Our story

It all began at a small startup company called Apiphany (eventually acquired by Microsoft to become Azure API management) where we were crafting a new application platform that would help people manage their APIs.

As we quickly figured out, one of the features anticipated in any API management solution is a developer portal that would help users to learn about API, try it out (preferably writing no code at all) and get help, if needed. Expectedly, owners would want to change portal's content and appearance to match their brand and that required site builder/CMS capabilities. Therefore, working primarily on Microsoft stack, we ended up with Orchard CMS that we thought to be a natural choice for our solution.

Sadly, out-of-the-box customization capabilities of Orchard are close to non-existent. All that a user could do is to (slightly) change the layout of a master page. Things like background or responsive grid structure could not be modified at all.

One of the options for deeper customizations was to give away the source code and let our customers host and maintain portal themselves (though, in the case of Orchard it meant learning ASP.NET, SQL, HTML, CSS, JS, plus Orchard framework itself).

We went a different route and added page template editors (based on Liquid engine), introduced some styling options (mostly based on Twitter Bootstrap variables) and took all the provisioning, upgrading, and maintenance burden on ourselves. That gave our customers a fair level of customization without having to set up all the infrastructure required for the portal.

However, it still wasn't a perfect solution, neither for us nor customers. They still asked for more, like "how to add custom JavaScript?" or even "how to integrate Angular into the portal?" (damn!). We, on the other hand, had to deal with lots of incidents (often due to dependency outage, i.e. when Azure SQL was down) and fears of breaking client portal when releasing new bits.

So, it was time for a next step. Here came up the idea of Papebits, a new product built with a unique set of key concepts in mind.

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