Some Basics of Web Design
Have you been...
...considering a web site as a marketing tool or information portal? Perhaps you have an existing web site that is outdated or laid out poorly. We can help, and the cost is surprisingly reasonable. A modern, well-designed web site can showcase your company or subject matter to a large audience in a way that few other media can.
Web design can be approached various ways depending on the purpose and target audience of the website. A given style or technology that would be suitable in one instance might not work at all in another. We can evaluate your needs and develop a site that will work for you. We specialize in turn-key sites where we take care of acquiring domain names, setting up hosting, and deploying the web site, eliminating effort on the part of the customer and reducing overall cost.
Initially we will examine your needs and budget to determine a properly scaled solution. We do not sell you more than you need, or ask you to take less. Your ideas are always taken into consideration, and we strive to produce a design that is visually in line with any concepts you have, and structured in a way that works for you.
This is the...
..."standard" web technology that most web sites are constructed with. Advantages here are simplicity, relative ease of updates, and maximum compatibility with the widest range of systems and devices.
Disadvantages: none, comparatively. Large sites can become difficult to manage because of large numbers of individual files. Scripting of the type commonly used for many menus and other effects can trigger confusing warnings from browsers with high security settings.
With the development of HTML5, a great deal of new functionality has become available, and many operations that required special scripting or plugins can now be handled transparently, greatly simplifying both development and maintenance.
The website is built...
...as a "movie" using the Shockwave/Flash format with objects and text blocks placed and/or animated in a timeline. Content is generally embedded within the movie structure, though in some cases it can be loaded externally, though this limits formatting options.
Advantages here are the possibility of fully animated and dynamic designs with almost unlimited font styles, complex gradients, and fully scalable effects.
This type of site...
...typically has a Flash header or banner, which can be fairly small or as much as half screen size. This area can be purely for visual effect or may incorporate navigation or other clickable elements.
This type of navigation often replaces conventional rollover images, since it offers easy incorporation of transitions and sound effects which are more problematic with java or dhtml. This type of site may also incorporate small flash elements in other areas, often for decoration or style. This type of site is increasingly common. Advantages: combines the positive aspects of a static site with the visual flair of a Flash site.
HTML5 has made much of the previous usage of Flash obsolete.
This includes all...
...site technologies that use server side languages and a database to create content on the fly, which can be changed at any time. This includes PHP, ASP, Coldfusion, .net, and so on. This type of site, typically based on PHP and installed as a prebuilt package that can be customized with ready-to-use templates, has rapidly become one of the most popular methods to quickly deploy highly polished and functional sites.
This category includes blogs, forums, e-commerce stores, message boards, or most any site with content that is changed or added to frequently, by multiple users, or has to interact with other sites or services, such as online accounts, payment services, and so on. Advantages: dependent on the intended purpose. Disadvantages: more difficult to design and deploy, more limited formatting options. Requires careful attention to security issues, as high-level server programming is being directly accessed. If there is a disadvantage to this type of site, it is the enormous complexity and number of pages and scripts neccesary for the site to work. Tracking down bugs or errors can be difficult and time-consuming.
Some Words About SEO
Did you know that...
...most of the SEO (search engine optimization) services that are advertised and sold are mostly unnecessary or just plain dishonest? Search engine optimization in and of itself is very simple, it involves correct page structure, relevant text, titles, and meta tags, more than anything else.
First, forget about the hype. There are no quick fixes or instant results when trying to build page rank and site visits. Anyone who says "they know all the secrets" or "have it all figured out" is not being realistic, or honest. Search engines, such as Google's, have become highly sophisticated and proprietary pieces of engineering, and anyone who implies that they know exactly how they work, quite simply, doesn't.
Of course to get good page rankings you need relevant content, content that changes periodically, and a method to get visitors to come to your site. Most of all you need inbound links, these are what search engines like Google's give the highest rating to. There is no "magic code" that you can insert in a page to accomplish these things. Keywords are not given much, if any weight in current search engine technology, page titles are more important. Attempting to pad the title or the page itself with keywords or related text, either visible or hidden, will not increase your ranking, and may have the opposite effect. Overloading meta tags, titles, or alt tags with keywords can cause your rankings to be penalized. Any web designer or SEO service that uses these tactics is not worth doing business with. Another discredited tactic is hidden text, designed to cause hits on keywords or phrases without being obvious to the end user. Be aware, hidden text is considered a "black hat" method and can get your site banned from the indexes.
So what do these SEO companies charge so much for? Well, many of them operate by creating huge "link farms" that they attempt to tie your site to, usually by inserting code into your site, or creating a "doorway page"that contains many hidden links to other similar (or often completely irrelevant) sites. The object is to increase your ranking by massive cross linking and inadvertent visits by users led there through another doorway page or link farm, often as a result of deceptive advertising, spam e-mails, or malware. Depending on the fees charged, they may use their own servers to create large numbers of requests to your pages, driving up the visitor count. The downside of all this is that all these methods are disallowed by major search engines such as Google, and can get you de-listed. These methods have been difficult for traditional search engines to detect, but they are getting better at it all the time. Also, while these methods can create impressive page ranks, it only continues as long as you pay the fees, which can be exorbitant. Often, after a few weeks or months of results, the SEO company moves on and your rankings slide, even though you may continue to be billed exhorbitantly. If their demands exceed your budget, or you get blacklisted, you ranking disappears and you have to start from scratch. A much better solution, if you are determined to pay for results, is to buy targeted keyword advertising from portals such as Google or Yahoo. Google Adwords are a good example. Bear in mind though, that buying rankings through targeted placement will not increase your organic ranking, except in that it may drive more users to your site. It's important to remember that artificially inflated rankings are difficult to maintain, and the cost of doing so can become prohibitive for a small business very quickly.