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January 26, 2010

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is

Filed under: Website Development, Your Business — Mike Jaltuch @ 9:07 am

It always amazes me how much of a rush some people are to launch a website, at times sending rationale out the window. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying deadlines don’t matter and you should be carefree about your website’s completion date. However, when planning a project listen to common sense and if you have set an arbitrary deadline, listen to the experts and be flexible. Doing so will only save you headaches in the long run.

Recently I was working with a prospect on scoping out the requirements for his new online business. During this process, as I usually do, I asked if he had a date when he wanted the project to be completed. He responded with a date approximately 45 days away. After our meeting I wrote up the requirements as we discussed and informed this prospect it would take a minimum of 75 days to complete the project.

I had asked him if there was a reason he picked this specific launch date. Sometimes the launch of a business may be timed around an event such as a trade show or a specific time of year if the business is seasonal. However he admitted it was just a random date he selected that had no significance. He did stress that he ALWAYS meets his deadline dates in business and therefore it was essential to complete the project by his specified date. I explained that it’s just too much work for such a short timeframe and to do a quality job something like this should not be rushed.

In the end, this prospect only cared about his arbitrary deadline and therefore went with a firm that gave him the response he was looking for. He later admitted this was the sole merit for his decision. I don’t expect to get every project I bid on, however when losing a bid for sticking to your guns and being honest is a bit frustrating. We could have said what the prospect wanted to hear, gotten the project and then worried about the consequences later. I opt not to take this approach and provide an honest estimate I can stand behind.

Last week was the deadline for his project and when visiting the domain name I was not too shocked to see a message saying the site is under construction and will be lunching next month. This seems to me like a company willing to say what you want to hear just to get the business then worry about the unavoidable upcoming problems later. Of course I can’t say for sure if that’s what happened in this case, but as someone who has been in the industry for over a dozen years, I do know it exists.

January 19, 2010

The values of a good internal resource – Priceless

Filed under: Website Development — Mike Jaltuch @ 11:16 am

One of the interesting aspects of the web development field is the wide variety of people and companies a developer gets to work with. Over the past dozen or so years, I have worked with everyone from individuals starting up a new venture, small (but established) businesses, to large companies (some of the fortune 500 status). Since our website development projects have spanned a wide variety of industries, the trends I have detected are more on a general business nature vs industry specific. The most important trend to learn and share with new customers is the recipe for website success.

While there is no one size fits all with respect to a website’s success, there is one trend I have noticed over the years that all of my most successful clients have in common. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with the web development company or anything they do. It has to do with who they have, or better yet, who they don’t have internal to their organization.

A vendor, such as a web developer, is an expert in their industry of web development. They are not an expert in selling, fixing or servicing widgets, the xyz trade association or whatever the current client’s business happens to be. Even if the web development vendor has extensive experience in your industry, they most likely are not an expert in your specific organization. This is why it’s imperative to have a person tasked with the responsibility of the website within your organization. This person should be responsible for gathering and organization all relevant information from the various departments of your organization and then passing it to the developer. They don’t need to be technical but do need to understand the technicality of how your business works, especially if your website will be executing specific business tasks. The developer then has a single contact to work with to confirm all business logic and get other necessary information.

Even though one person might not know the inner workings of each department, having a dedicated internal resource in a valuable asset. With this structure in place, there is an internal person putting pressure on the various departments to provide the necessary information. Time and time again, when working on a large project and the client has not tasks someone with this responsibility, the project often lacks both ownership and the spark internal to the organization necessary for its success.

For any large web development project to succeed in the long run means it must become a living and breathing tool within the company. This requires constant maintenance and unless someone has been tasks with this as a major part of their job it seems to get overlooked more often than not.

January 4, 2010

What website development technology is best?

Filed under: Website Development — Mike Jaltuch @ 5:21 pm

All websites, with the exception of very simple static sties, utilize at least one programming language in addition to HTML for website development. Any site with ecommerce, online registration, CMS, or even simple database integration will need to use some type of programming language in addition to HTML. Some of the more common web development technologies are .NET, PHP, Classic ASP, Cold Fusion, J2EE, PERL etc. However the real question is, which one is best? If you ask this question to three different developers you are likely to get three different answers. Generally the one they develop in is professed to be the best followed up by a lecture on a list of flaws with all the other technologies.

I prefer to take a little different approach to this topic. I believe with the hundreds of projects I have been involved in, most of the time there is no specific technology far superior to the others. I say this only because most projects can easily be accomplished with a talented developer who specializes in any of the above technologies mentioned. This should imply that the developer is much more important than the language they are developing with. It’s similar to how an artist is more important that the type of paint they are using, water colors vs oils. If you are a fan of water colors, you will probably like a oil painting from a great artists more than a water color from an artist without any talent.

However, there are a few things to consider which may show why one option is better than the other in your specific situation. For example, if your website needs to be hosted on an Linux based server then .NET or ASP would not be a good solution since these require windows servers. If budget is a concern then cold fusion may not be a good choice as it needs cold fusion server software which can run up to $7500.

One of the most critical factors to consider on a larger application which will be in service for many years is additional development for support and upgrades. I have had several calls over the years from companies looking for another development company to take over their existing project. Many times we had to turn them down because we don’t specialize in the technology required. Some of these callers were contemplating redeveloping their sites as they could not find any local development companies with the necessary skill sets able to take over their project. With a little upfront research, problems like this can be avoided.

My suggestion is to find a development company that specializes in more than one technology. They can then look at the requirements of the project and your organizations specific situation and propose the best technology for the job. At Linear Method, we focus most of our development on Microsoft.NET and PHP. These two technologies were chosen not only because they are probably the two most widely used technologies today, but they cover the two most common platforms. .NET is the most common programming technology for Windows and PHP is the most common web technology for Linux. Along with these two technologies, the databases used are Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL which are the two most widely used databases for web development.

These technologies will leave the client with options once the project is complete. In addition, since .NET and PHP are very common web development technologies, existing code modules can be leveraged for most projects saving both time and money during development.

With all this being said, if you have a developer you trust and a fairly simple site that won’t need ongoing maintenance and have the flexibility to host on any server environment then just about any technology should be sufficient.