Monday, November 12, 2018

A Continuing Source of Puzzlement

I've probably seen a million posts or emails along the following lines, so I'm not going to single out the source for this version by name (you can probably Google the exact quote and find it if you're that interested):

Over a month ago, I commissioned a new site. It is not ready yet and probably will not be till the first of the year. I would love to put us on a new site tomorrow, but the costs of just getting a temporary site up and running amount to upwards of $10,000.00, which I cannot justify.

The existing site is a blog. On a subdomain of an existing service. Based on the content, commenting system, formatting (very simple theme), it looks like the only thing that cost any money -- or at least should have cost any money -- was the logo. I'm not including content, of course. I understand that many sites are going to have to pay writers to create new content on an ongoing basis. And for that I am grateful!

Apparently there are some site functionality problems, although I haven't run into them myself in my brief perusal of the site. But it looks to me like "getting a temporary site up and running" would be a matter of exporting the content, importing it into an installation of Wordpress on shared hosting or a cheap server, or hell, even, which is essentially a better competitor of what he's on now (the number of comments would seem to indicate not a whole lot of traffic), choosing a theme that the logo works nicely with (probably a free theme, maybe a $50 theme), and pointing the domain name at the new name servers.

That would also be more or less what it would take for a move to a permanent new site. If the guy thinks it would cost ten grand to set up a temporary site, I shudder to think what he's paying whomever he "commissioned" for that job.

Of course, I am not an expert site developer these days. I was circa 1995, when "expert" meant "can hand-code HTML in a text editor and animate a GIF." Times have changed. But they've changed for the better.

I've probably built 100 Wordpress sites and 10 Drupal sites, some better looking than others, most of them as good or better looking than the one above, over the last 10 or 15 years. Some required me to learn a little PHP. Some were built using themes or graphics that I spent money on. None of them required any level of expertise that a person of average intelligence couldn't pick up in low double-digit hours. There's a free or cheap plug-in out there that will do just about anything you can imagine wanting to do. It's as simple as searching for it, clicking "install," clicking "activate," and possibly entering some settings.

If you don't want to do it yourself, Wordpress developers are thick on the ground and hungry, and discrete small blog creation tasks can even be farmed out for five bucks a pop on Fiverr.

Sure, there are kinds of sites that need king-hell infrastructure to run across multiple servers serving millions of visitors a day with high-bandwidth, highly interactive, or sensitive (e.g. banking) information.  But about the most complicated thing one might really needs for a political site is a "find out who your congresscritters are and email them" form (for which Google has a free API and for which there are free plug-ins).

So, what am I missing? Are these "need tens of thousands of dollars for a new web site" pleas just fundraising guff, or are people really spending that kind of money on ... blogs?

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