Intro to the Web

The Web: a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet.

webAs a web designer, I couldn’t overlook the subject of the web but I have been reticent to write about it because there are so many blogs and sites out there already. However, since my experience with the web dates back to the days when a 14.4 modem was the fastest you could get, I may have some insights worth sharing.

What does the Web mean to you?

  1. A network
  2. An information source
  3. A way to connect with others
  4. A form of advertising and promotion
  5. What else?

One thing that is certain is that the Web is in a state of constant evolution.

Design for the Web

If you want to design for the Web then learn the medium. The biggest mistakes Web designers make is designing for the wrong medium. A Web site is not:

  • A TV commercial — no long “intros”, no one will wait
  • A brochure — keep text to a minimum, consider readability, make the home page clear as to what the site is about
  • A video game — use sound with extreme reserve and limit movement on the page
  • A billboard — use the space wisely, don’t fill with a large image and force everyone to scroll.


If you watch TV commercials from the 1950’s you will clearly see that advertiser were still unfamiliar with the medium of television. Most of the commercials were just like radio ads with a picture. This commercial for Cheerios is a classic example. The commercial doesn’t take advantage of the medium to use movement, sound and effects. As advertisers understood television more, the commercials became more sophisticated. The same is true with the Web. Early websites were either like online brochures or library indcxes/

Some things to consider in Web design:

  • Compatibility — test on the browsers your client’s customers will be using, not just what you use
  • Navigation — this should be clear and easy to use and in the same location on all interior pages
  • Usability — this includes navigation but also if the site downloads fast, easy to understand, doesn’t require plugins or new technology just to see key content
  • Conservative Use of Technology — always balance the integration of technology with the value it will bring to the site. Don’t just add it because it’s cool or fun
  • Adapt not Invent — whenever possible, it’s better to customize a 3rd party technology versus create something new — why? because it will be more compatible to your customer, easier to maintain, cheaper to implement

web_development_photoAn important thing to remember as a Web designer is that a Web site, unlike a TV commercial, doesn’t just “play”, a customer has to find it and whether it is through a search engine or typing in the URL, by the time the customer gets to the site, they have “worked” to get there. Therefore, you should “reward” them by having a home page that loads fast, with navigation that is clear so they know where to go next, and enough information so the customer realizes they have reached the right place.

To be a good Web design you need to understand many different technologies. The key word here is “understand”. You don’t need to be an expert but you do need to know what they are, when to use them and why. Just like you should know how to open your hood and check your oil, a Web designer should know at minimum a general understanding of:

  1. HTML/XHTML
  2. CSS
  3. Javascript
  4. Image Compression
  5. Flash
  6. Content Management Systems (CMS)

The definition of an expert is someone who knows what not to do. — Charles Willson

That quote is excellent in terms of Web design because even after designing Web sites for over 13 years, there is so much that I don’t know how to do. But, I do know what questions to ask and where to find the answers and that is the most important. With the constant flux of the Web, new technologies being introduced every day, trying to know it all will mean you are know a little about everything but nothing of real importance. However, if you learn the basics and follow the evolution, you can always find the answers for what you lack.

  • Web Monkey — tutorials from Basic to Advance on Web design and programming. This is how I learned.
  • Design Tips

What to look for in a Web site

So you want a web site for your business? These days it’s almost impossible to operate without some form of online presence. Here are some things to consider:

  • Updateable — these days it’s so easy to update your site without technical knowledge — make sure your design provides this option at a reasonable price. One great option for CMS is WordPress
  • Functional — the site should do all the things you want it to
  • Attractive — the site should represent your business visually in an attractive way
  • Clear — the site should clearly communicate what it is about
  • Expandable — there should be room to grow

web-20Guide to Hiring a Web Design Firm **

  1. Does the Firm have marketing, creative and technical expertise? Successful websites are more than just fancy programming or pretty pictures, all three areas need to work together so the end result is both profitable and useful to your customers.
  2. Are they a partner or just a vendor? A professional website is a significant marketing tool so it is important the Firm is invested in the project’s success. Many firms are just factories, building site after sitr without considering each client as unique, thereby not dedicatingthe necessary effort and creativity to the project.
  3. Do they listen as much as they talk? — If the Firm doesn’t seem genuinely interested in your business, do you want to entrust your marketing investment to them? Do they speak to you in layman’s terms or do they like to use “geekspeak” to impress?
  4. Do they have a process to ensure the success of all projects? With no industry certification or standards, anyone can call themselvesa web designer, however, a distinction of a professional firm is a clearly defined process — a result of their years of experience.
  5. While it may be tempting to simply ‘get quotes’ and go with the lowest price, there is a huge variation in the level of talent, expertise and customer support offered among designers. It’s much cheaper in the long run to choose a firm to do the project right the first time.
  6. Does their portfolio contain a variety of styles and functionality or does everything look the same, like a ‘template’ was used? A cookie cutter website may cost less, but it is unlikely to succeed from a marketing standpoint if it isn’t customized for your customer base.
  7. Is the Firm established with a physical office and multiple ways to contact them? If you can’t easily reach them as a prospective client, imagine what it will be like after the project is over.
  8. Don’t get ‘locked in’ — a popular sales technique is to offer a low price to design your site then charge a hefty ongoing payment to keep it online. If the client wants to change firms after the project is complete, they have to start over.
  9. Any professional firm with a good reputation should be willing to provide you with client references. Contact at least two or three and ask them what it was like to work with the Firm.
  10. Are you impressed by the firm’s marketing materials and website? If it is unique, eye-catching and creative, they probably have the creativity and expertise to help your business.

** Source: Website Buyers Guide


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