Published 2012-10-22 00:00:00

This week saw the release of the latest site developed by Roo J Solutions, a Hong Kong based beauty booking service. While the site has gone through the usual last minute bug-fixes before going live, it all came together in the end.

Developing a feature rich web site.

While we where busy finishing off this site, We have had a few other projects and discussions going on, and what has been interesting lately has been the realization that far too many companies and startups are having real trouble getting web sites developed properly.

Often they are cutting costs, and contracting under-qualified or unsuitable individuals for the process. Resulting in disaster hitting quite early and the project never being complete as their 'developers' have no idea how to solve the technical issues involved.

But the saddest and worst scenario's I've seen, has been the frequent employing of design companies or 'interactive media' companies as the lead contractors on web based development. This can be the most expensive recipe for disaster. In one case the cost of the development was bloated to over 10 times the realistic cost of the project, and what was delivered was just a prettified open source project. When the client started asking for features that the  original open source project provided, they where quoted quite unreasonable amounts. The sad fact is that the relationship between the supplier and customer was damaged beyond repair. Without a deep understanding of how software projects are developed, these companies failed to manage their customer's expectations.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

In another case a design company was asked to provide a custom web site, which from a design perspective looked quite nice, however as part of our installation on the server, we got to see the kind of code that was being delivered. If this software was a car, the wheels would fall of when driving out the garage, It was the worst and most dangerous code I've seen in nearly 10 years of development.

Read on for more about prettybooked, and how to get projects done properly...

Don't ask a bricklayer to design a house.

In the construction industry, there is a profession called Architects, they are responsible for co-ordinating the process of construction a building. What we are seeing all to often is basically that the Interior designer or the bricklayer is being asked to design the house. This works well if it's a wall around your barbecue, but if you are looking to build a house to live in (eg. a website that lasts). You would eventually realize it's worth going to the people who are best qualified to do this, Otherwise it will fall down after the first floor..

That is in essence is what Roo J Solutions was set up to do. After providing this Software Development Architect role for clients that realize that it's essential that they work with someone who not only understands their business operations intimately, but also how to implement this in a cost effective way. We carry on working with these companies for many years. We decided a long time ago that providing a professional service, rather than trying to make a fast buck was the only way to do this kind of business.

Anyway back to the release.

Before I mention any of the technical stuff, I have to commend this client on the foresight in running this project. As a startup, she has embraced the concept that if you are running a startup, get the business going as fast as possible. You will have to cut corners, there are features that 'would be nice' but it if you are going to turn an idea into a reality, you have to start making decisions. This is one of the biggest problems with software development, the ease  that you can continue refining and improving indefinitely, you really have to make those decisions to go live, and push features to a later date.

Prettybooked, behind the scenes.

One of the reasons we can build applications quickly, and deliver innovative features without breaking the bank is that the we have spend many years developing the underlying infrastructure for web driven applications.

It's pretty rare that we will use an open source application like wordpress, jommla or drupal to start a project. This is because they generally provide a considerable amount of scrappy infrastructure that can speed up some parts but cripple others. In the long run they do not provide anything close to the infrastructure we have build up over the years.

For an online blog, or very basic interactive site, if they work when installed, and a couple of plugins solve the remaining issues, then we would probably recommend them. But any more than that, the cost frequently outweighs the benefits. In this same manner we understand that some tools are better suited to some scenarios, and others are not. JQuery being a prime example in this in a project, it's great for a few effects on some pages, but If we had used this here, then maintenance would very quickly become a nightmare.

So when we looked at prettybooked, the speed it could be developed was seriously helped by using the Pman infrastructure, Basic modeling for a company type, authenticated users, event logging, and a content management system, meant that the only real development which was needed was focused around the services and booking. So we could use the budget for the project on providing the interactive search and booking system.

Anyway take a look, it's been an interesting project, and we look forward to seeing it grow.

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