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Web Sites: An Introduction
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable®
You've a great product or service but your only
hope of making your product or service a success
is to make it available on-line. We provide some
common sense guideline and principles in ensuring
your site doesn't let you down.
Your Life Blood
Those new to web design will soon realise web design
is not simply a matter of pulling a box of the shelf
from your local computer store and clicking a few
buttons. Web design is expensive in planning and
development time and requires many skills to deploy
and maintain successfully.
that web design is distinct from Internet marketing.
Many new to the Internet believe visitors will pour
in as soon as the site is released. Nothing could
be further from the truth. Why will people be interested
in your site when they have thousands of others
to choose from, and how do they get to know about
your site in the first place?
matter how great a site looks or what fabulous products
and services you offer,
sites require money and time to effectively promote
and maintain effective search engine placement.
Ensure you have an adequate marketing budget and
that your marketing research is integrated into
your overall planning stage.
The most important principle to keep in mind when
publishing for a mass audience is to make your publication
simple to use and understand. People will want to
find out about your product and/or service fast
when they're browsing and they're not interested
in dancing logos or movie presentations.
You want your web site out there now. You want a
great site that brings visitors by the bucket-load
and transforms them into customers. You want but
you won't get so easily. Web site development is
a publishing medium and developing a quality site
is a long process. Here's the secret of creating
a great web site: take time. The more time you give
to planning and developing your design and content,
the better your site will be. Software doesn't make
a great site, people do.
Plan, and Plan Again
You'll need to make your site attractive. Making
a site attractive requires a good eye for visual
design so be honest, if your skills lay elsewhere
you're going to have to pay for the services of
a web designer. If you're buying in a web designer
research their services well before you commit to
Be very clear about what you want from your site
before you approach a web designer. Will your site
serve a promotional requirement or are you planning
to sell products and/or services on-line? Will your
site have 'dynamic' elements (product lines, regular
updates, changing content)? You'll need a designer/s
who's capable of developing the site as you envision
it. In short, your initial planning stage must be
complete and you must be very clear about your web
site's content, design style, target audience, marketing
requirements, and budget.
following skills are essential for developing an
effective web-site (despite rumours to the contrary
Database design is not essential to producing an
effective site). When any element falls short your
site's effectiveness will significantly suffer:
Project Development: keeping your project
on time and within budget
Visual Design: developing attractive, relevant
and usable web site graphics
Content Editorial: writing and editing (see
our article on Web
Database Design: developing and integrating
Marketing Management: ensuring your site
Maintenance: continuous web site development
spent a great deal of time considering what you
want from your web site, who it's for, and the technologies
you'll need to deliver it (a simple html site or
a complex database site).
There are a number of free web site development
software titles that can assist in producing a quality
site but there's a significant payoff when travelling
this route. Free and budget web site development
software either produce visually generic sites that
look and feel like thousands of others, or requires
a willingness and ability to dive into the world
of HTML (the special tags used to create a web page)
to embed small programs
such as pop-up windows into the HTML code of a webpage).
If you feel you're up to integrating the results
from the following less expensive products into
a single web site entity you'll save money but not
time (which some may argue is money):
HTML Editor: creates the special tags required
for a browser to read your web page
Image Editor and Optimiser: creates your
images ready for Internet publication and ensures
they are as small as possible for Internet publication
Meta Tag Generator: ensures your site is
indexed correctly by search engines
Link Checker: ensures all local and external
image and text links are working
FTP utility: an application to transfer files
from a local folder to your server
All Round Solution
For an integrated all-round web site development
it's hard to better Macromedia's Studio MX (2002-2007).
We use it to develop AbleStable® and
have found it by far the best integrated solution
on the market.
You may have further software requirements that
Studio MX doesn't provide like a Sound editor. Your
job here will be to revisit your plans for the site
and choose the software according to its' needs.
Although Macromedia Studio MX seems to carry a hefty
price tag it's great value as it consists of:
Flash MX; Dreamweaver MX; Fireworks MX; Freehand
MX; and ships with a developers addition of ColdFusion
MX. The two applications that are indispensable
are Dreamweaver MX to develop and deploy your site,
and Fireworks MX to create and optimise images.
The huge advantage of Macromedia products over others
is the vast arsenal of additional plug ins for their
applications (Macromedia calls these 'Extensions').
Most of these extensions are free and increase the
Studio's effectiveness immeasurably.
Your final and ongoing task will be to maintain
your site. If you want visitors to return and recommend
your site you'll have to provide a premium service.
Here's a list of must do ongoing tasks:
Ensure you have an effective feedback facility
for visitors to report problems
Check your links sitewide (internal and external)
on a regular basis
Keep your content current
Add new material on a regular basis
Regularly test your site for ease of use
Resolve any reported problems immediately
Constantly improve the quality of your on-line
Future of Web Design
During the early development of the Internet it
was relatively easy for one person to develop and
run a web site. As time passes and the Internet
grows and matures new technologies are introduced
and it is becoming increasingly difficult for one
person to master all that's required to build a
site that will hold it's own against the competition.
There seems little doubt that within ten years the
Internet will be divided into two distinct areas.
Those who sell and those who don't. Visiting a non-commercial
site will be a different experience than visiting
a commercial one as Internet specialisms increase
and web site design becomes an ever more complex
process of delivering interactive multimedia commerce-publications.
de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®.
Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music
composer, photographer, print and web site designer,
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