Some projects are just plain fun...

Back in January when I started work in earnest on the web site project I have just completed for On-the-Go Foodservice Magazine, I had to build a special development box to use because the Ektron CMS400.Net Content Management System (CMS) we had selected for this project would not install properly on Windows Vista. That's all I run here on the real hardware. It was a bit of a frustrating start in some ways. But it proved to be a minor annoyance, as I was able to satisfy every single Phase I Launch Requirement (and then some) with this CMS, ASP.Net, the afore-mentioned development workstation, and a few creative moments by your's truly. I also had more of a supporting cast of characters than I usually do contributing to the success of this project in both the graphics and web designer (CSS) fields. Special thanks must go out to Ingo Chao, an extremely gifted CSS designer, who seems to know every browser strength and weakness off the top of his head. As a result of his contribution, the site renders almost exactly the same in every CSS 2 browser in the wild. We even have print and mobile device support. I also have to thank a few special folks at Ektron (you know who you are) who back-door accelerated my requests for support on certain key 'features', knowing that we were trying to push the envelope with their product, and that the site would have some real visibility after launch.

The site launched last week (3.19.08 in the EDT afternoon to be exact) with the fewest hiccups I've ever experienced with a site launch. While there were the usual last minute panic attacks, and anxiety over things possibly forgotten or yet-to-do, I have to say it went off pretty much without a hitch. It even involved a domain transfer of the existing placeholder home page, and that only took a few hours to propagate.

What was more interesting to me was that in my 15 years of building dynamic web sites (yes, you read correctly: 15 years) on a number of different platforms, I had never hosted any of my project sites with a hosting provider on a shared server. Enter ServerSide. They came recommended from Ektron, and proved to be more than competent in working out the various configuration changes that had to be made remotely to allow the site to come up in their environment. This included helping me understand the dreaded 'Medium Trust' environment, which had a potential showstopper impact because I used the popular and awesome SubSonic OR/M for some data access I needed to do outside of the CMS. MSDN articles didn't hurt either. Anyway, ServerSide is relatively small in the world of hosting providers, but their pipe is huge and they have experience with CMS400.Net. What that also means is that the person on the other end of the support line is almost always the same person, and so you can count on not having to recite all of the background information each time you send that support request email.

But where was I? What was the subject of this post? Oh yeah, fun. Sometimes you're working along slogging through requirements and getting nowhere, and you wish you were in the Bahamas. Sometimes, on-time payment is an issue (but that's the subject of another, future post). But sometimes, you manage to work on a project that you just check off one requirement after another, the client is fully engaged and happy to have you on the team, money is not an issue (although our budget was very tight), and it all just comes together. This was one such project. For a small team of 2 full-time (customer and me) and 5 part-time (other principals, graphics, web design, etc.), I am simply in awe of what we were able to accomplish in a little over two months of intense effort. So, where's the fun in all of this you may ask? All I can say is, if you don't 'get it', you might want to consider a line of work different from web software development. If my ramblings have been too obscure, perhaps this will enlighten: the fun is in the designing, the building, the launch, and the results, all produced with the help of a great team. Check it out: On-the-Go Foodservice Magazine.

Bob Baker

posted @ Wednesday, March 26, 2008 12:55 PM

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