Hans and James, manning the Helm at "The Matrix on Main Street...SEM Geeks' futuristic headquarters.
Why we partnered with the team at SEM Geeks.
Since Summertime Surf was founded, we have tried to keep as much of our operation in house as possible. For nearly a decade, Summertimesurf.com has been the stronghold of our DIY nature. We loved our old site, and it served us and our customers well. However, like a favorite board, there comes a time when sentimental attachment just doesn’t outweigh the performance issues. The time had come for a new site.
The challenge, for non-technical folks like us, was navigating the process, setting a timeline and budget that fit our wishlist of features. The scope of accomplishing everything we wanted to do with the new site (especially from our out-dated version 1.o) quickly turned this project into a very significant investment of both time and money for our company.
Getting up to speed with a little help from our friends
We explored a bunch of different options for our site. We could try to continue the DIY approach and build our own site on some of the newer, more user-friendly platforms like Weebly or SquareSpace, we could outsource our project to a development team online to save some money, or we could go for a legitimate, established web development firm. What we quickly found is that while Weebly and Squarespace are great for simple sites, they really aren’t built to handle much customization. With our desire to integrate some comprehensive custom features, this simply wasn’t an option for us. Wordpress is the content management platform for like 40% of websites on the internet today, and is highly customizable. It’s out of the box templates are simple to install and edit, however, it requires some rather technical skills to tweak and customize templates, widgets and tools. We have some technical skills, but CS6, PHP, CMS, HTML, CSS ETC. looks more like our alphabet soup than our resumes.
We decided that once it’s up and running, WordPress would be simple enough for us, but to get to get the quality of site we wanted to provide to our customers, we knew would not be doing the job alone.
Outsourced Internet Development VS Established Development Firm
Nowadays, it is possible to use a platform like O-Desk or 99designs etc. to build out a webpage rather cheaply. However, you get what you pay for when you make an investment in a project like this. Quick and cheap websites have become a commodity. Platforms such as those are great to bang out a prototype site or get something done quick and cheap…. But we weren’t looking to create a commodity site.
When you start talking to development firms, the first thing they will say is “anything is possible… what is your budget.” This is because the process is very complex, and takes a lot of time and communication. If you settle for a cheap developer online, they may end up billing you hourly- or cutting corners on other features you want- because they have to take time to troubleshoot or learn something new. An established firm like SEM Geeks has a team of multiple people with varied skill sets that can tackle the unique features of your website. This saves both you and the developer tons of time, and any web developer well reinforce to you that “time is money”.
Keeping it Local
Imagine you are overhauling your house on the Jersey Shore, and you hire a contractor from Kansas who’s never seen The Ocean, let alone spent much time around here. Do you think it’s going to be easy for you to communicate clearly enough so the finished design matches your expectations?
A website is the online “home” of our mission-driven organization. It is used to communicate our work to the world, and is a major part of our participant’s experiences- often their first impression. We had envisioned something that embodies who we are, what we do and how we do it, and most importantly, help our participants learn about what they can expect from working with our unique organization, and help make the experience smoother and easier. After talking with some developers we found on the internet from different parts of the country and world, we realized that while they may be technically competent, there would really be no way to communicate the “feel” of our site to someone that is not familiar with our organization, our team, and our culture.
We’ve known some of the guys on the team at SEM geeks since grade school. We surf with some of them in the lineups at our home breaks, we run into them at the coffee shop. They see us on the beach and have friends and relatives that have participated in our programs. They “get it”. This has proved to be invaluable, particularly in the intangible aspects of artistic design that give the site it’s “feel”.
It ain’t over until….. oh wait- it’s never over.
One of the best pieces of advice we received on the front end of the our overhaul was “a project like this is never done- by the time you ‘finish’ the original scope, something will be outdated or something new will come along.” This was really the kicker for us to commit to the investment of a local established web development firm with a diverse talent pool. SEM Geeks is right down the street, and they will continue to keep up to speed with the changes in technology and web design. If something breaks, or something new comes out, the team that built our new platform is just down the street and ready to pick up where they left off.
This project was intimidating for us in technological scope, time commitment, and financial investment. Thanks to the dedication and expertise of James, Hans, Brian and the rest of the crew at SEM Geeks, we couldn’t be happier with the result, and we can’t wait to continue working with them to add new feature to the site over time.
If you like our site, and need some development work of your own done- especially if you are located in NY/NJ, we suggest you do yourself a favor and call up SEM Geeks for a quote.
Thank you for the opportunity to work with you and help you reach your goals in and out of the water. With out our participants, none of this would be possible.