I’m quite sure that most of you wouldn’t bat an eyelid on losing a pro bono job. You proposed to do some work for free, the other party didn’t agree for some odd reason, less work for you, end of story. But once in a while there’s a lesson to be had from such an experience, leading to interesting ripple effects. For example, a Joomla! guy ended up with a WordPress blog. Intrigued?
A while ago I was asked by a friend to help her with a non-profit for which she was recently elected Vice President. It’s a non-profit about the discussion of the works of a well-known writer and intellectual who lived in the past century. The entire board consists of philologists. Naturally, they are tech-averse but they did want a site built. I agreed to meet with them and discuss with them, agreeing in advance to build a site for them pro bono as a favor to my friend.
It turns out the site they wanted made was a rather simple one, centered around content: opinion pieces, news articles, that kind of stuff. Since I’ve been a Joomla! guy for over ten years (counting the days before it forked off Mambo) I proposed to build their site with Joomla!. And this is where the discussion took an unexpected turn.
It turns out that one of them had used WordPress and had found it very easy to use. He also knew someone who could build them a WordPress site for a reasonable fee. He asked me point blank if I was willing to build a WordPress site for them instead. I was reluctant. That was the last time we talked about it, five months ago. Apparently, they went forward with their plans to build a site. A WordPress site. Gulp!
I was a bit baffled at the time. I was offering my services for free. Why the heck would someone pay for a service that someone was offering them for free? Then I took a step back and put my business consultant hat on. It suddenly made perfect sense to me. The immediate cost of building a site is not what matters most.
The real value of a site lies in its content. If the content creation process is tough for the people creating the content they won’t do it. If they won’t do it the effort spent on making the site goes down the drain and so does the added value the site could have had in the organisation. A bad choice of platform, considering the purpose of the site and who will be doing all the work to maintain it, can have a profound hidden cost. Free can be prohibitively expensive when it’s the wrong tool for the job.
This incident made me think hard about my own blog. I have been blogging a lot less over the last couple of years. It coincided with the time I switched to Mac OS X. I no longer had Windows Live Writer sitting on my desktop – not to mention that after Joomla! 1.5 you needed a third party tool and complicated setup to get XML-RPC working in Joomla! anyway. Writing a blog post meant that I had to log in to my site and go through the unfriendly process of authoring articles. I also had to install and manage JCE, a comment plugin, social sharing plugins (which I kept on postponing installing forever),… Blogging was no longer fun so I wasn’t doing any of it. The value to be had from a blog site was being destroyed.
That’s how I started looking into WordPress. It’s really the right tool for the job if blogging is what you’re up to. Install JetPack on it and you’re cooking with gas. Even better, WordPress is ready for the post-PC era. I’m writing this post on my iPad, using the free WordPress app I downloaded from the App Store. Not a mobile version of the administration interface, an app. I can’t imagine blogging getting any easier than that!
That’s how I ended up with a WordPress blog: it was the only tool that made sense for blogging. Having to use a new platform acted as the impetus to get off my lazy butt and write Akeeba Backup for WordPress, a project I had been procrastinating on for four years. Just like with Akeeba Backup for Joomla! more than seven years ago (then called JoomlaPack) I was in need of a better backup tool for the platform I chose for my site so I wrote one.
In closing, I’d like to remind all of you, no matter if you are Joomla! or WordPress person, that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Instead of defaulting to the CMS / framework you are most comfortable with, explore which option is best for your client in the long run even if it takes you outside your comfort zone. At worst, you’ll end up learning something new and expand your business horizons. Stop entrenching yourself to what you already know and go experiment!