1. Is WordPress Just for Blogs?

    This is a question that comes up often – “Isn’t WordPress just for blog sites?” The short answer is: No. The more elaborate answer takes us into what makes a good CMS (content management system) platform. This is an issue that comes up for each website project, regardless of the project’s end result. Choosing the right platform can mean either smooth sailing or endless headaches right from the start.

    A CMS needs to be user-friendly

    When starting any web project, the decision needs to be made as to which CMS to build upon. Every developer will have a favorite, and part of the decision should be based on which system best accommodates the project. That being said, I always consider the client’s need to maintain and edit the site once I hand it over. If they can easily make changes and manage the site, it’s a win-win for both of us. If I hand over a site that is complicated and hard to update, the client isn’t happy, and the site will ultimately suffer since nobody will want to maintain the content.

    WordPress as a blank slate

    One of the requirements for any good CMS is versatility. WordPress is built on a codebase that offers a wide variety of functions for the developer to leverage when adding features to a site. Many of the custom-programmed add-ons that would normally require many hours of development time are available in WordPress as ‘plugins’. These save the developer time and the client money…’win-win’ again.

    Many CMS systems have much more built-in functionality than a site may need – we call this ‘bloat’…which can possibly slow down the site’s performance and make things difficult to troubleshoot when things go wrong. With WordPress you have the ability to trim down the functionality for the theme you are building – choosing exactly which features to load and not load, which can speed things up considerably and clean up an otherwise bloated coding environment. The less junk a developer has to wade through to find things, the better.

    So why is WordPress primarily known as a blogging tool?

    When blogging became very popular, developers were constantly getting tasked with jobs that required building a blog platform, often from scratch, or using frameworks that we built for other projects and re-used on others. There was a huge need for a standard, flexible platform that could offer the functionality needed and reduce the time for creating a site. WordPress managed to rise to the top of this heap pretty quickly, because of it’s fairly simple architecture and ability to adapt to the client’s needs. It’s theme architecture also made it easy to change the look of a site while maintaining the core content.

    As the WordPress platform matured, developers quickly started finding that they could use WordPress for other types of sites then just blogs. Most websites have a set of basic functions that every developer will use, from logins and user accounts to email, syndication via RSS, social media integration, etc… Any good CMS will have these basic functions built-in, as well as allow the developer to add custom functionality on top of the existing code without actually altering the codebase. This way the core system can be updated without overwriting the changes and modifications added to it. Plus, the changes will be written in a way that any developer worth his salt can step in and understand the code, make changes or edit as needed.

    This all brings me to my last thought on the matter – will WordPress eventually branch off into a system that is not so ‘blog-centric’? Will developers push to create a system that runs on the same general platform as WordPress, but does not lean towards a blog site? It does seem like a good idea…perhaps there will be two versions, or at least an option within the package that tunes it either way. The future should be interesting indeed!

  2. Web Applications: Development Beyond Contact Forms

    web apps for business

    Whether it’s a corporate intranet or public-facing website, businesses often under-utilize the power of the web. Once their site is up and running with the bare-necessities, they usually leave it untouched for months or even years, much to the detriment of the site itself. Going beyond the basic ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact’ pages can make a site more engaging for visitors and more productive for a company and it’s employees.

    web apps for business

    What is Possible With Web Apps?

    From the most basic contact form to elaborate accounting systems, today’s web application architectures can support complex programming and database functionality, making modern web applications behave similarly to desktop apps like Word or Excel. Job applications, banking services, appointment setting apps and more can be built to live right on a web server, available to users with no installation or complicated software update processes. Web apps can also be designed for compatibility with any type of computer, be it PC or Mac. Why limit your users based on the hardware they choose?

    Adapting Desktop Applications to Web Apps

    On a past project, I was tasked with translating an existing support desk ticket system to a web-based application. The existing program needed to be installed on each user’s PC, requiring valuable support time from the help desk, as well as compatibility troubleshooting for each new operating system change that occurred, making the desktop app more trouble than it was worth. Moving to a web-based system meant that software updates could be done once on the server and would be instantly ‘rolled out’ to all users. In addition, users could access the program from any computer with internet access, whether it was from home via a VPN (virtual private network) or via the corporate office computers.

    Security For Web Apps

    A well-designed application can utilize the same security technology as your bank or a government website, with the proper security measures built-in to ensure the data is safe from hackers or other prying eyes. Secure logins and encrypted data transfers make sure the database and user info are protected from attacks, while giving full access to the app’s users where needed. Modern browsers support these technologies better than ever before, making them a solid platform for secure web-based business software.

    Informing Business Owners of the Options Available

    As mentioned before, most sites stop at the basic static pages, never taking advantage of the myriad web application possibilities available. A web project manager or developer should help the company identify processes that could benefit from a software solution. Many day-to-day functions could be streamlined to save hundreds or thousands of man-hours, thus saving the company money. Private intranet sites and internal applications are more and more common these days for large companies, but can also be utilized by small businesses trying to cut down on costs by reducing tedious jobs or recurring tasks that would be well-suited to a web app. Some Examples are: appointment setting programs, calendar apps, order taking apps, custom contact or information request forms, accounting software, or employee scheduling apps. Mobile web applications are another entirely new frontier, offering portable functionality with the same access as desktop apps with a simple, mobile-friendly interface. The possibilities are truly endless, and in many cases the app itself can help to generate new business, by engaging the customer in new ways.

    Leverage the Web’s Power and Reap the Rewards

    On your next web project, think beyond the same old static content and find some ways to incorporate web software solutions that help increase your productivity. Chances are there are existing business processes that would be well-suited to a browser-based program, or new creative solutions that could be introduced that will enhance the business and save valuable employee time.

    Contact Jgm3 today for a free web app consultation