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-   -   Best "website Development Approach"? (http://www.smallbusinessbrief.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24038)

SurfingGia99 19th December 2008 10:06 AM

Best "website Development Approach"?
 
I'm trying to decide what is the best approach for a friend who wants to create a website for her one person interior design company... Should she work with a company who creates actual websites using wordpress.org (more coding options than wordpress.com?), Microsoft technology like Visual Studio, or Dreamweaver and then some type of database on the back-end??

In order to answer that question, I'm guessing you would want to know what the website needs to have:
- mostly text
- contact me form
- newsletter sign up form
- photo gallery to showcase the work she has done before
- shopping cart (to be added later)
- blog (to be added later)
- poll/survey (to be added later)
- ideally she would be able to edit the text on her own (she is NOT technical)

Does anyone have any technical insight as to the pros and cons of the different tools? Is WordPress.org's tool and plugins really robust enough for this? What are the drawbacks of using plugins from so many different sources when it comes time to upgrade?

ANY insight would be greatly appreciated! She has a deadline to meet and wants to turn to the right type of web design/development company...

Thanks!

ktaylor310 19th December 2008 02:01 PM

Quote:

ideally she would be able to edit the text on her own (she is NOT technical)
In my experience, this has been the big sticking point. Many of my clients have expressed the desire to update and make edits to their site after it is created, but that is not easily done if they are not "technical". In any case, if she hires a web designer for a custom design, make sure she let's them know ahead of time that she will be updating herself as it will dictate how the site is designed. For instance, a complicated CSS design would be out of the question.

She really only has two choices for making ongoing edits herself -

1 - She can use web editing software such as Dreamweaver, Visual Studio, etc., but there is a big learning curve. The software can be overwhelming for someone who has a hard time learning such things. Also, there is no perfect html editor so if search engine optimization is important to her she will need to either learn how to go back in and clean up the generated code or come to terms with the fact that the code may not be at its best.

2 - She can work with a CMS (Content Management System), such as Wordpress or Joomla.

Quote:

Is WordPress.org's tool and plugins really robust enough for this? What are the drawbacks of using plugins from so many different sources when it comes time to upgrade?
Probably the biggest problem would be the shopping cart. Wordpress was created as blogging software not as an eCommerce solution. There is a plugin, but also MANY complaints regarding technical problems. Problem-solving cart problems is not easy and w/free software she would basically be at the mercy of forums to help her work things out. She may find help, she may not. If she does find help, she would still have to apply the fixes suggested which would generally include editing complicated code.

Plugins can be hard to work with. As you mentioned, they come from many different sources and are not guaranteed, so if there is a problem it is not easy to get help. I always read through the reviews looking for issues & complaints before using. That said, installing plugins on wordpress is pretty simple via the admin panel.

If she chooses to go with a CMS system, her site will have a "template" look. As an interior designer the design limitations may be a consideration for her.

The site you have layed-out is not complicated, though the add-ons are not generally included in a standard web design package. The site could easily be created without the use of a CMS system via a custom web design with the added benefit of more plentiful design options. Have her inquire about the web designer's ongoing maintenance fees. Many times it is more cost effective when taking the time/headache involved in updating your own site into consideration.

Hope that helps! :)

bdorland 20th December 2008 03:55 PM

As usual Kim, great answer to a common scenario with lots of considerations. If I was approached with this project, I would recommend a custom solution that would include the following:
  • design and construction (XHTML & CSS) for site management in Dreamweaver (.php site)
  • VerticalResponse.com e-newsletter and surveying tools
  • Pre-fab or custom flash photo gallery with an admin tool to allow client to add/edit project photos/details
  • Integrate wordpress blog platform to manage blog

When a client tells me that they want the ability to update content themselves, they really don't understand what they're asking. It would probably be safe to assume that this interior designer is going to want to have the ability to update her project portfolio (photos and details) and blog on a consistent basis. So it would be a no brainer to build admin tools to allow the client to manage those two primary tasks.

But the rest of the site is probably going to be static. Even if the designer adds a new service to a "services" section, it would be much more practical to have the web guy make the modification. It will take much less time and there will be no worry of the client breaking anything. Clients need to do what they do (what makes them money), not spend hours trying to make website modifications that would take the web guy 10 minutes.

And by the way, that website solution would probably run in the 15k to 20k range (if I was building it).

Good luck!

Ravedesigns 28th December 2008 01:10 AM

Hey there,

I've used wordpress for a number of clients who wanted a smaller site that they could maintain themselves and would recommend it for just about anyone in this persons situation. It can get a little tricky when trying to integrate a fancy newsletter signup form or a shopping cart (although there are some made just for wordpress) but it's definiately possible and wordpress is so popular it's not tough to find good designers or developers to help out.

As far as the look of a wordpress site goes, almost all websites are similar looking considering that they usually have a graphic header, a footer, an area for content in between and navigation links or buttons on the left or on the top of the page. Sure you can be radically different it you want, but when internet users expect a certain internet experience it can do more harm than good to try to be different and stand out.

There are hundreds if not thousands of free templates available for wordpress (http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/) and all of them can be tweaked and customized to provide a truly unique look - with many of them looking better than some high priced professional websites I've seen.

Don't like the free templates available? You'll find many professional themes for $100 or less from places like http://ithemes.com/ and or course those can be personalized as well.

If you decide a CMS isn't really necessary and you want to have someone design a more traditional site - there are 3rd party solutions to allow users to update their own website. Take a look at http://www.easysiteedit.com/ - http://www.interspire.com/webedit/ and http://www.snippetedit.com/features.htm for starters, and you'll see that editing a custom designed site doesn't have to be complicated or expensive.

Personally, I'd advise a friend of mine in a similar situation to get a decent, professional looking website - but put more money into hiring a good copywriter to help sell her services than into a designer to make a pretty website.

HTH!

Steve

drewda 23rd May 2009 05:34 AM

It sounds like wordpress would meet your friend's needs. With just a little graphics experience and a basic idea of html, it wouldn't be hard for someone to make the site stand out. After the initial setup, your friend could easily maintain the site alone, adding content without outside help. New plugins are coming out all the time, giving wordpress publishers a lot more control over their sites.

garebear 19th June 2009 01:04 PM

May be the best way to go is hire a professional web designer and let him/her take care of it. As mentioned above, when you use a Content Management System, you are usually going to end up with a site that looks generic and plain. Not good for someone who is looking to be hired for their creativity. Make sure that the web designer has a good design background. Also, there are almost always little things that can go wrong (site goes down, pictures disappearing, etc.) that a novice might not be able fix. Should have someone you can depend on who is web savvy to fix any bugs that can pop-up. You can't always depend on tech support from the hosting site to solve your problems.

fortunateson 20th September 2009 08:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by garebear (Post 96140)
May be the best way to go is hire a professional web designer and let him/her take care of it. As mentioned above, when you use a Content Management System, you are usually going to end up with a site that looks generic and plain. Not good for someone who is looking to be hired for their creativity. Make sure that the web designer has a good design background. Also, there are almost always little things that can go wrong (site goes down, pictures disappearing, etc.) that a novice might not be able fix. Should have someone you can depend on who is web savvy to fix any bugs that can pop-up. You can't always depend on tech support from the hosting site to solve your problems.

I like this best. Non-techies often prefer to stay that way, and that's fine. For those folks, I'd said in the past; "email any changes you want and I'll take care of it." For that, I had included some maintenance time in their hosting package.
Makes them feel comfortable with the process too.

smallbizmkter 22nd September 2009 08:24 AM

If your friend is really wanting to make ongoing changes to the website on her own, and she is not necessarily techie - I would recommend her looking at a software package called XSitePro (www.Xsitepro.com)

This is easy to use (like MS Word, anyway :) ) and can do all of the things you mention - changes can be made in seconds. Contact forms can be handled within the application, or via autoresponder, pics upload easily. The only part which would have to be handled separately is the blog - this is probably easiest handled through Wordpress, using same domain, but linked via the main site.

There is a step-by-step tutorial which takes you through building your first site within an hour or two, tons of built-in templates. Or you can have templates custom built specifically for XSitePro.

PM me if you'd like further info.

sequencehosting 3rd November 2009 06:13 PM

Great advice everyone. I would however like to add that you do not have to use the Wordpress shopping cart plugin just because your using Wordpress for the site. You could always use shopping cart software and link from the blog to the shopping cart.

Your friend could have the shopping cart designed to look the same as the main website. The best thing about this is your friend would still be able to control all the product info etc by using the admin panel most shopping carts have.

multimediocrity 13th November 2009 01:33 AM

The best way to build one is from scratch using HTML. This will require working with a web development company, such as the one in my signature (Amalgam Web and Media - www.amalgamweb.com). These sites are the only ones that will hold up against the changing web standards. They will also load quick and work on almost any browser and platform.

Many companies or freelancers will charge way more to people who are not familiar with web design (because they can get away with it). Amalgam will not do this. They have good prices and are very reliable.

I have heard instances of companies charging $200 each month for hosting when the site only needed a $50 per year plan. I've heard people selling web design services for $3,500 that really cost no more than $500. Make sure you choose a reputable service.


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