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Web Design 101 (Important Questions To Ask Your Designer)

Tuesday, 22 September, 2015
By: Jason Montero
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Most business owners, entrepreneurs, artist, freelancers, and solo professionals have come to understand that having a website and an internet presence is a must in the 21st Century. A website is a cost effective and simple way to gain credibility, keep customers and clients informed, provide 24/7 point of contact, and save time by automating routine tasks.

But if you don’t have a website where do you begin? And, if you have a site that is home-made or outdated, do you have to start all over? To explain some of the basics of planning and building a website we have compiled this FAQ.

What are the things I need to create a website?

  1. The first thing you need to create a website is to have a clear idea of its purpose. There are many different types of websites and they fulfill different roles: some are purely informative and exist to distribute knowledge, while others provide instructions for clients, generate leads, sell a product, collect data, or answer It is important to know before you start what it is you want your site to do.
  1. You also need a good name registered as a domain A good name is memorable, short, and available. (more on domain names below).
  1. Next, you need what developers call a site A site map (or sitemap) is a list of pages of a website typically organized in hierarchical fashion. This blueprint is used as a planning tool for Web design and helps you determine what pages and therefore content you need and how it will be presented and navigated.
  1. It also helps if you have some design ideas before you Do you have an existing logo or a brand? Are there specific colors you use? How do you want the site to feel: dark and serious, or bright and airy?
  1. Finally, you need the actual content which will populate the site: text/copy, images, multimedia (audio, video, photographs), information/data, and documents.

How much does a website cost?

There are many variables which contribute to how much it will cost to build a website. The range is huge and goes from probably a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the scope of the project. Again, it’s a question of what type of site and what it is built to do. An eCommerce site with 100s of products for sale is going to be a much different endeavor from a 10-page informational site to promote a small business. Factors involving cost would be the type of site (eCommerce, informational, promotional); size or number of pages, setup, quality, hosting, the amount of traffic it needs to handle, and if the site requires programming more specialized than an average web developer. Also, consider the cost of maintenance and upkeep, will you or a team member or the designer by making updates?

How can I improve my exposure on the web?

This is a complex question without a one size fits all answer. There are many things a business or individual can do to improve or strengthen their presence on the internet. Firstly, before you focus on tasks, define your goals and have a plan; nothing will stick if you don’t have a clear idea of what you are trying to communicate and who you are trying to reach. What do you want to say and how do you want to be perceived? What demographic or group of people are you trying to get your message to and what action do you want them to take: sign up for a mailing list, buy a product, vote a certain way, hire you?

Once you have a plan, the key to results is to commit to doing repetitive tasks with regular consistency. These tasks fall into a few categories:

  1. Search engine marketing – this is the fastest, most direct, and most measurable way to drive traffic and improve your search engine You buy the traffic and your position through systems like Google Adwords or Bing Network.
  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Organically help search engines find your site by providing useful and relevant content on a regular This method is user-friendly and conducive to track conversion results by analyzing visitor analytics. Some businesses and solo professionals choose to focus their SEO efforts locally through online geographic, local directories, and getting reviews on localized sites.
  1. Social Media Marketing (SMM) – Similar methods to SEO but focused on your social media The advantage to this method is that it is typically free and you can reach into your social network to begin building your audience.
  1. Direct eMail Marketing – Like its analog counterpart: build a database, get subscribers, manage a list which you contact regularly to give value added and market special of Combine all of the disciplines into one integrated internet marketing plan.

How long should it take to design and build a new website?

Similar to the question about cost, a reasonable amount of time to build a website will depend on depth and scope of the project. It is safe to say that the average, minimum time to build a straightforward informational site is one month. It is hard to imagine that anyone could do a good job in less time. It will take that long simply to collect information, create a site map, do a mock-up of the development, and solicit feedback and approval from everyone or anyone else involved. With more functionality and automation the time for site creation expands from to possibly up to a year for a high function site and integrated with other systems.

Is WordPress just for blogging?

No. WordPress started as an open source (free) system for bloggers but has grown into a full content management system (CMS). WordPress has been around since 2003 and has had many versions as it improved over time. Developers have created many plug-ins for use with WordPress that has made it very versatile. There are plug-ins for shopping carts, list makers, multimedia galleries, social media integration, etc…

WordPress works on PHP, a common programming language, which also makes it easier to customize. It has also always been focused on security and not being susceptible to hacks.

All of this makes WordPress an easy CMS used by many business owners, designers, developers.

How can I make updates to my website after launch?

Using a CMS like WordPress will allow you or a staff member to enter the dashboard and make simple updates and changes. More complicated changes or added functionality might require a designer or coder. Another benefit of a CMS like WordPress is that with its history many people have already been exposed to it and you may find someone on staff capable of handling simple day to day updates.

If not using a CMS, you need access to the server where the site files are stored. You would then use a local program on your computers like Dreamweaver or CoffeeCup to make changes to your content and then a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) program to upload the updated files to the server.

Can Idea 180 help me update my existing website?

Yes, we would only need the access mentioned above: server, control panel, FTP, or administrative access to your CMS platform WordPress, Joomla, etc…

What domain name should I get and where should I buy it?

We have our own criteria for what makes a good domain name, which is your address on the internet:

  1. Get a .com extension rather than a .net, .biz, or other Most people assume websites end in .com.
  1. The shorter the better. Long domains are hard to remember. One or two words with no dashes is more
  1. Don’t choose initials or acronyms, just think of a word or short phrase that is easy to remember and relates to the purpose of your site.

Domains can be researched and registered through a registrar like GoDaddy or Network Solutions. If a domain name you are interested in is already registered, don’t be discouraged. Many of the good, simple domains have been bought, some by brokers. Visit the domain and see if there is a site there. If not, you can contact the owner through the registrar and ask them to sell you the domain.

If you don’t know what a domain should be worth contact Idea 180 and we can give you an appraisal on the value of a domain name.

What is hosting and do I need it?

Yes, all websites need to be hosted. Hosting is the service that allows you to physically store the information of your website on a server, drive, or computer, posted to the web. The cost of hosting depends on how much traffic your site generates and how much storage space you need.

Hosting is pretty inexpensive these days, an average site can start with small inexpensive plans costing literally less than $10 a month. You do not need an expensive hosting plan unless your site really grows and you can alway upgrade or add more space as you need it, so you don’t overpay.

How do I know if my website has a backup?

Hosting companies often provide regular backups of your data but this isn’t always the case. Better to be sure and check with your developer, designer, or hosting company and confirm that once your site is launched there is a plan in place to perform regular backups of both the design and the data.

What is a webmaster?

A webmaster is a person or team responsible for keeping your site safe and healthy. What does it mean to keep a website healthy? Updates are constantly being done to counteract the efforts of hackers and improve security features. Hackers may not necessarily be targeting your site, but they often use innocent, insecure sites to mask their activities. Being hacked or compromised in this way can lead to search engine elimination.

A webmaster is responsible for keeping the site platform up to date, responding to administrative contacts, renewing domain registration (which can expire, allowing someone else to register your name), monitoring tools like Google analytics and search engine tools, and scanning the site for 404 Errors (missing pages) which negatively affect search engine rank and visitor experience. A webmaster is also typically responsible for regular updates to the sites content and/or design.

Lastly, the webmaster is usually the keeper of the access keys: usernames, passwords, and security questions for a web host, email, FTP, CMS dashboard, analytics, etc…

Do I need anything else besides my website to get business?

Of course, you can’t expect to just build a website and generate business or interest overnight. Think of it like opening a restaurant: there are many other restaurants out there and you have to give people a compelling reason to visit yours. You need to tell them where you are, how to get there, what your menu is, why you’re different. That is what internet marketing is for a website.

Many of the answers to these questions emphasize having a plan. The same applies here: think about how you can keep your target market engaged with your website; what can you offer them to buy, subscribe, or sign up? Have a conversation with your team about what types of fresh content or information can be shared on your site to keep it relevant and serving its purpose.