Author Topic: Starting web development business. Help!  (Read 3930 times)

Sebastian

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Starting web development business. Help!
« on: October 08, 2014, 04:19:42 PM »
Hello all!

Basically for the last 8 months or so I've been learning HTML/CSS now I'm onto PHP. I'm actually slowly but surely creating a CMS from scratch and I gotta say PHP is awesome! Here's my question...

My end goal is to start up a web development business. Basically I've set myself up financially now to be able to not have to work full time so I can focus on creating my own business as I never want to work a corporate 40hr-50hr week desk job again. My idea for the business was to create my own custom CMS application and focus on a niche industry that I'm interested in, and just build the CMS around that.

I know this is going to take a long time to fully develop this CMS from scratch. I'm not very proficient with PHP as it is and I'd imagine a lot of headaches will come up the further along I get into actually creating my "final product".

I was speaking to a very successful guy that has his own web design business, and he strongly suggests that I don't do what I'm doing and just use an already built CMS like wordpress or something else. I'm really torn on this decision because part of my whole plan was to actually become a well accomplished programmer. I've always been huge into computers and I kick myself all the time for not majoring in computer science. So I think part of it is my ego trying to redefine itself as this badass programmer, and to just say screw it now and jump over to Wordpress... well ew. my ego is offend lol.

Now at the end of the day I realize if I did go with the aforementioned idea of using an established CMS I could actually start producing websites NOW and get business NOW. I'd imagine I'm still 6 months or so away if not longer from developing my own custom CMS from scratch (which is fine... I have the time).

So what do you guys think? A lot of you are developers here and I'd like to hear your thoughts. One of my thoughts was that I could keep learning PHP on the side and just use one of these CMS' like wordpress for now, but I just don't know if I want to do that!

Also with this being said... what CMS platform would you recommend if I were specifically targeting small businesses that provide a service to their client. I'm not so interested in building ecommerce store (at least yet).

Thanks for all the advice!
Seth

jday

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2014, 04:39:46 PM »
I think you pretty much already know the answer, but let me give you a different perspective.

Wordpress is fine for a service business. Plenty of plugins to give you functionality such as a calender to schedule appointments, etc. (in fact, you may just want to develop plugins instead of developing a whole CMS).

If you are gonna do ecommerce Drupal is one of the better CMS systems to use. Then there is Joomla which I don't have much experience with. Here is a link to for a quick comparison....

http://www.comentum.com/drupal-vs-joomla-cms-comparison.html


dandarc

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2014, 04:45:01 PM »
I do fine with Wordpress - even for eCommerce.  Find the right plugins, and know some PHP, and you'll be fine there.

If you want to develop your own CMS just to prove you can, more power to you, but you might find it to be a lot more difficult than you expect to make a really solid platform.

scholarmage

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2014, 06:09:53 PM »
I'd honestly not recommend Joomla over Wordpress or Drupal. I'm not a professional web developer by any means, but I have used it in 2 projects, and it honestly is just a pain to work with, especially once you start adding in extensions and plug-ins and such.  I can't give much insight to the question about small business, unfortunately. Good luck with it, and do let us know how it goes.

aschmidt2930

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2014, 07:21:40 PM »
What's your goal/ambition for this?  If creating your own CMS is a passion or big goal of yours, then do it.  If creating your own CMS is your idea of how to make a living, I would step back and re-assess this.  The CMS business has became brutally competitive in recent years, with platforms that have scaled enough to bring prices to a pretty low point considering what they replace (High priced full-time web developer(s) or agencies).  Take a look at this pricing: http://store.wordpress.com/plans/

$0 for basic, 99/yr for premium, and $299/yr for business.  There's really not much room to undercut on price here especially when you factor in the cost of acquiring customers (I.e paying for Search Engine ads).

I don't mean to be overly negative or a dream killer, but it won't be easy.  If I were you I would specialize in an existing platform and seek clients that need websites built or restructured on that platform.  There's a huge market for that. 

EricMA

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2014, 07:33:54 PM »
I've been writing custom business applications (web and otherwise) for over 10 years now. I've done the build-from-scratch route an awful lot, and I've poked around in most of the popular CMS/E-commerce products that are out there. Here's where I and on the debate...

Coding up some quick scripts and crude internal apps that aren't customer/user facing are really convenient with a raw programming language with no frameworks or bloat to fight through. You can build a good amount confidence doing stuff like this but you can also learn some bad habits. I would highly recommend reading about design patterns. It's so easy to program your way into a corner and have little chance of making changes without a complete rewrite.

Frameworks (CodeIgniter, Cake, Zend, Yii, etc) handle the organization for you and provide quick ways to do the most common things. Some are better than others. The best ones will allow you to do things your way-easier and faster.

Above frameworks you get the solution-in-a-box type systems like Wordpress, Drupal, etc. They each have "their way" of doing things; you are expected to do it that way, or not at all. They can be powerful, but also very frustrating, especially if you know what you want to do in programming terms but not in their terms. They can be very powerful, but also very constraining. Some are better than others, but either way be prepared to adopt their philosophies and culture to make anything really work.

If you needed something up and running ASAP and really needed the money, I'd probably suggest you use as much off-the-shelf as you can. But to learn to be a bad-ass programmer and really respect the work that you've done? Ditch the off-the-shelf stuff. Personally, I've never had "fun" working like that. There is something to be said however for not reinventing EVERY wheel you need to use. The key is understanding what your options are for libraries, frameworks, etc and making choices that benefit your project. I wouldn't go out and just pick a fancy framework that gets a lot of hits and get started. Read about design patterns and figure out how YOU would organize a big project. Then check out some of the frameworks and see if any of them fit your style.

If you try to do it completely from scratch, good for you! Just be willing and comfortable with scrapping a lot of work and starting again. It will take a lot longer, but you'll learn a hell of a lot more than piggy-backing off of some high-level drag and drop publishing engine. If learning is your goal, you'll need to celebrate the failures along the way. You'll also gain a much, much deeper respect for the libraries, frameworks, and other things you do choose to adopt along the way because you'll have a better idea of what went into them.

Hope this helps! Good luck!!


Sebastian

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2014, 09:44:25 AM »
Wow! Great insight from all of you :) Thanks so much! A couple things I'd like to comment on to help paint a better picture of what I'm all about, and maybe that could lead to me making more of a decisive decision.

What's your goal/ambition for this?  If creating your own CMS is a passion or big goal of yours, then do it.  If creating your own CMS is your idea of how to make a living, I would step back and re-assess this.  The CMS business has became brutally competitive in recent years, with platforms that have scaled enough to bring prices to a pretty low point considering what they replace (High priced full-time web developer(s) or agencies).  Take a look at this pricing: http://store.wordpress.com/plans/

$0 for basic, 99/yr for premium, and $299/yr for business.  There's really not much room to undercut on price here especially when you factor in the cost of acquiring customers (I.e paying for Search Engine ads).

I don't mean to be overly negative or a dream killer, but it won't be easy.  If I were you I would specialize in an existing platform and seek clients that need websites built or restructured on that platform.  There's a huge market for that. 

This right here is why I had this sudden urge of "oh crap am I really doing the right thing?". My end goal is to create a business that will make me money but in the long run I don't care as my real end goal is to get into RE investing and own properties. Hint hint at the industry I'm looking to cater too ;) So this little blurb that you wrote basically sums up my feelings of how I was feeling yesterday once that guy told me to stop trying to build your own CMS.

BUT.....

I've been writing custom business applications (web and otherwise) for over 10 years now. I've done the build-from-scratch route an awful lot, and I've poked around in most of the popular CMS/E-commerce products that are out there. Here's where I and on the debate...

Coding up some quick scripts and crude internal apps that aren't customer/user facing are really convenient with a raw programming language with no frameworks or bloat to fight through. You can build a good amount confidence doing stuff like this but you can also learn some bad habits. I would highly recommend reading about design patterns. It's so easy to program your way into a corner and have little chance of making changes without a complete rewrite.

Frameworks (CodeIgniter, Cake, Zend, Yii, etc) handle the organization for you and provide quick ways to do the most common things. Some are better than others. The best ones will allow you to do things your way-easier and faster.

Above frameworks you get the solution-in-a-box type systems like Wordpress, Drupal, etc. They each have "their way" of doing things; you are expected to do it that way, or not at all. They can be powerful, but also very frustrating, especially if you know what you want to do in programming terms but not in their terms. They can be very powerful, but also very constraining. Some are better than others, but either way be prepared to adopt their philosophies and culture to make anything really work.

If you needed something up and running ASAP and really needed the money, I'd probably suggest you use as much off-the-shelf as you can. But to learn to be a bad-ass programmer and really respect the work that you've done? Ditch the off-the-shelf stuff. Personally, I've never had "fun" working like that. There is something to be said however for not reinventing EVERY wheel you need to use. The key is understanding what your options are for libraries, frameworks, etc and making choices that benefit your project. I wouldn't go out and just pick a fancy framework that gets a lot of hits and get started. Read about design patterns and figure out how YOU would organize a big project. Then check out some of the frameworks and see if any of them fit your style.

If you try to do it completely from scratch, good for you! Just be willing and comfortable with scrapping a lot of work and starting again. It will take a lot longer, but you'll learn a hell of a lot more than piggy-backing off of some high-level drag and drop publishing engine. If learning is your goal, you'll need to celebrate the failures along the way. You'll also gain a much, much deeper respect for the libraries, frameworks, and other things you do choose to adopt along the way because you'll have a better idea of what went into them.

Hope this helps! Good luck!!

Eric comes along and stirs those "purist" emotions up in me once again, and now I'm just like "FUCK" this is why I wanted to start learning to code from scratch because part of me does want to be a "bad-ass programmer". I absolutly hate Apples/Windows stuff especially Windows (19)8(4), and that is part of the reason why I'm wanting to learn how to code from scratch. So I can eventually just run everything on Linux and build a LAMP stack with this CMS and not have to rely or suck on the teet of Windows or Wordpress or whatever platform.

But is the last bit of what I just said practical at all? Probably not :( I'm not sure at this point, and this is my struggle right now.

I think at the end of the day I do love computers and I'd like to be super proficient and a guru with them and have a very high level of understanding with code. At the same time though, I'm really quite sick of sitting on my butt all day having blood shot eyes and learning stuff at a snails pace. Thanks to ERE and MMM I have a different perspective on life now and I really want to get into other hobbies like woodworking and learning to live off the land so I don't even really need much money if any at all. You know... Ron Swanson style :)..

So I feel like I have pretty much answered the question myself, but there is still part of me that would like to learn all this from the core so I can be that "know it all IT guy". Any last thoughts from the above people I quoted or anyone else? Thanks so much again for the insight... It may not seem like much to you guys, but it means a lot to me that people are willing to take the time to read my long/rant posts about trying to figure out how to identify myself in the long run haha.

EricMA

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2014, 04:19:04 PM »
So I can eventually just run everything on Linux and build a LAMP stack with this CMS and not have to rely or suck on the teet of Windows or Wordpress or whatever platform.

But is the last bit of what I just said practical at all? Probably not :( I'm not sure at this point, and this is my struggle right now.


It's absolutely practical! I made the switch to Linux as a primary operating system on all of my computers and servers some 4 or 5 years ago and haven't looked back. There are rarely some things I need a windows machine. One of my computers is a dual boot w/ Windows 7, and I use it about once a month. Anything else works just fine in a virtual machine. I personally use Fedora, but as it is fairly bleeding-edge it might not be great for someone who isn't willing to look into bugs or occasional issues.  Like programming, there is a learning curve. Once you get the basics though, you'll never want to use anything else.

Chrome and Firefox work great in Linux. LibreOffice is a great replacement for MS Office for most casual things. Sure there are some really niche features that it might botch, but for me it works about 95% of the time. There are plenty of media / music programs that are super easy to install, and all sorts of productivity/development tools. Games are probably the most lacking, but I've never been a gamer so I don't really miss it, though they have a mean solitaire :)

Good luck on this and your Ron Swanson hobbies. All of them require a great deal of learning, patience, perseverance, and a smooth Lagavulin to wash it all down with after a long day...


aschmidt2930

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2014, 05:55:41 PM »

Quote
This right here is why I had this sudden urge of "oh crap am I really doing the right thing?". My end goal is to create a business that will make me money but in the long run I don't care as my real end goal is to get into RE investing and own properties. Hint hint at the industry I'm looking to cater too ;) So this little blurb that you wrote basically sums up my feelings of how I was feeling yesterday once that guy told me to stop trying to build your own CMS.

It sounds like this could be a false choice.  Maybe you don't have to choose at all?  Maybe you learn a popular platform like Wordpress, get some Real Estate clients (I've seen some absolutely horrid RE websites, so definitely opportunity there) and build your own CMS platform on the side?  One benefit here is you'll be able to experience the shortcomings of the CMS you specialize in and can focus on coding solutions that solve them in your own platform.

Sebastian

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2014, 06:05:18 PM »

It sounds like this could be a false choice.  Maybe you don't have to choose at all?  Maybe you learn a popular platform like Wordpress, get some Real Estate clients (I've seen some absolutely horrid RE websites, so definitely opportunity there) and build your own CMS platform on the side?  One benefit here is you'll be able to experience the shortcomings of the CMS you specialize in and can focus on coding solutions that solve them in your own platform.

Hmmm... So just to make sure I'm on the same page as you. You are saying start off with WordPress for now while simultaneously work on my "custom CMS" and roll that over when I have it nice and ready and tailored to meet the specific needs of my clients in that industry?

If so that sounds great to me :D or maybe I'll end up realizing I'm fine just using WordPress. Who knows..

jday

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2014, 07:09:40 PM »
@Seth - My suggestion is to plot your life backwards. Where do you want to be, then see how you can get there. I've seen plenty of guys say you can never know it all in IT. Plenty of guys that say you aren't awesome unless you are a software developer. Well I say you should pretty much ignore that and just work on what gets you excited and out of bed in the morning.

The key here is that anything you choose that's hard to do is a long road. You need to have patience, perseverance, and a game plan. Form daily habits that will get you there.

I think you last statement is the way you should go. Work in Wordpress and then roll stuff over to your custom CMS when its time. AFTER you have thoroughly tested it. The last thing you want to do is get a bad reputation for crashing sites, losing data, etc. Build a good reputation first, then get better at the hard stuff.

As a side note, it is stupid easy to import and export data out of Wordpress. It all runs off of MySQL anyhow, and really any CMS is just three things: database calls, user interface, and design (CSS).

I personally wouldn't try to build a CMS from scratch but maybe I will someday because the more I think about it, the more I realize it can't be that hard right? Iterate, iterate, iterate....

Sebastian

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Re: Starting web development business. Help!
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2014, 09:07:35 PM »
Thanks jday, good stuff to think about in your last post. I think I'm pretty set on the last bit I just wrote. :) Glad you could help me confirm that decision.