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10 guidelines to outsourcing web development

 

One issue that has recently attained center stage in the business world is the debate over whether outsourcing web development is a good business strategy or not.

Proponents point among other things to local shortage of highly qualified web developers and to cost savings. Critics on the other hand remain skeptical and often point to the potential loss of control over some aspects of a company’s business processes that outsourcing requires. To add to the dilemma, some use the term interchangeably with offshoring.

So let us begin by defining exactly what outsourcing is and how it differs from offshoring.

Outsourcing is a general term used to describe the act of delegating an entire business function or part of a business process to a third party or contractor. Despite its techie-sounding name, the idea of outsourcing, is a very ordinary one.

When you don’t have money, you borrow from those that have it and when you lack talent or experience in one area, you seek it from those that have it. That is what outsourcing is all about.

Businesses outsource when they determine that they either do not have the expertise they need to accomplish a given objective or, when they just want to maximize benefits and reduce cost. Outsourcing allows businesses to lower costs, take advantage of skilled experts, and to increase productivity and efficiency. Unlike offshoring, it does not imply work done in a different country and therefore does not entail the same risks inherent in offshoring such as project delivery failures due to political unrest, poor communication, and language barriers in the contractor’s country.

 

In this article, we will focus on outsourcing web development as a major business venture that should be carefully planned and executed.

Here are 10 guidelines to help you outsource web development successfully.

1. The first thing you need to do before even considering who to partner with for your outsourcing needs is to specify exactly what business objective you want fulfilled with the finished website. Will the website be a fully functional, highly interactive website where people can conduct commercial transactions at all times of the day or will it used to simply list detailed information about the business? Do you expect the website to evolve at some point or will this development be the final rendition? In general, most websites evolve in response to changing business demands. So it is wiser to plan ahead with changes in mind. Having a clear vision of what you want the website to do for you will help the contractor and you to tailor the project to the specific long term goals of your business.

2. After defining the general business objective, consider what functionality you want the website to provide. Will the website or some parts of it require a secure login? If so, what will be the requirements or access levels? Will the website include an online demo or a forum? How about databases and calculations?

3. Specify exactly how you will measure success. The main reason why you would develop a website in the first place is to enable people to do certain tasks at your website. So you need a way to measure this and a means to evaluate success or failure when the contractor completes the project. There are many tools you can use including one free one: Google Analytics.

4. Research similar sites. Visit websites of businesses that have already created sites similar to the one you are envisioning. The goal is not to simply copy or emulate them but to learn from them. Examine the design and functionality of these websites and write your impressions about what you like and what you don’t like about them. You can also request friends or other dis-interested parties to visit these sites and give you their opinions. Additionally, read customer comments (if available) and carefully note what problems users complain about and what they like or do not like about such websites. With this knowledge under your belt, you can then craft a better website that avoids the common pitfalls and incorporates all the features visitors find valuable. This will give you a definitive edge over your competitors.

5. Prioritize your needs. It is not always possible to include all the things you want in a website due to budget, time, and other constraints. It is therefore important to begin by categorizing your needs into “must haves” and “wish to haves.” Then make sure you consider optional features only after you have budgeted for those features that you absolutely must have.

6. Prepare a brief or summary for prospective contractors. This should include a short introduction of your company; what it does; and what its overall goals are. The brief should also include the purpose of the website; who the target audience will be; anticipated functionality (ecommerce, advertising etc…); how you will evaluate success; and who will be responsible for creating and maintaining content. You should also state whether you will be doing maintenance in-house or expect the contractor to do it for you.

7. After you have completed the above steps, it is time to look for a business partner. Make phone calls to several businesses who have the expertise you need and then draw up a list of those that meet the criteria you set in your brief (step #6 above). You can then send your brief to the few you have selected along with a request for a proposal. When you receive a proposal, look over its provisions very carefully. It is more important particularly at this stage to make sure that you get the most important features you identified in step #4. Price is important of course but don’t make the mistake of focusing only on cost. Though cost saving is a major reason for outsourcing, it should never be at the expense of quality. Moreover, a well developed site will save you more money in the long run than a mediocre site.

8. Ask prospective contractors for details about the staff that will be handling your project. If you will be outsourcing the entire web development life cycle, you want to know if subject-matter experts will be managing each phase of the project. In other words, you want to know if the task will be divided in such a way that dedicated web design specialists will be doing the design phase while software developers will handle the nuts and bolts of software development.

It should be noted here that there are some web developers who are also excellent web designers and vice versa. This should not be a problem and in fact can be preferable because such an expert can match development to design more easily to create a well-balanced and harmonious website.

9. Discuss a timeline for in-person or electronic progress report. How often will the prospective contractor provide you with a progress report? Does their proposal give a phased outline of what will be accomplished when? If they can’t provide a reasonable response to this, look elsewhere.

10. Finally, ask for references and check them thoroughly. Inquire about their customer service, their task completion history, and their general professionalism.

 

If you follow the above steps faithfully, you will be rewarded with the proven cost-saving benefits of outsourcing. Carefully managed and executed, outsourcing is a strategic business move and a great boon to all types of businesses.

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CakeFest 2021 Recap

Here we are again coming off of the CakeFest sugar high! I don’t even know where to begin.    Unfortunately, or fortunately - I haven’t decided, we had to do another virtual event. The safety of speakers, staff and attendees is very important to us, so a physical event was not the best option in our opinion with traveling.    However, after this event, I started thinking about the people who were able to attend from the comfort of their own homes or offices. These people may not have been able to travel or attend otherwise, and that gives me our silver lining. Not to mention that we had more ticket sales this year than any of our previous events (at least that I can remember).    The theme, for me anyway, ha ha, was traveling the world, ironically. We started in the Canary Islands, traveled to Germany, to Canada, to England and Austria. We had new faces from the US, the Czech Republic and even Japan - and more! This is, as I’ve mentioned, one of the best things about the CakePHP community, we have community members all over the world. This was our chance to come together.    So let’s get to the event. Here’s what you may have missed: 

Workshops:

Workshop 1 Jorge González (Twitter: @steinkelz) Topics covered included: 0:00 - Docker development environment for CakePHP 15:56 - Middlewares  30:05 - Security 1:31:36 - Performance optimization 2:04:49 - Events   Workshop 2 Michael Hoffmann (Twitter: @cleptric) Topics covered included: 0:00:00 -Setup login action in CakePHP 0:29:10 - Vite with hot reloading Vue.js tailwind css   Workshop 3 Mark Story (Twitter: @mark_story) Topics covered included: 0:04:25 - Leveraging new style fixtures 0:48:26 - Using the DI container 1:30:13 - Browser automation testing with Panther. 2:17:13 - Helpers you may need.
 

Talks:

* Juan Pablo Ramirez (Twitter: @jpramidev) gave the keynote talk on behalf of Passbolt. * Sho Ito (Twitter: @itosho) taught us all about Components * Yuki Kanazawa (Twitter: @yakitori009) and this talk about Automatically Distributing Reference Queries to    Read Replica in CakePHP4 * Mark Scherer (Twitter: @dereuromark) schooled attendees on IDE in CakePHP development * Jiri Havlicek (Twitter: @Jerryhavl) played a big role in fighting COVID-19 by helping create a  contact tracing app (developed with CakePHP) in Czech Republic * Chris Miller (Twitter: @ccmiller2019) explained standards and why we use them * Kevin Phifer (Twitter: @lordsimal)  joined in to explain how to re-use code - utility classes and PHP namespaces * Paul Henriks created a plugin with attendees LIVE * Ed Barnard (Twitter: @ewbarnard) brought the dragons! He talked about finding the Joy in Software Development * Chris Hartjes (Twitter: @grmpyprogrammer) delivered a Grumpy Programmer's Guide to being a senior developer  * Joe Ferguson (Twitter: @joepferguson) shared his knowledge on Modern Infrastructure as code with Ansible * Timo Stark (Twitter: @linux_lenny) shared details about NGINX Unit - and how to modernize your CakePHP deployments

Trivia and giveaways 

Cake ceremony dedicated to Mark Story

We took this time to thank and acknowledge Mark Story for all of his hard work and dedication that he puts into CakePHP. He then headed the cake cutting ceremony (virtually of course) as speakers and attendees enjoyed their own treats!   See the full archive here: https://cakefest.org/archive/virtual-2021  

So what’s to come? 

First!  Videos are starting to be released. With the help of community member Aroop Roelofs, we will be releasing these videos faster than expected. Ticket holders have been receiving access, and they will be released publicly in the coming days.  In regards to future events, it’s up in the air. We will have some internal discussions about safety measures and restrictions, then we will weigh the option between another virtual or physical event. We will, of course, reach out to the community for their input.  I will close by just saying THANK YOU. Thank you for making my job worth it. When an event runs smoothly and gets so much great feedback, that is a direct reflection from the community support. We hope you all will continue to join us in years to come!    Thanks for baking!  

Dependency Injection with CakePHP

Let’s talk about Dependency Injection!

SOLID principles

As you know SOLID is an acronym for the  five object-oriented design principles. In this topic, we will focus on Interface segregation principle and Dependency inversion principle. Interface segregation principle states that a client must not be forced to implement an interface that they do not use, or clients shouldn’t be forced to depend on methods they do not use. In other words, having  many client-specific interfaces is better than one general-purpose interface. From the other side, Dependency inversion principle states that objects must depend on abstractions, not on concretions. It states that the high-level module must not depend on the low-level module, but they should depend on abstractions. To follow Dependency inversion principle, we need to construct low-level modules and pass them to constructors, and that might create a lot of manual work for developers. The dependency injection container is created specifically for solving the problem with manual construction of an object, before creating a specific object. If we follow interface segregation principle when developing application modules, it would be easy to configure a container and switch module dependency. This is where the interface shows its incredible power.  

Few words about CakePHP Events System

CakePHP Events System was created to allow injecting some logic using listeners. However, in some cases, it is used to get results from code that will be created by the module user. When an event is dispatched by the listener, it can return the result. Callback injection through the event system has some drawbacks. First of all, parameters passed to the event need to pass as a hash array. So unfortunately, there is no way to check that all params are really passed or to be sure that all passed params have correct types. Is there a way to solve this problem? Yes, and containers could help with that. Instead of passing events, we can get the required object from the container and call it method. But you could say: wait, we don't know what object could be used in client code within the developed plugin. That's fine, and this  is where interface segregation principle can help. In our plugin, we define an interface for each such case, and instead of dispatching an event, we can easily get an object from the container by interface.       $updater = $container->get(AfterLoginInterface::class);     if ($updater !== null) {         $user = $updater->afterLogin($user);     }   In the Application::services method, users link the interface with the specific class.       public function services(ContainerInterface $container): void     {         $container->add(AfterLoginInterface::class, MyAfterLogin::class);     }   In some of default behavior needed we can map service class for container to default implementation using Plugin::services method.       public function services(ContainerInterface $container): void     {         if (!$container->has(AfterLoginInterface::class)) {             $container->add(AfterLoginInterface::class, NullAfterLogin::class);         }     }  

Container propagation

Dependency injection is an experimental feature. Initial implementation limited by Controllers constructors and methods, and Commands constructors. If we want to access the container in other parts of the application, we may want to propagate it from app level. The most logical way would be to implement middleware and store the container inside the request attribute.   <?php declare(strict_types=1);   namespace App\Middleware;   use Cake\Core\ContainerInterface; use Psr\Http\Message\ResponseInterface; use Psr\Http\Message\ServerRequestInterface; use Psr\Http\Server\MiddlewareInterface; use Psr\Http\Server\RequestHandlerInterface; use RuntimeException;   /**  * Container Injector Middleware  */ class ContainerInjectorMiddleware implements MiddlewareInterface {     /**      * @var \Cake\Core\ContainerInterface      */     protected $container;       /**      * Constructor      *      * @param \Cake\Core\ContainerInterface $container The container to build controllers with.      */     public function __construct(ContainerInterface $container)     {         $this->container = $container;     }       /**      * Serve assets if the path matches one.      *      * @param \Psr\Http\Message\ServerRequestInterface $request The request.      * @param \Psr\Http\Server\RequestHandlerInterface $handler The request handler.      * @return \Psr\Http\Message\ResponseInterface A response.      */     public function process(ServerRequestInterface $request, RequestHandlerInterface $handler): ResponseInterface     {         return $handler->handle($request->withAttribute('container', $this->container));     }   That’s it! I hope that this will help you when you are baking with dependency injections. If you run into any problems, there are many support channels that allow the CakePHP community to help  You can check them out under the community tab at CakePHP.org.

One CakePHP Project Per Day

The whole team here at CakeDC are big supporters and contributors of the CakePHP community. For this month, I decided to do “one CakePHP project per day” to share with the community.  Here are some of my projects so far:

Project 01 - Notes App

A one page note application using CakePHP 4 and Bootstrap 5. This project is  a good starting point to learn the framework. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-project-a-day-challenge-01-notes  

Project 02 - Contact List

An application to manage contacts - you are able to list, add, edit and delete contacts, upload contact avatar images or use avatar images from gravatar.com . It was built using CakePHP 4, plugin friendsofcake/search, plugin josegonzalez/cakephp-upload, Gravatar, and Bootstrap 5.  Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-project-a-day-challenge-02-contact-list  

Project 03 - Recipe Box

An application to manage recipes, using CakePHP 4,  CouchDB and Bootstrap 5. This one is a good starting point to learn to use CouchDB with CakePHP, including how to list, add and edit recipes (documents). Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-03-recipe-box  

Project 04 - Service Plan with Exchange rate

An application to list services and apply exchange rate using the api https://exchangeratesapi.io/documentation/ and CakePHP 4. In this one you see the custom namespace WebService to handle logic related to api as client. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-04-service-plans-ex-rate  

Project 05 - Polls

A fun poll app, using the awesome Bulma CSS Framework and CakePHP 4. A good example of model association and the CounterCache Behavior. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-05-polls-emmy  

Project 06 - Movie Theater Schedule

An application to see which movies are in the theaters and which hours by screen each day of the week. A good example of complex queries, model associations and seed data. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-06-movie-theater-schedule  

Project 07 - Podcast Finder

An application to help easily find podcasts and download episodes. In the source code you’ll find how to use the itunes api,  a structure to handle Model actions (that I think is a good option to make your models cleaner), and a way to parse podcasts feed (XML); example usage of dependency injection. The application was built with CakePHP 4 and Bulma CSS Framework. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-07-podcast-finder  

Project 08 - Url Shortener

An application to create short urls - a good example of how to create custom routes and use custom primary key types for a model. The application was built with CakePHP 4. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-08-url-shortener  

Project 09 - Quiz

Users can list quizzes, create quizzes and answer at any time. A good example of how to use MongoDB with CakePHP 4 with a base structure for Collection classes.  Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-09-quiz  

Project 10 - File Transfer

An application to easily send files to anyone, create an account, upload the file and inform the person email to send to. Built with CakePHP 4, plugin CakeDC/Users,  plugin Josegonzalez/Upload,  plugin friendsofcake/bootstrap-ui, SMTP and Bootstrap. A good example to see the usage of these plugins. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-10-file-transfer  

Project 11 - Tasks

A one page application for  users to manage their tasks. The user can create and remove decks, create and complete tasks, and list tasks grouped by decks. Built with CakePHP 4, plugin CakeDC/Users and Bootstrap 5 Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-11-tasks  

Project 12 - Blog

A blog website with blog posts and tags management, WYSIWYG editor, blog search, tags filtering. Built with CakePHP 4, CakeDC/Users plugin, friendsofcake/bootstrap-ui, Muffin/Slug, friendsofcake/search and Bootstrap 4 . A good example of usage of custom routes, route prefix, finders and multiple plugins. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-12-blog  

Project 13 - Olympic Medal Count

Perfect time for this project, right?! An application to display olympic medal count by country and sports. The source code uses CouterCache behavior and aggregated query. Built with CakePHP 4 and Bootstrap 5. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-13-olympic-medal-count
 

Project 14 - Smart Home Dashboard

An awesome dashboard to manage smart devices using MQTT Messaging, CakePHP 4, CakeDC/Users plugin, php-mqtt/client (testing with Mosquitto Broker) and Bootstrap 5. The application is able to publish messages to change device status and subscribe for status changes. Link: https://github.com/rochamarcelo/one-cakephp-project-a-day-challenge-14-smart-home-dashboard-mqtt    I hope that this initiative will somehow inspire others to put their Cake skills to work, and share their projects with the community. If you’d like to see my future projects and posts, you can follow me on Twitter, and I will share them all there! https://twitter.com/mrcodex

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