We desperately needed a new website
As stressed in our blog New Decade, New Website, New Vigour, ORB finally has a new website and that puts us in a position to drive the responsible business mission forward and attract new ORB members – once UK Business gets back to normal after the pandemic!
However, prior to the new site being developed, it was looking increasingly likely that we would not be in a position to get one built for some time. This, in turn, meant that ORB’s marketing had been on the backburner for quite a while as we desperately tried to find a solution.
When the original site was built in 2009 it was state of the art (not to mention extremely expensive.) But in the world of IT, change occurs rapidly and the site no longer met current requirements: it looked tired; it wasn’t mobile responsive; it didn’t have an SSL certificate (very important!); and we couldn’t update it ourselves.
The ORB site is database driven and quite complex. As many of you know, the site includes a comprehensive membership application process including a scored questionnaire with responses, and also links to the Responsible Business Directory. Rebuilding the site wasn’t going to be straightforward which, in turn, meant a new site was going to be expensive to develop under normal commercial circumstances, and we just didn’t have the budget.
Digital Technology Labs to the rescue!
Kevin Gordon, Founder and MD of Digital Technology Labs, and an #ORBmember, had already done a few comparatively minor ‘fixes’ on the old ORB website so had an idea of the complexities of the databases and the underlying php coding.
Kevin was very keen to help us build a new website and, rather than a completely new bespoke site which would have taken considerable man hours to develop, researched how he could adapt and integrate the existing coding into a new WordPress website.
Much to our surprise and delight, Digital Technology Labs (DTL) gave us a dramatically reduced quote by considerably reducing their hourly rate and by importing the existing databases into a WordPress workaround. To keep the cost down, the quote included setting up templates and a few hours training which would enable us to add our own pages and edit design elements.
So, If you are looking at the new ORB website and the funky, modern approach (as opposed to something more corporate) doesn’t rock your boat, blame us not DTL!!
DTL take their Corporate Social Responsibility very seriously and their decision to support ORB in this manner aligned with that commitment.
An ethical, responsible and professional approach
Throughout the process, Kevin was assisted by Hollie, his project manager. And throughout the process, both Kevin and Hollie have kept me informed of progress including any challenges they encountered along the way – and, because of coding complexities, there have been a few! We had a few face-to-face meetings in the early days, but since then we have had a series of conference and video calls.
The new site launches
The new site launched on 13th February and we were delighted, but there were a few inevitable back-end issues Kevin needed to address. At this point, we did have a little bit of a communication hiccup because Kevin was ill, he had a major contract he was working on, and Hollie had a holiday – all around the same time! And, most importantly, when someone is providing such favourable terms, we totally appreciate they need to prioritise their full fee-paying clients!
But the final amends were completed and a few weeks later we were raring to go – albeit unfortunately just before we went into lockdown!
Choosing the right web developer
Apart from a big thank you, we would really like to stress the importance of choosing the right web developer. Here are just a few points you may wish to consider.
- If you just want a nice looking, reasonably simple brochure website, there are LOADS of web designers who could build something for you. Just check out their portfolio of work and ensure you like their style.
- But do you need to update the site regularly yourself and/or add blogs? If so, they will probably use a platform like WordPress. Do consider what access you need and ensure that is incorporated in the development, and that user training is included.
- But do you need your site to be found easily on Google searches? Not your site name, but a relevant search such as Accountants in Basildon? What expertise does the company have in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation?) And is support in that area included in the quote?
- Maybe you need an extensive e-commerce style site, or something bespoke that holds and collects lots of information? Such a development needs a totally different level of expertise….
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, we needed to work with someone who could integrate our existing databases and processes, all built in php, into our new website. To do so requires totally different skill sets from the simple brochure site we mentioned earlier.
Be aware that some developers who work predominantly with WordPress sites may tell you that can get around those problems by using plugins. Whilst there are many excellent plugins available providing a multitude of options (and your website will undoubtedly need to utilise some plugins), unless the developer has appropriate coding skill sets there are likely to be problems ahead. Some plugins are not updated regularly, often crash when there is a WordPress update, and too many plugins may mean that they do not work in unison.
And so, if you need a more complex website, consider using a company like Digital Technology Labs that can boast many years of coding expertise.
I am only too aware from experiences with other websites and other developers that we might well have had some major issues had we not used DTL. Kevin did hit many snags along the way – he knew he would as it is the nature of fitting old coding into new technologies – but he was always able to find and fix the problem. And he always did so with such good grace!
Before you have a new website built, do think very carefully about what you actually need the developers to provide, and then ensure they have the appropriate skill sets – and also systems to ensure good communication throughout the project.
Thanks, Kev. We are proud to have Digital Technology Labs as an #ORBMember.
Graphic by 200 Degrees