Info for Brett
I’m breaking this into two parts. Part One is about me and Part Two is about the likely update to the existing website.
Part I: I’ve worked for the Alaska State Legislature since 1990. I gradually climbed the staff tasks and responsibility ladder till I became Chief of Staff to Senator Drue Pearce while she was Senate President. In 1996 she confided to me she was vanishing to DC to work for President George Bush’s Interior Secretary. At that point I was faced with the decision to work for another legislator, become a lobbyist, or go to law school . None of those options excited me. I decided to flip over to the tech role I now occupy for more money and half the stress. Starting in 1997 till 2007 I directed the web efforts for both the Senate Majority and House Majority Organizations. After 2007 till the present I’ve worked only for the House Majority Organization. I also have a successful small business based on my web developer and graphic design skills.
(For your understanding. I know you’ll likely remove these bits below.)
Why the change to working for the House alone? In 2005 I contracted with Representative Tom Anderson to create a website that would advertise his future marketing and lobbying operation. He had future plans to leave the legislature the following year. He paid me with a portion of his bribery funds. And thus, I became part of his conspiracy to defraud the public according to the FBI. I didn’t know anything, but they applied pressure. I did not wear the wire they wanted me to, but, I eventually testified against Rep. Anderson in the US Justice Department and FBI’s Polar Pen operation. The trial was awful. Rep. Anderson’s wife was Senator Lesil McGuire and at the time she vowed to ensure I never worked in the Legislature again. I took her threat at the time as serious. Over the years she and I have since talked it out. We’re good. I stay out of her business and she stays out of mine. I would certainly still be in charge of the Senate’s web efforts still if this hadn’t happened.
I’m currently responsible for the following legislative websites:
In the past I was responsible for this website:
I’ve also been responsible for many campaign websites. Incumbents must turn them off for session. But, here are a few existing ones:
I also have a small freelance business and I’ve created and maintained a host of websites for these clients as well. Below is a partial list.
Part II: I’ve looked at the existing website: www.diveandseamaui.com. And I’ve reviewed the social network and review site links as well. Those are some great reviews. I did a little digging and found the site is hosted with a reputable firm that is NOT on any spam, virus, or phishing blocklists. The hosting firm has been in business since 1999. This is all good. the site is currently hosted at the firm and address listed below.
- Location: United States, Texas, San Antonio
- IPv4 Address: 220.127.116.11
- IPv4 Hostname: main14.maui.net
- Nameservers: ns1.maui.net, ns1.peer1.com
- ISP: http://www.serverbeach.com
- The server is a Linux server running Apache
The domain name was registered with Network Solutions. However, its Whois information is cloaked from public view by a privacy firm.
- Updated Date: 2015-01-28
- Creation Date: 1999-06-18
- Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2021-06-18
My recommendations: An exceptionally good or bad website would not break or make this business. Normally, its great customer service that makes a business. My general recommendation is you could continue to run the existing website with minimal changes while focusing on extending the great reviews and rankings. Next I would clean up some small quirks with the existing website. But, over time, I would do a general upgrade of the website that would include several stages. None of these have to be done immediately. I would likely keep the website at its current hosting firm if the current owners of the business have good things to say. I would move the website to a content management system. Most websites are created in these content management systems. The idea is the look and feel of the site is made by your webmaster, but day to day content management can be handled by non-technically skilled workers. ie: if you need a phone number updated or a picture changed you don’t need to call me. Or if you do its such a trivial change I just say feed me a beer the next time I see you.
- Focus on extending the business’s great social networking efforts
- Reward your customer base for giving great reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Frommers, and etc. Probably with a small discount.
- Move the existing website to a content management system
- Ensure the site scales to cell phones and tablets well
- Set up an online booking system that takes money online and allows the client to print out tickets while notifying you of the ticketing
I’m assuming the boat crew includes a person who probably underwater films the trip and sells the photos or video to your clients for a further fee. This person could also add some of these clips to the clients’ own social networks (if they give permission of course). And to the business’s social networks as well. Or perhaps that is someone like me.
If I’m chosen to work on this I would move you to the WordPress content management system. Its the CMS I’m most experienced with and the one that has the most developers currently. There are a number of other CMS that would work. Drupal, Concrete 5, and Joomla are the most common ones out there. Any of these can work. Just make sure there enough developers out there that if your current webmaster meets a hungry Mama Tiger you can quickly find another webmaster at a cost you can live with.
My costs: These are preliminary estimates to plug into your business plan. As you well know, things can change if we run into unexpected problems. But, you can talk with my former clients and you’ll find I’m reasonable even when we ran into problems.
I normally bill myself out at $150/hour when I’m doing serious web development and/or graphic design. If I’m working with existing logos, pictures/video, and written content things go quickly and cost less. I’m going to say that moving the existing site to a CMS where the look and feel is substantially like the existing site and that would scale to phones and tablets would come in at $1000. Adding the booking system would be a few hundred to perhaps a $1000 more. That would include things like purchasing the plugins and than setting them up. Here is what some initial research came up with:
WooCommerce plugins for WordPress:
What is Woo Commerce you ask? Its a framework that sets up the online database backend and administrative interface that allows a non-technical person to easily sell things through a WordPress site. In this case we need a calendar, a bookings/ticketing system, and a merchant transaction widget.
- calendaring and bookings plugin: ~ $100-$500
- VISA/MC/AMEX/PayPal merchant transaction plugin: ~ $100
Some of these plugins charge a yearly license fee. Annoying for sure. But, when things go wrong they do provide telephone/e-mail support. There are 20 or 30 of the calendaring widgets. And literally 100’s of the merchant transaction plugins. I still need to do more research to discover the right ones to use. But, I have some experience here as I set up merchant accounts and online donation systems for campaigns.
The merchant transaction plugin company usually will take something like 50 cents per transaction AND 3.5% of each transaction. Those figures go up and down depending upon how much money you are churning through your merchant accounts. ie: they nick you for the plugin and a little for each transaction.
I suspect this enough to allow you to plug in some numbers into your business plan. Give a good read and we can talk. I’ll come back and try and nail down a better set of numbers. I’ve written my own business plans in the past and I know its always under constant revision to try and get accurate numbers.
I’m actually excited for this one.