What You Need to Know about Working with Me

1. What sort of projects can I undertake?

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Any website or web application that is rich in functionality, regardless of size. In particular anything that requires a non standardised solution that cannot be satisfied by an off the shelf product.

There is little point in hiring me to build static websites or basic webshops. There are so many excellent and cheap standard solutions out there and all the main providers offer plugins that cover a large variety of your needs.

I am particularly interested in working on ambitious projects that are still in an early development phase, building mock-ups and prototypes that permit rapid evaluation of ideas before creating a more detailed specification.

2. What are the main areas you have to consider when developing a web application?

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There are basically 5 areas you need to consider. I can help you solve all of these or any combination of them.

Data and information management. How is your data to be collected, updated, verified, protected, stored and organised? And how is raw data to be transformed into usable information and ultimately knowledge?

Core application logic covering data processing, business logic, and presentation. In other words everything that you normally regard as comprising "the application".

Design: All the aesthetic aspects that make your application attractive to look at and use.

Deployment: Where is the application to be hosted? What are the procedures for testing and deploying new versions? How do you ensure maximum availability and good performance? How is code and data to be stored and backed-up?

Peripheral (but still highly important) components:The most important are SEO/digital marketing, and GDPR, data protection and privacy.

In providing total solutions I naturally appreciate my own boundaries within any given area, I am not a web designer but a web programmer. I fully appreciate that if you are developing a complex website, that you will eventually need UX and UI experts, graphic designers, digital marketers and whole swathe of specialists. I am, however, suggesting that you can get quite far before all of these are needed.

3. What is a typical sequence of events if I undertake a project for you?

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Here is a typical sequence:

  1. You send me a brief outline of what you want. We try and confine this specification to a maximum of 1 page. I can supply a template if you like. If needed I will ask some additional questions by telephone or skype.
  2. Within 1-2 days I will supply you with (depending on the project size) a) an initial version covering at least some or perhaps all of the main functionality that you have requested so that you can gain an initial idea of how the product will look like. I will place this in a demonstration 'sandbox' and give access via a login and password. b) If it is a very big project I may instead supply you with a proposal for how the problem can be solved, but as far as possible I would like to give you something concrete to look at.
  3. If you like initial result and think we can work together then we can go ahead and agree on the project plan and budget. It is probably a good idea to meet at this point.
  4. If at this stage you would rather discontinue then it is no problem, I do not consider that I have wasted my time, in fact I learn from everything I do.
  5. For small projects I complete the work and make the delivery, probably within timeframes of < 1 week.
  6. At some stage we agree on how the application is to be hosted and maintained in the future. My aim is to provide you with a self contained solution so that you are as independent as possible, but I am also happy to be involved with future maintenance.
  7. Needless to say, I will of course fix any programming errors free of charge.

4. What exactly will I deliver to you?

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I have a set of minimum standards and deliverable that I expect to provide in all projects unless you specifically exclude them.

Firstly the basic programming standards will be:

  • Best practice for application security, and in particular protection of sensitive information. This provides the foundation for fulfilling GDPR requirements although this is a separate topic (see below).
  • All applications are responsive and mobile compatible. This means that they will function fine on mobile devices. Additional optimisation can also be undertaken (see below).
  • Applications follow basic best practice for SEO (search engine optimisation). This means that all the technical requirements for SEO and Google compatibility are fulfilled. This is not the same as proactive digital marketing which is another subject altogether, but we can talk about it!
  • I will provide basic levels of accessibility (features to help visibly impaired or otherwise disabled users). However, advanced accessibility functions are something else.

The minimum set of deliverables that I expect to provide will be:

  • All source code arranged in a tidy fashion and loaded into GitHub if requested so that it is easily accessible for future programmers.
  • A well organised user documentation, so that you can be self sufficient with regard to future maintenance. This is either something you yourself can use, or which you can pass on to another developer/administrator.
  • A deployment plan and hosting solution, you can either ask me to maintain this (at fixed cost) or you can be self sufficient.

5. I am a full stack developer, what does that mean?

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It means that I can work within all the areas discussed above and will deliver a total solution.

It does not mean that I do a lot of things badly. It does mean, that within each functional area, I know my own boundaries and operate within these without compromising quality. When the project needs a higher level of expertise within any specific area, then we will locate the person who can do the job.

The advantage for you is that you are dealing with one person who takes care of the whole project, greatly increasing efficiency, reducing development time and cutting costs.

6. What programming languages do I use?

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I primarily code in Python running on the Django web framework. This versatile system is widely used for websites that need a lot of functionality and supports a very efficient development workflow because most of the basic boilerplate functionality is taken care of by the Django framework, and of course Python is the programming language built for developers.

My approach is back-end driven, meaning that most of what you see on the web page has been constructed in the server and delivered via the browser in a its final form. In other words javascript and related frameworks such as JQuery are only lightly used. On the whole I avoid too much client side programming, but when it makes most sense to use it then I don't hesitate. My basic philosophy is don't use a complicated tool if a simpler one can suffice.

Finally for presentation I am of course making extensive use of CSS and the Bootstrap 4 library.

One could have a geeky discussion for hours about the merits of this or that methodology. The approach I use is ideally suited to supporting an agile development cycle supported by one person or else a very small team. It consolidates the application logic, flow and structure in one location (the Django backend) making it much easier to manage, update, and debug the system.

7. What will it cost?

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My standard rate is EUR 80 per hour (DKK 600). But this will only rarely be what you actually pay. To start with in any project requiring 20 hours or more I will do the first 10 hours for free. For twenty hours you get a lot of programming, and can create and deploy a fairly sophisticated application. As a rough guideline, producing the view that hosts this FAQ including an interface for creating and editing the questions took about an hour.

Secondly for the majority of my projects I prefer to provide a fixed price so that if I run into any technical problems (things that are unexpectedly tricky to solve) then it is I that carries the risk. However, in case you are afraid of fixed prices, I should say that I will stage-gate the project so that it is done in small chunks, such that you can always view the progress and expand, contract the original brief - or change directions altogether.

I am confident that I will always be cheaper than other development consultancies, simply based on the way I work and because of my very low overheads. On the other hand I probably can't compete with programmers from Asia who offer to make you a whole website for 30 dollars! I am sure that some of them are excellent, let me know if you what you experience.

Do not assume that it will cost more to have me do difficult tasks, I am likely to charge you less for work that is challenging (and hence interesting) than I would for routine tasks.

8. What about compatibility with mobile devices?

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As a minimum standard everything I write can be comfortably viewed on a mobile device with no loss of functionality or clarity. All the views on this website conform to this minimum standard. In general you are seeing the same view but there is some re-arrangement of the layout so that it fits a reduced screen size, you will also notice that the navigation bar becomes transformed to the classic mobile icon (a so-called "Hamburger Button").

I can also go a step further and produce applications that are mobile optimised. This means that there is significant re-arrangement of the format so that it begins to take advantage of the smaller screen and becomes much more like a mobile app. Of course this takes longer and costs more. There are all levels in between, I will just ensure you get the level you want, need, and can afford!

The next level after this is to consider developing a mobile app. See the next question if you are considering this.

9. Mobile apps versus Web apps ? What do I need ?

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Every serious web service of course needs to go fully mobile at some stage. However, start by tailoring the solution to fit the real needs and ask yourself how desperately you need to have a mobile app?

A big factor in your decision is the cost. To develop a even a relatively simple mobile application that is downloaded and installed on a device then you are looking at budgets between EUR 10,000 and 15,000. On the other hand I would estimate the equivalent functionality in a web app to be developed at costs of 10 - 20% of this amount.

Another factor concerns the functional requirements. If you need to make use of the native services within the mobile device such as the camera or the GPS, then you are pretty well tied to developing a dedicated app. But if you need to do things like requesting information, searching databases or giving access to any type of service that can be made available over the internet then you can provide virtually the same level of user experience through a mobile optimised web application. Of course if you need to use the services when there is no internet access, then you are also tied to developing mobile apps.

The third factor you need to consider is the maintenance and reliability. A web application is delivered using highly standardised procedures via a browser. A single application developed with focus on server side functionality is delivered reliably and maintenance-free to any number of different platforms

10. What about SEO, digital marketing, and GDPR?

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When you hire and SEO or digital marketing consultant you expect them to boost your ratings on Google or other global platforms.

I don't do that. What I do do, however, is to ensure that your application fulfills the best practices expected by search engines, so that you don't get penalised for non-compliance with expected technical standards. I can also collaborate with SEO specialists to implement any proactive digital marketing initiatives.

As far as GDPR is concerned, I am not qualified to advise on any legal aspects. I will, however, ensure that any compliance requirements are implemented at the technical level.