Updated: Jan 28, 2019
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“ Before you talk to anybody on a website you really need to know what you envision first. Not necessarily from page layout & images, down to the position of each sentence, but basic pages, functionality and type of media needed should be seriously visualized...”
Web Design can be daunting; especially when many of us have no frame of reference on how to do it. There are so many services vying for your website business and most have so many Bells and Whistles to make sense of.
This part of your branding can be an involved process and it would be impossible to cover all aspects, so I will share some nuggets on what I have learned over the time I have been working on clients sites.
Every House starts with a Blueprint
Before you talk to anybody on a website you really need to know what you envision first. Not necessarily from page layout & images, down to the position of each sentence, but basic pages, functionality and type of media needed should be seriously visualized. This can determine what you need and do not need as well as narrow down the choices available out there (And there ARE many!).
HTML, Templates, Drag and Drop Interfaces, CMS,
Your choices of what interface to build the website on are varied and what you do it on has a lot to do with how much you know about web design, how much you have budgeted to maintain it, and how much you are “willing” to learn on the medium to maintain it if necessary. I have worked over the last couple of years with many of the industry standards for website creation: Here is a brief cheatsheet for reference for the novice who is reading this on some of the main ways many of the sites you visit are being created:
Creating from HTML
Without dabbling in the weeds on this, a page created from HTML is essentially done In some cases by a program like Dreamweaver or Adobe Muse or something similar. The page elements are created strictly by adding code behind the scenes of the site or from a blank page on the web and every element from text to image to links is either uploaded or inserted into the site manually. The curve for this is the steepest for a new user and the most time consuming, In many cases it isn’t done as much anymore because the effects can be achieved just as easily and effectively for most everyday users who need a website using one of the other methods below.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
CMS interfaces are usually better know as Joomla, Wordpress, or Drupal and are being used by a lot of organizations online these days. They have design templates that are customizable and the ability to add lots of features to them. While not as complicated and time consuming as creating a straight from HTML page, the learning curve can still be rather steep for a novice designer without some training or previous experience and maintaining can take a bit of time.
Many different website companies, to make the service of creating a website easier and more intuitive have done so by creating pre-made templates centered on a certain business type or subject matter typically found online, and make them almost fully customizable. Although the client who wants a unique, fresh look that is exclusively theirs can complain of their “cookie cutter” approach to web design, the ability to create something fresh by adding new items, changing and rearranging the existing ones without starting from scratch does leave a great deal of possibility for a designer with some originality, skill and imagination.
Drag and Drop Interfaces
I mention these separately but websites with templates and Drag and drop interfaces can and for many companies operate synonymously. Many interfaces have templates to start out with but also allow for a totally blank page that will allow you to add the items you wish for a perfectly original look by simply “dragging” and “dropping” the elements on to the page from a toolbar on the desktop (hence the name).
These companies make the service of creating a website easier for the novice and more intuitive by creating pre made templates and ones that can be customizable from the ground up; in a sense bringing the best elements of interest to the customer. I have created and/or maintained websites with each of the technologies mentioned above and although I can work with each, I navigate between each based on it’s pluses and challenges, what is needed for my perceived role with the client’s marketing and what they will need going forward if I am not part of the continued maintenance of the site.
Consider your Budget
I love analogies, so I use them a lot. To simplify the explanation, I always use the house analogy: The House is the website, the Domain name (www.yoursite.com) is the address on the house to locate it, the Web Hosting is the property tax you pay to locate House on the Web.
Your budget will always have to take into consideration how much you plan to devote monthly or annually (based on how you choose to pay for it) for the hosting and domain. Many companies offer a domain with hosting but not all, so look at this when emptying your piggy bank.
Designing your site can be a one time fee, unless you plan to pay the designer to maintain it. If you do the latter, you need to plan for that. Lots of places will design your website but not a whole lot of companies do your site AND maintain it so the negotiations on pricing aren’t in your favor.
Many users can and do create a website on some free website creation pages to establish their presence online and allow the company to maintain its branding on the site for use of a free site. This is not a bad thing per se because many of the companies have a solid interface, great, easy to use features, and allow you to establish you presence online and manage expenditures. The takeaway is it does make the company brand look somewhat cheap to be hosted on a free hosting plan. Your brand image and how it’s perceived in the long run by your clients has to be taken into consideration, even at the expense of a few extra dollars.
If You Build it, You Must Maintain It
As I mentioned, many places will design your website but not a whole lot of companies maintain it, so planning for maintenance is key. If you wish to pay to maintain it, you need to be mindful of IF the designer will maintain the site and the rates to do so. This should be a part of the preliminary conversation when are looking at the great work they do so you are not stuck with a fantastic site that you are not able to keep updated.
If you wish to maintain the site, you need to either account for your level of competency in maintaining on the level you want the site to dwell; That is, if you don’t know enough about the interface the site is based on already and are not a fast learner, you may have to invest in some learning on it. Some designers will do some tutorials on the web maintenance for a modest fee (or even free). Again, this should be a part of the preliminary conversation to plan for it.
Make sure before the site changes hands that you can get into it (preferably before final payment) so that whoever is working on it going forward can actually update it. I have had clients that could not access their site and had to do another site, along with the fees for doing so, and then deal with the branding fallout of confused clients not knowing where to go to online to reach them. #ExampleRippedFromRealLife
For Your Consideration, JCIII