Here's the proposition: If your business fronts a marketing Web site, perhaps with a digital storefront and probably with additional content on Facebook, Salesforce.com is now offering a service - not a software package, but a cloud-based system - for you to compose the entire site, including layout template and content, and host the site including the database on the Force.com platform, for a flat fee of $1,500 per month.
It is exactly the type of business model that Salesforce is aiming directly at another huge competitor with dominant market share: this time, WordPress. Salesforce is betting that businesses give WordPress its 50-plus-percent market share in the content management system category because it's the most convenient product to adopt, not because it's best suited to the task. And just like before, Salesforce is doubling down all its chips on a simple domain name: this time, Site.com.
If this picture looks like an ordinary Web site... well, frankly that's the point. It is - it's Salesforce's example of taking information that it ordinarily delivers to internal users of a company, and presenting it to customers externally.
"We are extending the social enterprise out to all of your customers, all of your partners, and all of your prospects," says Andrew Leigh, director of product management for the Force.com platform, in an interview with ReadWriteWeb, "by allowing you through a single cloud-based platform to be able to basically publish any data or any content out to an external audience."
Leigh demonstrated a front end for Site.com that would be generally familiar to anyone who has ever used a forms or site layout tool. Although the user can access the CSS style sheets directly, the front end would prefer to let him drag-and-drop components where they should generally appear on the page. Some components, like "Menu," are smart enough to know the layout of the site, so they can present the right menu to the user at the right time. And as Leigh tells us, Site.com manages the process of selecting the right layout template for the end user's browser and device, so the same site appears on a PC as on a tablet as on a smartphone.
"If you look at the Web sites that are built and run on Site.com, they use all the latest social widgets, all the latest multimedia, they have the freshest and most compelling content - it's coming instantly from the back-office systems of the company. They're the most compelling Web sites on the Internet today," remarks Leigh. One live example, he tells us, will be HP's promotional site - some 3,000 pages which have already gone live using the Site.com beta, and which have already increased HP's site traffic, according to Leigh, by 30%.
The structure of the site is determined through a simple menu system, where classes of "Site Map" pages are assigned to specific templates just as any site designer would expect. "Landing Pages" pertains to resources whose URLs use specific filenames, as opposed to general classes. Obviously from this angle, Site.com is more geared toward publishing static content. However, the dynamic components you drag into place do gather dynamic content from elsewhere in the customer's Force.com stream of assets, including from Salesforce.com itself and from its Data.com resource.
"If you look at the platform that runs the social enterprise, you'll see an amazing amount of common data that's being shared across that enterprise, both with the internal employees and the external customers, partners, and prospects," explains Force.com's Leigh. The roles that employees play in an organization, he adds, may be published externally as descriptions of possible future careers, for a Web site directed toward prospective employees. All the products managed and maintained by a company, and the retail pricing attributed to it, may be integrated into the external site. "Just about anything, whether it's shipping information, order information, billing information - any kind of information you're tracking and managing inside your company, is at some point in time being exposed out to your customers and your prospects to communicate what your business is doing. And that's what Site.com is all about."
Leigh tells RWW that some surcharges may apply in extreme circumstances, to a minority of users for whom bandwidth use explodes. But from now until April 30, all charter customers can sign up two publishers and two contributors for the first site, for a discounted rate of $825 per month. The regular price is $1,500 for that package, plus $125 per month for each additional publisher, and $20 per month for each additional contributor. He reminds us that this is not a beta; Site.com is generally released today.