What’s in a web site?

Visible parts

The visible parts include the appearance – the design (colors, graphics, layout etc) – and the content. Both are important. Good design catches the visitor’s attention and invites him or her to at least read a bit. Beyond that, it’s up to the content to keep the reader interested. As the business owner/expert, you need to be involved in creating the content. We can (and will) make suggestions and recommendations about the content and how it is organized so visitors can easily find what they want, but you know your business best.

What’s a web site gonna cost me?

It depends – that’s like asking how much does it cost to build a house? How big is it, how many rooms are there, what materials are used – many things determine the bottom line cost.

In a web site there are several distinct costs. The domain name and hosting are unavoidable…unless your site is with a “free web site” company…and in that case your site name will something like       sites.google.com/mysite.html or mysite.wordpress.com. Not very professional. And you are using “rented” space – if that company changes their rules, the design or anything else, there is little you can do.

If you have your own site – and pay for a company to “host” that site – YOU control your site completely, beyond standard technical aspects that all web hosting companies maintain.

  • domain name registration (mysite.com, mysite.biz, mysite.org, etc.) – usually an annual fee; you can often pay for multiple years at a slightly discounted rate. Depending on the vendor, under $40 annual.
    Domain name details and more
  • hosting fee – what company’s computers will hold (host) your web site? There are many, usually under $10 per month for a small business. Be sure to get one that is reliable. This is not the guy with one computer in his basement. If that computer develops problems, your site may be down until he is aware of the problem and can fix it. His services may be cheaper…and you get what you pay for.
  • site design cost – this can vary greatly depending on what you want created and who does the work.

Hosting Fee – what’s a web server?

A web server is simply a computer that holds and “serves” web pages. Think of it like the internet version of an operating system (similar to the personal computer operating Windows, Macintosh OS and Linux)…or a sever in a restaurant. When you want food from the kitchen, you don’t talk to the cook, you tell the server. The server tells the cook and then brings (serves) you the food. Same with computers and the Internet – your browser (Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, etc) tell the web server which web site and page you want to see.

Other considerations – behind the screens

There are many ways to create web pages. The best way for your business depends on your requirements. It is important to discuss your requirements with your designer at the beginning before he/she starts building your site. How often will the content on your site be updated? Do you want to do the updates or have your designer do them? If you want to do the the updates (and discuss this with your designer) – there’s an art to writing for the web.

Building a web site – what’s involved?

Building a web site is similar to building a custom house – start with an idea. What does the client want?

Based on that information, the architect creates a rough floor plan (how many floors, bedrooms and bathrooms, how are the rooms arranged, what is the shape of the kitchen, etc.).

Once that is tweaked, the architect creates the detailed floor plan – the room dimensions, location of cabinets and all of the “behind the wall” things (electrical, HVAC, plumbing). types of exterior finish and roof, paint colors and so on.

Then the general contractor starts building.

The idea is the business

Your business needs a web site, and you want that web site to

  • explain your business (your products and/or services) and possibly information about you
  • help potential customers locate you and contact you
  • possibly allow customers to buy your products (e-commerce)

Rough floor plan

Content influences the “floor plan” of the site – the number of rooms / pages (home page, products or services, about the business, contact form, etc). With a general idea of the content and client’s preferences, the designer creates a draft of the general layout of pages on the site. Is there a sidebar? where? How big is the heading/logo? Any photos? Are the links horizontal or vertical? If vertical, are they on the left or right side?

Detailed Floor Plan

Once you like the rough wire frame, the next step is the detailed design (detailed blueprint) of a page or 2 of the final site. Often the designer creates this is a graphics program such as Photoshop. Why? it’s much faster than building the actual web page and is also much easier to modify.

This version includes all of the colors, fonts and ideally some of the actual content – text. Hint: if you aren’t sure what colors and layout you’d prefer, find several sites – preferably from similar businesses – that you do and don’t like and talk to your designer about them.

The build

Once you have approved the desigtn, the designer starts creating the actual pages of the site.

Where? Probably not on your domain – it’s a good idea to have a separate development server (many designers have that). Once the site has been completed, tested, and you approve it, the designer copies it to your site. This separate development area is important for making and testing updates and changes before they are visible on the live production site – this is part of the usual maintenance of a site.