Back when I first started in web development in the 1990's there weren't a whole lot of options for companies interested in creating an online presence. They either had to hire someone or learn to do it themselves. Today there are a lot of options - it can be pretty confusing for a business owner or manager that needs a new website or their current one redesigned.
Yes, the original options still apply, but now companies have many more choices if they go the DIY route. The Wordpress platform allows for a fairly customizable solution for those willing to spend some time on getting the most out of it. Then there's the platforms that provide online tools to create websites on the fly and are either free or packaged with an additional service such as Squarespace. Other services such as WIX tie in web hosting and make it more difficult to migrate to another host - but for what it is, it's a viable and cheap option.
Because Traversi Media does web development, it would be easy for me to say hiring a company like mine is the best option. But, that's pretty self-serving and not necessarily the right answer.
The company that is just starting out and doesn't have the budget may just need to build their own out of necessity. However, the role of the website is going to dictate what free solution will be best. If the website is merely an online informational reference for the company, something like WIX will work fine and far easier to implement. If the website needs to be part of the sales effort - driving potential leads via the online presence - a more dynamic and SEO friendly platform such as Wordpress is more appropriate.
Wordpress is more SEO friendly and provides the ability to design and maintain the website. For what it is, it is an effective platform, but there are some caveats.
Wordpress attempts to be a one size fits all and if one takes the time to understand how it works and how to use most effectively, it can be useful. In practice, Wordpress does not provide all the flexibility people need either from a design or function standpoint, so a whole market for plugins and add-ons for the platform has developed. While this extends Wordpress' functionality and usability it does also introduce vulnerabilities through the API and the various plugins. There are frequent warnings about security threats that target the Wordpress platform.
Further, the more plugins and overall complexity of the platform distance it even further from its original intent of an easy to use publishing platform. I'm aware of many development companies that specialize in Wordpress, hiring developers proficient in the complexities of the platform and the many plugins and extensions. If you are getting to this point, you likely need to explore a custom solution and breaking free of any template system or platform so that you can build EXACTLY what your business needs.
Don't get me wrong. The Wordpress platform is extremely useful in many situations. It is a self-contained website and content management system that can be extended with plugins. What it can't do is expand beyond its own framework. You cannot build your own custom website and add Wordpress to it. Wordpress is the site - you must work within its framework and limitations. I know this because years ago I was building a Wordpress site for a client with very specific needs and discovered that WP wouldn't fit the bill. Modifying the Wordpress code not only was time intensive but would prohibit updates to patch security vulnerabilities. Ultimately I built my own CMS that could be integrated with any new or existing site.
Having said all that, I would recommend just taking a crack at Wordpress using one of their themes and seeing if it will fit your needs. Create a simple site to begin with and put together a design that you like and is easy to edit and update. Then, let co-workers, friends, clients etc. check it out and give you honest feedback. This last part is essential - it's easy to get caught up in the creative process and believe that you just designed the Sistine Chapel of websites. Unbiased feedback will ensure your website accomplishes what you set out to do and is appealing and informative.
If you explore all of your options and decide to hire out, be aware that the range of cost and expertise will be dizzying. There are companies that will charge six figures and those that will barely breach the $1000 mark. The lower end of the scale represents those just starting out and/or offshore companies that have much lower operating cost. My recommendation if you go this route is vet them out as much as you can and secure an iron-clad agreement that clearly states objectives and deliverables. Many will lure you in with a $199 all-in price, but then start adding in extras once you are knee deep in development.
The higher end companies are opportunists. I recall back in 2000 sitting in on a meeting of a CEO's group in Silicon Valley discussing their websites. Out of the dozen companies represented, the lowest cost website was $60,000. I could not justify those kinds of numbers for the websites that were built (then or now), but ultimately the right price for a website is what a client is willing to pay.
While there may not be a "right" price for a website, the most important aspect of working with a developer is ensuring you can develop a good working relationship. Whatever the price or the project, it is imperative the developer knows and understands their client, business, strategy, and goals. If that is lacking, it doesn't matter how much money was spent - it was money wasted.
Finally, regardless of whichever direction you go, don't settle for anything less than total satisfaction. Your web presence may be your first and only contact with a potential customer. It's important the website reflects who you are and tells the message you want.
Most businesses have been greatly affected by the global pandemic, from reduced supply and demand to outright shutdowns. We are slowly starting to emerge from that, but for most, the business landscape has changed a great deal. It may be years until it feels "normal" and some question whether it ever will.
Hands-on businesses - retail, fulfilment, shipping, etc. - can benefit a great deal by technology, but still require people onsite. In office environments, much more can migrate to a virtual enviroment. While Zoom has gotten a great deal of press and has become a juggernaut in this new world of social distancing, that is just one tool that can be leveraged to aid businesses trying to conduct operations with remote team members. Beyond virtual meetings, utilization of remote desktop across secure VPN (virtual private network) provides a big step towards that "next best thing to being there". That same VPN can be utilized to provide VOIP (voice over IP) service to customer support and sales people working from home.
So, for office environments, the big pieces are available and pretty well vetted out. But there's aspects that are a little scary and certainly fall into new territory for many.
Most IT staff are more than a little freaked out at having to support users flung far and wide rather than all within an office. Probably too, there are those cultures that never really embraced the remote worker concept and managers are concerned that productivity may fall and accountability could suffer. It's certainly worth mentioning the myriad of manual processes that don't require a ton of time or specialization that nonetheless do require onsite presence to process. It's the "little" things that tend to get in the way of a total remote business environment since most off the shelf applications don't address those and probably never will.
Almost 15 years ago, I did some contract development work for a growing petroleum company. Hired initially to redo their customer portal, they subsequently made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I began building an Intranet that effectively pulled everything from their disparate systems into one central place. Loosely termed an Intranet, it was that and more. Through that web interface, customer service and IT could work help desk tickets - a system I also developed - from anywhere they had an Internet connection and a browser. Sales people could access full customer information and pricing from the main ERP without needing a VPN and a remote desktop session into the enterprise system.
I developed a invoice payment system that used ACH payments processing that was both inexpensive and free from the hassles of PCI compliance. As we knocked the big custom items off the wishlist, there were all the little ones. The supply department pricing was a daily process generated by one person and while not that time or effort intensive, it required a couple steps to verify a cost file had been received and that margins had been set for the day. It maybe took ten minutes to do, but required multiple steps and had to take into account missing files, time of day, and dependent processes. I incorporated a new process into the supply department's section of the Intranet that provided both a full view into the process and status, as well as the ability to process the pricing with one click.
There were a lot of processes that benefitted from not only a streamlined process, but transparency to all those involved with it. Team members could actively help each other out such as handling tickets or processing payments, but would have the tools to see what had been done and by whom. Managers could see every single action taken on a help desk ticket. All of this functionality grew from discussions with stakeholders and developing the features once I understood the process and challenges.
While I left that company last year to start my own, many of the systems I designed remained and when the Coronavirus hit, they transitioned many employees to remote. We could never have imagined the world as it is now, but the work we did over the years to make processes more efficient became vital in enabling team members to work as effectively from home as they did in the office.
As devastating as the pandemic has been to the economy and business, it demands that we all look at how we operate and areas where we might increase efficiency. While this reality is scary for most, it nonetheless forces us to think outside the box and reflect on how nimble our operations are in adapting to change. And while we all lack a crystal ball, we can address the current pain points and while developing solutions for those, consider building in hedges against whatever chaos the world decides to throw at us.
Wordpress started out as a blog platform and now identifies itself as a content management system thanks to its extensibility through plugins. As the core system is open source, it has become the go-to for those companies and individuals looking for the greatest flexibility in developing a cost-effective site. Most hosting providers offer Wordpress as part of a software suite making it that much more approachable.
Over the years I have deployed my own Wordpress sites or maintained/upgraded sites for clients. I no longer use it for any of my own sites as my own CMS platform has matured enough to make it far more flexible than Wordpress. However, I don't mind working on the platform for clients that prefer it.
I will say that I kind of have - if not a love/hate - a like/dislike relationship with Wordpress. There were times in the past where rolling out a quick and dirty website on a cPanel hosted site was easy as installing Wordpress and choosing a theme. You can get a decent looking bare-bones site without a whole lot of work. Out of the gate Wordpress is search engine friendly, which is yet another feather in its cap.
These days I prefer to create a quickie bootstrap responsive design and apply my own CMS to it. It's a little more work (by only a couple hours) than Wordpress, but a much more polished product and even delivers a bit better SEO. But for the business owner that doesn't want to spend the money on a developer, the Wordpress option is the ticket, more so if they spend extra time on content creation and tweaking the website for best results.
That said, there are some caveats that one should consider before going the Wordpress route.
I can look at any of my site logs and see a bunch of 'Page Not Found' errors for addresses such as '../wp-admin..' and similar. These are attempts by would-be hackers to determine if the site is running Wordpress. If they get a hit, then they come back and probe for vulnerabilities. Wordpress is a very popular platform so hackers are constantly trying to find vulnerabilities in either the platform or its many plugins. They are often successful in this pursuit, so it is imperative that Wordpress is kept up to date. The same goes for any plugins.
Wordpress is database-driven and thus, all site settings, design specifics, and content itself resides on the database. This is not a bad thing, but over the years the active content data location has become much more obscure. Most of the time this doesn't matter. However, you can run into problems if the site is maintained by multiple people and there are gaps in communication.
For example, I was contacted by a new client that had a Wordpress site that was hosted by one company and maintained by another. Suddenly, their hosting was canceled and all they had was a backup of the site and some old login information. Because we lacked the Wordpress credentials and usernames/passwords were encrypted, I had to deploy the site manually and edit the old content directly through the database. Because Wordpress kept old entries, the content records numbered in the hundreds and determining the production records was difficult. This is a unique example, but it illustrates that once you go down the Wordpress path, you are locked into it until you develop a new site. Further it is vital that your content team documents Wordpress credentials, settings, and content history.
The last thing to consider are the plugins. If you want to extend the functionality of the platform, the plugins can often achieve your needs. As mentioned though, they represent a potential vulnerability so always make sure you keep them up to date and uninstall if they are ever discontinued or support is dropped. In addition, plugins are not always well-documented or user-friendly - so expect a learning curve with all of them. Finally, there's the possibility the plugins might conflict with others.
Taking all of this into account, there's no surprise that a cottage industry has grown to address the potential growing complexities of building and maintaining Wordpress sites. There are some development companies that specialize in this niche, which I find more than a little ironic since Wordpress was developed to make website management easier. I feel if your Wordpress project is going to be that complex, you are better off spending the money on website developers (say like Traversi media) that will build a website and CMS specific to your needs.
Regardless which way you go, Wordpress or otherwise, preparation and planning go a long way towards a successful website project. Traversi Media can help in that respect, from advising and planning to development and training. Please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for help in that area.
Traversi Media just launched the new website for Barker Petroleum at https://www.barkerpetroleum.com The company was founded in 2019 and is a fuel hauler operating in California and northern Nevada.
We not only designed and developed the website, but had a hand in the company's logo design as well. We worked with the owner in developing the color palette and multiple iterations of the logo through the company formation. In addition to corporate and marketing information, the site features a pre-employment inquiry form, as well as a news section that will be launched in the weeks ahead.
While I always try to present the various services Traversi Media offers, website development is one of our core services. Please keep us in mind for any projects you might have.
Ever since I branched off on my own, I had an idea for an import/export system that would bring in transaction, card, and account data, and export it to accounting and/or ERP systems. Most of these systems have some system to perform the imports, but there can be limitations such as data transformation, process frequency, and automation configurability. In my mind, I could build a system that was many things to many companies but essentially boiled down to a custom middleware solution: FuelWRX.
A few months ago, I was working through a process with another vendor for performing settlements of transactions by taking in site controller data and comparing against settled transactions. Surprisingly, there can be a significant gap in a meaningful way to automatically reconcile transactions resulting in a lot of manual processes to compensate. These manual processes grow out of the technology and process gaps and over time, it becomes an accepted practice - the cost of doing business.
More recently, I was discussing with another company their need to increase the frequency of imported transactions to a fleet management software they work with. Their accounting system can accommodate the import of daily transaction files and export to other systems like a telematic provider, but is limited to a daily process. However, by developing a system that acts as the translator between the fleet card provider's API and the telematics provider, we could provide near real-time data.
Both of these examples fall right into the scope I imagined for FuelWRX. Each scenario carries different challenges, goals, and data, but at their core require a process that brings in data, transforms the data, then exports the data. While this requires custom development to build the process - and is typically the barrier for many to move forward to address - the FuelWRX business model removes the high costs associated with custom anything.
Since the system will essentially boil down to transaction-based processing, a simple low transaction fee will be charged with just a month-to-month committment after a 90 day period. Some processes may incur one-time minimal setup or configuration fees which will be communicated upfront. I envision these as being costs outside of my own control. All custom software development will be absorbed by the WRX. I'm betting that whatever FuelWRX handles for its customers will be so beneficial that they will use it for years to come and I will make up my investment in the long run.
I'm revealing just the first layer of this service to everyone and encourage any companies out there to get in touch with me to discuss current needs or ideas. There's a whole reporting side of the service I have yet to share, as well as functionality to aid in fraud detection and revealing sales metrics. That being said, this service would only be as good as those it serves, so I welcome any feedback even at this early juncture.