Build an Impactful Site

Web Languages

It can be daunting to find the right Web firm to develop or update your site. Many times you may feel like you are speaking a different language than Web developers, and you are.

The digital world operates within the various languages of content management systems (CMS). Many good Web developers struggle to speak English alongside their CMS languages such as: Cold Fusion, PHP, ASP, Drupal, Moodle, CiviCRM.

THE LANGUAGES
The language barrier isn’t just between techies and non-techies, there are 15 language layers that comprise the full spectrum of Web development. Within each of these layers are anywhere from 2 – 8 different languages coders may write in. Much as dialects develop, some languages may also be subsets of other languages. For instance, within the layer of Service Side Scripting there are eight different languages a Web designer may use: ASP, ASP.NET, Cold Fusion, JSP, Perl, PHP, Python and Ruby. Developers tend to learn one language at a time and develop their favorites. It becomes part of their culture.

Diagram from sixrevisions.com. Useful Information for Web developers and designers.

There is more than one architecture infrastructure and coding that will work for most projects, but what will work best for your situation now and the long-term is debatable. In very broad terms the options fall into two groups, template formats and custom sites.

TEMPLATE FORMATS

Template formats from companies such as WordPress are becoming increasingly popular as their options and capability continues to expand. There are currently 54+ million WordPress sites in the world. I have found it to be an excellent format for clients who need a Web site that is simple in navigation, but dynamic in design. WordPress began in 2003 as a blogging format and has expanded to include entire Web sites. It is a Web-based, open platform.

Because of its blogging beginnings, WordPress also has a very user-friendly CMS, allowing any authorized user with no programming experience to make updates to the site. By using modern programming languages and WYSIWYG (wizzy-wig) an acronym for “what you see is what you get,” editors look and work in a similar format to Microsoft Word, but content is then converted into HTML, the language of the Web, for you.

CUSTOM SITES

If your functionality needs require building a custom site, you will want to find an established and credible Web firm to build it. Ensure they have credible references and that they have been in business at least five years. Hiring a Web firm who is highly specialized in a particular language or has developed their own coding means that you are completely reliant upon them for updates and maintenance. If they are not around in three years, will there be someone with the capabilities there to maintain it? If not, you are faced with a costly rebuild of your entire site.

BUILD IT FOR SEO

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is basically your site’s ability to show up toward the top of a search engine list, such as Google. SEO should be considered at the outset of building your Web site to maximize your search engines rankings. In the beginning the formula for SEO was fairly simple, but that is no longer the case. It involves coding on the front and back ends, as well as quality construction, content and links.

In the beginning meta tags and key words were the focus of SEO. Meta tags are the coding that appears only on the back end of the HTML programming to “explain” the content to browsers. Key words are those that are most often used to search by your target audience and are written throughout the site’s copy as often as possible.

Today the creation of ongoing relevant content in a blog or newsletter where key words are still a factor, but the quality of the content and writing are more important. As Rob Bennett, co-founder of Houndstooth, an up and coming St. Louis-based Web design firm, explains, “Google is getting smarter and smarter in how they rank sites. It’s beginning to work more and more like the human brain. You have to think about creating quality content that your target will value vs. just loading up your site with key words.”

Bennett adds, “Google also cares about the quality of back-end coding on your site. For example, a site should be built in JavaScript and the alt tags need to be populated. This is a detail, amongst others, usually overlooked by design firms that greatly impacts your search engine status.”

AVOID

The more comprehensive your site is, the higher it will rank, but only if it is built well. Don’t save money on the front end to have newbies build your site out of their garage with code that is not recognized by search engines or functional for the long run. Also, don’t blow your entire digital budget on building the site. You do not want to build the Taj Mahal of Web sites and not have the resources to maintain it properly with content and technical updates.

Adobe Flash sites in general aren’t recommended because the program requires every user have a browser plugin to view the Web site–frustrating to visitors. While they allow you to use advanced animation, music and video, they also are not indexed well by the search engines and require a skilled programmer to update. A better solution is a Flash/HTML mix to embed the desired music and video within a mostly HTML format to have the best of both worlds.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

At Gerard Marketing Group, we review many considerations at the outset of a Web project for clients, because while there are many St. Louis advertising agencies out there doing fine work, each has their own strengths and weaknesses. To find the best fit, you want to identify the strength you need the most.
Functionality of the site–now and in the future.
What do prospects want and need from your site?
How do you need it to interact with your operations?
Do you need to have e-commerce capability or tie into a backend system like a customer database, inventory tracking or online scheduling?

CMS of your Current Site

What is the format of your current site?
Do you edit what you have or start over?
Who will maintain updates?

Budget and Timing
What is your budget to build it?
What is your ongoing monthly maintenance budget?
Timing to launch the site?

Whatever the level of complexity of your site, it is best to have an experienced team build it. A team with the technical, creative and strategic know-how to plan and implement a site that is not only functional, but also optimal in building your business.

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