Monthly Archives: April 2012

Essential WordPress Plug-ins

If you have a WordPress site or are planning a WordPress site, there are some plug-ins that are just flat-out essential. That said, plug-ins are a mixed blessing. Plug-ins are susceptible to security flaws and are not always maintained properly. It’s especially frustrating to face an upgrade in WordPress with several plug-ins that have not been updated for the latest version of WordPress. For this reason, we rely on the absolute minimum number of plug-ins possible and select our plug-ins from reputable vendors.

Here is the list of our recommended plug-ins:

  • Ultimate Blog Security

    Secure your blog effectively. You can visit their website at Ultimate Blog Security.

  • Gravity Forms

    Not free, but very powerful. Certainly not always necessary. If you need only a simple contact form, use Contact Form 7 instead. But for long and/or complicated forms, you won’t find a better solution than Gravity Forms.

  • Sociable

    Social media sites play a key role in promoting your presence on the web. This plug-in places links to your preferred social media sites so people can share your content on those sites.

  • VaultPress

    Backups are essential and VaultPress provides the best backup for WordPress. Period.

  • WordPress SEO by Yoast

    SEO (Search Engine Optimization) determines how easily people can find you on the internet. This plug-in stands at the top of the heap of SEO plug-ins. Yoast offers top-quality resources and advice on all things WordPress.

  • W3 Total Cache

    WordPress generates html from a mixture of php code and its database. This takes time so your site will load somewhat slowly. Cache plug-ins resolve this in various ways, but W3 Total Cache claims our favorite spot. It builds the pages in advance, so the user just loads a simple quickly loaded html page.

Feel free to contact us about using these plug-ins on your site!

Hiring a Web Developer Part 03

Writing the Request for Proposal (RFP) Document

First, what is an RFP and why should you write one? An RFP represents an essential element in selecting and working with a website developer. Initially, the process of writing an RFP helps you define exactly what your website must do, how it must appear, and how it must function. It assists you in coming to a thorough understanding of exactly what your website project looks like. Even if you did nothing else with the RFP, this alone justifies the time and effort of developing an RFP. It also pulls all the members of your internal team together, unifying your vision of your new website. Primarily, it is the instrument of communication between you and your website developer, whoever that turns out to be. This is critical, because the developer will bid upon this understanding – anything that must be added or changed through the project will cost your company money! Finally, it is the means by which you will compare the companies bidding on the project. So this RFP document is very valuable indeed – and it must be properly designed before it is ever sent to a developer.

We have provided a template (click on the document image at left to access the template) but please understand that there is no one design for an RFP. The RFP must reflect your project thoroughly, so you will probably need to make some revisions to the template. The template offers a starting point.

The most important part of the document is the Functional Requirements section. Your prospective web developers will base their estimate primarily on the information contained within this section. Review this section carefully with all members of your internal team to ensure that it is complete and accurate.

Once the proposal documents have been returned, carefully evaluate each one, looking to ensure that they address each issue of the RFP document. The proposals will provide a good indication as to which web designers you should interview in the next stage of the process.

Hiring a Web Developer Part 02

Evaluating Your Prospective Web Developer

You have assembled a list of at least three web developers. You may have looked at sites you liked and obtained the name of the developer, or you were referred by people you know who were satisfied with their web developer or you just did a search on the internet… however you did it – preferably not the third option – you have at least three web developers you want to look at. Now, how to evaluate them prior to inviting them for an interview…

What Does Their Own Website Design Tell You?

First look at their own website design. It should offer a professional appearance and be free of errors such as misspellings and malfunctions. A web developer’s website should reflect their expertise. Based on their website, are they an actual business or is this something they do in their spare time?

Evaluate the Websites They Have Already Created

Do the websites in their portfolio appeal to you? Granted, their clients have dictated the styles and color schemes, but they should still reflect a high level of quality and attractiveness. Visit those websites – are the designs reflected in the portfolio still being used? Contact the site owner and ask for an honest appraisal of the web developer.

Special Requirements

If you have particular requirements such as e-commerce or that you be able to update the website yourself, does this web developer have experience with those issues? Look at the websites in their portfolio for examples of how they managed those issues.

Next step – Click Here to learn about preparing your RFP (Request for Proposal).

How to Hire a Web Developer Part 01

Web sites are not optional for the vast majority of businesses anymore. Without a website, no one will find your business because no one uses the Yellow Pages anymore – they go straight to Google or BING or whatever their favorite search engine is that week. And even if they did find you in the Yellow Pages, they want to know what you’re about, what kind of services you offer, how you differentiate yourself from your competition.

But what kind of website do you need? What must it accomplish for you?

That depends on who your clients and prospective clients are and what they are looking for. This is the starting point of designing your website. It doesn’t matter whether you are building a brand new website or updating an existing website, these are the critical questions. No matter how flashy and technically astounding your website may be, if it doesn’t meet your clients’ needs and expectations, it’s not going to accomplish the hoped-for results.

Step one of hiring a web developer has nothing to do with the web developer – it’s knowing what you need. Your site requirements provide fundamental insight into what kind of web developer can meet your needs. And any web developer of merit will have to ask you these questions at the beginning of the process anyway, so let’s get them out of the way before that conversation begins.

To facilitate this gathering of information, we have provided an on-line form which will ask all the right questions. So click here to open the Project Description form and take some time to fill it out thoroughly. Careful planning at this stage of the game will save a great deal of anguish later!

In the following post we’ll discuss the next step of hiring a web developer – evaluating your prospective web designers. Click Here to read that article.