Some background on Business Catalyst
Back in 2008, we connected with a retired dentist in California who had been developing a new website in support of a newsletter that he had been publishing. He was working with a developer from India, who suggested the site be built on the Joomla platform (open source). But things just weren’t working out well. When we reviewed his wants/needs, it seemed the best option was a new platform called Business Catalyst (BC).
In order to work with BC, developers must become “BC Partners”. This involved a significant upfront fee, and many hours of training. There was a robust community of developers involved, mostly from Australia where they got their start. We were one of the first partners in the US.
We created a number of custom web apps so members can pay for and upload classified ads, coupons, business directory listings etc. all of which is accessed by a searchable database. The client has full control of the site via an extensive control panel which allows them to manage data, update the website, track client interactions, and more.
For years now, they make use of the built in CRM to send out a monthly newsletter to around 10,000 dentists in the California market.
Why it’s complicated
Adobe is a huge company; mostly know for Photoshop, they cater to the needs of movie production outfits, publishers, graphic designers and web developers with an ever-expanding suite of tools. We use their tools every day, mostly Dreamweaver and Photoshop.
When we in the BC Partner community heard that Adobe had bought BC, we were all ecstatic. But Adobe has a long history of buying companies with great products, and taking literally years to get it right. And that’s been the case with Business Catalyst. They’ve made a lot of promises, but it’s like watching paint dry. And there have been a few hiccups along the way.
One of the first significant improvements was with the hosting platform. Websites are hosted on either of Adobes three data centers using the latest cloud technology. One can choose between North America (Virginia), Europe (Dublin, Ireland), or Asia Pacific (Sydney, Australia).
While they offer the most popular payment options, those in the European market have been asking for Stripe as a payment option for years to no avail.
In my opinion, the ability to create custom web apps quickly and easily was a game changer. But they have not moved the ball forward with development / improvement.
In 2014 BC announced that they were going to an Open Platform which would allow advanced partners and developers to “build functionality on top of BC (and package it as apps), and the rest of Business Catalyst community can enhance their customers’ sites by installing those apps.”
They opened up the API to developers, and introduced Liquid Markup. But all this has been slow going.
If I went into all the details, this post would be a mile long. But suffice it to say that we currently do not recommend Business Catalyst unless the client’s needs are a really good fit. We are patiently waiting for Adobe to move the platform to the next level, and when that happens, we’ll jump in feet first.
Would you like to kick the tires?
If you would like to try it free for a month, click here. No credit card is required, and if you feel its something you want to work with, I can extend the trial up to 6 months!
When you click through, you will be presented with three options:
- Use an Online Business Template (recommended) and we’ll guide you through the set up process
- Start from scratch or SFTP your site and go from there
- Import your current website in minutes and build it yourself from there
What option you pick depends on your circumstances. You might want to connect with us before getting started. This would be a no obligation 45-minute consultation.
They used to offer 20 or 30 nice templates, with different color schemes, so there were lots of choices. But these were back before responsive design was a thing. If you chose option #1, there is no choice in the matter. You get a template that looked good five years ago, which is not responsive. But if your quest is to just get into the backend to see what it’s all about, have at it. BTW, the template can be changed at any time.
With option #2, you’d need a great deal of experience, so that doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Option #3 is pretty cool if you already have a website. It will import everything from your website and you end up with a workable version of what you have but with all the BC features now available.
In either case, what you end up with is a fully functioning website with a URL like http://johndoeinc.businesscatalyst.com (this will actually work). You would be able to log into the backend and check out all the functionality, and try out some of the features.
Taking it from sample to finished product is not something an amateur should try. This is just a great way for you to get a handle on what it’s all about. If you wish to go forward with a new BC website, we’ll figure out a game plan and most likely start from scratch.
Creating a custom BC template is quite time consuming. There are plenty of great templates available, but you need to be a BC Partner in order to purchase them. If you’d like to take a peak, here’s a couple of links: