This week, I've been talking to David Hurley of WebSparkInc.com. They're the company behind the project management software JForce, which plugs right into Joomla! as a component.
Read on to get to know David and perhaps learn something from his experiences developing software for Joomla!.
Hi David, thanks for taking the time to answering some questions about your solution JForce and the experiences you have from developing it.
Please tell my readers about your company and background.
Currently there are 3 full-time and 1 part-time employees at WebSpark. I actually started the company working as a freelancer about 5 years ago. I began to grow slowly by word of mouth and by repeat clients as they saw the quality of work that I was producing. Things quickly grew to more than I could handle by myself and I began hiring. We’re currently located in downtown Graham, North Carolina (in between Greensboro and Raleigh). It’s a small town but we’re close to several major cities.
I see you have divided your company into several divisions. How is that organized?
We may be a small company but we have several roles that we play. We offer custom website design and development, search engine marketing, and website maintentance and support for our clients through WebSpark Design. We then have several divisions that deal with more software, web application development. Both JForce and Extension Depot handle extension creation and development and act more as a standard software company. We then have a division where we can offer support and help to other designers and developers. MyCodeSpark and PSD2Template provide either instruction or tools that help educate and expedite other companies that are in similar fields to us. We’ve got a pretty fair amount of information on our corporate site, www.WebSparkInc.com, that explains each division and what we accomplish within each. We have a strong interest in seeing our industry grow and the Joomla! community become more knowledgeable; and I feel that the products and services available from each WebSpark Inc. division fall in line with our business mission: To support companies and help them manage their online presence.
Why did you start developing the project management solution JForce?
JForce started as a project for internal use only. We found that we needed a project management tool to handle our WebSpark Design clients and there was nothing suitable available. We loved Joomla! even back then when it was 1.0 and knew we wanted to develop a component that we could integrate directly into our website. We developed JForce to work on Joomla! and never looked back. We have continued to improve the code and have released several major upgrades including JForce PM most recently which is a major overhaul of the entire system - we had approximately 95% code re-write with this latest version. Along the way we incorporated key features that are not even available within Joomla! yet, but will be released with the upcoming Joomla! 1.6 version. We’re very excited about this aspect as this puts us squarely on the cutting edge of Joomla! development.
Was it important for you to create it as a Joomla component, and if so, why?
As a company we’ve worked with Joomla! since its inception and with its predecessor as well. We have found Joomla! to have the absolute easiest admin panel for our clients and quite honestly some of the best code available in a CMS- proprietary, commercial, or open source. With the release of Joomla! 1.6, I firmly believe that the Joomla! project is way beyond the competition. I knew immediately that we would develop our project management system for Joomla!. As a matter of fact, we’ve been able to extend the Joomla! framework and build JForce PM as a stand-alone application. This means we will be offering a version of JForce that does not require the CMS at all! The power of Joomla! as a framework is amazing and comparable to Code Ignitor and other rapid application development frameworks.
So, what's been the greatest challenges while developing the software? I guess you've had some ups and downs along the way?
As with all software companies, we have certainly experienced our share of ups and downs. We had tremendous growth initially, far more than I ever anticipated and that caused some large support issues. This bothered me quite a bit as our custom design and development work under WebSpark Design is based on solid, high-quality support and attention to our client’s needs. Unfortunately, I did not have a great deal of experience with a software company business model and had a lot to learn. I found some great mentors and advisers that helped me and after many sleepless nights and hundreds of hours of restructuring and establishing support practices we are now able to re-emerge with JForce PM as a product that I, personally, am proud of and proud to put the WebSpark name behind.
Why did you decide to go for a GPL licence model?
The GPL license is a big issue these days. We sat down and discussed the various pros and cons of both sides and put serious thought into our position. We initially decided that by making our Professional version a proprietary license we could better secure the code and keep our high standard of quality. We also felt this would help increase our “worth” as it would give us a proprietary software. We quickly changed our minds. I felt we had spent too much time making our code beautiful. I didn’t want it hidden. We decided a better approach would be to make our code GPL, compliant with Joomla! regulations, thereby helping to teach other developers as they build on our system how to write amazing code.
That's great, David! You're involved in the Joomla project in addition to developing Joomla extensions and sites. Can you tell us a little about that, and why you think it's important to be involved?
As I’ve worked with Joomla! I’ve become more interested in giving back to this great community. I’ve tried to help out in as many areas as I can. I’ve joined the Joomla! bug squad to help with squashing bugs in Joomla! 1.6 so that can be pushed out. I’ve recently written an article for the Joomla! magazine, and I post in the Joomla! forums as I have time. It is hard to find ways to get deeply involved, and I’ll admit that even though I hear the calls for community help, it’s difficult to actually get in and get your hands dirty. We’ve also had the opportunity to work on a custom version of JForce for Joomla.org. I’m very excited about offering our project back to better support the Joomla! community; and am honored by their vote of confidence in our product.
What, in your opinion, are the greatest strengths of Joomla?
That’s a great question. Joomla! has many strengths and it would take a while to go into detail about all of them so I’ll pick just a few that come to my mind immediately. Joomla! has amazing code. Easy to read, well documented, and following the commonly recognized best practices. Might not be a big deal to some, but when evaluating frameworks and CMS platforms it becomes readily apparent that the code behind Joomla! has been well thought-out and carefully planned.
The second strength that I’d mention quickly is the Joomla! community. A strong, growing group of people dedicated to the continued improvement of Joomla!. I am impressed with the fact that although there are always differences of opinions and different views on direction, everyone has the same goal - making Joomla! the number one framework and CMS in the world. And that’s just a couple of reasons why I believe Joomla! is unstoppable.
So, where would you like Joomla to go in the future?
I see Joomla! future as bright. As a business owner building both websites and software applications on Joomla! I have tremendous faith in the future of Joomla!
Joomla! has many paths it can explore and I expect great things as far as developing the framework as a standalone framework that others can use more readily for rapid application development and a very small footprint. I also would like to see some options as far as installable CMS packages as well, maybe built for specific vertical markets or industries to allow for an even quicker installation, setup and launch of a new site.
Finally, any other thoughts you want to share with the readers of JoomlaBlogger?
I’d say that if there are any developers out there looking for a platform to develop for Joomla! is an excellent choice. For website designers and developers I’d encourage you to always choose the best tool for the job. I love Joomla! but I do not blindly recommend it for all projects - as the Lead Developer at WebSpark Design, I have to evaluate each project carefully and pair it with the right tool.
That being said Joomla! is a fantastic tool and JForce PM as a project management system for Joomla! is the perfect compliment. I encourage you to drop me an email if you have questions, check out our site at http://www.jforce.com/ for JForce and experience our customer support and high quality work for yourself.
Thanks, David, and good luck on the development of jForce and all your other projects!