Highly-Functional Custom Websites

Including Custom Online Databases

What Kinds of Websites are “Highly Functional”?

  • Websites that are made up of considerably more software (webware) than a typical website
  • Websites that require features that are not available in off-the-shelf solutions
  • Websites that dynamically change (a given page is different for one user than another)
  • Websites that offer the public an opportunity to create a profile or login (as opposed to administrative staff)
  • Websites that restrict certain content to privileged web visitors (other than administrative staff)

When your concept for a custom website is functionally so complex or unique that adequate off-the-shelf solutions simply don't exist, then a custom-engineered website is called for. This may require significant advance research and planning, in order to mitigate risk and expense. We can help!

Is Advance Research and Planning Right for Me?

Advance research and planning, and a complete written specification and bidding process, are an alternative to hourly billing during database construction. Writing a specification and seeking bids means expecting a flat rate price for database construction, rather than hourly billing. (Flat rate pricing is impossible without a complete written specification.) This web page pertains to projects that are complex enough to require advance research and planning, a complete written specification, and a bidding process before database construction begins.

What if mine is relatively simple, and therefore doesn't require that?

When Research, Planning, and Documentation is the First Step

A complete written technical specification may be necessary to define this kind of project in advance. A brief interview and “back of napkin” sketch are not enough; because the risk is too great that—without a complete written technical spec (which includes advance research and planning)—you and your web engineer might be envisioning very different outcomes.

Even if you think you've thought everything through, a technical spec written by a web engineer may be necessary. You may have already figured out the “what”—but it's up to your web engineer to figure out the “how”.

It is necessarily during the preparation of the technical spec that research and planning is completed (not after “breaking ground”). Your web engineer will present you with scenarios you had not anticipated—guaranteed—and write the spec according to your decisions during this research-planning-documentation phase.

The spec becomes a necessary foundation for the bidding process, contract, and website construction. (Bidding is impossible without a spec.) The written spec is the standard against which expectations and delivery of services is measured. It must not be omitted from those types of projects that call for it.

The research-planning-documentation phase costs a small fraction ($250 - $750?) of the expense of building your complex and highly-functional custom website ($1,500 - $15,000?); yet dramatically reduces risk and expense.

Building a complex and highly-functional custom website that requires a complete written technical specification—but doing it without the spec—is like building a house without a blueprint—it might be possible; but it's surely a foolish risk.

A Written Technical Specification May Be Necessary

So if you don't yet have a complete technical specification written by a web engineer, and are envisioning a project that requires one, then it isn't time to look for a contractor to build your website; rather, it's time to finish the research-planning-documentation phase.

We can help! We do charge a reasonable rate for the time spent on this vital task. However, after the research-planning-documentation phase is completed, you would be under no further obligation to us, although we'd like to be one of your bidders for the subsequent website construction project.

How Custom Webware Differs from Off-the-Shelf Software

Contracting for a highly-functional custom website is similar in some respects to commissioning custom software, because it includes a lot of custom software (webware). This experience is unfamiliar to most small business owners. If that applies in your case, then it's important to compare and contrast the experience of commissioning custom webware (which you're not used to) with purchasing off-the-shelf software (which you probably are). These are very different experiences!

  1. Custom webware requires an investment of more time and money; but it also empowers you to define features. Consider mitigating the higher cost using a bidding process.
  2. Custom webware requires a web engineer in your corner; off-the-shelf software doesn't. To reduce expense and increase quality, choose your web engineer carefully, and keep a long-term relationship, so that you can hire him again later, if needed.
  3. Custom webware doesn't give you any extras you didn't ask for; but also empowers you (via your web engineer) to create the precise changes you require.
  4. Custom webware can offer more user friendliness than trying to “shoe horn in” a feature using off-the-shelf software that wasn't specifically designed for it. Make sure your web engineer is committed to user friendliness.
  5. Custom webware can come with a better warranty: Make sure your contract with your web engineer comes with appropriate assurances (which off-the-shelf software authors won't offer).
  6. Later changes to webware can be like tearing out a wall to add a room to your house: Doing this with minimum expense and maximum quality requires advance planning. Planning ahead rather than “shooting from the hip” saves. (Off-the-shelf software authors plan like this, too—but that process is invisible to users—so you may be unaware of it.)
  7. With custom webware, you will own the copyright on your webware. You (via your legal counsel) are responsible for copyright filings, if any.

Please contact us regarding your questions or concerns, or to order research-planning-documentation services for your complex and highly-functional custom website.
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