Business Web Design
Web Design is the art of bringing together a number of different and diverse skills, components and technologies, then displaying the results in a way that end users will find visually appealing, informative and easy to use.
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Designing for the End User
One of the most important aspects of the whole web design process is the end user, because a website should only be designed for the end user and no one else. It isn't being designed for the site owner. It isn't being designed to showcase the web designer's skills and expertise. It is essentially a marketing (or selling) tool that is being designed to encourage the targeted end users to frequently use the site and encourage their friends and colleagues to do so as well.
A site that is designed exclusively to match the whims, likes and dislikes of the site owner is unlikely to be successful. Equally, a site that merely shows off the web designer's technical wizardry with no thought for the end user is also likely to fail.
So in every aspect of the web design process, the site owner and web designer must always look at the site construction from the targeted end user's viewpoint:
To have any chance of success and appeal, every business website must be able to answer YES to all of these questions.
- Is it easy to use?
- Is it logical?
- Is it understandable?
- Is it easy to navigate?
- Is it user friendly?
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Designing for the Search Engines
Another important consideration during the web design process are the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL Search. They are the lifeblood of the internet and it is through them that most end users find the websites displaying the content or information they are seeking. By entering keywords or phrases in a search engine, end users are presented with a selection of websites that appear to match their search request.
It is therefore extremely important to ensure that all business websites are constructed in a way that makes them search engine friendly, which will hopefully encourage the search engines to include the site within their listing. The process of making a site search engine friendly is frequently referred to as search engine optimisation (SEO).
One of the most important aspects of search engine optimisation is the visible content that the end users can see and read, with an emphasis on the word "read". Search engines absolutely love words, and preferably a lot of them. They can read words. End users can read words. So the only way they can decide if a web page is worth listing is by reading the content that will be read by the end user. If the content is good, they are highly likely to include the page within their listings. If it is poor or there are no words at all - just photos or a Flash movie for example - they are unlikely to list the page. And if your whole site consists of just photos or is constructed totally in Flash, then it is unlikely that your website will ever get listed.
On the internet, content is king. So one of the most important aspects of search engine optimisation is the copywriting skills required to write good content for every page in your site.
Other SEO requirements include ensuring that the hidden meta tags on each page include specific information, including a page title, description and keywords, all of which must relate to or reflect the visible content available to end users.
Search engines also love web pages that are frequently updated, so if you can find a way of regularly updating your page content to keep it fresh, the chances are that the search engines will reward you by regularly visiting your site and updating your listing status.
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Keep It Simple
An equally important aspect of web design is the need to keep it simple. An over complicated design is likely to be a turn off for end users, particularly if they have to wait whilst the site runs through a complex Flash movie that never seems to end. Or if there are too many distractions like flashing banners, automatic popup windows, or moving text. Whilst these gizmos all have their uses, they should be used in moderation. And never all of them being used on the same page at the same time.
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Static & Dynamic Web Sites
There are basically two specific types of websites - Static and Dynamic - although these days the distinction between the two is getting blurred. Nearly all "static" sites now tend to include some dynamic elements, whilst all "dynamic" sites also include several static pages.
So what's the difference?
A web page (or entire website) is referred to as Static when the visible content is permanently fixed or attached to the page and can only be changed manually, either by the web designer or by using special content management software. However such pages may contain some dynamic elements - items that automatically change - for example, the date. You can liken static web pages to the pages in a book or magazine. They are permanent and never change.
A web page (or entire website) is referred to as Dynamic when most, if not all, of the content is actually stored on an online database, and the visible content is only displayed on demand following a request for a specific item or data by the end user. The end user's request usually takes the form of clicking a specific link or button, searching, or selecting items from a list.
These days most of the product displays for ecommerce shopping sites are fed dynamically from an online database, particularly if hundreds of products are involved. As access to the online database is available anytime 24/7, this makes it easy for the site owner to keep products and prices up to date and fresh, and remove loss-making or redundant products. As soon as a product has been updated or a new one added, the new data is immediately available for displaying to end users.
Dynamic, database-driven sites also have other uses. Many information and news sites store their articles in online databases, serving the visible page dynamically when requested by the end user. This is also true of Weblogs, which also rely heavily on databases for storage and feeding their blog content on demand.
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What You Need To Know
|Web Design involves integrating and blending diverse scripting languages and design skills into a display that is acceptable and appealing to end users.|
HTML & XHTML
HTML and its successor XHTML are the bedrock scripting languages of web design, and form the basis upon which all websites are created. Browsers like Internet Explorer and Firefox interpret the coded HTML instructions and display the results on a computer screen or display monitor.
CSS is the acronym for Cascading Style Sheets, and is the means by which different styles and formatting can be applied to individual components of a web page, the web page itself or the complete website. Until the main browsers started to adopt the CSS standard, from IE4 onwards, formatting and styling web pages was fairly limited and bland.
PHP, ASP, Etc
There are several languages that have been created to work with HTML to improve display and provide more dynamic features. PHP and ASP are arguably the most popular. Although both languages can work on either Unix or Windows servers, PHP has a more natural alliance with Unix whilst Microsoft's ASP language is more inclined towards Windows servers. Both languages have now started to replace CGI-Perl which was once the only way to provide truly dynamic content. As both operate directly on the server itself, they are often referred to as server-side languages. PHP is now the most widely used language and its popularity is increasing.
Flash is an animation program that can create compact, high quality, multimedia files for embedding into web pages, enabling them to download and display on screen fairly quickly. Flash files, frequently called movies, can include sound, graphics and animation, and can produce impressive screen displays and actions. Flash has developed to such an extent that entire websites are sometimes created as a complete Flash Movie.