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We are about to start building a simple WCM publishing site. It includes simple stuff like: News, Events, document libraries, Image gallery, video gallery, etc.

We are using SP2010.

This basically includes the creation of a few custom lists and content type, some CQWPs, DVWPs, Master pages, page layouts etc. In addition to the creation of the site collection hierarchies (top site and sub sites).

Can we just use the browser and SP designer to create/customize/configure the needed custom lists, content types, page layout, CWQPs, etc. and simple do a backup restore to deploy the solution to the client servers?

What is the drawbacks of this approach? What better approach to use without introducing a lot of complexity?

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Do you need to deploy content or just site layout/structure? Is the deployment a "one off" or are you setting up a chain of development,staging,production systems? Is your client expecting to be able to deploy this solution without your involvement? Are you expecting to need to deploy code in the near future? –  Steve P Oct 18 '10 at 17:18
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Here I assume that you need only create site structure for your customer and will need to deploy updates as your customer has new requirements.

My advice is that although solutions start of very simply you need to plan for the future.

If you are new to SharePoint it is useful to follow the learning curve of complexity but be aware it will most likely cost more time and effort and cause data migration issues for you but at every step you will understand what you have done and why.

Here are the approaches I see.

Hand Crafted

The simplest approach is to write a set of manual steps necessary to customize SharePoint using either the native web UI or SharePoint Designer.

Pros

  • Very simple to understand

Cons

  • Error prone to repeat at customer site.
  • Limited to customizations possible with SharePoint Web UI and SharePoint Designer

Restore Database

Regarding "restoring" the database to another system. I've not had any experience doing this but I would hope that it works as I can imagine a worst case disaster scenario where nothing of the original SharePoint installation survives except its database backup.

Pros

  • Repeatable at the customer site.
  • Covers Content and Site Structure.

Cons

  • One Shot. A second restore will destroy any customer created data.
  • Limited to customizations possible with SharePoint Web UI and SharePoint Designer

Save Site Template

SharePoint 2010 supports exporting sites as a template including content as a Solution package. (Save Site as Template)

Pros

  • Repeatable at the customer site.
  • Covers Content and Structure.
  • Template can be updated and redeployed.

Cons

  • One Template is limited to a single site. Might need to create multiple templates
  • Once a site is created from the template it is "frozen". The customer will either
    • have to create a new site to get your updated customizations
    • You will have to implement Feature Stapling to upgrade the site.
  • Limited to customizations possible with SharePoint Web UI and SharePoint Designer

Visual Studio WSP Solution

A Visual Studio SharePoint 2010 Project is the most complex to understand and manage. The studio solution generator is much improved over the 2007 version and at some point in time you are going to have to learn how to work with this kind of solution.

Pros

  • Full customization environment available
  • Solutions and Features can be upgraded in place.

Cons

  • A Lot to learn.
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