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How to Choose a Website Development Platform

Before you can begin developing or redesigning a website, the first big question you need to answer is: What platform do you want to use when you build your website? In this context, a platform is the underlying programming language that the site will utilize. The decision you make has implications regarding the site’s functionality, development and maintenance costs, the databases it uses, and the servers that host the site. This is a critical fork in the road that really makes you take a hard look at existing company systems (in many cases, the site has to accommodate a motley crew of legacy systems) and — perhaps most importantly — at the skill set of the team that will be in charge of ongoing troubleshooting and maintenance after the site is launched.

The most popular development platforms are PHP, .NET, and JSP. Here’s a quick look at each of them:

  • PHP (originally short for Personal Home Pages, and now oddly considered short for PHP Hypertext Preprocessor) is a popular scripting language that is embedded into HTML pages. What’s great about PHP is that it is open source, which means that it is free to use, and people who build cool functions with it often make their code available for free as well. This results in an ever-increasing library of PHP code modules that you can utilize to enhance your site. Facebook, for example, was built from the ground up largely using PHP.

  • ASP.NET (a-s-p-dot-net) is a proprietary Microsoft platform designed for developing web applications. Though it is not free, there is a large library that covers a lot of basic functions and database interactions that makes the programmer’s job easier, and the library comes with full technical support. A major difference from something like PHP code, is that ASP.NET code must be compiled (converted into an executable file) in order to utilize it in your website. Compiled code is said to perform faster and be more secure since you cannot see the source code embedded in the HTML. The other advantage is that .NET is fairly ubiquitous; there are a lot of engineers that know how to build .NET applications, and so you will never be short on resources.

  • JSP (Java Server Pages) is a web development platform introduced by Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle) to compete with PHP and ASP.NET. Like ASP, it is a server-side technology, meaning that the code is first compiled and then executed as an application by the web server.

Other development platforms may offer tempting features, but beware: If you stray too far from the more common ones, it’s harder and more expensive to find people who can maintain the site. You don't want to spend time, money, and effort redesigning a website to learn after the fact that finding engineers to make even the simplest fixes to the site is next to impossible.

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