Blogs - Drupal

Pricing on value instead of hours

A number of years ago I took a client named Alex out to lunch. As is typical, I asked how we could be better. He paused for a moment; thought and delivered the best advice I've ever received from that question. "I don't care about your hours" was his response. He went on to explain how we always estimated in hours how long the work would take. While he appreciated having a metric to measure value. He didn't really have a frame of reference to truly validate the reference. If he knew what it took to build websites, he wouldn't be seeking companies like ours to do it for him. Moreover, because it was just an estimate, not only could he not be sure of the estimate, he was on the hook monetarily if we went over the estimate. What he needed was a solid price and a timeline for the features he requested. He'd judge if it was worth it him to have that feature and we could proceed. 

The more I thought about that discussion, the more obvious it became that the time and materials estimate approach for website development is flawed. The more time a vendor spends building your site, the more money they make. At the very least, they're looking to come to expend every hour in that estimate or they've "left money on the table." For the vendor, the better they get at building your site, the less profitable they become for the same set of functionality. This is all counter to the customer's best interests...it promotes inefficiency.

That conversation with Alex transformed our business. We introduced fixed price feature quotes for websites instead of hourly time and materials estimates. Our customers benefit from budgets they can count on (and timelines too). We are encouraged to put together features that are reusable from site to site and continually improve them. Our customers are happier, we're more profitable and we build better sites.

Office Hours Start Today...

Remember when your college professors would offer "Office Hours?" Specific days and times where you could drop-in and ask questions to your heart's content. Sure, you could ask questions after most any class or send an email (ok, it wasn't quite email for me) anytime but knowing that she'd be there in-person with nothing better to do than help you was reassuring. Well, we've brought office hours to Lucidus. Starting today, our customers (or others who'd like to ask a question or two) can drop by our web conference and ask online strategy, Drupal or other web related questions on Thursdays from 2-3:30pm.  Here are the details:

 

1.  Please join our meeting.

2.  Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) - a headset is recommended. Or, call in using your telephone.

  • Dial +1 (636) 277-0137
  • Access Code: 371-316-166
  • Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting

Meeting ID: 371-316-166

 

 

lucidus.net gets a facelift

So we've been talking for several months about the next phase of our lucidus.net site. It had been around for more than  a year and was looking a bit long in the tooth. Moreover, it was on Drupal 5 and needed to be brought current. However, as with every cobbler, our children were not getting new shoes when customers were ready to pay. That led us to an interesting approach that would help us put our money where our mouth is.

Old lucidus.net WebsiteA key advantage to Drupal (or any content management system) is the opportunity to freshen it over time without having to completely pull the tree up by the roots and replant. In our case, the lucidus.net site was a mess under the covers. It was our place to experiment with new modules and approaches and had become a bit messy over the past two years. If there were a place that we could definitively prove the viability of the system over time (and different approaches), it would be definitely be our own site.
To that end, we have begun a process with the following objectives:

  • Improve the site 10% at a time
  • Show continuous monthly improvement
  • Do NOT cut the tree and replant
  • Apply lessons learned and best practices we've developed over time with Drupal

We've completed phase 1 which was to freshen the theme of the system. Believe it or not, the new look is the same theme as the old with some tweaks to the stylesheet and page.tpl.php files. So far, we have implemented the following improvements:

  • Core navigation is easier to understand ("What We Do" vs. "Solutions") and look a bit more current. We also broke the primary navigation into two pieces to make "About Us", "What We Do" and "Our Work" easier to find.
  • Phone number is much easier to find
  • Added a "News" page link for current items
  • Added "Our Work" which is a portfolio/clients page. (This will tweaked soon as we need to link to the projects and provide more screenshots but didn't want perfection to get in the way of "much improved")
  • Added footer blocks that put news, blog entries and contact info at the bottom of each page. This improves SEO and also makes it easy to find for users without overwhelming the interface.

This was all done with a minimum of effort and the transition from old to new was (almost) effortless. Stay tuned for more improvements in January.

Drupal Recognized in Information Week...

Interesting article in Information Week touting Drupal that states "Drupal is conquering new territory as companies look to build Web sites designed from the ground up to support social interaction." It's great to see the product get the attention it deserves. It seems more an more that the conversation in the open source world has moved from Joomla to Drupal and Alfresco. (Guess we picked the right horse).

Drupal Q & A: How do I break teaser text the way I want?

When you publish a news item (story) to your home page in Drupal, it is pretty simple. The text creates a teaser on the home page, and that helps to lead visitors in to see the rest of the story as well as other parts of your web site. Very often, though, the break in the text happens at the wrong place. Maybe you'd like to customize how much of your text shows on the home page. Here's how you do it.

the HTML button Open your news item and go to the edit tab. Scroll down to where the body of the news is stored and look for an HTML button icon along with the other icons like Bold and Italics. Click on the HTML button. Once you are in the the HTML window, find the location where you'd like your news to break. Add "<!--break-->" (minus those quotes) to the exact location where you want it to break. This code will not display and it will break your text at this point so you'll have just the teaser text you want on your home page.

adding in a break Click update and then submit your edit. Your view will now break in the correct location.

Drupal Q & A: How do I change the title of my website?

Clients often ask how they can change the title of their Drupal website. The title is the text that appears at the very top of your browser "chrome". It is indexed by search engines and helps the search engines to know what your site is basically about. Occasionally site owners want to adjust a word or two and add or take away a keyword. To do this, you will need to have access to the administration area of your Drupal website and probably need to be a site administrator. Here's how:

  1. Login to the admin area of your website
  2. Go to the admin page or in the admin menu under your user name, click the link "Administer"
  3. Click "Site Configuration" in the admin menu, or in the Site Configuration area of the Administer page, click on "Site Configuration"
  4. The Site Configuration page will load. Edit the Name field as you choose
  5. Save Configuration

If you do not have this access, go to your administrator or call Lucidus Support at 877-548-0714, and we'll be glad to help you out.

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Migration from Joomla to Drupal Simplified...

For those interested in migrating from Joomla 1.0.15 to Drupal, there is now a module we're playing with called "Joomla to Drupal" that boasts the following capabilities:

  • import Joomla Users
  • import Joomla Sections & categories
  • import Joomla Contents & Static-contents including images/pictures

I'll keep you posted as we progress on this but it's nice to see a module that is generally available for simplifying the move.

Drupal Licensing Made Simple(r)

The folks on the Drupal board just released a new FAQ that answers many of the Drupal licensing questions that are out there. It's actually a pretty good primer into licensing for open source in general.

One interesting note is that if you use CIVICRM (which several of our sites do), the entire site falls under the Affero General Public License (AGPL) version 3 which requires that visitors to the website be given a copy of the server-side if they request it.

Another note, if a module or theme is created and distributed and it contains a Flash SWF file, it MUST include the FLA file when given to the customer. This is interesting because of the way some designers try to retain the source files of their work so that customers have to come back to them for different implementations of the same original graphic assets, e.g. "we want a different size of the ad you did for us." (BTW, we've always felt that if you paid us to create a some original code or artwork, you should have the assets. We retain intellectual property in terms of being able to re-apply the code to other projects but we give our clients full reign to do what they want with the code short of selling it. (That would fall under a different type of agreement).