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Copying Website Functionality

By Expert Author: James Harry

We get an ever increasing number of requests from prospective clients who want a website that includes the functionality of a site they have seen. They are often trying to start a business based on either expansion of the functionality or the cloning of the features for a narrower and specialized market segment. It was several years ago that we got a request to create a site that functioned like match. com but just for friends. A year later we got a request to create an online magazine. At about the same time a network member wanted to create a coupon site. Recently we received a request to create an online registry similar to one being offered elsewhere.

In many cases, clients with this type of request come to us after they have given the project to website designers who fail to complete the task. It is not uncommon that we are being consulted after a second or third failure.

Imagining that projects like these are a simple process of copying website functionality overlooks the harsh realities that will eventually surface.

When you ask a developer to "clone a website" they are likely to be able to explore and see much of the functionality but they are unlikely to see and understand all of it. If the website is interactive, then the information being presented and the path the application takes will likely depend on the data entered. Developers will instinctively proceed through a web application supplying answers that they are most comfortable with. If filling out an address form they will likely use their home state and possibly a made up zip code. It is unlikely that they will try to enter a foreign address so they will not see the result of that entry. If the application provides some sort of search capability or data comparison functionality a developer will likely enter values that will be found. The more complex the application the less likely it is that exploring the forward facing functionality, the front end, will show all of the possible functionality. And the front end, which is available for exploration, is the simpler part of the application. The back end processes are likely more complex and they will be hidden. The back end functionality will need to be inferred. The even larger problem is the functionality that one does not even consider. Are there back end reports? Are there scheduled process? Are there notification emails. Are there responders and other crucial back end communication procedures?

So if you are looking to build a site to meet a particular business purpose, it is critical that you carefully define the processes the business will need and from there determine the web application needs. Handing a developer a request to clone some web functionality you have seen is likely a recipe for disaster. It you need help please visit our website or email dkrumholz at this domain.

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