We’ve lost track of how many versions of www.alcopro.com we have created over the years. Our best guess is that we are now on at least version number six. We put a lot of thought and effort into the previous version of our website, and we were very happy with it for several years. But websites have a way of becoming outdated, and after four years we felt the need to make significant improvements to our site.
The most significant change we made with Alcopro.com Version 6 is to structure the site with a content management system (CMS). A content management system is a giant database that contains all the information a user sees on the site. The advantage of a CMS is that the same information can be displayed on multiple pages of the site. If we need to change the information, we make the change in one place in the database, and the change is populated throughout the site on every page that uses that piece of information. That was not the case on alcopro.com Version 5; when we updated a piece of information we had to remember every page that had that information and manually change it on every page.
We chose Modx as our content management system. We’ve since learned that most web developers have one CMS in which they become expert and use for every website they design. Modx is very powerful, but if we had to choose a CMS again, we would look around to see how many developers are expert in the CMS.
While some content management systems include a shopping cart, Modx does not. The shopping cart handles the financial transaction of placing an order – adding products to a cart, calculating shipping, and processing credit card payments. We chose Foxycart because of its clean design and the friendly, readily-available support from the Foxycart developers.
We started work on our site in November 2010. We quickly started falling behind schedule in February 2011, made slow progress though the spring into summer. We began to have difficulty communicating with our web developer, and by the end of summer 2011 determined that he was not going to finish the work. We thought we were about 90% complete at this time.
We were pretty discouraged by then. We had expected to be up and running by May 2011, and now three months later, not only were we not finished, but we no longer had a web developer.
We scouted around for another developer willing to pick up the pieces and complete the site. Rumbolt Design agreed to do that. Although their expertise was in using WordPress to develop sites, they were willing to dive in and learn Modx so that we could retain as much of the work that was already completed.
Their assessment was that we were 60% complete – much more work to do than we realized. We used the opportunity with Rumbolt Design to review our basic goals and objectives for our site, just as if we were starting from scratch again. Rumbolt Design offered a good critique on the work we had done up to then, and we were able to make improvements to the design and structure of the site. Technically speaking, then, Rumbolt Design produced version 6.1 of alcopro.com.
A cornerstone of the early design was what we called the alcopro wiki, which was to be a searchable collection of all types of drug and alcohol testing information that we have accumulated. After a lot of back and forth with the new designers our wiki became a knowledgebase. The searchable knowledgebase turned out to work even better than the alcopro wiki ever did, with a much cleaner look.
The last step in the development process was a thorough review of the site for proof reading, making sure links worked, that all content was accurate, that the shopping cart worked, and that shipping charges were accurate. Our site has about 1,000 pages, so the review took a team effort from most of our staff to comb through every page.
We made the decision to go live on May 1, 2012, even though we knew there were quite a few bits and pieces that needed more polishing. We now realize that our site is a work in process, and that we will continue to work on adding content and improving the content already on the site.
One of the only regrets we have in launching the new site is that we will no longer be working with MSW Design, who developed, maintained, and hosted our previous sites for the past ten years. It was a pleasure to work with Sandy Waggett and her group who provided very able assistance to us with the previous version of our site, and we will miss them.