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In 2005 when the BlueBolt partners founded our Chicago interactive agency, we quickly realized that whether or not our prospects realized it, they needed a CMS to manage their website content. After doing a deep discovery into all things CMS, we chose to support DotNetNuke (DNN). We were (and are) a Microsoft shop, and it was open source/free to us and our clients. Since then, BlueBolt has developed its own brand of DotNetNuke functional modulescalled PackFlash, which we think are best-in-class within the DNN Community and marketplace. Later, we realized we needed to support an enterprise-level CMS, so we forged a strategic relationship with Bridgeline Digital, and now also support Bridgeline’s iAPPS suite of products in Chicago and beyond.

Shameless Plug: I will be co-hosting a webinar on CMS selection with Bridgeline’s SVP of Sales on Wednesday, April 19.
Use this link and Tune in!

So ok, we needed to confidently pick a few products to suggest for our clients. But, how did we land on DNN (and why did we develop our own DNN content module suite?) and Bridgeline?

Answer: Integrated Extensions. As in, real integration between the modules.

There are thousands of Content Management Systems to choose from. A developer like BlueBolt simply cannot learn how to use and support ALL of them. We chose DNN and iAPPS because we think they are the best suited to satisfy the needs of our clients.

No, neither platform is perfect for everyone. You can’t buy perfection at any cost, at least not out of the box.

So, Why Dotnetnuke and Bridgeline’s iAPPS?

Dotnetnuke (DNN)

Dotnetnuke is the most widely adopted Web content management platform for building websites and Web applications on Microsoft .NET.  We quickly realized DNN has a large user community and they have a vibrant marketplace for functional extensions (now called the DNN store, it used to be Snowcovered).

Still, we found that while there are countless modules developed specifically for DNN, almost none of them were architected to work with one another. Sure, it can be assumed that 3rd party DNN modules adopt the DNN core elements (e.g., user/permissions, upgrade potential, similar content editor, common templating system, etc...), but what about relating content to each other, and providing advanced ways of categorizing that content across content types? There were no out-of-the-box, all-encompassing, dynamic, content publishing solutions for DNN.

So, unless a client had ample budget to include a whole lot of customizations to module code, developers like BlueBolt were challenged to use DotNetNuke for some clients who had advanced online publishing requirements. Some of those challenges included the following:

  • Modules from different vendors likely have inconsistent database structures, making it hard for them to “work together.”

  • Searching content across modules becomes challenging.

  • Extremely difficult to relate content across modules, such as serving up a video that is related to a specific blog post.

  • User Experiences for different modules were inconsistent, making client training and adoption more difficult.

  • So, seeing those limitations to existing products in the marketplace, we founded another brand, PackFlash, to create our own DotNetNuke modules. Like most of the other 3rd party content modules available to the community, our modules use DNN’s core, but we built them to be aware of each other and INTEGRATED to each other to solve the challenges above. Finally, in January 2012, we launched our new DNN module Suite called PackFlash Constellation. In so many ways, it is what we needed seven years ago when we started our web consulting business, and it is available for sale now to those who also see the value of integration between modules.

Bridgeline Digital’s iAPPS

We have realized that DotNetNuke, even with PackFlash Constellation, may not be suitable for all web development clients. Sometimes, instead of strong online publishing needs, clients require enterprise document management, maybe even to include a fully INTEGRATED ecommerce engine, integrated analytics, marketing automation, and email communication tools. These are the areas where iAPPS excels.

But still, there are a multitude of other CMS solutions that we could partner with and support. Why iAPPS? The short answer is because Bridgeline architects and develops iAPPs themselves. They are not like some of the major CMS vendors, who acquire, not build their own components, seemingly with no care for how hard it might be to “cobble together” those products to make them work as one piece of software. The point is that Bridgeline builds their own tools, architecting them to work together seamlessly. The Bridgline iAPPS suite includes their CMS, an ecommerce module, an analytics product, and an email marketing extension. This grouping provides for a solid module suite, an unmatched user experience and a straightforward approach to extending those elements further to match exact client needs.

The reasons we developed PackFlash Constellation (or extending DotNetNuke) are similar to the reasons why Bridgeline’s team developed their own tools: because the CMS market needs dynamic, integrated extensions that provide for rich online experiences and content delivery mechanisms across modules.

For some website solutions, integration between modules makes all the difference.