They are called: "box", "pack", "dummy", "model" etc. - the starter kit every web agency uses to kickstart a new TYPO3 website. Working with TYPO3 agencies all over the world we got to know and work with dozens of starter kits – and we even had our own. While we continue to help TYPO3 agencies no matter what starter kit they use, we for our own have decided to radically shift our approach to lower costs and increase quality of website development. Here's why.

How TYPO3 Agencies work with Starter Kits

A starter kit is nothing different than a set of configurations that are standardized because they apply to most customers. It allows to develop new websites "out-of-the-box" which is faster than setting up everything from scratch (when downloading TYPO3 from the community website).

Developers in agencies are convinced about the superiority of their starter kit. They are used to it and and have potentially also proudly co-created it. As an outsourcing provider we had to learn how these setups work and stick to them precisely. And managers in agencies are equally convinced of their setup: it has been optimized for efficiency and allows faster time to market and lower project costs. This gives starter kits some sort of uniqueness and company identification.

However, having worked with dozens of starter kits I dare to conclude that the differences between them are smaller than their fame.

The commonalities are:

  • a basic theme and a standardized way to integrate custom templates,
  • a central place of configuration,
  • reasonable default settings for most commonly used extensions,
  • settings that improve the user interface for editors,
  • integration in semi- or fully automated deployment systems,
  • performance and SEO improvements.

Some setups additionally offer features for the editor, e.g. the ability to crop images and guide the customer through placing images on various screen sizes. Others offer a multitude of commonly used plugins, such as calendars or small shopping functionality. Again others improve the development workflow by e.g. offering all developers standardized logins to the backend of a site without the necessity to create accounts for each developer. Overall the uniqueness of these standard setups is overrated though and mainly stems from the investment required to create them (because it costs money, time, personal effort to create it – it is worth something).

Why making our own Starter Kit failed

At Web Essentials we fell into the same trap thinking that we also needed our very own starter kit for direct customers or for the few agencies which were lacking their own. And we quickly thought our own setup was the best of all (since we invested a lot of time and money into it – we felt it was worth something... you get the point).

But creating and maintaining a starter kit came at a high price: We had to set apart our best developers to create it, explain it to our sales team, create the offering around it, train the other developers to use it and to document it. And with every new version of TYPO3 CMS, we had to do it again. Like every other TYPO3 agency. Without realizing it, we have all created an eco system of closed source (our own “proprietary” configuration) on top of an OpenSource system.

t3kit – an OpenSource Starter Kit for TYPO3 agencies

Until we came across t3kit, an initiative launched by the web agency Pixelant in Scandinavia. They did the seemingly obvious – they released their starter kit as OpenSource. Now everyone can use it and everyone can contribute to it. The clear advantage is – as for any other OpenSource system – that it can be maintained together and the costs for creating new features are shared.

In September this year we made the bold move to drop our own starter kit completely and to join forces with t3kit.

Since joining t3kit, we have contributed Docker support with streamlined settings compared to the previous Vagrant setup and provided bug fixes and new features like SEO improvements. We also join the weekly t3kit meetings to discuss bug reports, feature requests, next steps and the future roadmap. I appreciate the various levels of collaboration: among developers, marketers and management of the agencies involved.

Customer Benefits of t3kit

The shared cost and knowledge approach of OpenSource t3kit also benefits our customers:

  1. Kickstart your website in minutes – we can build your website faster and at lower setup costs.
  2. A setup reviewed by developers across agencies – get the quality key agencies rely on.
  3. A wider community maintains and improves the configuration – less maintenance effort for us, lower maintenance costs for you.
  4. Your website is built on an OpenSource starter kit – less vendor lock-in.
  5. TYPO3 core updates are an essential part of the t3kit development – your website is future proof.

Want to know more how t3kit can help your website project?
We are happy to provide a demo.