In terms of results, could you share any statistics, metrics, or user feedback that would demonstrate the effectiveness of the work they've delivered?
Our Web traffic is influenced by factors outside of our control. We do know that one of the websites that we merged definitely gets a lot more visibility by being combined under the consolidated site. The overall usability has definitely improved and brought more visitors to it.
At the beginning, there was some resistance and unease, especially here. We not only changed the look of the site and the way that people interact with it, but all of our backend processes had also changed. From an administrative perspective, this was rather frustrating for some. But overall, the site was well received. We had more people involved in producing content for the website directly in the content management system, which really streamlined our content development. We also receive far fewer support requests through the new site, indicating that our system is easier to use and less prone to malfunction and defect. There was some slight hesitation during training, but now our staff is up-to-speed and confident with the system. It was a very easy system for people to understand. We would have never dreamed of introducing new people to this workflow if we felt that they would have trouble figuring out our system, but that's why we knew WordPress was a good choice: It has a reputation for being extremely simple to use by non-technical staff. Our last site was managed in Sitecore, which has a very non-intuitive backend. It was frustrating because all updates and content development really had to pass through our developers because most of our people couldn't do it themselves. We wanted desperately to move away from that process.
We did have some great feedback at the beginning. Nothing specific that stands out except that people liked the new design and liked being able to read our content online as opposed to having to download PDFs. Our readers still do like PDFs, so we continue produce them; but the option to view our content online, or via mobile, is a real boon to our readership.
We also see better search results. Our site and content is now optimized for search. We believe that people are finding our content more easily. A lot of our traffic comes in directly from search engines. We've been very pleased.
When working with Alley Interactive, is there anything you'd consider unique about their approach or development methodology that distinguishes them from other vendors?
Yes. I think it's due to the size of their firm, but it's definitely also the approach that they take. You, as the client, are working directly with their Web developers. They really minimize their project management layer in a positive way. I was the project manager internally, so we really saw it as our job to manage the schedule and manage other aspects that are not involved in the actual coding. There were always project management resources if we required them. We were having daily phone calls with their team when we were close to launch. We still have twice weekly calls with them, directly with their developers.
If we have a question or see a bug, you're talking directly to the person that knows how to fix it. They're not so caught up in the code that they can't communicate effectively with clients. There's a nice balance there, and I think they probably look for that when they're hiring Web developers. It's not someone who's going to be completely shielded and working in a dark room by themselves all day. Their developers are competent communicators with a solid basis of business knowledge. They can really transition between speaking to us on our own terms and in their own technical vocabulary. They're just extremely responsive.
In retrospect, are there areas you think they could improve upon?
Because you're working with developers one on one, some of the feedback is developer-specific. By and large, we've had really positive experiences and our timelines have been pretty realistic. Something to be aware of is not just answering to the client saying, "We can do that," but providing a realistic timeframe for when things can be done. We throw a lot of work at them, so we're not always really at being realistic. They could take the initiative and provide that kind of feedback. Otherwise, we're bound to keep throwing more work at them without regard for what might be happening on their end. I know it's in their interest to accept the work, but being more open or realistic about timing estimates might make for smoother deployments.