Will it help if we have a web site?
It very much depends on what you hope to achieve.
Rembember a bad, slow, or confusing web site is very much worse than having no web site at all. A cute website with great flash effects may amuse some web visitors the first few times - then it becomes annoying and a total turn-off. For example, you can only watch a YouTube movie for a few times before it becomes b-o-r-i-n-g!!
Many businesses do well enough and have absolutely no web presence - they might do better with a site but there are no absolute guarantees.
Think very hard about choosing a meaningful name for your firm to avoid confusion
- for example if you choose a name like "top circle" is it obvious that it means hosiery!
(Macs Vision started as a Scottish viewpoint before Apple marketed the Mac.)
Information for Potential Web Site Clients.
Some people expect that having a killer web site will instantly bring them fame and fortune -- and it has been known to happen. But just like finding gold in your backyard, "striking it rich" with a web site doesn't happen very often.
There are hundreds of millions of web sites on the Internet, and only a very few have made their owners wealthy. Because the returns expected from having a web site will determine to a large extent how that site should be designed, it is important to begin the site development effort with a set of reasonable and achievable objectives.
- How can a web site benefit my business?
- How can a web site benefit my non-profit organization?
- What kind of a web site do I want?
- How much does a web site cost?
- What are "Scripts?"
- Why can't I design my own web site?
- Why does browser compatibility matter?
A web site is one of the most inexpensive forms of advertising that any business can employ. However, web sites do not advertise themselves.
You must first make your customers aware that you have a web site. Always include your web site address on your advertising flyers, business cards, and newspaper or other media ads.
Added to your existing advertising, a web site can offer numerous additional features not available from conventional advertising.
- Product or service listings can be posted once, and will need no further attention, and no per-insertion charges.
- Product specifications and feature comparisons can help your customers decide which of your products is right for them.
- A map to your business and a photograph of the building can help bring visitors to your door.
- A web site can provide application information about how various products can be used, or how your company's services can benefit the customer.
- Technical support, manuals, FAQ's can be made available for view or download.
- Customer inquiry box can be provided to transfer queries from the page to your email (this depends on your web hosting service).
If you are not sure what features you want on your web site, you can always start small, and add additional features as the need arises.
We can work with you as your requirements grow, and can even suggest features that may not have even occurred to you.
A clear and concise statement of the aims and objectives of the organization can show visitors that yours is an organization that they want to join.
Few non-profit organizations suffer from having too many members, and a simple membership form that a web visitor can print out and post can frequently help to bolster membership.
- A web site can be used to get support for new ventures or new projects.
- It can be used to advertise, or highlight past achievements, and can become a source of information appropriate to your organization's objectives.
- Articles and reports written by the group's members or obtained from other public domain sources can be posted to the site for visitors to see.
- Schedules of future meetings or minutes of past meetings can be posted to encourage meeting attendance.
- Links can be provided to the web sites of similar organizations, or to other resources of interest to members or the public.
In general, people use the web either to be entertained or to become informed.
Those who want to become informed will generally have some specific information in mind, and will want to get to that information as quickly and efficiently as possible and have no time for YouTube videos.
They will be inclined to use whatever equipment is readily available at hand, even if it is old and antiquated. (In computer jargon antiquated means anything over one year old.) They are more likely to use slower internet connections, and are likely to become impatient with and skip sites that take a long time to download because of too many pictures, flash movies, and the like. They are more likely to be using older, downlevel versions of software.
People surfing for entertainment will likely not have a specific goal in mind, but will be looking for sites with lots of stunning pictures, video, audio, and all the fancy "bells and whistles" that have become standard features on slick or entertainment web sites.
They will probably have newer and faster computers with more features, and the latest software, and will have fast internet connections so that entertainment sites will download more quickly.
We specialize in web sites that inform -- sites that are neatly laid out, download quickly, are logically organized, easy to navigate, and... informative. We try to avoid "extraneous decor" except where absolutely essential to the information being presented or specifically requested by the site owner, preferring instead to focus on the clear and logical organization of material. The text is the same - the rest is merely "decor".
This allows us to offer more information at a significantly lower cost. (Bells and whistles, fancy graphics, animation, and the like are why some web designers charge mega bucks.) Rather than spend our time (and your money) on features that only serve to wow and amaze visitors having the fastest computers and the latest software, we prefer to make our information accessible to the widest possible audience, including those who simply can't afford to upgrade their equipment and software every year.
Why not "Bells and Whistles?"
Most of the things that move, or that change on the screen after a web page has been downloaded, require extras that must be either embedded into the web page or downloaded along with it. These extras such as Shockwave Flash are processed in the visitor's machine, and can consume resources that phones or older and slower computer systems can ill afford to spare.
But if you simply must have them - you can have them!
Some of them, for example Java, may carry viruses that can infect your computer in a variety of harmful ways. For this reason some experienced computer users often browse with Java disabled blocking many of the fancy features which cost all that extra money.
In some cases, these programs can cause an older computer, particularly one with limited memory, to crash or lock up, requiring that the system be rebooted and the visitor to log onto the internet all over again.
This is a sure fire guaranteed way to lose potential visitors.
Web site prices range from 'free' to over quarter of a million pounds. Free web sites are generally paid for by advertising, and require the inclusion of large banner ads on the client's pages. They also generally require that creation and maintenance be performed directly by the owner - not always easy if you are trying to run a business.
It can be surprisingly expensive to exit from a 'free' entry setup and you run the risk of having to pay 'transfer charges' to keep your registered URL (web name).
To be absolutely fair some low cost £150 sites do have upgrade options in price bands £500+ £1,000+ and £2,000+ if you decide you want extras.
Most clients who contract with small web designers like us don't understand, or even want to understand, the nuances of web design techniques, and may be unaware of many of the features that a web site can provide to benefit their business or organization and can get a website churned out cheaply using common templates plugged into Dreamweaver or WordPress for example.
As a result, the time required to design a site that best serves their needs can be quite unpredictable, and the design objectives are apt to change as site development proceeds.
For this reason, we prefer not to quote a flat rate unless the client has set down very specific objectives which can be costed accurately.
Most sites designed by us cost £360 for a basic 4 page site with one flash graphic (if needed). Large sites with lots of images, interactivity, contact boxes, databases, price lists etc naturally cost more - ask for a quote. You could be very pleasantly surprised.
We have a library of layouts which can be totally modified in terms of style and presentation for your specific web site needs so you can be online in only a few hours. Pages are normally dynamically generated using a Content Management System to XHTML standards allowing instant updates and additions to be made instantly, and the site's overall layout and "look and feel" can be modified using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)in only a few hours.
If you need a hand crafted layout adapting from the best aspects of sites you have seen the content management system is not normally used but updates are still done within one working day.
Anything on a web page that changes with each visitor, or that accepts keyboard input, from a visitor counter to a booking form or a shopping cart, requires a small program, called a script. Because downloaded scripts can significantly slow the delivery of web pages to visitors with slower internet connections and can place an unwanted burden on older and slower computers, we prefer to use server side scripts wherever possible but not all web hosting services support these extras and these scripts may negatively affect your search engine (eg Google) rating.
It has been our experience that open guestbooks require careful and frequent monitoring. Random visitors very often post obscene or defamatory comments.
You can, and many do - or they get someone with a WYSIWYG program to lash one up for them at a "bargain price" or even worse just upload a scanned page (where Google can't read the embedded text in the picture).
However, few do it well even using excellent $399 programs like Dreamweaver or may finish up with a distinctly unoriginal presentation.
A few words about presentation . . .
Imagine that you are laying out an advertisement for a printed page -- only you don't know how large the page will be, and you don't know what size of type your customer will see.
It could be printed on a sheet of note paper or a full sized sheet of
It could be printed in micro type or jumbo type for the visually impaired.
Web site designers confront this problem with every site they design.
Monitors vary from phones to mega games machines.
Not everybody surfs with their browser maximized to full screen.
What looks great on your computer screen might look hideous on someone else's eg an Apple™
We will design your web site so that it looks good -- or at the very least readable -- on every visitor's screen from the smallest phone to the largest monitor.
Nearly every word processor, spreadsheet, and database program available has an HTML (HyperText Markup Language) save option, and there are numerous graphical WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web site editors on the market.
Unfortunately, good web site design does not lend itself well to automated approaches, and without extensive knowledge and experience in HTML design, the use of these programs is more likely than not to produce sites that look acceptable on only one size of computer screen using only one brand of browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer.
What You See may be What You Get, but not necessarily what everyone else gets especially if they are using Firefox, Opera or a whole range of alternative browsers.
With sufficient knowledge and experience, the use of these automated programs become unnecessary. You can reformat your code using programs such as editlive but at $3999 it's an expensive option.
We prefer not to use these automated programs, but even write pages using a basic text editor to give tight, compact pages optimized for all viewers and the fastest access possible.
The Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) -- the language in which web pages are written -- is rigorously controlled by internationally supported standards.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is responsible for developing and issuing these specifications. Over the years, various standards have been developed. Each successive version adds more tags (the basic unit of hypertext markup) to do more things.
Occasionally, old markup tags are deprecated, meaning that they may not be supported in future releases. Web browsers are supposed to ignore any markup tags that they don't understand, thus insuring backward compatibility. We've now moved on to XHTML (eXtensible HTML) since 2000 and are in the process of upgrading to XHTML5 which throws another wobbly at Internet Explorer
However, browser manufacturers, in order to improve their product and stay competitive, often will include support for extra tags not included in any W3C standard. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it often drives improvements in later standards. As an example, the <TABLE> tag was first introduced by Netscape®, and only later incorporated into HTML 2.0.
The problem arises when different browser manufacturers chose to implement the same functionality using different and often contradictory markup. This occurred far too often during the bitter battle between Netscape® and Microsoft®, when Microsoft® tried to establish its Internet Explorer® as the dominant browser for web surfing. Even now we still have to use some 'hacks' to get IE to work as intended.
When browser manufacturers also provide web site development tools, they are naturally inclined to include in their tools support for their own version of markup tags. This is most notably the case with Microsoft's "Save as HTML" option in the MS Office® suite. Unless the people using these tools are intimately familiar with HTML, and take the time to hand edit the resulting HTML page, they are liable to wind up with a huge bloated web page that displays properly, or is even viewable, only on Internet Explorer.
We have been designing web sites since Mosiac in 1993, and remember simpler times, when there were only around 20 markup or coding tags.
Here is a very early example without even a DTD (data type definition)
<title>this is the title</title>
<p>first paragraph .... </p>
<p>second paragraph ....</p>