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Case study: Rebuilding our site

During 2009, we rebuilt from scratch the Teten.com, TheVirtualHandshake.com, and NavonPartners.com sites.  Paxcel has done a great job since then maintaining and updating our sites.  I wanted to share our process, so asked Mandeep Dang, Project Manager of Paxcel, to write a summary of what we did.


As introduction, I am the lead web architect at Paxcel Technologies, who rebuilt Teten Advisors (http://www.teten.com); The Virtual Handshake (http://www.thevirtualhandshake.com); and Navon Partners (navonpartners.com).

For background on Paxcel, we have been providing outsourced software product development since our inception in 2003. We have successfully delivered over 85 products to various clients in US.  Some of the domains that we are active in are: US Capital Markets, Payment Industry, Healthcare, Market Research, Compression Software, Telecom, and social networks.

The Task

David asked us to design a site that is quick to build, easy to update and publish, yet robust and scalable…Easy enough !!!

The first challenge was selecting the right platform: commercial, open source, or custom build? David suggested WordPress, and even though we had limited past experience in it, its features and plug-in architecture excited us enough to evaluate it fully. The fact that it was open source appealed greatly to David, and it didn’t hurt its chances at all.

WordPress Evaluation

After deciding on WordPress, we reviewed the blogs of people who we thought had insight into the process of building a WordPress site.  I’ll highlight “Crowd Favorite” (http://crowdfavorite.com/) and Scobleizer’s blog (http://scobleizer.com/) as particularly helpful.

To ensure wordpress would meet all our objectives, we listed out all high level features required by David and began finalizing plug-ins for the same.  Here are some of the attributes we evaluated, and the plug-ins/ wordpress features that came in handy.

–  We wanted to encourage higher signups on the site for the feeds.  For this we mimicked the design of avc.com (http://avc.com).  On the backend, we identified AWeber (http://aweber.com) as the email provider for us, particularly because of their integration with blog feeds.

–  We did not want to break the inbound links from other sites to the old websites, so it was imperative to have the same URL structure as the existing site. The “Advanced Permalinks” plugin (http://urbangiraffe.com/plugins/advanced-permalinks/) came in handy to accomplish this.

–  Another goal was to have a common platform for both the CMS and the blog (unlike the previous implementation, in which MODx was used as the CMS and WordPress as the blogging platform). WordPress served the purpose very aptly here also. We created a new blog template for the blog pages and we were able to run both the static pages (e.g., http://www.thevirtualhandshake.com) and blog pages (http://www.thevirtualhandshake.com/blog) from the same instance of WordPress.

–  We chose HostforWeb.com to host both sites, which we have used successfully in the past for other sites.  Their customer service has consistently been very responsive (0-2 hour turnaround time) when we have needed their help.

Enough with evaluation… time to give life to the idea.

While technologies play an important role, our experience has been that the success of project is rarely determined by technology, but by the communication between stakeholders and how clearly requirements can be defined. Fortunately for us, David helped our cause a great deal here.  The first draft of the requirement was extremely well defined.  From there on, we ensured that the product would meet his expectation by following an agile development methodology with quick prototypes. We delivered the product in many iterations, ensuring overlap of development of iteration with QA and UAT of previous. With a good requirement base, rapid prototype developments, and release in iterations, development was largely uneventful, ensuring a timely delivery of the product that met all of David’s requirements. (Yes it is possible..:) )

My heartfelt thanks to the contributors of such plugins, I am mentioning a brief list of plugins that we have used:-

–    Advanced Permalinks (http://urbangiraffe.com/plugins/advanced-permalinks/):-

This plug-in extends the default permalink functionality and allows one to create different permalink structures for each post.

–    Akismet (http://akismet.com):-

This checks the comments posted on the blog against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not. This plug-in does a real-time check on the comments, so the blog is protected at real time with the latest updates from their spam database.

–    Page link to (http://txfx.net/code/wordpress/page-links-to/):-

This allows one to make certain WordPress pages or posts link to a URL of one’s choosing, instead of the WordPress page or post URL. We have used this plug-in to link to the Amazon page for the thevirtualhandshake.com book.

–    Role manager (http://www.im-web-gefunden.de/wordpress-plugins/role-manager/):-

As our site is administered and published by multiple contributors, we needed fine grained access control, beyond the one provided by default in WordPress. This plug-in provides control to absolute granularity.

–    SEO Smart Links (http://www.prelovac.com/vladimir/wordpress-plugins/seo-smart-links) :-

SEO Smart Links automatically links keywords and phrases in your posts and comments with corresponding posts, pages, categories and tags on your blog.

–    Smart YouTube (http://www.prelovac.com/vladimir/wordpress-plugins/smart-youtube):-

Smart YouTube allows one to easily insert YouTube videos in posts, comments and in your RSS feed.

–    Plug-in manager (http://www.drunkadmin.com/projects/plugin-manager):-

Plug-in Manager lets you to view, download and install plug-ins from wordpress.org from an AJAX’ed interface, instead of manually downloading, extracting and uploading each plug-in.

–    DISQUS comment system (http://disqus.com/):-

The DISQUS comment system replaces the default WordPress comment system; it enhances the discussion on the websites.

If there are things that could be done better, please do tell us, if there are things that work great, do tell others. We strive and thrive on references.

Signing off

Mandeep Dang

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