Websites, Tool and Frameworks

We have a customer whose websites we originally designed and whose websites we hosted until recently. As it happens our family recently endured a sizable personal tragedy (which hasn’t passed yet and is ongoing). This customer heard about our tragedy and was very sympathetic, having had a similar tragedy in her family. At this point in time, she wanted a website redesign, but hesitated to have us do it, because we were dealing with this tragedy. I assured her we could do it, but that it would take a bit more time than it normally would to accomplish.

Rather than have us do it, she turned it over to someone else to do. Now, something to know about this customer is that this isn’t the first time she’s turned her web stuff over to someone else. Every few years, she does this and eventually comes back to us, because the person or persons who do the work for her typically flake out on her one way or another.

When she turned the work over to someone else, I turned over the registrar keys and hosting to this person as well. I don’t want to simply host sites where the site design and such is all done by someone else.

Today, she left a message asking if we could do a new logo for her site and re-host the site again. So I decided to look over the newly designed site and see what had been done. The new designer had made some bad design choices, but overall the site looked okay. The logo he had put up was nearly unreadable though, which is a bad thing for logos. Then I decided to look at the code itself. Turns out the guy had redesigned the site in Joomla.

Now, we typically design sites from scratch using Dreamweaver. Not my favorite tool, but then I don’t do the actual design; my wife does, and Dreamweaver provides an excellent tool for an experienced web designer like her.

Back to our customer, we could design a new logo for her easily. My wife is very good at this. However, we can neither edit, redesign, nor host her website any more. Why?

We don’t know Joomla.

Don’t get me wrong. Joomla is not a bad choice. But of the three most popular frameworks around (Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla), Joomla turns out to be the one we’re least familiar with. I don’t know how to move a Joomla site (to take over the hosting on a hosting server I prefer), my wife doesn’t know how to hack Joomla and neither do I. And as I said, I don’t want to host a site whose design we weren’t involved in. We can do a new logo for her, but that’s it.

I have to call her back and try to explain to her why the logo is the only thing I can do for her. She’s very non-technical, so this is going to be a problem.

The problem is, Dreamweaver is a tool which produces websites from scratch. When you look at the code behind a Dreamweaver site, you might not even realize it was built using Dreamweaver, unless you know what to look for. But all the code is there, easily accessible. And you can run or hack a Dreamweaver site without knowing there is such a thing as Dreamweaver. This same thing is not true for frameworks such as Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla. They are not strictly tools for building websites. They are frameworks for building websites. Big difference.

At this point, it’s not practical to revert this site to a Dreamweaver site. Going forward, this lady is going to have to have a Joomla developer to handle any edits or redesigns. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it severely limits her choices of developers.

What I just explained to you, I can’t say to her. As I said, she’s extremely non-technical. So I’m going to have to explain it using some analogy she might understand. The best I’ve been able to come up with is this: When we built the site originally, we crocheted it together from the information you gave us. Your new designer took all that content and put it into a quilting machine. So now you have a quilted website. That’s okay, but we don’t have a quilting machine and we don’t know how to quilt. And I don’t host sites I didn’t design, and I can’t do any work on it going forward because of the quilting issue. Yes, we can do a logo for you, no problem. But once done, we can’t graft it onto your site or do anything else with it.

I hope that analogy works for her. It’s about the best I can do.

I pity non-technical customers who get themselves into situations like this. Now, I don’t know if her new designer is still around or not. But the fact that she wants us to do a new logo and resume hosting for her tells me he’s not in the picture any longer. Which would be typical in her case. But turning the site over to him for a time has now severely limited her choices going forward.

Again, nothing against Joomla or Drupal or Wordpress. I have a fair knowledge of Wordpress, and it’s not a bad choice for a lot of people. But once you’re committed to a framework, that’s it. There’s no changing to a different framework (practically speaking), and no going back to a simple tool like Dreamweaver.