(Submitted 5 January 2014 by Scott M. Huelsman)
It's a new year and time to update everyone regarding the latest at The Huelsman Way!
DotNetNuke 7 Update
While I've been a professional web developer for over 15 years now, my specialty—and passion—remains with content management systems (CMS), complex database-driven online applications that vastly simplify webpage development. I originally started my business around a CMS I developed years ago, but eventually I moved to DotNetNuke (recently rebranded as "Evoq" or simply just "DNN") and I've been hosting that for the past 6-7 years. While I also enjoy working in other CMSs such as Joomla, I especially like DNN as it utilizes a variety of Microsoft technologies I'm already familiar with and I've found the system a bit more robust, sophisticated and professional.
DNN 7 was released in late November 2012, and I installed an instance on my Rackspace web server in early January 2013 to test and experiment with, hoping to soon migrate all of the original DNN 6 sites over. However, I ran into several issues, and soon recognized that merely migrating the sites wasn't a good option—they really needed to be rebuilt in DNN 7. I've spent the last six months building in DNN 7 and I'm confident now that it's ready to develop in.
These days, it's not enough to have a website. That site must be "responsive" (assessable) across all devices, tablets (such as the iPad) and especially smart phones (such as the iPhone) as well as desktops (PCs and Macs). Over the past six months, I have come to particularly appreciate the Bootstrap 3 framework on which many popular responsive site designs are based, and I strongly recommend migrating to a "Bootstrapped" skin as soon as possible.
To help make such a transition easier, I have invested in a simple yet powerful Bootstrap 3 skin called, appropriately enough, "Simple" (and I've started a rebuilding of my own website at TheHWay.com to showcase the skin). The skin is available in a variety of colors and background patterns, and is perfect for migrating to. There are a variety of other professional DNN 7 skins available at the DNN Store, but I'm making the Simple skin available free of charge to any Huelsman Way client who wishes to implement it.
Often, clients need to do more with their websites than just provide text and images. Over the years, hundreds of independent, third-party vendors have developed thousands of custom DNN "modules" that provide extra functionality (such as a newsletter system, an online store, fillable forms online, etc.). Modules are very powerful and can meet a wide diversity of online business needs.
While I purchased a variety of these modules to support my DNN 6 sites over the years, I can't legally transfer those modules to the new DNN 7 instance—I have to start a new collection. To that end, I've purchased a license to offer an extremely powerful suite of modules from a vendor called OnyakTech that can get all of us off to a great start. These modules include:
All of these new modules are now freely available to clients of The Huelsman Way. Just be aware that many of them are very sophisticated and therefore not always easy to set up or configure, so you may want to ask for some development time from us if you want to use them.
New Service Packages
When I work with clients, I typically charge $75/hour for commercial businesses and $60/hour for non-profits. This approach works well for a few hours of content updates, but it can be a little risky or expensive for larger projects such as migrating an entire site. Therefore, I'm temporarily offering two new packages to better service existing Huelsman Way clients still using the DNN 6 instance.
Site Migration to DNN 7
Take advantage of our new DotNetNuke 7 CMS instance, the new modules being added to it and the new "Simple" skin we're making available for free! We'll review your existing website and copy over all of the content to the new DNN 7 instance at just $30/hour. This is my big goal for 2014 (to get all of the existing DNN 6 sites converted over to DNN 7), so I'm willing to offer a substantially reduced rate.
Note that additional functionality (or modules running in the DNN 6 instance) may need to expensed separately.
Site Review & Clean-Up
Websites are like cars—they need periodic maintenance and upkeep in order to provide optimum performance. Over time, content becomes dated, the underlying HTML becomes bloated and the site loses a bit of its original sparkle. We can review each page of your site, clean-up the underlying HTML and generally improve your site's presentation and readability. This not only helps your customers engage with your content but helps those who are maintaining your site as well. Again, we charge $30/hour for review and clean-up.
Recent Site Development
In addition to providing day-to-day site updates and maintenance, we've been busy on several new site development projects, two using the DNN 7 platform and one using the Joomla 2.5 CMS.
The Susie Show
Some of you may know that my wife Susie began a mobile DJ and karaoke service this past year. In support of that effort, I developed a new site for her at TheSusieShow.com. This was another DNN 7 effort, and provided a great opportunity for me to really learn the new version and features in support of what Susie does best—entertaining! Susie's first year has been extremely successful, and she's looking to do even more in 2014. So, if you know anyone looking for a wedding reception host or wanting to do a party or special event, contact Susie at 608-358-1672.
Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin
I was approached last summer to rebuild the IPAW website and recommended using my new DNN 7 instance along with the "Award" responsive skin. After four months of direct development, the new site (located at IPAW.org) was just released. The intriguing aspect of this project was that I did not develop most of the content myself—it was actually entered and configured by an employee of the organization. This staff member and I met on a regular basis and I provided coaching and mentoring services (along with some content development), but the employee did most of the development on her own, and without ANY prior knowledge of DNN or even HTML. Hence, it's a great example of what can be done with DNN even by those with little prior experience!
Wisconsin Conference UMC Rebuild
A long-standing client of mine over the past seven years has been the Wisconsin Conference UMC, and we've been hard at work on a site rebuild for the past year. The original site used the very first version of Joomla, while the new site is using Joomla 2.5, a significant improvement. Of course, the new design is responsive (mobile-friendly) and will include a robust integrated newsletter system, several online forms (which can be completed and submitted directly within the browser) and a cornucopia of new content. The site is scheduled for release in early 2014.
Do You Hate Spam?
If we're hosting your email along with your website, there is an anti-spam service you may want to know about. It's called MX Guard Dog and it can effectively block 99% of all the spam you're currently receiving. The way it works is that instead of your email going directly to our mail server, we can change your mail MX records to send all your mail to Guard Dog instead, where the spam is automatically removed. Your "cleaned" email is then forwarded back to our mail server, saving you the hassle of having to delete the spam yourself.
I have been using the service personally for the last six months, and it's worked extremely well. The service does require a bit of maintenance; very occasionally, it blocks a legitimate email message and so I have to log into my Guard Dog account and "white list" the sender so I receive the legitimate email in the future. I also added a simple sentence about Guard Dog to the bottom of my website featuring the service, and in return Guard Dog provides the service free of charge (otherwise it's just $2 per month per mailbox). Let me know if you'd like to consider Guard Dog for your own incoming email and I can help you set it up.
Annual Hosting Fees Due
Finally, just a quick reminder that it's that time of year--I'll be sending out web/mail server invoices for 2014. Again, I charge this annual fee to help offset the cost of the Rackspace server, the Ipswitch IMail mail server and the variety of programs and applications needed to keep all of the websites and email inboxes humming smoothly. This fee is $250 per year ($125 for sites of five pages and fewer).
Thanks for Your Time!
That's it for now! As always, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns, or call me during the day at (608) 692-9367 or Susie at (608) 358-1672. We appreciate everyone's continued business, and we wish everyone the best in 2014!
Scott (and Susie) Huelsman