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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.

December 27, 2009

How much does a website cost?

Filed under: Website Development — Mike Jaltuch @ 11:21 pm

One of the most common questions I get is “how  much is a website?”.  It’s probably because most people have never been involved in developing a website and therefore have no idea what’s involved. 

Unfortunately there is no easy answer.  My typical response is that it’s just like buying a car.  You can spend $3000 on a car, used of course, or over $300,000, for a Rolls-Royce.  Websites have just about the same ranges with the exceptions of the very upper echelon of sites that can easily go in the millions of dollars.

Another common follow up question goes something like this… “How much will it be to develop a site that is just like www.somesite.com?”  Unfortunately this is also a question I can rarely answer.  My favorite analogy on this question is that it’s like asking a builder how much would it cost to build a house just like the one at 123 Main St.  However, if all the builder can do is look at the outside he has no idea on any of the following:

How big is the house,  3 bedrooms, 4 or maybe even 5?

Is the basement finished?

Are the floors hardwood, carpet, tile or something else?

What about the kitchen?  Are the counter tops granite?

This list can go on and on. 

Web applications are very similar.  We have created several sites which function more as web based applications where the public may have access to less than 10% of the site.  An excellent example is 9Health Fair.  This site is open to the public for general information and searching the database of health fair locations.  However, approximately 90% of this site is only accessible to the 9Health Fair staff with some portions available to those managing the individual sites. 

The fair has over 18,000 people who volunteer each year.  These people must be managed and assigned to appropriate sites matching the sites offerings with the skills of each volunteers.  Site coordinators need to go through a very thorough process of setting up their site each year by entering in detailed information on their fair which then must be approved.  The entire process is managed online and completely invisible to the average user.  These are just some of the many functions the website manages.

Assume someone wanted to start a health fair in another state and use the 9Health Fair as a model.  If they asked their developer what it would cost to develop a site like 9Health Fair, any response with even a fairly tight range would be cause for suspect.   It’s impossible to estimate a project when you only have 10% of the information, especially when you are unaware you only have 10% of the information.

The solution is a little old fashion hard work.  It takes some (or multiple) discussions with the developer going through in detail exactly what the site needs to do.  An experienced developer can walk you through this process, continuing to ask additional questions which are based on your responses from previous questions.  Only after this is accomplished and a requirements document written up can the initial question be answered, “How much does a website cost?”

December 18, 2009

New blog and it’s goals

Filed under: Social Media — Mike Jaltuch @ 2:33 am

I am finally starting to get a jump on a few of my goals for the next year, the first being starting a blog.  Why has it taken so long?  My only response is the old story of the shoe cobblers kids having the old worn out shoes.  Since my business is the Internet, it should be something we started started long ago since it’s preached all the time to our clients but time is the one thing there never seems to be enough of. 

Procrastination only can last so long until you finally have to face the music, that time for me has come.  As they say “Content is king” and it’s something I can put off no longer so I’ve decided to block off a set amount of time each week.  In a world of ongoing phone calls, emails, problems with this or emergencies with that is something not easy to do.  My approach is going to be to shut off email and the phone for a short period each day not only for blog writing but for other content creation such as website updates, Facebook, twitter etc.

Over the years I have hounded my clients on why they are never able to provide content to me on schedule when working on their web projects.  I think I finally have the answer.  Even though the actual writing is not difficult, its finding the time, and more importantly the uninterrupted time to focus long enough on specific thoughts to get your idea written out.  Hopefully shutting off all other communications for a short period of time is the answer, but only time will tell.

As the owner of one of the leading web development firms in the Denver area, its my goal to share both my experiences as well as help educate anyone interested in the mystery world of web development.  In the weeks and months to come I hope to be able to educate not only on web development in general but also inform on the specific accomplishments of Linear Method.

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