As a small business owner, it should be your goal to have a strong online presence that will usher in a new level of earning opportunities for your brand, products or services. To start building your online presence, you will need an established and optimized website that can attract your targeted audience and convert them into paying customers. We have explained how important a website is through an infographic we have shared earlier – and if you haven’t started on your web project yet, it’s high time for you to do so.
Before you embark on a website design and development project, it is important for you to grasp a clear understanding of the terms, principles, considerations and processes involved with such projects. Just like with any other business endeavor, it would be wise to study the arena before taking the initial step inside, so you can have valuable insights of what you can expect and be ready for anything. The following provides a short but helpful guide to show you how you can get that basic understanding – and pave the road for your online success.
Web Design and Development Terms You Need to Know
The first step in your journey is to learn the basic web design and development terms so you won’t get lost in all the lingo and technical jargon when it comes to discussing the details of your project with your website developer. It would be to your greatest advantage to learn most of these terms to prevent any issues with communications. These terms include:
- CMS (Content Management System) – is a tool designed to let users who have no previous web development knowledge to manage, organize and plan content for their websites. This system makes it easier for people who do not know code easily add or modify content through automated features from their websites. Popular CMS applications include:
- Expression Engine
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) – The basic code of a particular website is composed of two major components: the basic structure defined by HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and the style and formatting that is dictated by the CSS. Usually, a website contains a main CSS file that controls all the styling and formatting used by other web pages linked to the file. Whenever anything is updated in the CSS file, all changes will then be cascaded to other web pages interlinked with it.
- HTML (HyperText Markup Language) – is the basic code and language of the Internet that is used by web browsers to read and interpret web pages and convert them into what people will eventually see in their computer screens. The standards used to define this code are established by the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) and are used by web developers to create the basic structure of a website.
- Meta Description – is the summary or description of a particular web page written in html that describes or represents the content of that particular web page.
- Frontend – refers to the actual images, text and other content that the public will see on their browsers when they open a particular web page. The content and how the frontend will look is defined by changes made in the CMS through the website’s backend.
- Backend – refers to the part of the CMS system that is visible only to website administrators, editors or content creators and is not visible to the general public. This is where the content, layout and style of a website are updated or modified. Changes and updates published or approved through the backend will then be reflected and seen on the frontend.
- Dynamic and Static Web Pages – Web pages can be classified as either dynamic or static. The basic difference is that dynamic websites are integrated with a CMS that makes use of a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor for adding, updating or modifying content. Static web pages on the other hand do not have a CMS system and can only be modified through its HTML code. Content that are usually updated like in the case of blogs make use of dynamic web pages for easier updating.
- Theme and Template – A theme contains a pre-designed set of codes, layouts and style sheets that can be integrated into a particular CMS system. With a theme, web administrators can simply add in text, imaged and videos that will automatically be reflected in the frontend based on a pre-determined design and layout. A template on the other hand defines the specific layout of a web page depending on the purpose it is intended for like blog posts, press releases, picture galleries, etc. Templates are usually included with the theme and can be set through the CMS.
- Plugin – is a set of codes that adds a particular feature or function when integrated into the website’s CMS. Web designers looking a particular function or feature need not develop the code from scratch as they can simply install a particular plugin that would fit with their needs.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – SEO is a set of activities and best practices that is performed both on-site (internally, within the basic structure and content of the website) or off-site (externally through links pointing back to the web pages) with the goal of ranking high in SERPs. Digital Marketing Philippines have useful resources about SEO that can help your business and you can know more about them here.
Preliminary Consideration in Web Design and Development
There are many considerations that you should be aware of before you can begin with your website design and development project. It is vital that you address or establish the components described in the following items first before finalizing the design, style and content of your website. These considerations include:
- Defining the goals of your website
The way your website is designed and your content planned and established would depend largely on the goals you intended for your website. Each particular website should have a specific goal: from increasing the online visibility of your products or services to serving as an online storefront or sales channel for your business – and it should be clear to you which goal you should focus on.
- Defining the target audience of your website
Once you’ve defined your goal, you should then establish who your target audiences are. You should know the specific consumer demographic who would be interested in what your business and brand can offer and how your products or services can specifically meet their needs.
- Defining how you would interact with your website visitors
You should also plan on how you would like to interact with your target audience in terms of content and features that you will include in your website. These features are included as ways of helping your visitors get the information or content that they need and that your website can supply. You should also plan how you can get the contact information of your website visitors like including tools that you can use to allow them to subscribe to a newsletter or mailing list.
- Choosing the Domain Name you will use for your website
The domain name of your website is your address in the Internet and the primary way for people to find and get to your site. Just like keyword research, choosing the right domain name that is not only easy to remember, but can also represent what your website contains in just a few words. Register your chosen domain to a reliable registry service and make considerations in making your registration private to protect your personal information from spammers and identity thieves.
- Choosing the right hosting services for your website
Once you’ve registered a domain, it is now time to select where your website files will be physically stored. The cost for hosting depends on the type of servers, bandwidth, storage capacities, and features included. Choose a hosting package that will be in line with the purpose of your website (ex: online store facilities if you want to sell through your website) and get it from a reliable and reputable hosting provider.
The Phases of a Web Design and Development Project
Website design and development projects are accomplished through various phases. It would be to your greatest advantage to have your website built by going through each of these phases to ensure that every important aspect is addressed and established. Without going into the minute detail, the following provides an overview to each of these developmental phases.
- Gathering Information
Much of the information you need for your design and development project was discussed earlier in the preliminary considerations like the goals of your website and target audiences among others. It would also be wise at his point to already maintain a list and actual materials that you would like to add as your content, so you don’t have to scramble in search of materials halfway through the development stage.
Just like in any business endeavor, planning is an important and integral part in web development, particularly in planning for the web pages that you would like to include in your website. Creating a site map can be a great tool during the planning process as you can make a list of the topics, categories, sub-topics, special sections and other elements that you would like included in your content. You should also plan which features and other website technologies you would like to be integrated with your site.
The design stage will determine how your website will eventually look and feel to your intended visitors. This includes determining the layout, fonts, colors, graphical elements, and other visual aspects of your website. Web designers should prepare prototype designs and variations that you should choose and finalize before the actual code is developed.
While the web design can be likened to an architectural plan, the developmental stage can be likened to the actual construction work. This is where the actual website structure is created using HTML/CSS codes including themes, templates, and plugins that can be integrated with your website to make your actual website appear like what you have approved in the web design mock-ups.
During the testing stage, all features and functionalities in your website should be tested to ensure that all codes and scripts are working as they were meant to be. This includes testing links, navigation features, forms, and other functionalities that your website should have. On top of this, your website should also be tested using different web browsers to verify if they can be viewed properly by any user. If you have a responsive web design that automatically adjusts itself depending on the viewing device used, it should also be tested using different gadgets like tablets or smartphones.
Once your website is up and running, the next stage is to keep proper maintenance of your website. This includes updating your content on a regular basis and checking for errors in information among others. Maintenance also includes backing up your database and content on a regular basis as contingency for any mishaps that your website may encounter in the future. It is up to you if you want an in-house team to handle the maintenance of your website or outsource these activities to an external provider.
Having you website designed and developed is a clear and solid action towards establishing your online presence. However, the success of your web project will depend on how well you have understood the basics and how vigilant you were in addressing all considerations and other important aspects that are included in this project.