When to plugin and when to code

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The permanent feature that rests inside any slightly tech minded person is, ‘how can I get this job done quicker?’. The conundrum is that maybe you buy something or use a plugin that may do the job quicker, but do you run into problems further down the line which in turn can cause catastrophic production results. Or do you code it yourself or project manage a code team/agency/freelancer if you do not know how?

Most teams are stretched, some are starting out and won’t have the time or resource to do everything from scratch. The nature of a global free open market is that someone will be able to do it faster, better, cheaper. So how does agency ‘x’ compete with freelancer ‘y’ or outsourcing company ‘z’? As a given it all depends on the job and the client. From a general perspective if the needs and problem of the client can be met with a quick fix, then the heck not? Why make your life more difficult if you do not have to. However one has to be careful, if we examine the pitfalls of plugins and quick fixes a bit we can understand why sometimes  this is not a good idea.

I have a client who wants a project management suite for 10 users but does not want to use anything like basecamp or slack because of security and long term costs concerns. He has a fixed budget for now and needs something within a month. What to do? I have access to developers, designers but will obviously eat into the final costs if I outsource. Because of the time fame my go to here would be wordpress, to have a look what could be checked off straight away, what would require dev and if anything what can be solved with a plugin.

Users are a given in WordPress. You can manage and manipulate their view so easily. There are so many great plugins to help out with user views in the admin and importing users via csv. My three favourites are: Users CSV with Meta , WPFront User Editor and Admin Menu Editor.

Each plugin can easily fulfil exactly what you need to achieve with users. You route a user to any url, within the WP-admin then you can show/hide any menu item. You can import and export existing users from another platform and change what each user can do within the admin.

The next plugin I would use is Wedevs Project Manager Pro. Although this is a paid plugin its well worth the price for a single site license. Although the API is a bit clunky its not out of the realms of possibility to customise this to your clients needs. Once done, you have a fully functioning project management tool, almost as powerful as basecamp, that can order your team into lean mean production machine.

[pullquote cite=”” type=”left”]BUT, this will have limits. And if you want to take this any further, you will get stuck, unless you know what you are doing…[/pullquote]

Now say my client has his tool he is using it and he comes to me one day and says, “The tool is great, what I would like to do now is have all emails sent to my address and then post a message within each project saying that everyone is doing a good job.” You then panic and then get in touch with dev team behind the plugin and they might come back with something like, “looks like you need custom development, which we don’t offer.” If you are developer then brilliant go for it, rip the plugin apart as it has a fairly robust structure and see what happens

But regardless, I would suggest before you start downloading and testing and saying yes to everything, is get in touch with the plugin team with your client’s requirements to see if its a) possible, and b) if not how much dev would it require. Obviously you way up the answer to b) and take it into account with project cost ‘x’ and time ‘y’. So you have an equation B x X÷ Y = real cost.

Don’t be scared to dive into full scale development processes

Having said the above, I often find that if you do the hard thing that you think will take longer first, it will actually save you time than if you try and cut corners. If you don’t know how to code, get to know or employ someone who does. People per hour or ODesk are great resources. As long as all functionality is scoped out properly (read my post about scoping), and you manage your client’s expectations saying that the project might take longer, not forgetting to keep them updated with project timelines.

Best of luck and ping me message on Twitter if you have any questions @AndrewBalerdi.





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