Dynamic Websites

Do you need a new Website? Something that looks great, catches people’s attention, gives your organization a professional look and serves as a cornerstone of your marketing work? If so, then don’t bother with me.

My skills at making things look good are at about a 5th-grade level. I have great respect for people that can pick out good color schemes, design logos, etc., because those things are really important, and I am no good at doing them myself.

So, what do I do? I make complex Websites work. I make sites that collect data from people. I make Web-based reports on data. I write programs that collect data from existing websites, spreadsheets, databases, etc., and allow that data to be accessed via the Web. I set up email lists, content management systems, wikis, custom-modified interfaces to google maps, etc.

Think about it: almost all of the big famous Websites do more than just provide some information online. Think about a weather site, or a social networking site, or Wikipedia… They all respond to your input and do something sophisticated with it. Any weather site now allows you to enter a ZIP code and get dynamically updated information based on what you entered. Social networking sites encourage users to upload stories, pictures, etc., and then they re-present that information to other users. This is a different world from the “online brochure”. And this is the world that excites me.

I suspect that most small business owners do not dare dream about what this world might offer them because they assume that it would be too expensive. This is not without reason, there are definitely expenses involved. However, I think the “fear of the unknown” makes a lot of people inclined to think that setting something like this up must be prohibitively expensive. You might be surprised.

For instance, the software that drives Wikipedia is freely available, and can be run on many hosting providers that charge under $10/month for accounts with hundreds of gigabytes of data. The only reason that Wikipedia couldn’t be run in such an environment is that it’s one of the most popular sites on the Internet (presently number 7 according to Alexa). If your aspirations are a bit lower than that, you might never spend much more than an initial consultation fee plus a few dollars a month.

Much of the work that I do resides on password protected websites, and as such can’t be shared here. But I have a few projects that are very public and might give you a sense of the kinds of things I do. One quick example:

The local public school system wanted a way to let students and parents know when buses were running late. After a few discussions with them, they hired me to build this information resource. The information is updated by the administrative staff that coordinate the buses. They use a custom-designed, password-protected web interface, required no training on how to use it, and are now providing this information in an up-to-the-minute manner to the entire community. And, assuming that their drivers are paid at least minimum wage, the organization spends several times more money on their bus drivers each and every day than they spent for this entire system.

For a far more complicated example: The American Student Achievement Institute helps schools in Indiana improve their learning environments so that students can achieve more. I’ve worked with them on developing a huge collection of information on student achievement in the schools that they serve. Most of this information is input by the schools (although some of it is automatically collected from other publicly available websites), and kept confidential. But schools also have the option to publish some of their data, and many of them choose to do so.

There’s a wide spectrum of possibilities. If you have an idea but don’t know how to implement it, I might suggest setting up some general purpose software on a website and letting it run (like the Wikipedia-like example). I might suggest a quickly made but custom-designed web application (like the businfo page).  Or I might suggest something much more involved like this last example.  I’ll do my best to understand your goals, your budget, and your requirements.  I’ll give you my honest assessment.  And then, if you like the sounds of it, we can get down to business.  The first step is to get in touch with me.