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#1 Regis01  Icon User is offline

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Develop a custom app?

Posted 14 November 2012 - 08:09 PM

Apologies in advance for the long post and if this is not the right place to post this please delete. I run a web design company. We do simple websites for small businesses like home builders, landscaping companies etc... We have a little over 500 clients and are currently adding about 30 new clients each month. In order for our team to manage the work flow we use a hodge podge of different systems including Basecamp, Highrise, Google Apps, email, Wordpress and a custom PHP application.

As you can imagine things slip through the cracks far too often. It has been a goal of ours to combine everything into one system or at least fewer systems. Our developer who claimed he could do everything via a PHP application has pretty much fallen off of the face of the earth and so I am trying to reassess our plan. I am trying to figure out if a custom app is the way to go or if there is a system already in existence that can be customized to suit our needs or if we could utilize components of different tools via API to piece together the system we need.

Here are the basics of what we are looking for:

1. Client section
a. Ability to create individual client accounts with log in credentials
b. Ability to upload all types of different standard file types via a simple interface (Basecamp is perfect for this task)
c. Ability to create tickets with file attachments
d. fill out questionairre upon initial log-in
e. ability to enter and update billing information that syncs with our Paysimple billing account
f. ability to access their site via wordpress (ability for us to turn this on or off)

2. Internal Section
a. gather customer information in various fields
b. workflow section that tracks progression of projects
c. sends out automated emails when tasks are "checked off" on their project from a do not reply address- response can be sent from within system
d. Communicates and begins monthly billing charge when projects are completed(currently using Paysimple API to accomplish this)

That's it in a nutshell. I don't know where to start so any advice would be greatly appreciated, TIA!

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Replies To: Develop a custom app?

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Develop a custom app?

Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:16 PM

Yeah - that's a whole mess of very very different things. A custom app may work, but I am leery of a "do everything app".... you may just start putting things into silos of connected tasks and work on a set process for everyone to follow.
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#3 Regis01  Icon User is offline

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Re: Develop a custom app?

Posted 15 November 2012 - 09:59 AM

View Postmodi123_1, on 14 November 2012 - 10:16 PM, said:

Yeah - that's a whole mess of very very different things. A custom app may work, but I am leery of a "do everything app".... you may just start putting things into silos of connected tasks and work on a set process for everyone to follow.


Thanks for the response. What do you mean by putting things into silos of connected tasks? Does it make sense to try and build a system by utilizing existing tools via API's?
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#4 BobRodes  Icon User is offline

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Re: Develop a custom app?

Posted 02 December 2012 - 09:07 PM

I would suggest that you think of this as having three sets of specifications: business rules, functional specifications, and technical specifications. Your business rules are defined pretty well in your post. You don't appear to have much grasp of how you want your software to behave, however, and are talking about the technical implementation (using API's, or whatever) before you've put the time into this. I would focus on functional specifications for the present. What should your app look like? How should it behave? Work on those first, then the technical implementation (which could include off-the-shelf software or be written from scratch, or anything in between) will begin to clarify itself.
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#5 bizzehdee  Icon User is offline

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Re: Develop a custom app?

Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:04 PM

Firstly, yes, 100% this is a custom write. secondly, this would more than likely be 2 separate apps, using the same database and is very similar to how the company i work for runs (although we add about 40 clients a week and just passed 5500 total).

what i would suggest is creating a mysql database that stores all the data that you need to store, then create the internal database that allows your staff to interact with that data, ie. add new customers, edit existing customers, add extra info to customers. with this, whenever anything is added or edited, you have a facility to either use a database table to store a new task, or simply send an email to whoever needs that email.

you would generally want to store the customers domain, their name, address, billing info (be wary of storing credit card details, its not illegal, but you will get legally destroyed if you allow them to be leaked), if you want to be able to switch on and off their ability to access wordpress, you would want to store the mysql connection details against each customer too so that you can create an ability to set their password to whatever you want.

this backend system should have an entirely separate auth system from the front end system the customer access to avoid any potential leaking of info.

the front end system, the side your customers see, will display all the information for that particular customer and allow them to post their support requests and view their replies and/or invoices.

We use 3 seperate applications for this, 1. the EDS (Electronic Deal Sheet), the application a sales agent fills in with the name, business name, domain, packages purchased and payment information, which is processed and automaticall posted to... 2. The Database, the internal customer database we use to track everything we do, allows us to track all invoicing, renewals, tasks, enabling/disabling of features/access, requesting new information such as... 3. The Art Pack, the system we use to collect every piece of information we require about the customer, we generate a unique id for each customer, and send them a link to the online system that allows the customer to fill in all information we do not collect at the initial sale which is all then pushed back into the database.

So yeah, in short, do two, maybe three apps, all using the same database for ease of data manipulation.
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