A thought process to follow.
If you're not sure where to start or what questions to ask about getting a website going, this article will help you form a plan of action. Here we will explain what features are generally included in what types of systems, what software supports what systems, and what services we provide to help you put it all together.
First, brainstorm on the problems you want or expect a website or online solution to solve for you and the goals you want it to accomplish. For some, this is as simple as having artwork and wanting to display it, for others, this is a full business solution with employee action logs, ticket tracking, and invoicing for clients. This will help to narrow down the type of system you will be running, whether it's simply displaying content creatively, creating a community of users, tracking company data, or selling online goods and services.
Next, depending on the first brainstorming session, you can now decide if this is something you want to be displayed to the public or privately within your company or members. Maybe it's a little bit of both where you have a front facing publically displayed website, but a log in area for employees, clients, and/or friends. Maybe it's just a publically displayed set of information or maybe its completely internal. This decision can affect the software chosen as some are far more conducive to style customizations, where as others may have far better registration and member features.
Now we have a selection area to choose from that will help us narrow our research efforts. We can start looking into what type of system will suit our needs:
- Content Management System (CMS) - Generally focused on display and organization of any type of content with registration and member features as well.
- Project Management System (PMS) - A strong focus on features such as tasks, tickets, logging data, and scheduling. User actions are logged and email reminders are emailed. Provides built in Discussions board, Task Lists, Milestones, and other project oriented features.
- Community Management - Likely a combination of other systems, a set of extensions is used to create a social engine with strong member features and permission settings as well as content entry from all members. Content includes everything from status updates to photo sharing to syncing with other social networks.
- eCommerce - The necessary features for selling goods and services online built into the core with a focus on member information security. A strong and reliable codebase with tools to help create and structure product display and sales.
- Email and Online Collaboration - Email and document sharing as well as calendar features branded to your company, organization, or hobby and interests.
- Newsletter Emails - Read more on Email Newsletters and our SG Newsletter Portal.
Now that we have an idea of what type of system will suit our needs, we can choose the software that we want to build our project on.
Content Management Systems
- Joomla! - Many options for content display with very versatile template and styling options. Also many options for content organization and strong member access and registration features. Can be added to easily and also combined with other systems.
- Wordpress - The bloggers paradise with much appreciated easy content entry and strong article organization for large sites. Reliable with a strong code foundation and versatile styling options.
- Drupal - The large and dynamic site requiring many options and even multiple sites running from one installation. many features offered in the core of Drupal that are complimentary to sites with many editors or members.
Project Management Systems
- ActiveCollab - A full project management software with discussion boards, milestones, ticket tracking, assignments, tasks, calendar, clients and company profiles, user permission levels, invoicing, and reporting for all of it.
- Magento - "Magento is a feature-rich, professional open-source eCommerce solution offering merchants complete flexibility and control over the look, content, and functionality of their online store." Magento is a very serious eCommerce software functioning at a level that can run any size store.
- WHMCS - Built with a strong focus on web hosting features but very flexible and great at client interaction with strong customer support features. WHMCS can be customized to be a strong foundation for any service oriented and most product oriented companies.
- Zen-Cart - A full eCommerce software but lighter in weight than Magento. Zen-Cart can run on most hosting set-ups and includes all major eCommerce features and functions.
Community Management Solutions
- phpBB3 - The strongest and most feature rich forum software on the web, phpBB3 has everything from fully customizabe user permissions, unlimited categories and topics, and user registration to customizable BBcodes, styling and templating customization features, and user blog extensions. A must for any group, organization, or company looking to collaborate, converse, and connect.
- Anahita run on Joomla! - Anahita is built from the ground up on a foundation of intense social dynamic interaction studies coupled with efficient and progressive code. Small items like status updates and larger features like photo sharing are all included. The most popular social models on the web were studied and picked apart to be built up in a much improved manner with Anahita.
Email and Online Collaboration Solutions
- Google Apps - The benchmark for email and innovation and the experience of hosting millions of companies, Google is near impossible to beat.
Now that we have the system and platform relatively decided upon, it's time to choose what services will be needed to accomplish the final goal.
- Full Site Development - We can handle everything start to finish! From the brainstorming, planning, content creation, to hosting, email configuration, and final launch, we can provide a full service with follow up support and system training.
- Template Development - Many software options are developed to allow for template and style customizations. If you already have a site and would like a template or style developed to fit your needs, we can accommodate you.
- Content Entry, Configuration, and Styling - The majority of your site is the content it displays, and we can help you enter it and style it. Whether it's digitizing hard copies or creating style classes and utilizing them in articles, we can find a custom solution for you.
- Strategic Planning - Getting started can be the hardest part. We can steer you in the right direction with a consultation followed up with a plan of action including resources to get you on your way to building your own site.
- Email - If you just need email for your domain, we can set you up with Google Apps for your branded email and coach you through their powerful feature list.
- Hosting - We offer hosting for all of our clients if they so choose and we can fit a hosting plan to your specific needs. We offer general hosting and email MX record redirection, eCommerce high bandwidth hosting, and everything in between.
Lastly, please remember that there is a lot of overlap with systems and platforms and which ones cover what features. Often times a combination of items is used and either integrated through data sharing or simply integrating the style of each to mimic the other. Either way, staying focused on allowing versatility in the future for both function and style will ensure you're making the right investment for your company, hobby, or community. In an ever changing world of technology, it's nice to have a website solution that is versatile, configurable, and adaptable.