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  1. #1
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    Help: Hiring Web Developer for Company website

    I'm in charge of renewing my company website. We have the design already coded into html and we're going to hire a web developer company to do the CMS and database integration with the current database)

    Currently there are two companies that are under consideration. Company A says it will take about 40 days because they're making the CMS from scratch. Company B says it will take 13 days and they will use wordpress for the CMS and customize it according to our needs.

    I'm not sure about the advantages/disadvantages of using wordpress vs CMS made from scratch. I did find reviews about wordpress and read that it's more suitable for blogs instead of business website and is not good for SEO.

    I'd appreciate any tips/advice/opinions on Wordpress, hiring web developers and what to look out for, contracts, etc. Thanks in advance

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    Is Company A good with custom CMS? Wordpress is pretty tried and true - many companies use it as their CMS because it's easy to use (..if you don't need to fiddle with the template..) and it's commonplace. Although it's known first and foremost as a blogging platform, it doesn't have to be.

    I'm not super-familiar with web development companies, although I do want to get into website design possibly as a freelancer so I'll be checking out this thread for additional comments.

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    I was a PM at a web shop a few years back. While I don't have any experience with Wordpress as a CMS, I can offer some general tips.

    Is this going to be fixed price or are you paying actual costs based on an estimate? If you're paying actual costs, make sure you have frequent milestones and review points. For the 40 day, you should be able to see the progress every other week. For the 13 day, twice a week. The reviews let you find problems early before they become too expensive to fix.

    The other tricky thing is the security setup. If you have anything sensitive, or if you are in the type of business that invites web attacks or flamers, take time to fully document your security needs and make sure the vendor understands them. During testing, it's worth a few bucks to hire a security firm to try to hack in and add or change some of the content.

    Feel free to PM me with any specific questions you might have.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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    As a designer who outsources and works with developers, I can help.

    BUT . . . the big open question here is: it really depends on the needs of your company's site as to what CMS is best. And you don't outline that in your original post. so I can only offer a general layman's view.

    Wordpress is absolutely terrific in a lot of ways, and I've used it for many sites myself, but usually smaller sites. From a back-end usability standpoint, it's terrific and very easy to use. It is open-source, and so it's being constantly upgraded with new features, widgets, etc. It started out as a blogging platform, but is quickly becoming the CMS of choice for many businesses. I chose it for my skatecast site, and several of my clients (like this one and this one) are Wordpress sites. So you can see how customizable and versatile it can be.

    If you have a HUGE site, with a lot of pages, archiving, and migration needs, Wordpress might not be best. I've worked with a lot of Drupal developers and Drupal is terrific for larger sites, but has a higher learning curve for back-end users. The security with Drupal is terrific too, which is why many Universities use it (and indeed, the White House site is Drupal as well). This site and this site we did use Drupal. It's also open-source, and thus constantly being upgraded and expanded with new modules and features.

    There are other CMS' out there, but I can't speak to those since we use almost always the above two.

    i will say, however, that two weeks seems like a VERY short timeframe, unless you site is really small. I always give my developers 6 weeks to do a project (unless it's a huge University site) when I build a schedule.

    SEO has a lot to do with how you write the content and use links.
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    Thank you for the replies, everyone

    Quote Originally Posted by Anita18 View Post
    Is Company A good with custom CMS?
    I'm actually not sure... Looking at their portfolio, I think they should be able to do what we want... but to be honest, we're not too happy with company A because of their (somewhat) slow response... or maybe they seem slow compared to company B who is very prompt in their responses and actually called us back before we called them


    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    Is this going to be fixed price or are you paying actual costs based on an estimate? If you're paying actual costs, make sure you have frequent milestones and review points. For the 40 day, you should be able to see the progress every other week. For the 13 day, twice a week. The reviews let you find problems early before they become too expensive to fix.
    We are paying actual costs. We have presented the design to these companies and they proposed timeline and cost proposals for completing our website. I will ask them about the reviews, and how often we'll be able to do it

    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    The other tricky thing is the security setup. If you have anything sensitive, or if you are in the type of business that invites web attacks or flamers, take time to fully document your security needs and make sure the vendor understands them. During testing, it's worth a few bucks to hire a security firm to try to hack in and add or change some of the content.
    This is another area that makes me I don't even know where to start with this one to be honest... I will ask them about this. I kind of assumed that they would take care of it and will give the best security possible?


    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    BUT . . . the big open question here is: it really depends on the needs of your company's site as to what CMS is best. And you don't outline that in your original post. so I can only offer a general layman's view.
    That's true I would say that our website is not small, but also not very complex. We have almost 100 pages for our products but each page is the same layout, same information (different pictures, different descriptions). We also have a page for seasonal/event-related deals that changes often. A feature we want is a "priority list" where we can rank the products/deals. Our website is information-heavy but not very interactive (mostly just forms they can fill).

    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    Wordpress is absolutely terrific in a lot of ways, and I've used it for many sites myself, but usually smaller sites.

    ...

    If you have a HUGE site, with a lot of pages, archiving, and migration needs, Wordpress might not be best.
    Does it have some limitations that make it unsuitable for big websites?

    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    I've worked with a lot of Drupal developers and Drupal is terrific for larger sites, but has a higher learning curve for back-end users. The security with Drupal is terrific too, which is why many Universities use it (and indeed, the White House site is Drupal as well). This site and this site we did use Drupal. It's also open-source, and thus constantly being upgraded and expanded with new modules and features.
    I will have to ask these companies if they also use Drupal. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    i will say, however, that two weeks seems like a VERY short timeframe, unless you site is really small. I always give my developers 6 weeks to do a project (unless it's a huge University site) when I build a schedule.
    Yes, I think so too... This is why I have some reservations about hiring company B. Their short time frame makes me wonder if: 1. they don't fully understand our request and think it's simpler than it really is 2. they are going to cut corners, and we'll get sloppy result. But then again, I'm not sure what's the normal time frame for our kind of website

    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    SEO has a lot to do with how you write the content and use links.
    Company B is offering SEO optimization for additional cost. We're wondering if it works, but getting the new website up is the first priority... Everyone's getting sick of looking at the old website

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    This is another area that makes me I don't even know where to start with this one to be honest... I will ask them about this. I kind of assumed that they would take care of it and will give the best security possible?
    You might start with the content categories: Who can update the product pages? Who can update the priority list? Who can change the CSS? Then, think about governance. Do pages need to be approved before they're published? Do you need a security log for SAS-70 or other audit purposes? Make sure your vendor understands your needs. If you do have multiple security roles, makes sure you test that Role A can't do Role B's work and vice versa. Also, make sure that there's not a common password for the admin options. Each user should have to authenticate.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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    Thanks Aceon, we did talk about user-access with the developers. The protection against spammers/hackers/malicious virus part though makes me I know nothing about them...

    On another note, would contacting the clients of these companies be ethical? I would like to get honest reviews/opinions from their former clients that had not been handpicked by them

    If we decide to use one of the companies, do they have the right to automatically put our website in their portfolio/website? Do they need to ask for permission from us?

    So many questions, so many things to consider

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    Quote Originally Posted by DAngel View Post
    Thanks Aceon, we did talk about user-access with the developers. The protection against spammers/hackers/malicious virus part though makes me I know nothing about them...

    On another note, would contacting the clients of these companies be ethical? I would like to get honest reviews/opinions from their former clients that had not been handpicked by them

    If we decide to use one of the companies, do they have the right to automatically put our website in their portfolio/website? Do they need to ask for permission from us?

    So many questions, so many things to consider
    The protection part is normally handled by the hosting company. If you're hosting on your own servers, you'll need to work with the server admins to make sure everything is locked down.

    Contacting other sites? Sure, it's done all the time. Type the tagline the vendor uses on the sites they have in their portfolio (something along the lines of "Designed and Developed by Company A") into Google to get a list. Then send an email to the webmasters.

    Whether or not they get a credit on your site or you allow them to list you in their portfolio should be in the contract. Typically, our firm gave a discount for the home page credit. The "listed on portfolio" part was a standard part of the contract and the client's X'd it out if they didn't want it.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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    Quote Originally Posted by DAngel View Post
    I'm actually not sure... Looking at their portfolio, I think they should be able to do what we want...
    As Aceon pointed out, do call for references and ask for results. A site may "look" good but doesn't work, so don't just base it on their portfolio. Look for RESULTS, not what's PRETTY. So ask them if they have metrics: the old site only got XX conversions vs the new site that gets XXX, or we wanted XX number of hits and got XXX number of hits . . . whatever the goals for that site were. Find out if what they do actually is effective.

    Quote Originally Posted by DAngel View Post
    That's true I would say that our website is not small, but also not very complex. We have almost 100 pages for our products but each page is the same layout, same information (different pictures, different descriptions). We also have a page for seasonal/event-related deals that changes often. A feature we want is a "priority list" where we can rank the products/deals. Our website is information-heavy but not very interactive (mostly just forms they can fill).
    Ahhh, so it's ecommerce. That's kind of important! Each page may be the same, but there's a database system shuffling those pages. Do you allow customers to give reviews? Social media sharing of products? Do you want those things? Will people be able to search by type of product?

    The more specific you can get about the goals of the site, the more accurate the quote and schedule.
    Quote Originally Posted by DAngel View Post
    Does it have some limitations that make it unsuitable for big websites?
    Not that I know of, but a programmer can answer that better (again, I'm a designer who works with programmers)
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DAngel View Post
    Company B is offering SEO optimization for additional cost. We're wondering if it works, but getting the new website up is the first priority... Everyone's getting sick of looking at the old website
    But again, a lot of that too is how YOU (not them) write the copy. Sure, there's a lot that can be done on the back-end, but I imagine you are not expecting them to be copywriters as well. So write your headers and product descriptions to include the product name and other keywords.
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    The protection part is normally handled by the hosting company. If you're hosting on your own servers, you'll need to work with the server admins to make sure everything is locked down.
    Ah, we don't host our own servers... so I guess that part is taken care of

    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    Contacting other sites? Sure, it's done all the time. Type the tagline the vendor uses on the sites they have in their portfolio (something along the lines of "Designed and Developed by Company A") into Google to get a list. Then send an email to the webmasters.

    Whether or not they get a credit on your site or you allow them to list you in their portfolio should be in the contract. Typically, our firm gave a discount for the home page credit. The "listed on portfolio" part was a standard part of the contract and the client's X'd it out if they didn't want it.
    That's good to know, thank you


    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    As Aceon pointed out, do call for references and ask for results. A site may "look" good but doesn't work, so don't just base it on their portfolio. Look for RESULTS, not what's PRETTY. So ask them if they have metrics: the old site only got XX conversions vs the new site that gets XXX, or we wanted XX number of hits and got XXX number of hits . . . whatever the goals for that site were. Find out if what they do actually is effective.
    I'll contact their clients and hope we'll get an honest review.

    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    Ahhh, so it's ecommerce. That's kind of important! Each page may be the same, but there's a database system shuffling those pages. Do you allow customers to give reviews? Social media sharing of products? Do you want those things? Will people be able to search by type of product?
    Ah, no it's not e-commerce We're in the tour and travel industry and the products are actually tour program/itineraries... The products are pretty much sorted by continents... we don't really allow customer reviews or social media sharing etc... We have forms they can fill in to tell us what they think, but it's mostly for internal review. The website is actually not that interactive

    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    But again, a lot of that too is how YOU (not them) write the copy. Sure, there's a lot that can be done on the back-end, but I imagine you are not expecting them to be copywriters as well. So write your headers and product descriptions to include the product name and other keywords.
    Yes, the web developers won't be filling the contents


    What is the common practice for payments? Is it usually upfront, in installments, or after they've finished the product?

    Thank you very much Aceon6, manleywoman, I'm learning a lot from the two of you

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    Do you have an on-site web developer that will help transition the development in the future if you opt for the custom CMS? Who will be maintaining the CMS once the developer is finished with the site update? Will that remain with the outside developer or transition internally?

    In my experience, custom CMS systems are great in theory, but difficult in execution and maintenance. If your entire site is based on a custom CMS of a handful of developers that then later move, what will the site be down the road?

    If you have a lot of customization (and a lot of $$$), a custom CMS is a good option. If you have something more standard, I'd probably go with something out-of-the-box that is well documented and which any developer can jump into.

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    ^ That's one of the reasons I love Wordpress . . . for someone NOT familiar with coding or development it's very easy to manage the site and update it easily. Drupal has a higher learning curve. Again, i can't speak to other CMS' out there, as those are the only two I'm really familiar with.

    DAngel, this site I showed you earlier is a travel site we designed and it's done in Wordpress. It was a custom Wordpress site, not using an existing template, but the back-end is just as easy as if you used a template (my podcast site uses a template, and the backends of both the travel and podcast site are identical). It works beautifully, has multiple tour packages, social media, blog, places for travelers to upload content, etc. If your site requirements are similar to this, I'd go with Wordpress personally. If you already have a design, I can recommend you to the developer we used. Granted, that client didn't have a website AT ALL prior to us designing on for them, so there were no metrics/goals we were trying to surpass. So my developer won't be able to give you that info on this particular job. Let me know if you want his info. He'll want 6 weeks though in development time.

    What I also like about Wordpress is that there are a TON of good, quality tutorials out there. So if you have a lot of editors who will be making changes to the content, training is easy.

    As far as payment: our guys typically want a 30-50% deposit upfront, and then the rest at the end. But if it's a longer project schedule (like several months) it's common to do a 30% deposit upfront, then bill monthly.
    Last edited by manleywoman; 04-14-2011 at 09:11 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DAngel View Post
    What is the common practice for payments? Is it usually upfront, in installments, or after they've finished the product?
    Ours were 30% at contract signing, 40% upon completion and acceptance of the most important milestone, and 30% at site launch. More complex sites had the last 30% 4-6 weeks after launch, as we were responsible for fixing any defects during that period.

    Were I in your shoes, I'd pick the company that's likely to be there for you when you have problems. During your reference checks, ask how responsive the company was 3 months after the site launched. Also ask the key question "Would you work with them again?"
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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    Quote Originally Posted by hydro View Post
    Do you have an on-site web developer that will help transition the development in the future if you opt for the custom CMS? Who will be maintaining the CMS once the developer is finished with the site update? Will that remain with the outside developer or transition internally?
    We're planning to hire a webmaster who will be responsible for maintaining the website. (We had one last year, but he quit) We will be taking over from the developers, they have said that they will provide assistance with that.

    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    DAngel, this site I showed you earlier is a travel site we designed and it's done in Wordpress. It was a custom Wordpress site, not using an existing template, but the back-end is just as easy as if you used a template (my podcast site uses a template, and the backends of both the travel and podcast site are identical). It works beautifully, has multiple tour packages, social media, blog, places for travelers to upload content, etc. If your site requirements are similar to this, I'd go with Wordpress personally. If you already have a design, I can recommend you to the developer we used. Granted, that client didn't have a website AT ALL prior to us designing on for them, so there were no metrics/goals we were trying to surpass. So my developer won't be able to give you that info on this particular job. Let me know if you want his info. He'll want 6 weeks though in development time.
    I browsed the travel site and I think the main difference is the "priority list" thing for our promo/deals page and product page... Thinking about it though, I don't know if that's CMS or not (maybe it's more the database or something).

    Thank you for the offer, but we are thinking of hiring someone local. (I'm assuming your developer is in America? We're in SE Asia) I appreciate it though


    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    As far as payment: our guys typically want a 30-50% deposit upfront, and then the rest at the end. But if it's a longer project schedule (like several months) it's common to do a 30% deposit upfront, then bill monthly.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    Ours were 30% at contract signing, 40% upon completion and acceptance of the most important milestone, and 30% at site launch. More complex sites had the last 30% 4-6 weeks after launch, as we were responsible for fixing any defects during that period.
    Thank you for the reference

    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    Were I in your shoes, I'd pick the company that's likely to be there for you when you have problems. During your reference checks, ask how responsive the company was 3 months after the site launched. Also ask the key question "Would you work with them again?"
    Noted, thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by DAngel View Post
    We're planning to hire a webmaster who will be responsible for maintaining the website. (We had one last year, but he quit) We will be taking over from the developers, they have said that they will provide assistance with that.
    That's terrific! I would make sure you get every last line of code documented for your future developer.

    I'd also put the "assistance" and transition work in whatever agreement or contract you sign.

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