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Thursday, May 22, 2014     Posted by: Ben

As we often tell people, Freedom is a CMS, but it’s also a lot more than that — it’s the central hub for a company’s entire online presence, and a place where they can manage their entire business.

A lot of different kinds of people spend time in the Freedom interfaces, like CEOs, bloggers, marketing people, project managers, etc. We think it’s important to reflect that within the interfaces themselves. This helps make the software a little bit more intuitive, which in turn makes the overall experience better.

We’ve long had different colored interfaces, and for years, it was Orange (Customer Relationship Management), Blue (Content Management), Green (Website Development) and Red (Command Console). However, as we began to add more and more digital marketing tools, we found that they were best suited to their own interface.

We also wanted to add clarity on the Orange interface, which had long been considered part of Endeavor (it had previously been known as Accrisoft Business Tools, and, before that, Reseller Business Tools. Until 9.4, sites without Endeavor could still have the CRM tools, but they’d be in Blue instead of Orange. This confused many people.

So we decided to fix it. Orange is for customer relationship management, and those modules are always in Orange, not in Blue sometimes.

Red is Endeavor. It’s the “Central Command Console,” and it’s for SPs only. This is where they can view all of their Freedom websites in one place, and quickly log into each site, and easily upgrade sites to the latest version.

With more interfaces comes the possibility that it will be more difficult to find the module you’re looking for. For example, people who aren’t yet used to the idea that Email Marketing has moved from Blue to Silver might accidentally switch to Blue the first few times. As a remedy, we added a new interface switcher. You can just type in the name of the module you want, and, regardless of what interface it’s in, it will appear.

tools search


You can also hover over the tabs for the Blue, Orange and Silver interfaces and see all of the modules within that interface, and click on the one you need, saving you time and clicks:

switcher

We’re always striving to make the user experience in Freedom better, and we think this is a step in the right direction. There are many other enhancements we plan on making, and we look forward to rolling them out to our users.





Tuesday, May 14, 2013     Posted by: Ben

php elephantSo, you’ve sold a new website, and you’re discussing with the client what they need. You have somebody on your staff who knows PHP, so regardless of what CMS you put the client on, you’ll be able to customize things and offer the client the exact functionality they want. This may seem like an ideal situation, but we can tell you from experience that it might not be such a good thing.

In many cases, doing custom programming on a website can cause more problems than it solves. This may sound counter-intuitive, but bear with us. Here’s why:

Scalability

If every site is a one-off, it will be very difficult to scale your business to the tens, hundreds, or even thousands of websites. Each site will require coding all over again — this is expensive, takes a lot of time, and requires a team of PHP developers. On the other hand, if you create some good HTML templates, you can create sites that look fully custom but can be deployed very quickly. Customizing a template for a client will only require knowledge of HTML, CSS and maybe JavaScript, skills that are much more prevalent than programming. The better your templates and stronger your processes, the more scalable your business can be.

Scope Creep

If you set the expectation that you can do whatever your customer wants, their expectations may become unrealistic, which will inevitably lead to them being unhappy when the job is done. Clients don’t always know what’s most important, and look to you — an expert in your field — to help guide them. If the client asks for something custom, then halfway through the job they change their mind, you’ll have a hard time making money on the deal, and the customer probably won’t be happy when they find out that the launch date has to be delayed. Conversely, if you set reasonable expectations ahead of time, the customer may be slightly disappointed at first, but will be pleased when those expectations are met.

Upgrades

Custom PHP can also introduce problems on upgrade. If something in the CMS changed, your custom code can break — and while the company that releases the CMS has probably tested it extensively before releasing it, there’s no telling how the new version will work with your PHP code. You may not really know if there’s going to be a problem until you upgrade, so for each site you’ll be crossing your fingers, upgrading, then dealing with the blowback from customers as problems emerge.

Support

The more dissimilar your websites are, the more difficult it will be to support them all. If something isn’t working on one of your clients’ sites, your level-one staff won’t be able to tell if it’s because of the custom PHP code you wrote. This means that many issues will have to be escalated to your developers. If the person who wrote the PHP code is no longer with your company, someone else will be wading through it in an attempt to figure out what it does and how it works. Alternatively, if your sites are built on a good CMS without custom code, your staff will have a much easier time identifying a problem and determining its cause.

To Summarize

Members of our staff have been involved with hundreds of website development jobs from many different perspectives: company owner, salesperson, project manager, developer, designer, support person. We also work with a large network of digital agencies who build websites every day. We’ve seen a lot of website projects in process, and can assure you that the ones that are completed on time and under budget are a lot more pleasant for everyone.

We’ve also seen a lot of companies that can manage hundreds of websites with minimal support staff, and there’s a lot that can be learned from their success. An important part of this is finding a good CMS and selling the features that it has. If a client wants something that it can’t do (and it’s not critical), tell them you don’t support that feature. Will you lose a customer or two to a competitor who promises the moon? Maybe, but they’ll probably pay for it in the long run. Will the client be slightly disappointed if they have to temper their expectations ahead of time? It’s possible, but we promise they’ll be thrilled when the project is completed on time, and the site does exactly what you told them it would. If there’s a deal-breaker that they absolutely need, by all means, write a few lines of PHP code; just don’t automatically make it part of every project. You’ll find that you spend less time chasing problems, and more time selling and building profitable websites.