Building a Website using Wordpress

Recently I volunteered to help my riding club update their website. While I have experience designing information architectures and writing content for websites, I’m not particularly HTML literate. So when I peeked behind the curtain I was appalled. Where was the content management system (CMS)? There was none. Instead you had to ftp the articles over to the site.

This is when I learned that I was truly technology challenged. The first time I tried to go onto the site and make edits I managed to ftp all the articles from the site onto my computer, leaving just an empty URL. That convinced me that there had to be a better way.

I’ve been using WordPress.com for more than a year now. In addition to this blog I also have a popular equestrian blog, Equine Ink. I like the flexibility afforded by the templates and I find the interface to be intuitive and easy to use. In addition, I could see that by using the WordPress CMS, we could make our website more of a community effort and involve more of our members.

Since the club wanted a Website rather than a blog, I turned to WordPress.org so we could use our own URL and have email addresses associated with the site. I set up hosting through GoDaddy.com, a service that makes it incredibly easy to upload WordPress templates. Given my previous experiences using an ftp client, I was skeptical, but it turned out that after downloading the templates onto my computer, the GoDaddy interface made it easy to upload and install them.

The wealth of free — and low cost — WordPress templates is amazing. Of course, many of them look like templates and it took some time to find one that met all of my requirements. Along with finding a template with the layout and fonts I liked, it was also important to me to find one that is supported by the author. In the end I selected Paalam, a theme written by Sadish Bala. It’s a very elegant design that works well with photo-intensive postings. Having access to support forums has already helped. I wanted to move the position of the title and was able to get the revised code very quickly.

I quickly found plug-ins that added functionality such as a photo gallery and used WordPress’s password protection function to safeguard a members only section of the site. For the technically challenged, this is certainly a quick and easy way to build a fully functioning site without becoming a programmer!

For comparison purposes, here’s the site that we started with:

The original site did not allow you to easily size photos for the header and was text heavy. Since all members love to see photos and videos of the hunt, I thought we would be better served by a design that enabled us to easily incorporate images.

The original site did not allow you to easily size photos for the header (so the image repeated) and was text heavy. The navigation bar was only across the top and you need to mouse over the tabs to see the sub pages. Since all members love to see photos and videos of the hunt, I thought we would be better served by a design that enabled us to easily incorporate images.

Here’s the new WordPress site:

The template of the new site allows all sub-pages to be shown in the left hand navigation bar making it easier to find topics. It is easy to incorporate images into the pages and posts. I particularly like the dynamic nature of the blog format. Rather than having a static site, new posts can be easily added making the site more representative of the community.

The template of the new site allows all sub-pages to be shown in the left hand navigation bar making it easier to find topics. It is easy to incorporate images into the pages and posts. I particularly like the dynamic nature of the blog format. Rather than having a static site, new posts can be easily added making the site more representative of the community.

How much should this project cost? This is almost funny.

Last week I put a project out to bid on Guru.com. It’s a pretty straightforward project: my client wants to clean up and enhance a Zen Cart site.

I’ve looked at the CMS and figured it was maybe 20 hours of work. I solicited bids only from companies with experience in Zen Cart and I provided each company that expressed interest a very detailed list of what needed to be done.

I got bids in almost immediately. I had to stop and scratch my head. They ranged from $450 to $3,600. That’s right, the same project.

I sent back questions to two of the companies that had the highest bids. I was genuinely curious. What was it about the project that they thought would require an investment of $3,600?

From the first company, I received an estimate of the time that would be involved with specific line items. So, they really think that it would take:

  • 12 hours to set up the Zen Cart site for a company based in Massachusetts. I’m sorry, but having looked at the Admin panel, I know that it’s a question of changing one setting. Actual time? 15 minutes to find the right setting and click on the right box.
  • 20 hours to test the site in multiple browser/operating system configurations. Really? We’re talking about a site that’s got fewer than 10 pages. Maybe they know about more configurations than I do!
  • 8 hours to test that the shopping cart functionality works. I guess that’s not included in the above mentioned 20 hours of browser testing! Let’s see, I tried it myself. In less than half an hour I found out that the cart does work. Phew, saved myself 7.5 hours!
  • 12 hours to resize two images on two pages. Are they planning to redraw them? Heck, we paid less than that for the designer to create the images!
  • 16 hours to complete text edits on the FAQ page. That’s about 25-cents per word. Most writers don’t make that much.

Okay, you get the picture now. The bid was so over the top that it was funny. Except that it isn’t. In my mind it’s a case of a company that is trying to take advantage of what they perceive to be a client’s ignorance. Pricing on this level is extortion.

The second company in this price range said only that it was expensive because the request was “so detailed.” They immediately offered to cut their price in half, but only if I awarded the bid to them that day. Sorry, I don’t work with suppliers that try to gouge me the first time.

In the end, we did most of the work internally. We did find a few programmers who provided honest bids but I’m sorry to say that out of the 16 companies that sent me proposals, they were in the small minority. We are going to start working with one soon and hope that he is as good as his references state.

Bottom line? As a client or agency understanding the scope of the project and it’s worth is essential. There are plenty of people waiting in line to take your money who hope you just don’t know the right sum to pay.

Website for Radiology Practice Features Browser-Updatable Content

As a PR practitioner I’ve always hated working on client websites that don’t have a content management system that I can access. Yes, I know they have legal issues to contend with, but inevitably even the smallest changes take forever to implement and typos manage to creep into the copy . . . requiring yet another round of changes and additional charges.

Recently I helped a radiology practice in Springfield, Mass. create a website. One of their requirements was that the site use a content management system that allowed them to make regular updates and additions.

When I work on a website I generate the information architecture, write the copy and serve as the interface between the client, the designer and the programmer. While this was supposed to be a “down and dirty” site to get them started, it ended up being pretty comprehensive, including information about the practice and educational information about the different aspects of radiology.

The site was built using Drupal which has a very user-friendly content management system and a lot of flexibility. Even I can make the updates as it requires only a minimal knowledge of HTML.

Radiology & Imaging