove easy to work with, and that they will be updated and maintained on a regular basis. The lack of access to code on COS, however, can be a non-starter for some advanced developers who find coding far more efficient than visual editing.

For marketing managers, the time saving advantages make HubSpot COS an attractive option. Take, for example, building a conversion path. Using a CMS and HubSpot together requires building some elements in HubSpot, others in WordPress, and stitching the pieces together–the call to action, landing page, thank you page, email confirmation workflows involved in most marketing campaigns. Moving back and forth between the platforms involves lots of switching time, as well as a lot of testing and validation. If you are running a large number of campaigns, the time savings reaped from doing all of this and more from a single interface can be considerable.

Next, think of your analytics. With your website integrated into your marketing automation system, all of your traffic analysis in one place–no more triangulating between Google Analytics and HubSpot to assess site traffic, referrals, and conversions. This also gives you the ability to see a single contact’s entire interaction and engagement with your company in a single view.

And then there’s support…

Finally, consider the long-term benefits. If you’re already using HubSpot, you know that they are constantly improving the platform based on user feedback and industry developments like Google algorithm changes and emerging marketing best practices–not to mention security developments. WordPress is developed by a distributed community of good samaritans and tends to lurch forward in fits and starts. The plugin developers are even more distributed, and you have to hope that each one is constantly responding to changes in technology and security at a reasonable pace. HubSpot offers top notch support as well, whereas with WordPress if you have a question you need to sift through user forums hoping to find answers. For those of us who have spent hours doing just that–frustrated by some bug and hoping someone else has faced and solved the same problem and shared the answer with the rest of the world–support may be worth the $300 all by itself. Add the fact that HubSpot will be constantly updating and improving the platform, making it all the more attractive.

So, is HubSpot the answer for your website project? If you are already using HubSpot, I’d give it strong consideration. It can always be challenging to learn new tools, but the time savings, support, and continuing innovation of the platform can make it a powerful alternative, and well worth the additional investment.

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Web Development” blog series.