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Choosing the Right Web Designer

So, you’ve finally decided that you need a web site for your business? Well, there are a few key-points to remember BEFORE you make one of the most crucial decisions for your business.

Choosing the right designer for your new business web site:

When it comes to choosing the right web designer for your web site, you should always shop around first to check out all of the available options. There are many web design companies out there to choose from. And most of them are pretty good at what they do.

Always ask to see samples of a web designer’s previous work and examine their portfolio. This will help you get a better feel for the style of sites any particular web designer is capable of doing. Most of the time, web designers have their own unique style and you can easily spot which designs they’ve done in the past. I mean, it’s similar to any other artist’s style; you can definitely spot their previous works based on the general layout, color scheme, and over-all visual appearance of the sites.

Experience is also a key factor here. Just like any other craft, web designers get better with experience. So naturally, you’ll be better off by choosing a web designer who has more experience under his or her belt.

Another key point you should define is whether or not the web designer can make you a 100% custom web site. Or will it be just a basic template web design that 100’s or even 1,000’s of people already have across the Internet. Pretty much anybody these days can create a basic HTML web page in Microsoft Word or Publisher and change the title of it to reflect their Branson business. But you must ask yourself: “is this really what I’m looking for”?

Web sites that are truly custom built will stand out more the rest of the basic template web designs that so many people are using these days. A custom web design will catch the eye of your potential customers and show them that you have a really professional web presence and you mean business.

A lot of web designers these days choose to do the template web sites for one of 2 reasons:

It’s cheaper to use a basic template web design. They might be lacking the necessary skills needed to develop a fully custom web site. Whatever the case may be, make sure you go with a designer who is capable of creating a custom web design for you. It will inevitably cost you more for a custom site. But it is totally worth the extra money spent. Trust me, in the end you will be much happier with your web site if it is a site that’s unique and created for just your business and not everybody else’s.

Communication with a potential web designer is also critical in the development of your web site. You need to be perfectly clear and define your goals up-front, before you actually sign a web design service contract with a designer. Make sure you know what you are getting for your money and make sure you get it in writing! I have a 9-page web site design contract that I use every single time I design a new web site. Included in this contract is an itemized list of all work that is to be performed during the development of the web site. Things like the exact number of pages, the exact number of graphics to be designed, whether or not I need to create a logo, the estimated time before completion, whether or not routine site maintenance will be performed after the site is 6 months or 1 year old, etc.

Defining these things will help you in the long run and will also make sure you and the web designer are on the same page.

I also use what I call my “web design planning worksheet”. This worksheet gives “milestones” or deadlines for each phase of the web design project. Things like “In 2 weeks the general layout will be done” and “2 weeks after that, the site will be coded and launched” and then “In one moth after the web site is launched, we will evaluate it to see what needs to be adjusted”, etc. (these are just examples, by the way. the details included in one of my actual worksheets gives exact dates and more specific milestones).

And what about the web hosting for your new web site? Usually, a web designer will provide some kind of insight as to which hosting company they recommend. Web designers in general have a preference for a hosting company that they know will be a good choice for your web site and they should assist you in making this selection.

Fortunately, we have our own web server here at Digital Spiral Web Design so we can do all of the hosting ourselves. This is very beneficial because we can make sure the web server stays up and running and if there is any maintenance that needs to be performed on the server, we can do it ourselves in a timely manner. Plus, we will always cut a deal for our web site hosting services to any new business who chooses us to do their web design.

Getting Started With Your Web Site

How do I start my website? This is a very commonly asked question, and I hope the following will give a few very basic answers, as well as giving you some starting knowledge of what is involved in creating a personal or business web site. I intend to cover each of these topics individually, and at much greater depth, in coming weeks, but for now here is my basic starter guide to putting the first few feet forward on the path of web site creation. Although aimed at small business and organizations most of these principles apply to web site projects of all types and sizes.

Step One: What Do I Want My Web Site For?

Every web site needs a reason to be, a purpose to fulfill or a job to do! The first step in creating any web site is to define the reason why your site needs to come into being. Have a brainstorming session by yourself or with your team and answer the following questions:

Who are we trying to reach with our website?

It is very important to know the target audience or “demographic” you want to appeal to with your web site (or any form of public marketing for your organization). A site intended for high level industry professionals will and should have a very different look, feel and function to a site intended for children or a site intended for selling fashion accessories. A good thought experiment is to write down the attributes you would want in your “ideal” visitor. This will really help in answering the other questions going forward about your site.

What do we want visitors to our website to be able to do?

A web site can allow a visitor to find and do any number of things and it is up to you to decide what functions you want to provide. Is your site just about information? Are you looking to sell a product or encourage prospective clients to contact you about buying a service? Do you want visitors to be able to get an online quotation or to be able to donate money? Don’t limit your vision. If you don’t have the full budget, or your business isn’t quite ready to service all the features you want, you can always split your project into stages and launch a site that can easily grow, expand and develop when you are ready.

What “call to action” do we want for our visitors?

This is a very important, arguably the MOST important question to answer about your web site before starting any design process. How do you want a visitor to act ideally on finding your web site? Do you simply want to encourage them to telephone your company? Do you want them to make an online request to contact them? Do you want them to go ahead an make a purchase or a booking right there on your site? Do you want them to send you information, or perhaps subscribe to your mailing list? Here again it can help to make a simple point-by-point plan on paper, from “A visitor arrives at your homepage…” to “A visitor leaves your website.” Having this information at hand will enable you or your designer to tailor every element of your site to making this happen.

What “style” do we want for our site?

Almost certainly if you are reading this you have spent some significant time “surfing the web”. By now you know what you like, what you dislike and what you find just plain scrumdelicious. If you are in a business or organization you have very likely spent time browsing your competitors’ web sites, or sites similar to the one you want to build. Bookmark these sites and write down what you like or hate about each. You may love the way a menu works in one site but hate the color scheme. On another you may like the way they take orders, but find the site hard to navigate. At our company we call these sites picked out by a client “exemplars” and they can be invaluable when creating the look, feel and function of a site that will meet what the client’s vision for their project. There is nothing wrong with adapting a good idea from one site to use on your own or taking inspiration from another site in the design of your own. As a web designer, this is actually one of the highest compliments one can receive. On the flip side, don’t try to re-invent the whole web site concept. Visitors expect to find navigation menus in certain places and pages such as a “contact us” are a useful standard. The balance in style is between building a site that looks pleasing, distinctive, and professional, but has the type of functionality a visitor expects and can easily navigate.

What is our budget for this project?

Budget is a very important factor when approaching a web design project. Some costs, such as domain registration and a hosting account, cannot be avoided but if money is extremely tight you may consider building a site yourself or finding a “talented amateur” family member or friend who will give you a hugely discounted price. If you choose to go with a professional you should definitely get several quotes and ask for project proposals and estimates from each of the companies you contact.

Beware of companies that can quote you a price almost without hearing any details of your project. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions! Your web site represents a significant investment and you should get clear explanations of what is involved and how the project is priced. On the other hand you should also be ultra clear and specific about the process flow of your business. Remember, your designer might know little to nothing about your industry and without sufficient specifics from you, there can end up being unexpected costs when the designer has to rework the design and coding.

How Hosting For Web Pages Works

Web page hosting is something that every single web page on the internet has to have since web hosting services are required to have your site seen on the internet. If you want to host a web page on the internet, you will have to wade through thousands of hosting companies in order to find one to suit your needs.

If you are not armed with knowledge of web hosting terminology and technology, how can you possibly make an educated decision on which company should host your web page?

First, you should learn about the different types of web page hosting that are available on the internet. There are a lot of different kinds of web hosting but there are the most common ones used by web pages on the internet.

Shared Web Hosting
With shared web page hosting, numerous web pages are hosted on the same web server. All of these pages will share the same resources available on the server such as internet connection, hard drive space, CPU speed, RAM, etc.

While this is the most common kind of web hosting, it can be dangerous for a professional business because of the sometimes unreliable nature of shared web page hosting.

Virtual Dedicated Server
Virtual dedicated servers are also called virtual private servers. With this type of web hosting account, you are still sharing a server with other web pages but this time you have your own piece of the server’s resources that are dedicated to your site.

In all other aspects, it functions just like a dedicated server where you generally have your own IP address, can host numerous web pages, and have root access to your server.

Dedicated Server Hosting
A dedicated server hosting account is where you have an entire web server that only you get to use and you do not have to share anything with any other web pages.

Dedicated web hosting servers are offered in a number of different formats to suit the needs of a client. You usually get to choose the server specifications depending on your budget.

Colocation dedicated servers are purchased instead of leased servers that are maintained, connected to the internet and stored by a web hosting company.

Dedicated servers are generally assumed to be leased servers where you make a monthly payment to the web hosting service to have use of the web server.

Managed dedicated servers are higher priced leased servers that are managed and controlled by a web hosting company similar to the way a shared hosting account would be managed. Managed dedicated servers do not receive root access but will keep you from landing in a situation where you have messed up a server setting by playing around with something you didn’t have the knowledge to be doing.

Unmanaged dedicated servers are for webmasters that have the knowledge to maintain and even perform software updates to their own web server. This is the cheapest web server leasing option available but you will be responsible for your own machine.

Web Page Hosting Technologies
It is also important that you have a thorough understanding of web hosting technologies before you proceed with purchasing your web hosting account. Again, this is not a complete listing of the different technologies used by web servers and web site hosts, but they are the most important features that you should know about when choosing a web host.

Web Hosting Control Panels
There are actually quite a few different control panel software systems being used by hosting companies these days. Some of these control panels are designed by the companies using them so they can limit access to certain features of their choosing. Other control panels are widely used, powerful pieces of software that give you full control over your web site and the newest technologies available.

It is essential that you select a web hosting service that will give you full access to your site or else you may find yourself needing features that are not available to you. This is especially true when you start trying to install software scripts on your site.

CPanel is probably the most widely used web hosting control panel and is the recommended control panel that you should look for when selecting a hosting service provider.

A Guide to FREE Web Site Advertising

It’s not going to be an easy task, trying to locate Free Web Site Advertising. But if you work hard enough for it and play by the rules, you too can grab up a share of valuable Free website advertising on the World Wide Web for your web site project. Here’s a free web site advertising guide that’ll provide you with some helpful hints on getting FREE website advertising for your web pages. Believe it or not… there’s a piece of the web for anybody willing to work hard for it.

Successful webmasters who have acquired high web site ranking and web popularity on the World Wide Web, constantly scour the web for informative web pages that are relevant to their own business niche. To them, it’s FREE outbound link information resources that help build their outbound link structure. Search engine robots and spiders are not only detecting a web site’s inbound link structure within a web site, they’re also searching for supporting, outbound information links that are of relevant and informative content.

Search engines are most favorable to web sites that provide a supporting outbound link structure… always with the Internet web visitor in mind. These very-wise web masters know exactly what they’re looking for in building their supporting outbound link structure. You should learn what it is they are looking for- in high hopes they link to your web site and ultimately provide you with increased ranking and popularity. And guess what? It’s FREE!

Also, many of the outbound links they discover and install, often come and go. In a months time, 20 informative outbound links could turn into fourteen working and supporting links and six that become broken and or nonexistent. Broken links are bad. In fact these days, most webmasters use automated software to alert them when broken links appear within their web pages. And guess what? They’ll be on the prowl again- search for relevant content-rich web pages to link to.

The wise web master, will then begin to locate new web site hyper links, to take the place of broken and removed links. Web masters are performing this operation day in day out 365 days a year. These are the makers of web sites you want to attract… they will be your avenue to FREE web site advertising.

Helpful Web site Advertising Tips

The first thing you should learn is… to have a true desire and passion about what your website is all about, whether it’s a blog about yourself, or business products or services your are trying to sell. You have to establish yourself as a genuine authority on what your website is trying to convey. “And how do you do that”, you ask?

Know your business niche inside and out. Know your competitor’s business niche inside and out. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Provide as much information about yourself, your web page your staff and most importantly your business and its products. If your business competition have two paragraphs on a particular product or service, or even an introduction, you build three paragraphs.

You should set your main web page navigation up so that visitors, without pause, are able to access information about you, your staff, your geographic location, contact information, web site information and of course, product goods and services. A hyper link to your web site site map is a must. Having a directory-wide site search is also a plus. Make accessing your pages easy for your visitors and crawling search engine robots, spiders and crawlers.

Web Page Download Time

To begin with, if your web site sucks, no one is going to bother to link to it, and links to your web site are exactly what you’re looking for. First good impressions are lasting impressions and will result in return visitors to your web site. Make sure you have a clean, crisp, fast loading and attractive web design. Run your web site through a download time calculator. If it fails the download time test, then it’s time to start trimming your website code, graphics and images.

HTML Code Validation

Now you have to make sure your HTML code is validated. HTML code validation is an essential element in knowing your web site is in compliance within multiple web browsers. Run it through an HTML validator such as the, W3C Markup Validation Service. If your web page fails the test, it’s time to get to work and Clean up your code.

Internet Web browsers are not all created equal. What looks good in a web browser on your machine, will not necessarily look the same in another web browser on another machine. Everybody has a favorite Internet web browser- there are many. With web page validation, you can be assured, your web site will look its best in which ever web browser your web page visitors are using to access your website. If your web page code can’t pass the validation, then it’s time to scrap your web site for a New Web Site Design.

Now your web page is ready to publish. Submit your finished project to all major search engines. Pass it along to friends, family, acquaintances, and business associates. Hit the blogging highway- find relevant sites and offer your expertise. Many sites will allow you to leave your web site URL address.

Sit back and wait… because high-rolling web masters who happen to come across your site, and feels you’re a valued contributor on the web- he/she just might add your website link to his valuable site. It’s all about web site design and content. Give your web visitors and search engines, the environment and path of least resistance.

Understanding the Business of Web Development

Internet reaches out to a wide audience and is used to publish personal and professional information with some engaging user experience. Web development or setting up a website or enthralling web application and hosting it on the Internet has become simpler through the use of cutting edge technology. In fact the technology is meant to be used by the web developers as well as the end users for improving the overall web experience. This trend can be seen clearly as more of websites are being posted online. The Internet can be easily distinguished from other popular technologies such as television and radio as the web gives an ample space to the user for personalization with an unlimited scope for extending their creativity and reaching out to large number of public audiences.

The Internet can be seen as a collection of a wide variety with a frequent mix of personal and professional web spaces. The Internet was meant to be a platform for imparting knowledge to the masses at the time of its birth. But now it has come a long way to be a place where the users worldwide connect, interact, and communicate themselves through websites and web applications. Today even the businesses run online with their online productivity overshadowing their real world productivity. The web has become an inimitable marketplace for people to buy and sell all kinds of products and services.

Web development lifecycle starts with the inception of a thought for having a web application that does the business processing for the individual or the company. The ideas are revised and reevaluated before going further and determining the scope and requirements of the web application. On specifying the business requirements the companies move a step ahead in starting with the actual web application development. Web development is a specialized area of work which involves an understanding of the web development technologies and all other related processes. Web developers do not automatically produce a fine website on demand. They must be communicated and made to understand the exact expectations of the web application. On learning the features and functionalities of the web application the web developers build a precise web application and deploy it online for faster business processing.

The web development technology is in itself a collection of technologies and computer programming languages that are used to create and run a computer program. Some of the popular and essential custom web application development technologies to be learnt by the web developers are HTML, XML, Flash, Perl, CSS et al. A computer language is a way to communicate to the computer by the user to process the output in accordance with the desired logic. Web application development is much more than just writing computer programs in specific programming languages and running the program to get the desired outputs. Web development is a branch of computer science that involves connecting thousands of millions of computers together and running an intercommunicating program on them.

Leaving the intricate details of the web development technology we discuss the general public usage of the Internet. Cutting edge technology today enables the end user to develop a fully functional website and publish information online. There are many content management systems like Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress that help the users get a personal and professional website and manage it free of all the inner development hassles. The web developers materialize the complexities of the web development by creating a user platform that helps the non-technical users to become web enthusiasts. Though, the technical personnel are always called up to troubleshoot problems encountered by the users.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Web Site

The old adage “if you build it, they will come” at one time applied to web sites right up until the internet bubble shattered into a million soapy shards. Now-a-days if the web site is used as a marketing tool (electronic brochure) and the objective of your web site is to produce sales, the site has to be different and stand out from other web sites – something that no one else has thought of and has brought to the web. That’s a very tough thing to do and will usually take a lot of hard work and maybe a venture capitalist or two to help with development costs of your latest and greatest widget. In today’s economy, the homeless are richer than most banks so to find a venture capitalist that will sink money into the web you better have more than just a what-if, if you build it, they will come (IYBI-TWC) rhetoric.

A service is tougher to sell to a customer because it isn’t a thing. A customer can’t touch it or control it. A service is not objective but subjective. A customer can’t have a free trial download of a service to test it out. So how should the executive protection/security industry sell a service on the web and do it at a reasonable cost?

As an example let’s take a look at two industry web sites. The first company, Company A, has a web site that contains high end graphics; fancy action shots, and in there is a list of services that they provide and contact information. Company A web site cost to build was $10,000. The second company, Company B, has low end graphics – simple design, no fancy action shots, list of services with prices, and contact information. Company B web site cost to build was $2,000. Now which industry web site is getting more out of their web site? One would naturally think the fancy, high end brochure on the web, right? But that is not necessarily the case.

The Company A web site is three years old and has the exact same content as day one. Same services, same content information, same old, same old. The company has applied the IYBI-TWC principle. Yes, it does get potential clients to use their services; but most of their clients have always used this industry service company for x amount of years so why change. Don’t get me wrong, this company is making money, but the same money, from the same clients. Same eyes looking at the site, same eyes buying the services. I call this approach the even keel – just hums along thinking everything is going great – but watch out for those icebergs.

Company B’s web site is also three years old, however, the company is always updating the site with new services, new schedules maybe a couple of articles related to client feedback or the services they provide. In other words the company is being proactive by managing their web site – keeping it fresh with new content. This does bring to the web site fresh eyes, and maybe new clients. But there is something else this company is doing – looking over the web site statistics. Web statistics sounds like a college math course, but in reality, most Web Hosting Companies make it real easy for you. Company B is getting the following information from visitors to their web site:

• What pages visitors look at and how often
• How often visitors stay on a page
• What time a day most visitors come to the site
• What web site referred their web site
• What search keywords led visitors to their site
• What country or state visitors are from
• Visitor ISP’s – military, government, education, commercial

Most of the information is standard and the hosting provider puts the data into nice bar and circle graphs. So how does Company B make stats work for them? Let me give you a few practical examples.

Search Keywords

Search keywords are key words that visitors have typed into Google, MSN, Yahoo, etc. and clicked a search result that led to the Company B web site. For example, Joe the Plumber is looking for a defensive driving course for his teenage son so he typed in Defensive Driving; Company B comes up in the search results. Joe the Plumber clicks the Company B link and visits the site. The upside for using this data is that Company B uses these keyword results to introduce new services and new content so that these visitors will purchase these services rather than continuing their search elsewhere. Now you wouldn’t want to do too many new services as that wouldn’t be financially prudent, but even posting new information such as links to articles or writing your own is doing two things – keeping visitors on your site and potentially getting new clients.

Using Your Web Host the Right Way

Web Hosting

Web hosting is an internet service which allows individual or organizations to show case their website on the internet accessible via World Wide Web. Web hosting companies provides web space to individuals or organizations on the web servers they host. A web site needs to be hosted on a web server so that it can access by everyone over the internet. A web hosting company provides web, fast internet connection for web servers, security, backups, etc. To upload files (web pages) from your local computer to webhost we need a tool that can help in transferring a website. There are many tools available for uploading and downloading your web pages to and from web server. One of the most popular FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is FileZilla, it is a free FTP program; it is used for downloading and uploading of web pages into webhosting server. You just need to put a server name, username and password into the program to gain access.

Why do we need web hosting?

A web page is file that is written in HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and translated by web browser. Website is a collection of WebPages; these WebPages are what make up the World Wide Web. Once a web page is designed, it is saved as a file on a computer. If the file remains on your computer, the only way anyone will see it is if opens your file at your computer where you have saved your file. So, in order to get the web page visible to anyone on the internet, you need to rent some space on a computer that specializes in serving files out across the internet. Once your website is developed, you need to transfer it from your local computer to the web hosting servers.

There are few things which should be kept in mind while opting for any of the hosting company:

How much space would be required for hosting your website, what kind of website you are building whether it is a static website or dynamic or any ecommerce website, what bandwidth would be required by your website you should also consider some of other additional hosting features like a plain HTML based website requires different resources compared to other dynamic websites that uses a database, special image libraries, and custom programming.

One important factor you should keep in mind while selecting web hosting provider is the Operating system on which the web server runs. The following are few of the operating systems used for running web servers:

• Windows
• Linux
• Unix
• Macintosh

Windows and Linux are the most favorable operating system because of their splendid features. If you want to host a website built on Microsoft technology, you should definitely go for windows web hosting on the other hand if your website is built on open source technology you should select Linux web servers. Always check whether the web server operating system is compatible with the technology used in your website.

The Culture of the Web

Today there exists an enormous divide between those that understand and participate in the culture of the Web and those that do not.

This chasm runs deeper than just a generation gap, and there’s more to conquering it than simply being born into the Digital Age.

The Internet is a nation in and of itself, and its culture is as real and nuanced as that of any country under the sun. It’s driven by information traveling instantaneously through billions of connections that function organically as a single collective, creating, defining and shaping its own distinct code of conduct, conversation, humor, protocol and even etiquette.

Why is this important?
Nowhere is this rift of understanding more apparent or consequential than in marketing.

For the casual user, it’s not as important to grasp every nuance. However, if you want to do business and make an impact in this self-made, self-ruled culture, you must learn what makes it tick. You must be a part of its collective and discern the unifying elements that drive what its people, its tribes and its ruling class do, think, accept, feel, follow and react to – and why.

These governing principles aren’t published in any how-to pamphlet or printed on a membership card. There are no clear signs posted along the way. To know Web culture, you must simply be a part of its collective in every way.

Living in the Internet
True mastery of the Web and its culture comes from living and breathing it day in and day out. Reading what’s popular. Participating in discussion. Paying attention to reactions. Observing as the collective expands its knowledge, evolves its sense of humor, chooses what it hates and likes – all building upon a foundation of shared experience.

These are the fundamental aspects that must be second nature to anyone charged with growing your business – whether that’s you or your marketing agency:

Ruled by tribes of trusted elite

A collective sense of humor

Celebrity

A language and customs of its own

An economy of attention

Gaming as a social connection

The need to belong

The trust barrier

Homebases

Addicted to sharing

Anti-corporate by default

Greater good

In the know

Freedom above all

Be one

Web time is real time

Tech-centric

Failure to not only recognize and comprehend but also to be active in Web culture will greatly increase the risk that any marketing venture you undertake will be ineffectual and ultimately unsuccessful.

Ruled by tribes of trusted elite
Early on, the Internet began to cleverly devise ways to sift through millions of pieces of information to elevate popular stuff, bury hated stuff or otherwise separate from the unremarkable.

In doing so, clearer vision began to take hold on what was worthy of attention and what wasn’t, based on the collective’s opinion. From this, very active users began to shape the very fabric of the Internet collective, and the organism evolved to trust those in its elite class.

These collections of loud voices that think alike and swarm together can sway nearly anything. Old Spice, Barack Obama, Victoria Secret and Conan O’Brien all know the power of the Internet ruling class. They know who have the megaphones, passion and resources in their market and they had marketing people who were part of those tribes.

Building upon the foundations of the Web’s culture, your marketing entity must know how the ruling classes are formed and how they move in every circumstance in order to execute with pinpoint precision and make waves of customers.

The Roles of Web Designers and Web Programmers

A web site is a software package. By definition, a package is a ready-made program that is available to users for use to perform some tasks. These users include non-IT professionals. Thus, a web site qualifies to be a package like Microsoft Office, Peachtree Accounting packages.

Before the revolution of The Web (WWW), development of software package was the exclusive preserve of skillful programmers. Programmers or software developers develop the logic of programs which a package will eventually use to function. This logic building aspect of software development requires high level of intellect. This together with the intricacies of mastering programming languages made the development of packages uninteresting and unattractive to a large spectrum of people.

Following the revolution of The Web, it became possible for non-programmers to develop packages right from the inception. These are web-based packages and of course, web sites, requiring no programming skills. The result was the creation of a new type of profession called Web Design. A web designer is someone who organizes a web page by arranging texts, pictures, animations, forms etc on a page and formats them to produce good presentation. All he needs do is to make use of any of the appropriate web development tools like Macromedia Visual Studio and Microsoft FrontPage. Through the Design section of Macromedia Dreamweaver, for example, you can design a whole web page without using HTML codes. What you have is a web site. A web site is one or more web pages. These web development tools are the equivalent of what the popular package Adobe PageMaker does which is to organize and format pages of books, magazines, newspapers etc. No programming is required.

The limitation of web designing is the creation of static web sites which may be suitable for some applications but not all. They produce non-interactive and non-dynamic web sites that are unsuitable for certain applications and needs. For example, online registration. The role of a web designer stops at this point and that of a web programmer begins. As a result of the limitation of static web sites, the need to move further arose. People wanted sites where they could post forms for tasks like creating accounts online and authentication of passwords. This led to the development of web programming languages otherwise known as scripts. Examples are JavaScript, ASP, ASP.NET, JSP, PHP, ColdFusion etc. The result was the creation of the profession of web programming. A web programmer is someone who develops programs for the purpose of performing automated tasks on a web site. Some prefer to call them software developers. Example of such tasks are:

  1. Data validation.
  2. Form submission.
  3. Sign Up.
  4. Database search.

Thus, it became possible to develop dynamic and interactive web sites capable of doing what conventional software could do on stand-alone computer and network using non-internet technologies. Online banking, stock broking are examples. These functions can now be carried out entirely on internet. To develop functional scripts for such automated tasks, logic building and mastery of the programming language to use in terms of syntax are required. Most of the programs are written from scratch.

Can you be a web designer and a web programmer? Yes, you can. There are people who double as web designer and web programmer but specialists are noted for doing better in their respective fields of specialization than non-specialists. Some sites do not require more than web designing but many sites nowadays require both web designing and web programming like the multi-tier applications that have presentation layer, the logic layer that interfaces the presentation layer with the database, and the data layer that contains the database. There are even database specialists who design database and write what is called stored procedures and triggers right inside the database. The use of stored procedures increases the overall efficiency of site execution as it minimizes the number of times SQL statements are parsed, compiled, and optimized during execution. You can see that site development is quite deep.

The roles of web designers and web programmers are complementary in the development of web site. You need to identify where your ability lies and allow that to inform your choice of area of specialization. If you know you have the ability to write programs, you can go beyond web designing and become a web programmer but if it is otherwise, stick to web designing and continue to grow and sharpen your skills. The truth of the matter is that programming is not for everybody.

If you are a conventional graphic artist, you will find it easy to crossover to web designing and if you are a conventional programmer, you can readily crossover to web programming. What I mean by conventional graphic artists are those who have the expertise in the use of tools like CorelDraw, Photoshop, and PageMaker to perform Desktop Publishing tasks. By conventional programmers, I mean the experts in programming languages like C++, FoxPro, COBOL, and Dbase.

What SMEs Need to Know When Hiring a Web Developer or Designer

Your business is… well, whatever your business may be: human resources, plumbing, running your restaurant. Many SME owners are privileged to do what they love and work very hard to make their businesses successful. Whatever you do, you want your website to work for you, but you want to spend your time running your business, not working on the nuts and bolts of website design, so when you need web services, how do you ensure that you are doing the right thing for your business?

This straightforward checklist will allow you to manage your web service needs from start to finish and to make sure you get the best quality and value web development for your company.

Which web services do you need?

If you don’t yet have a website, the first step is to write down exactly why you want a website and what you want it to do for your business. Is it an online business card for reference? Do you want to sell products or services via your site? Is it to improve communication within or outside the organisation? All of these factors influence the design and development of your website, who might be best suited to do the work and the potential cost.

If you already have a website, try to pinpoint exactly what you do and don’t like about the existing website and how things might be changed. Try and be specific: rather than noting that it looks outdated, identify what makes it so: is it the colour scheme or the fonts? Is the navigation clumsy or out-of-date? You don’t have to be a web design expert to do this, but it will give you a head start in looking for a web developer to solve these problems.

Next, prioritise your “wishlist”, which may be a combination of specific points, e.g. improving the layout and more general needs e.g. “I want to drive more business to my website”. Once you have this, you have a brief which a web developer can use to work out the web services needed and how to achieve the desired results. Since the list is prioritised, when it comes to obtaining quotes for the work, you can decide how much is achievable within your timeframe and budget.

Choosing the right person

Do you need a web designer, web developer or programmer? The terms may all sound similar, but there are distinct differences in the work they do and therefore what you can expect from their web services for your site.

A web designer focuses primarily on the appearance or look and feel of the website, including the layout. A good web designer should be an expert in making websites visually powerful and impactful and in drawing visitors to the right areas of your website. Some web designers combine their services with graphic design, so if you have a new look and feel branding on your website, they can incorporate it for you on company letterheads and business cards too.

A web programmer focuses more on functionality. He or she might program solely for the web or may do software programming too. The programmer’s concern is getting features of your website to work. Examples may include building an online intranet or database application, where information can be stored on your database and manipulated via your website. In larger companies, these roles are often split so that programmers work on the “back end” – the features that make a website work and then apply the “front end” created by a web designer to make the site more attractive.

A web developer muddies the water considerably, sorry. Web developers can incorporate elements of design and programming. Web development is a broader term for getting a website online and making it work. You can expect a good web developer to have an eye to both the appearance and functionality of the website.