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The Web Design Process

Web Design - The Creative Process


Web Design (this page) | Web Development | Software as a Service

  • Definitions
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Web Design

Web design is a general term mistakenly used by people to describe the process of creating a website. We see it more specifically as the group of activities that relate to the creating of the visual elements that a user sees in their web browser. The backgound code or programming for a website that offers eCommerce or other features is produced by another process known as web development.

Web Development

Web development is sometimes used simultaneously with web design to indicate the design process, the development process and the management of content. To IT professionals and programmers, web development is more of a pinpoint process relating specifically to the "backend" aspects such as programming and other response related processes. Think of database driven sites, forms that process information, shopping carts and the like. Many applications that are driven by the Internet's Infrastructure use programming languages such as PHP, .NET, Cold Fusion, JAVA, RUBY and many more. These languages typically create dynamic Webpages that link to databases such as MySQL, Postgre and MSSQL.

What is Web 2.0?

The fall of 2001 marked the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The after-shock started a re-thinking process and from this catalyst a new wave of technological thinkers ascended on the Web.

The concept of "Web 2.0" began with a conference brainstorming session between O'Reilly and MediaLive International. Dale Dougherty, web pioneer and O'Reilly VP, noted that far from having "crashed", the web was more important than ever, with exciting new applications and sites popping up with surprising regularity. What's more, the companies that had survived the collapse seemed to have some things in common. Could it be that the dot-com collapse marked some kind of turning point for the web, such that a call to action such as "Web 2.0" might make sense? We agreed that it did, and so the Web 2.0 Conference was born.

From an article by Tim O'Reilly at oreilly.com

Web 2.0 has become a marketing buzzword and perhaps used too often by those who really don't understand its true definition - if indeed, there is one!

We see Web 2.0 as using the Web as a Platform where the user can control his/her data. At its core are browser based services (not software out of the box), architecture designed for user participation, scalability such as cloud environments and the harnessing of collective intelligence.

Some examples are sites like - Google, Flickr, Tweeter, Wikipedia, Blogs, folksonomy, mweb services (SaaS) and more.

A Web 2.0 Website is one that responds to customer needs and demands in a dynamic way and provides immediate access to information and allows users to proactively interact with that information. A good example of this concept is Wikipedia. The day of the sales brochure style Website, while perhaps not extinct, are fast becoming a relic. Customers these days demand that a Website provides some sort of interaction, useful services and information, participation and ultimate security when needed. The Web experience should be as rich and as fulfilling as any interaction with the business itself.

What is HTML?

HTML is an acronym for HyperText Markup Language; it is a term known and used by just about anyone, anywhere that has access to the Web (aka - World Wide Web - www). However, it is often referred to as a prgramming language - "Can you program a Website for me?". In fact it is a coding language and is not difficult to use or learn; it is how the Web was made possible to start with.

The example (a typical HTML tag) below shows how to make any text bold. Of course there are hundreds of HTML tags that perform various functions, from simple to complex, on a Website. If you are really interested in more information, we suggest you visit The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) an international community that develops standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web.

This code <b>This is bold text</b> produces this This is bold text

There are millions of Websites resident on the Web that have been coded by the work-at-home business owner, ebay followers, MLM types and others. Clearly demonstrating that the Web is accessible by anyone with a computer, an HTML editor and time on their hands. Many of these privately developed sites are superbly done; others are pretenders and fall by the wayside soon enough. Coding a Website that passes validation standards (within a respectable level) is a critical consideration for many reasons such as cross browser compatibility (looks good in all browsers such as IE, Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and others), is indexable by the search engines and meets SEO (Search Engine Optimization) standards.

What is XHTML?

XHTML is a reworking of HTML 4.0 designed to work as a application of XML (Extensible Markup Language). It allows anyone to create sets of markup tags for new purposes.

XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a standard for creating expandable information formats that allow both the format and the data to be shared. XML is similar to HTML in that both use tags to describe the contents of a document. However, while HTML only describes how the data should be displayed or used, XML describes the type of data. This allows anyone who can interpret those tags to use the data they contain.

Hundreds of XML-based languages have been developed, including RSS, Atom, SOAP, and XHTML. XML-based formats have become the default for most office-productivity tools, including Microsoft Office (Office Open XML), OpenOffice.org (OpenDocument), and Apple's iWork

From a definition at Wikipedia.org

The document you are currently looking at has been written in validated XHTML. This will allow us to incorporate existing XML modules or add our own.

There is much, much more....

The information on this page barely touches the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Our only intention is to enlighten you, if only in a small way, to some considerations in Web Design (see next tab) and a few simple definitions about Web Standards. Below we present some links to sites that will satiate the curiosity of those hungry for more.

Web Standards.org
Web Standards Group
A List Apart - By Web Standards Guru, Jeffrey Zeldman

Next Step - Click Here to view the Website Planning

There are most certainly millions of personal Websites out there that were coded and in some cases programmed by the site owner. Many of these sites are real works of beauty - others, well not so much. With a little knowledge about HTML, Javascript, graphics, a few other skills and $300-400, a superb Website is within reach.

The Home-Based Business

A major sector of the Web is occupied by those individuals with a small home-based business - software vendors, secretarial services, photographers and many more. These people often own Websites with just 10-15 pages; that's really all they need to market their services and products. It is will within reason that an investment of $1500-3000 could get anyone in this group a quality Website with some customization and dynamic functions. Once you add a shopping cart, a merchant account and payment gateway and PCI compliance the price an easily top $7,000 to 10,000.

The Small and Medium Sized Business

Many SMB's offer hundreds of products and services and therefore require larger, interactive sites with several applications and a eCommerce set up like a shopping cart. This genre of Websites can range in price from $15,000 to $75,000.

Enterprise Level Websites

Insurance companies, banks, large retail stores, software companies and others with 1,000 or more employees and thousands of customers can spend upwards of $100,000 on their Web presence. One can only imagine the cost to build and maintain the sites of some of the top properties on the Internet. Recently one large Canadian retailer spent $40 million!! Thank about that.

How much is Experience, Knowledge and Time Worth?

One thing we've noticed over the past 5-10 years is that we are moving from a quality conscience consumer base to one which is now primarily focused on price. This certainly has some basis in fact due to the globilization of economies and the tough economic times. However, while the majority puts price first in making buying decisions on almost any level, there are those that will look at quality first.

This is very evident in Internet related services and products. Consider the hosting industry; now there are literally thousands of Websites out there offering $3-7 a month hosting plans that include unlimited data transfer and unlimited storage space. It doesn't take a degree in rocket science to figure out this is just pure nonsense directed at the unwary and the inexperienced. The Website owner that wishes to open an image sharing service; or the one with the busy blog getting 2 million page views per month; or the site owner with even a small CMS getting 250,000 or more page views monthly, are all in for a rude awakening. None of the latter services are going to run smoothly or even be allowed on their $5 a month miracle hosting plan. Read the terms of service and you'll quickly note that image sharing sites or those that consume too much of the server's resources (and they usually don't define how much) are subject to immediate termination.

Wouldn't it be nice if these 'cheap' hosting plans were a reality!! We could immediately dump thousands of dollars in our cloud, high availability and Litesepeed Infrastuctures and move all of our sites and those of our customers to $5 a month unlimited host and spend the money saved at the local pub. Now, did we tell you about the bridge we're selling?

Web Designers and Developers are faced with a similar dilemma on an almost daily basis. The expectations of the client and those of the designers and developers are very different. The latter understands what their services are worth based on their experience. The client has no accurate source of comparison; they understand that a full page ad running in a major newspaper can cost upwards of $15,000 a day. However, when they think of the value of a Website their major point of reference is the mulitude of Internet advertising they see that promises high quality Websites at just $10 an hour or custom programming at $12 an hour. The Internet stands as the most amazing tool that mankind has ever seen; we all know what it can do. However, as our Fathers and Grandfathers said: "You had better learn to separate the wheat from the chaff". This pearl of wisdom applies as much today as it did a generation or two ago, and very so much to the Internet. We all still get emails based on the Nigerian Scam (this scam started in the early 1980's)about how you have been choosen to help export 40 Million US dollars from the estate of the late King. Apparently their are people out there that actually believe this stuff or why do these emails keep circulating? - to us that is simply unimaginable.

Just to point out that we should all do our homework before we leap into anything. In the winter of 2008 a potential customer called us and wanted a price on a new Website. We quoted a total price of $2,800 based on the site's requirements, our hourly rate and our experience. A week later he called us back and asked us if we could do the job for $900. Well no, we said, and asked if he wanted a much smaller site with less functionality. He said no and informed us that he had found someone on the Web that quoted him $10 an hour. We can only assume that he made the assumption that the other individual could do the work in the same amount of time. Some months later we discovered that he paid $4000 for the site based on $10 an hour. That's $1200 more than we quoted. We're sure he learned an important lesson.

Check out this little story from the Technology Executives Club. It really makes the point very clear.

By Sonny Origitano, VP Advisory Services, PSC Group, LLC

Once upon a time there was a steam generating plant that was not producing much steam. After a
frustrating search for the cause, the plant manager, in desperation, called in an expert. After only two
hours on site, the expert found the problem and placed "X's" on two pipes that were causing the problem,
saying that they had to be removed.

When presented with the bill, the plant manager asked the consultant how he could charge $5000 for only
two hours of work. When he asked for an itemized bill, this is what he got:
  1. Placing "X's" on two pipes $ 400
  2. Knowing where to place the "X's" $ 4600
Total amount due $5000

The plant manager got what he paid for and probably a lot more. He had already used up more than that
amount on his own staff not to mention the loss in revenue while the plant was shut down. For him,
securing the advisory services of a consultant was the right thing to do. It was a matter of make versus
buy. He could have funded his own internal staff but chose to "buy" outside advice. In today's business
climate, particularily for mid-sized enterprises, advisory services for many of us makes good business
sense.
What's Under The Hood - Web Development