When it comes to Website Design there is so much to know, it’s very sad to hear when talking to people just how many of them were charged more than they should have been for their Website Design. Especially for a Website Design that to the average person looks like a well-designed website but is actually subpar when viewed by someone that knows what they are looking for, beyond the aesthetics.
Even though looks are important there is much more to a website than how it shows up on your screen. I can’t even begin to list how many people had their site created in Adobe Flash which can make a site look absolutely amazing. The problem here is that search engines can’t read the text in Flash, so your search engine ranking would have suffered because of this decision. Even more insulting is that the newer versions of browsers are actually not supporting Flash anymore at all! This means that Website Design someone paid a lot of money for, won’t even work anymore and they’d need to have it redeveloped. This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are so many other things to consider, like if your website meets WCAG compliance or even if it needs to by law?
I believe people should be informed when making such a big decision, although the following will be overkill, it should give you some useful information regarding what’s involved in Website Design and what type of website you might need?
The first thing involved in Website Design is understanding the customer’s needs. Are they merely one of the 30% of small business owners that don’t have one or did they have some type of light bulb light up and have something unique like Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook for example.
This will answer what type of website is required, will it be a simple static site or a rich dynamic one that requires content management or e-commerce. This is a very good place to start especially since pricing can range drastically, starting off at a few hundred dollars and moving upwards to where a permanent staff of employees might be required, as in Mark Zuckerberg’s case.
Website Design 101
There are a few layers when creating a website and the design or look of it is one of them. Here you have a few options depending on your budget and preference.
Template or Theme
One way is to purchase a template/theme with a single use license which can save you a bundle of money on a Website Design but could also mean that your site will look similar to someone else’s. The single use license means someone could have already bought it or it can continue to be sold. A lot of times there are huge price tags associated with an outright purchase to the themes/templates. This means it won’t be sold anymore from that point on. Unfortunately, a few little tweaks and some new artwork and you’ve got a new theme for sale, that’s basically the same. In my opinion, the thousands of dollars associated with a full purchase of a template/theme is not worth it. Go with the single license for a hundred dollars or less by the time the Website Design is done with new images and text etc. it’ll look unique enough…
Here you are free to give direction and/or work with a Website Designer to either bring your image to life or to give guidance and then pick from a few different designs based on what the artist envisions you might want. This also comes with a heavier price tag depending on the amount of work involved or could be fairly cheap if it’s minimal. It all depends on what you’d like? Something like the way google search looks, for example, requires minimal graphical work and doesn’t really require a graphic artist.
Some Website Designs might require a graphic artist to get involved to create something totally unique and creative. Here you are free to give direction and/or work with the artist to bring your image to life. This usually involves having to pick from a few different artistic interpretations and then converting that to something that will work on a website. Obviously, this requires more time and money to be spent but it can be worth it…
Type of Design
Today with mobile devices becoming more of an internet gateway we have to consider our Website Design around them as well. Traditionally a website was designed for desktop computers but now search engines like Google prefer websites that offer mobile versions over ones that don’t, it’s a bit more complicated than that but that’s in simple terms.
Here people have a couple of options, the best one here is to have a responsive Website Design. This means the same web page looks different on both mobile and desktop computers, it adjusts itself to the screen size. It can have as little as two separate looks or more if you want to cater to a few different sizes of devices like phones, tablets and desktop for example, which would have 3.
The other Website Design option is to build a separate mobile version this could be a useful way of salvaging what you might already have if it’s worthwhile that is? Otherwise, if you’re developing from the ground up, you’re basically doing double the work with this scenario. Unfortunately, this method also means that mobile devices would be redirected to a mobile page and search engines don’t like that, they allow this type of redirect to get by but a responsive Website Design would probably be your best bet.
This is where we move away from the looks of the website and start to have fun with the code of the site. This is basically broken up into these categories:
HTML & CSS
These two are the base of Website Design, they instruct what will be on the web page and how it will look. They are simple languages used in Website Design, good designers will know how to read these scripts and how to leverage them to help search engines spot the most important information on your website. A lot of Website Designers overlook advantages they can take in HTML tags because they don’t read them but use programs for web development instead, this can come with some drawbacks if they don’t know where to look or what to install.
Server Side Scripting
This is code that’s executed on the web server, two of the most popular languages are ASP and PHP. They are used for dynamic pages which change depending on the circumstances, for example, a product page that looks exactly the same but has different information and pictures for the different products. These are basically mandatory when building something like an e-commerce site which also needs this language to communicate with a database that holds all the product information and purchase information etc.
Client Side Scripting
Then there is the client side which is the computer visiting the website, there you can utilize code to do a tonne of different things but the most common function here would probably be form checking. This is ensuring someone enters the proper types of information for something like an email or a postal code. It can be used to build games, flash type intros and much more.
With proper coding today, you can also use client side coding in conjunction with server side coding to create an application type page. This means you can change and load information without ever leaving the page like a typical website does, a perfect example of this are any social media’s wall of posts. Without leaving a web page you see the latest posts from the people you know or are following.
One of the last things to consider if you’re building a more complicated site is if you’ll need content management. This means you can control the products on your site for example without having to rely on the web developer to do it and have to charge you for it! This is a judgement call, it could be cheaper to just have the developer drop or remove a page if products don’t change often. The two options are:
Custom Content Management
With custom content management comes a heavier price tag which could be minimal if looks aren’t important and minimal functionality needs to be programmed. Or it could become much more expensive if graphic design plays a part along with a multitude of different features that are perfectly suited for your specific needs.
Content Management Platforms
By using Website Design platforms like WordPress you can save yourself a lot of development time, in both the frontend (client) and back-end (administrator). There are many themes that can be used for free or bought for WordPress that have many different types of looks.
They also come with something that can be looked at as advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it. The fact that many sites run on the same platform means that if a vulnerability is found, your site could possibly be breached. In their defence, this can happen with any site and on the positive side, the community that writes the code is usually on it before that happens and the code is worked on by many people to ensure as much as possible it doesn’t happen.
Regardless of which path you chose here, security is critical! Ensure not only the developer understands this but can also shed some of this knowledge on to you as well.
The Digital Word SEO
Remember Website Design is how you’ll get the digital word out for people to find your website. The term SEO seems to be a hot catchphrase that Website Designers like to use or misuse. When the site is built properly it will be optimised for Search Engines, you are limited to what you can do in this department. Don’t be fooled by empty promises of giving you a number one ranking! Any site can be brought to the top of search results based on certain words that might not ever be searched for, you want to be more concerned about showing up at the top for words that are searched for and those come with a lot of work/time. A proper Website Design will help here but if you want better free (organic) search results, untimely it’s the content that populates your website that will play the biggest factor, the text you write or someone else writes on your behalf which typically includes a price tag. Otherwise, with a lack of content, you might want to consider a pay per click type service on something like Google AdWords.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
A lot of websites today are developed without providing proper functionality for people that may for example not be able to see but need to hear everything that the website has to offer. Under certain circumstances and in certain provinces like Ontario for example, new websites or redesigned ones may be required by law to ensure that they do. This, in general, might not be such a bad idea, as you not only gain potential customers/visitors but also points towards your search ranking as well…
Now that you know a lot more about what’s involved in developing a website and probably have a headache for having read all that along with some anxiety. What you need to consider next is who do you want developing your site? Can you trust that person to be straight with you and give you the most bang for your buck? Do they know what they are talking about?
If we haven’t already answered those questions for you, please book an appointment we can help reassure you that we can.