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On Building a New Website

posted Jun 3, 2015, 4:43 PM by Scott Pell   [ updated Jun 3, 2015, 4:43 PM ]
Build versus buy decision are made every day, here at API Digital. We are technical people, so building something is in our DNA. But then again, we are technical people, so there are many things that we build...that we should never have attempted. Others we start but never finish.

We've changed our website a total of 4 times in our 16 year history. Our first site pitifully demonstrated that we are engineers, not artists. We used Microsoft Front Page to build the site and man, was it terrible. Every time we updated the site, something would break...so, we gave up. We had several customers tell us they were going to do business with us, despite our website.

Our second site was a little better with professional graphics provided by a friend of mine. We used a Content Management System to drive the content and then used some scripting to pull the content into our site. It was really cool...but no one wanted to keep it updated. Driving existing content was simple, but if we wanted to add a new page, I was needed to pull the template pieces together.

The next site took us a giant leap forward. The idea was to quickly pull together a professional site that would tie us over for 6 months or so, as we gathered content. The project was even called API Digital 2.5. We opted for a cool techie design with WordPress as a backend. Announcements, jobs, blogs, oh my! We had features for days and ease of use, like never before. We employed a copywriter to develop material for us and our marketing coordinator published several blog posts. We had the content, just never got around to the next step.

Over the past 14 months, we have invested most of our time into our Operations and Client Documentation Site. We call it 3 Clicks, because it is designed to be 3 clicks to anywhere, ain't that a geographical oddity? The Intranet site was built entirely on Google Sites. Easy to use, simple to update and even easier to add content. When our employees and clients give us feedback, our TAQ Team can update the site in minutes. If you are a client, you can click on Client Access to see 3 Clicks from Anywhere.

So, that brings us to today...a trendy website needing an overdue refresh with a solid dose of maturity. Our clients are getting larger and they expect to see something beyond our nifty billboard. Greg and I discussed a dozen possibilities, most of which meant wisely outsourcing some or all of the work. 

Our biggest hurdle was the creation of content. Copywriters could come up with a story based on our messaging, but our experience was that much would be lost in translation. We quickly realized that what we had to say took precedence over how it looked. We also had a good track record in 3 Clicks. I asked Greg if he liked the layout of 3 Clicks, he said yes. In about 15 minutes, the structure for this site was built.

Easy to build, easy to manage and we even eat our own dog food. We support Google Apps for several clients...so, we're just proving how powerful it really is. Great website and fantastic demo, all in one. The new site is complete with authenticated access to the Intranet and a fancy new careers module from Paychex. If we get tired of the template, we can apply a new look and feel in a matter of minutes. Form is now separated from function, finally.

I have to give a special thanks to my business partner and best friend, Greg Engle. One day, I asked him if this rag smelled like chloroform. When he woke up, he was sitting on my back patio in front of his laptop. We spent the next four days hammering out content for the site. The brilliant ideas in this site are his, I just supplied the canvas...and the proofreading.

If Google cancels Sites, then we're screwed. Until then, it will be the canvas for API Digital 3.0 and beyond. Rich in content, easy to use, easy to update...who knows, we might be able to delegate all of this stuff.
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