Why You Should Hire a Web Development Company

Assume that you have a business. And you would like to create a commercial. Will you have to take videos, pictures, edit and upload the commercial all by yourself? No. You will have to hire someone with great experience and skill to do it for you. The Same case applies to website development. However, original web creation is very simple. It takes no skill for you to create a small page for yourself and upload it to the web. Web development can be done either in-house or outsourcing. It is not bad to choose in-house website development, but it is advisable to take the outsourcing option. Expert knowledge is required when it comes to building a website using newer tools and advanced skills and expertise.

There are several reasons to hire a company. They are:

Time and frustration were saving – Assigning the task to the web development company save a lot of time, unlike in-house development. There are many aspects of HTML and CSS that are needed to be learned first before you need to start building a great website. This makes it a full-time job. It also saves the people from frustrations of knowing other web languages.

Search engine optimization – This is one of the most important factors in website development. The best website for a business should be ranked among the top in search engines. These ranking are important because if a person seeks you in the search engine, he or she will be able to view you in the quest engine such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The website developers have these tools that help your website to be visible in the search engine. Some of these tools are sold.

Site compatibility with the browser – Web developers can make a website compatible with all web browsers from Safari web browser to Google Chrome. When conducting a web development in house, some aspects are not put into consideration.

Competitiveness – You should be ahead of your business competitors on all platforms. The website should be appealing to the eye of the user as well as easy to use. When hiring a top notch website company then this will be easy to achieve.

Web Knowhow – This is the main reason to hire a professional web development company. They do have the professional knowledge on some latest web languages like HTML 5 and CSS3 and other programming languages like JavaScript which are important to a website.

How to choose a suitable web development company?

It is important to know that outsourcing a web development company is involving a third party. First, you must dig deep on the specific web development companies to choose the right web company to work with. Some of the factors to look at are:

• Are the web developers able to communicate the technical terms in a simpler language or layman language?

• Are they able to understand your requirements and are they able to deliver them?

• And are they technically proficient?

Conclusion

Developing an accessible website is a collaboration between the web developer and the client. It does not have to be a complicated process but rather requires a lot of planning in the start. A person cannot compare a website done in-house and another done by an experienced web designer. That’s a fact. And we all know it.

Useful Tips in Making a Website

It can be a scary task for the people who are new to the world of website designing to build their own website. With the certain keys and steps to be followed, you can simply make it into a simpler process. Before jumping in with it, it is very much important to do proper research. This is a one way of saving your time and money.

One of the essential things for you to remember in getting your own site online is the following: website building tool, domain name and the web host. You can actually make a unique website from a simple text editor but on the other hand, you need to know and understand HTML or the Hyper Text Markup Language.

In addition, there is some of the website building tools that are designed especially to the people without knowledge on HTML. This is through the so-called “what you see is what you get editors”. You create the pages you want and this editor will automatically convert what you are doing into HTML. To find a domain is an easier process. You need to find first a domain that is free and register it with a domain name. You don’t need to worry about this, for there are many companies who can help you to do it quickly and straightforward. Finding domain name ends with .com, .org or .net. And the web hosts are the companies that you are paying for to host your website. This is for the reason that every site must be stored in a one powerful server or a powerful computer and this is the way wherein your visitors can get over your spot for they can be directed into your site because of the server.

In addition, these are some of the significant things that you need to know more in trying to make your website a compelling site.

* Make sure that your website will load fast.
* It should have a layout that is clear and pleasant to the eyes
* Always use colors that the visitors will be interested in.
* Make sure to have a FAQs page for your site.
* Provide information to the visitors that are relevant and easy to understand.
* Keep you site on the basics: it should be open and light
* write the contents that are original, bold and short
* Establish trust with the visitors coming in and out
* Keep in mind the way your visitor will feel, try to envision them by giving a thought as what they are looking into.

Website development is something that you should not just take for granted especially if you are starting your own business. If you want to learn more about website development and want more tips, check out http://getdesigndashboard.com

The Seventh Cloud

Have you ever thought of pushing an operating system into its own recycle bin? Well, it may not be possible practically but that’s what most of them thought after using Microsoft Windows Vista. After getting used to Windows XP, which undeniably ruled over the last 8 years in the home and corporate segment, people’s expectations increased when Microsoft tuned Vista. Though it was able to deliver the look and feel of a stylish new operating system, the performance part pulled it down. Few of them used it as they couldn’t find any better option. Macintosh was heavy for pockets; Linux was too techy for beginners and so the only option was Windows. Being in a computer manufacturing industry, I had a chance to closely connect with users and understand the needs and expectations from an operating system. It’s like you buy a new car and the very next day you realize there’s a big dent on it, and that’s when you repair and that’s what Microsoft did with Vista Service pack 1. But most of them chose to exchange the car instead of repairing it and so the manufacturer had to come up with a better one.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for Windows 7. If you are wondering what it is, you are either too far from technology or too close to dreams. For advanced users, I need not say anything because you guys are too interested to know it yourself. So, I will keep this article simple and straight which gives a sample peak into the world of windows. Don’t worry, it won’t be too technical, but I guess Microsoft expects its users to be on cloud 7 if not on 9 after the release. If you are fascinated to know more and want to disintegrate your brain and slobber over the operating system, you better download the Windows 7 beta.

I have done the Windows Seven installation and setup, I obviously installed and tested few basic applications like Norton Internet Security 2009, iTunes, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader 9, Skype, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Office 2007, Virtual Dub, SpyBot Search and Destroy. The beta version is offered only for a limited period and is purely for testing. So, anyone trying it out, there is an option for feedback where you can kill your frustration. Installation speed for the above mentioned software’s was quick, Microsoft Office 2007 being the slowest. I had to install it from a disc and the extra tad of time was taken in staging the installation files to a local store. When you install applications from the local drive or from an USB Flash storage device, the installation speed is much faster. The startling one out of all was Norton. Traditionally a slow installation, it went through in less than 4 minutes (not counting the system scan). I’ll be trying more stuff as time passes though. In scenarios where the installed application was not compatible, the operating system reaction was parallel to Vista. If you are guy with patience, you have few options to send the information to Microsoft and to retry the installation with recommended compatibility settings.

One of the major changes in the UI (User Interface) is the taskbar. It’s wide and has only icons of the running applications. Personally, I didn’t like the change but it doesn’t look that bad either. There are some appealing features like Peek but that can be understood better when you look at it. Overall, it’s a decent upgrade but again if you want to compare with Mac, all the best!!

The annoying part in Vista was the User account control (U.A.C). For those who used it, it’s the screen which prompts or blocks you from installing and asks permissions to continue, even though you trust that application. The user account control has been redesigned in Windows Seven, but the application installation has not changed much. For the programs which are inbuilt, thankfully we do not require U.A.C grants. For example, TaskManager (All User Mode) Device manager, Disk Management, Services and a host of other control panels and windows apps load directly without U.A.C prompting you to grant access. However non-native applications continue to have U.A.C. prompts. This behavior can be controlled even better in Windows Seven. Instead of the plain vanilla on / off modes that U.A.C support in Vista, Windows Seven has an improved U.A.C control panel, that allows you to adjust your U.A.C needs.

Compared to the publicity that was generated when Vista was first showcased, Seven has so far seen a lukewarm response in terms of the number of people grabbing the beta. Reason could be in the fact that the driver model is backward compatible and most Vista Compatible hardware also works with Seven, which was not the case during the Xp-Vista jump. So, it is possible that people are moving up the upgrade chain, however finding minor quantity of troubles to deal with. The versions of the operating system are pretty much same as Vista, and yes we can expect the upgrade from Vista to Windows 7.

The probable upgrade path looks something similar to this:

1. Windows Vista Home Premium -> Windows 7 Home Premium

2. Windows Vista Business -> Windows 7 Professional

3. Windows Vista Ultimate -> Windows 7 Ultimate

Microsoft Windows Vista® Home Basic, Windows Vista® Starter Edition, and Windows® XP (all editions) are not qualifying products under the program.

Good or Bad, we are going to see it and we are going to try it, and let’s hope Windows 7 is actually Windows 7 and not just Windows vista service pack 2.

Data Recovery Tools – Prevention and the How-To of Restoring Lost Or Deleted Files

I can picture it now, you were sitting at your laptop pounding away on the keyboard trying to finish up that term paper that should have been written two weeks ago, then suddenly the power goes out and your files are lost. Your computer resets and your word processing software has lost all your progress. Or maybe you were babysitting and the kid jumped on the computer to fix up a quick homework assignment and deleted all your hard work. No matter the situation we are going to end up at the same place–we’ve lost some files on our personal computer and we want them back; however, the best option will always be prevention, so let’s start there.

If possible, always keep a “hard copy” of any printable file. A “hard copy” is a printed file which is the physical product of what is intended to be an electronic document. There are some cases where this may not be possible. For example, any website work or graphic design work may be nearly impossible to capture in another format, especially if you have any other hidden features that may be electronically stored within the image.

If you can’t keep a “hard copy” then the best thing that you can do is back the file up on any other possible storage media that will stand alone without the use of the personal computer that you initially intended to store the file on. I recommend using a second household computer, if you have one. If you don’t there are many other possible alternatives for storing files electronically. Another great storage resource is an email account, if the document is a relatively large document then the email account probably wouldn’t be a suitable option; however, you could always sign up for an online storage service.

Now that we have discussed possible ways to prevent the situation from happening–or happening again if you’re one of the unfortunate that this has already happened to (I am assuming you are, you are here after all)–it’s time we discuss ways of solving the problem.

Your first option probably would be to make a trip down to the local computer repair shop in your area and seeing if one of the “techies” there can help you out, and this is a common route many people will take. Another option would require searching through lists of data recovery companies and trying to select one company that looks reputable enough to go with.

Personally, I’m closer to being the local “techie” than most people and I do tend to catch the D.I.Y. bug quite often too, so I probably would take the last option which I’m going to spout out right now. I would go through looking for a piece of software that would allow me to do the job myself. In some situations this may be the very thing you need to do, especially if you’re working with sensitive documents. After all, many of us have a lot of information sitting around on a hard disk drive that we wouldn’t want just any data recovery company to be snooping through (Think: bank statements, email addresses, personal accounting files, general private messages, and in some cases for the public figure…internet history).

So, I would suggest backing up all your files first and then having your own set of data recovery tools. If you’re still interested in learning more then click this link and read more about it here!

Hope this helps!

How To Find Free Blog Template Code

So long as you can use a search engine, it’s fairly easy to find a free blog template code to make your blog look good.

Remember that each blog service is different, so a WordPress template (or theme, as they prefer to call them) will take a lot of tweaking to make it work with a Blogger blog.

It’s a lot easier to narrow down your search to only return links to blog templates that match your particular blogging platform.

Of course, if you’re a wizard with HTML and have the spare time, you could design your own blog template code from scratch. But that’s not something that many people are comfortable with doing.

Most blogs come with a few standard blog templates. A standard WordPress installation will have a couple templates. Blogger has a larger number and you’re asked to choose your template in the new blog creation wizard.

Trouble is, these blog templates are so common it will look as though you haven’t put any effort into your blog if you use one of them.

Once you’ve typed in your search for your particular blog template, chances are that you’ll get hundreds of possible sites that you could choose from.

But even if you’ve used the word “free” in your search, that doesn’t mean that all (or even any!) of the templates you find on a particular site will actually be free for you to use. You see, sites know that you’re likely to be looking for free stuff and will construct their pages in such a way as to fool the search engines into showing their pages. A phrase like “we don’t offer free blog template code” will likely help the site to show up in a search for free templates.

So be careful – it’s easy to get hooked on a particular blog design and then suddenly find that when you click the “download” button you’re asked for money.

If the blog template code that you thought was free turns out to cost a few dollars, that may actually be a good thing. Since most fellow bloggers will be looking for true freebies, your blog could look more distinctive if you actually pay for a template. Ultimately, it’s your choice.

Find out more about how to find free blog template code and how to use your blog to best advantage. Learn the secrets of easy blogging.

Disposing of Your USB Memory Sticks

USB memory sticks are a wonderful way to back up and transport a range of digital information, from music to video to documents to pictures. The only question is, when you are ready to retire your memory stick, how do you dispose of it? Before you think about just throwing away your USB memory stick, consider the myriad ways you can recycle or reuse it.

Before you find an outlet for your old memory sticks, make sure all the information you wrote onto the stick has been properly and completely deleted. While deleting the files yourself at home may appear to remove the information from the stick, the data may still be accessible to skilled hackers and certain spy programs. The best practice is to take the drive to your local computer store or maintenance location and have them professionally delete the information.

A great way to dispose of your memory stick is to donate it. For example, some companies collect unwanted and old USB sticks and recycles them for students and professionals in developing countries who do not have access to such technology. Some education trusts also accepts donated USB memory sticks in support of schools in Africa. If you prefer your donation to stay more local, then some local libraries distribute audio books to the blind on donated memory sticks.

If you do not like the idea of donating your USB memory stick, it is also possible to recycle your memory stick at home by finding alternative uses for them. Unwanted USB sticks can be used as key chain charms or plant labels. The circuit boards and interior wiring can be reconfigured and redesigned to make unique jewelry pieces, and an arrangement of USB parts could contribute to an art project. Some people grind up their old USB sticks and lay it around flower beds as moisture insulation and weed protection. All you need to recycle your memory stick at home is a little imagination!

A final resort for the disposal of unwanted USB memory sticks is throwing them away but make sure to heed the warning about deleting all information properly before choosing this disposal option!

Everything considered, the best disposal method is reuse. One of the best aspects of a USB memory stick is it can be rewritten again and again and continue to hold and transport your data in a small and efficient manner and with sales of these units in the hundreds of millions they are likely to be here for quite some time yet.

Small Business Blog – Getting Started – WordPress Or Blogger

You have a business. You love it. And you want to share your knowledge on the internet to attract more customers and serve the ones you have. You can write and use spell check. (Of course you can, you have a business license.) Now how can you set up a web site? Is a blog too easy to look professional?

It depends. If don’t put any effort into the content and setup of your blog it will show. But good content and consistency can trump a flashy custom site. If you are technical enough to manage a web site, a good content management system like WordPress can speed you on your way to a professional looking blog. If the words “manage a web site” made you shudder, then a Blogger account might serve you better.

What are the differences between WordPress and Blogger? First of all, there are two ways to use WordPress, one is WordPress.com, which is non-commercial. So it is not an option for your small business. The other is WordPress, the software, which you can download for free from WordPress.org and set up on a host of your choosing. Blogger is hosted for you, and now gives you the option of registering a domain, which can be your business name (if available).

How do you setup a quick, attractive site on Blogger? It’s easy. Go to blogger.com, and create an account. If you already have a gmail account, or any other account with Google, you can use it. If not, choose Create Your Blog Now and follow the prompts. You’ll be able to name your blog and choose a template that suits the style of your business. If you feel like customizing your blog, you can do so. If that doesn’t interest you, you can start writing immediately.

If you want more control over your site, and are willing to pay for it and do a bit more technical work, consider WordPress with self hosting. You can get information on hosting requirements and instructions on nearly everything WordPress related at wordpress.org. Once you choose a host, you’ll need to register your domain, if you don’t already have one. If you choose to self host, remembering to make backups of your site is very important.

Why would you want to go to the trouble of finding a host, setting up everything yourself and being responsible for your backups? And why would you pay for what you can get for free? Customization is not free. If you want your blog site to have a design completely unique to you and your business, then you need to have full access to the server and all of your sites files. You will not get that with a free service. (Though, of the free blog hosting services, Blogger does allow javascripting.)

And there is your decision: Do you prefer ease of use or control? What is worth more to you and your business vision, customization or the ability to set up your site quickly without much technical knowledge?

Technology doesn’t need to be boring.

— Christine Decourlande

The Popularity of Blogs As a Selling Tool

Blogging used to be seen as a social tool. It was a way of telling the world how you felt about things that mattered to you – and in a way that has never changed, even though many business owners have now cottoned on to the fact that blogging is a great way to attract new customers and visitors to their website.

The concept of blogging has clearly changed somewhat over the years, and while there are still people out there blogging about what matters to them, the format is now regularly bringing in fresh sales and new business to people who are players in the internet marketing field.

So why are blogs so popular in this way?

One of the main reasons is that online businesses have a tendency to be ‘faceless’. You cannot see the person or people behind that business and it can be all too easy to set up a bogus business that looks good on the outside but consists of nothing more than a way to fleece ordinary people of their cash.

Blogging helps to distinguish the honest traders from the bogus ones. It identifies those people who are passionate about their business and want to share the vast amounts of knowledge that they have on that subject.

This helps to establish trust between the business owner and their potential customers, and with links from their website to their blog they have an excellent chance of gaining new customers who don’t immediately buy something from the site, taking the time instead to explore first.

One of the advantages of having a blog as part of a website promotion drive is that blogs are generally viewed as being a ‘hands off’ form of promotion. They don’t directly try to sell to the customer in the same way that a website does; instead they strengthen the business by allowing the potential customer to find out more about that business and the person (or people) who runs it.

Most business bloggers do still have links from their blog back to their website, and they will also indulge in deep linking to pages within the site instead of constantly linking back to the home page all the time. This in turn helps the blog to build more backlinks to different areas of the website, building an even better chance of attracting more customers from the search engines, even though they won’t directly visit the blog at all.

It is perhaps ironic that a blog which is designed to help an online business develop and increase its profits doesn’t actually have to sell very hard at all. In the end it is all about adding depth and value to an online business – in effect the owner is taking the opportunity to show his or her potential clients that they know a great deal about what they do and can help their clients or customers accordingly.

In the end, a blog certainly can be a selling tool, but it is often one step removed from the selling process itself.

Web Profits specialises in search engine optimization, online marketing & web design, helping businesses generate profits from the Internet. For a free report on ‘The Secrets of Online Marketing for Offline Businesses’ visit Web Design.

Create a Blog Site You Can Be Proud Of

To create a blog site worthy enough to attract repeat visitors and develop a blog following you need to really pay attention to detail when picking out a template, adjusting the template’s layout to your taste, and if you hire someone else to create it, you need to have a clear picture of what you want so you can be able to express to them what you need in your custom-made blog design.

In the early days of blogging, you could easily create any blog site, throw it up on the web, and blog to your heart’s content; and if you did most of your search engine optimization right, you stood a good chance of being successful. These days, with so much competition, if you don’t create a blog site that looks modern you’ll have one big strike against you. It’s all about the readers’ experience when they visit your blog site so you can keep them coming back for more, faithfully!

I’m a big fan of WordPress and Google’s “Blogger” when it comes to creating a blog site; both are effective, straightforward, and very easy to use. If you’re using WordPress, try to use a separate hosting plan such as Hostgator or any other inexpensive host with similar bang for your money; hosting plans are really cheap, but good nowadays! Although WordPress.com has free hosting like Google’s “Blogger,” at this time they don’t allow you to use AdSense ads unless you sign up for their VIP program, which is full of great features but very expensive.

Google’s “Blogger” is another great blogging platform and it’s free! The one drawback to Blogger is the in-house templates are a little outdated so you need to find one of the many free blogger templates available on the web. Blogger does allow you to put AdSense ads so this is the choice for the majority of bloggers starting out on the internet.

Once you create a blog site using WordPress or Blogger there are three areas you might want to adjust to your liking; the header, the sidebar, and the footer. Many WordPress templates allow you to replace the header with your own design and Blogger makes changing the header very easy! You can insert Google ads in your sidebar through HTML, and it’s a great idea to look at the footers on the bottom of other websites to figure out which type you like.

The bottom line is this; if you create a blog site you can be proud of, it will help inspire you to keep blogging and moving forward to success!

What is a WAN Service and How Can it Help?

A WAN, or Wide Area Network is a computer network that covers a large area, such as those whose communications need cross metropolitan, regional or national boundaries. A WAN is used to connect local area networks, or LANs and other networks together; the linking of these computers allows users and computers in one area to communicate with users and computers in another location.

Most WANs are designed for a single organisation and are privately used. Those that are built by ISP, Internet Service Providers, provide connections from various organisation LANs, or local area networks, to connect to the Internet, in this way, communications can be delivered over national boundaries.

These types of communications include;

  • Instant messages
  • Emails
  • Real time auctions
  • Online ordering placing

This in turn can reduce costs for companies by eliminating the need for travel and expensive long distance phone calls.

The benefits of using a WAN are that you can connect computers that are located over a vast area together. A network that can exchange data between sights is efficient and effective. The WAN enables computers to communicate with each other, some at different times and others at the same time. Not only can data be shared, but video as well, WANs are used for video conferencing and web casting. When communication is being shared between computers, each operator can access the same information at the same time.

When using a WAN, major corporations can reduce the branch office in house costs by enabling a centralised data centre to handle backup and storage resources. The use of a WAN also improves employee productivity by increasing and accelerating work applications as well as reducing replication across the WAN.

The use of private WANs have significant benefits also; the network is safe, secure and as it states, private. This type of network can reduce support and maintenance costs. There is an increased speed of the data that can be transmitted between sites because no other users are on the network. There is the ability to quickly access data that might be stored at different locations. This is also a great way for a company to provide training to their employees without the expense of airline tickets, hotels and providing meals for them.

As you can see, the benefits of having a WAN are vast. Whether you are using a private network to utilise quickness and efficiency between your satellite offices, or whether you are using a public WAN such as the Internet to purchase an item, communication between geographic areas is an important role in our society. Many people have used the Internet to gain knowledge by attending on-line college classes, or just have some fun playing an on-line interactive game; all of these activities were accessed using a WAN. The use of WANs offers opportunities never before possible for businesses as well as the everyday consumer.

Derek Rogers is a freelance writer who writes for a number of UK businesses. For Business Internet Services and WAN Services, he recommends Iconnyx.

Open Source For Non-Profits

For the first seven years of my life I never had a baseball bat. In fact, nobody in the neighborhood had one. Simple reason was, we couldn’t afford one. Not about to let the kids in Jollyville, the rival neighborhood, get ahead, we put our heads together and came up with a solution. We broke off a few branches from a dead ocotillo cactus, placed a few large leafs over them and wrapped them together tightly together with fishing wire and, and voila, a functional bat. Not a Louisville slugger, but it got the job done. Over the course of one summer that was the bat that most of us learned how to hit with. Our ingenuity became the envy of the neighborhood. When I told my father about it, he smiled at said “well, the price was right.” In those tough economic times, the only price that was right was free. Sound familiar?

Over the next few years many small to mid-size non-profits and art centered project(s) will be facing severe financial cuts that, if not managed right, could lead to loss of revenue, exposure and messaging. Looking for ways to trim budgets while keeping the quality of organizations mission will be on the minds of most Executive Directors and boards. The natural tendency would be to scale back, downsize and “hunker” down. While this strategy may work for some aspects of business, I believe now is the time for smarter, more focused messaging, in particular, a new approach to an organization’s visual communication strategy. There has never been a better time to differentiate one’s organization or project from the crowd. New media technologies mean that you can spend less and do more if you are willing to consider a new approach.

The question is, however, how to do that in this chaotic economic environment. Having worked with non-profit and arts organizations for the last eight years I can testify that there is very rarely a shortage of ideas, but instead a shortage of resources available and allocated to make those ideas a reality. The question then becomes, are there alternative ways to achieve our visual communication goals without breaking the bank? While a conflux of unique circumstances has conspired to break our economy, another “perfect storm” has hit the digital creation marketplace, with much different results.

Let’s back up for a moment and take a look at some of the core ingredients that go into implementing an organizations visual communications strategy (note: at this point I am assuming the organization (or project) has already created an overall communications strategy). The focal point of most communications strategies is the web, as it serves as the main “hub” of your strategy, with all the other elements being the “spokes”, and they work together in concert to provide a cohesive and coordinated presentation to your targeted audience. Those elements would include your visual messaging (photography, graphic design), Multimedia presentations (podcasts, video, powerpoint) and print (brochures, annual reports). While there are many other elements that are often included, I think you’ll find them all sub-elements of the list above.

The budgetary requirement to implement a comprehensive plan with the elements outlined above is out of reach for most small non-profits or arts organizations. The catch 22 is, if you don’t implement your strategic plan what good is it to have one, and if you implement your plan but it breaks the bank, how can you justify it. My solution for smaller organizations is to embrace Open Source.

What is Open Source? Wikipedia defines it as “a development methodology, which offers practical accessibility to a product’s source (goods and knowledge). Some consider open source as one of various possible design approaches, while others consider it a critical strategic element of their operations.” In addition, Open Source also includes “OSS”, or Open Source Software, which is “defined as computer software for which the human-readable source code is made available under a copyright license (or arrangement such as the public domain) that meets the Open Source Definition. This permits users to use, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form. It is very often developed in a public, collaborative manner. Open source software is the most prominent example of open source development and often compared to user generated content.” For the purposes of this discussion, we are going to focus on OSS, but framed under the overall banner of the “development methodology”, as I think this can be appropriated by organizations as well.

OSS can include everything from web design applications to complete Content Management systems. The software is free to use and modify, although there are often some fine print in terms of credit and distribution. Most of these programs are widely available on the internet and have a fair amount of documentation. The capabilities rival those from the commercial sector, and are often updated faster than their commercial counterpart because of the sheer size of the development pool and, because its users are its developers, there is an imbedded need for fast, real-time solutions.

The learning curve of these systems is fairly straightforward. Google and other information resources have made access to user-generated documentation and trouble shooting of most OSS software easy and accessible, which is one aspect that should reassure organizations considering going Open Source. One of its early shortcomings was the lack of customer support (and is one area where the commercial products still rule). But, in this age of shrinking financial resources, many organizations will have to rely on human-power to push agendas forward, so the thought of spending a few hours troubleshooting versus paying two-thousand a year for Customer Service Support doesn’t sound so daunting.

Some of the early challenges organizations that went Open Source encountered have diminished with its wide appeal. When OSS first arrived on the scene, many of the programs were inaccessible to those that were not coders or programmers. Additionally, the functionality operated about two years behind commercial products, making them somewhat irrelevant for those trying to do innovative and cutting edge work.

In today’s OSS environment, functionality is running about six months behind commercial software, and that gap is confined to only the most complex processes and functions. For the 90% of organizations there is relatively no difference between OSS and commercial software functionality.
Let’s examine one of the main leaders of Open Source software, and look at the practical implications for implementing your digital communications strategy.

WordPress

WordPress is the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, used on hundreds of thousands of sites and seen by tens of millions of people every day. It started from a single piece of code and, thanks to the tens of thousands of developers who have contributed to it, has now grown into a (small) Content Management System that is more than capable for handling all of a small to mid-level organizations online needs.

Basically, WordPress works as a template system. Okay, I can hear the groans already. Like you, I have a severe dislike of templates as they are generally boring, uncreative and lack the type of innovation that I like my projects to encompass. WordPress’ template system is much different, however. I like to think of it as a “skeleton system”, providing the end user with a working prototype of their site within, say, 20 minutes, and allowing them to expand and build upon that skeleton to suite their own needs. Those with a PHP background can build their own templates from scratch, but I have found that there are more than enough base templates to allow for unlimited customization and creativity without having to build one from scratch.

The experience of setting up and using WordPress is about as straight forward and easy as a web platform can get. First, purchase your domain and set up your hosting plan. I use Bluehost, and I have been very happy with their service. They also provide something called Fantasico, which is a great script that will install OSS programs on your server with the touch of a button. Using Fantasico, is similar to setting up an email account, will allow you to have a fully functional version of WordPress installed and running on your site, all within about 15 minutes.

WordPress’ core functionality includes creating “pages”, which are static pages that you don’t expect to change much, like the usual “about” pages on websites. Also, and this is where WordPress really shines, allowing for dynamic blog posts, which you can display in infinite ways to your audience. Just about every other web function you can think of is handled by something called “plugins”. At last count, there are 3,124 plugins available at WordPress’ home page, and many more scattered throughout the web. On the Good Fight’s website, I am using 22 plugin’s from 22 different authors. They enable such functionality as dynamic contact forms, event calendars, social bookmarking for my readers, and on and on. Plugins are so amazing that I often find myself perusing the WordPress Codex for new and interesting plugins, whether for the Good Fight or for my personal blog. It’s a great way to keep fresh your audience’s experience at your site as well as improving functionality.

What really makes WordPress stand out is the fact that it’s “server side”, meaning the core files and application reside on your server, as opposed to a host computer. By contrast, when a designer or developer creates a site in Dreamweaver, they are working locally (on their computer) and uploading/publishing those HTML files onto your server. While this may work well for the individual, it can play havoc with an organization that does not have a Dreamweaver or web developer in house. Furthermore, the maintenance of a site is ongoing, and many times in smaller organizations this falls to the hands of an office manager. Without the knowledge of coding, or how a particular developer created a site, s/he is basically unable to properly maintain and update a website. Commercial programs like Contribute do an adequate job of proving some of these tools, but in my experience they are far too limiting in their functionality to be truly useful. Try re-editing a blog post and changing the color of the link text in Contribute and you’ll see why.

In WordPress, you can have unlimited numbers of users accessing the “guts” of the program, and you can assign levels of access to various users to “restrict” them from places on the site that are either private or risky for someone to be monkeying around in. For example, let’s say you want your administrative assistant to approve user comments made on your company’s blog post, and also update the sites “bio” page with a new staff member, and finally run a backup of the database should the server crash. In WordPress the process is simple: s/he logs in, hits a manger tab, opens up the page, pastes in the new bio, and hits publish; next s/he hits the “comments” tab and hits “approve” or “disapprove” to moderate the comments, and finally, to backup the database s/he simply hits “manage” and then “backup”, and WordPress starts an automated process. By contrast, should the same type of scenario play out with a traditional HTML site designed in Dreamweaver, it would be a much more complex and tedious process, and one fraught with more serious consequences should there be an error along the way.

Another element to the above situation is that these types of changes (and the thousands of other commands possible) can be implemented anywhere in the world where there is web access. You could, for example, have your communications director uploading a corporate report from home while one of your field executives posts a blog while at an airport. As I mentioned before, you can have as many users as you want, and each of those users can be given a “role”. It’s the ultimate way to manage your web site in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Oh yeah, and it’s free.

From a design standpoint, many people feel “boxed” in by the template system. I know many developers who think their creativity is “stifled” by working within the framework of a Content Management System. While it does take some with CSS and PHP knowledge to properly customize a template, there are some great out of the box templates that costs less than a dinner for four at Outback steak house. And because of the extensive documentation at WordPress, and the easy to navigate interface, a design savvy person can learn the basics of template customization within a few weeks.

For extensive layout customization, however, I would recommend hiring a WordPress designer to tweak your template to your liking. Again, you have to weigh the time involved in learning PHP and CSS versus hiring. Up until now everything I’ve covered has been a minimal time investment. Comprehensive tweaking should be contracted. You’ll still be saving money in the long run, as the core functionality WordPress brings, along with its stability and usability, is virtually free. Compare that with a web developer creating something from the ground up, and I think you’ll see the costs savings.

WordPress is just one of the thousands of Open Source applications available to organizations and artists on the web. I choose to cover it over other simply because it has the capacity to serve as an organization’s visual communications “hub”, allowing for easy management and maintenance, and can create a framework for companywide involvement. Other OSS programs that I would recommend investigating:

Audacity – sound editing and effects
Blender 3D – 3D modeling and animation
Filezilla – ftp client
Ganttproject – scheduling, resource management, calendaring
Gimp – image manipulation
OpenOffice.org – office suite
VLC Media Player – media player + VLC Portable
Sitesucker – web site copier

In short, my solution for smaller organizations is to embrace Open Source (and contract with a consultant for some limited help with design and strategy). You can cut out thousands of dollars that have historically been spent on programming, technical support, intense re-design, and maintenance. CFO’s and ED’s should rest assured that, through embracing Open Source they should be able to stay competitive with the latest communications tools with minimal investment and risk. Open Source is not without its problems, but as my father would say, “the price is right.”
— Pablo Toledo

New WordPress 2.7 Dashboard


As we know WordPress 2.7 will be released on November 10. Currently WordPress has revealed some interesting stuffs about the upcoming version

As you may know, we’ve been working behind the scenes on the design and development of version 2.7 of the WordPress software that powers your blog. The administration interface you’re used to will be changing as a result of your feedback and the results of the usability testing we conducted over the summer. Version 2.7 is due to release officially on November 10, but in the meantime, we’re posting sneak previews of the look and functionality to come. So far we’ve covered the new navigation system and the new Dashboard.

Here is a brief list of features that you can expect at version 2.7:

  1. Menus
  2. Contextual Access Tabs
  3. Module Layout
  4. Right Now
  5. Stats
  6. Quick Press
  7. Recent Drafts
  8. Feeds
  9. Incoming Links
  10. Hooks
  11. Recent Comments
  12. Bye-Bye Inbox