Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why We're So Critical of Web Design

We have a simple approach to web designing:

"design something that's practical, that's attractive, that's customizable, that fits the clients needs and something the client can update on their own."

Just like a painter who stares at a stark white piece of canvas for the first time, designing and developing a website from scratch takes time. We're both artists in our own endeavors and we continually draw in our inspirations from a multitude of different places, but ultimately each design is unique in and of itself.

Why is this so important?

Because we want our client's footprint on the internet to be unique and while it would be easy to use and recycle the same over and over, it goes against the basic principle of what goes into a unique footprint on the world wide web. Therefore, we avoid some of the more "enticing" options currently out on the internet because we don't want your site to be "like the next guy."

Cookie cutter websites have but one purpose: getting content on the web as quickly as possible on the cheap." Which for some people - it's the way to go because they don't really care about their website design is shared with the same template that created "Acme Plumbing and Heating." The main reason why we don't like cookie cutter sites is because they have no unique expression, no life and you're ultimately limited by your ability to expand and cannot add some of the many powerful enhancements to your site. Cookie cutter sites limit your design opportunities because of how the template has been created. Cookie cutters are logo here, text here, insert picture here... programing and don't allow you to make the website unique to YOU.

These are two types of cookie cutter sites: ones designed by you, and ones designed by a web designer. There are "all-in-one" type places where you can purchase your domain name, the web host and they have an online process where you can "construct" your website from scratch. This sounds like the most ideal, cheap approach to web design, doesn't it? There are severe limitations to these sites however:

- You're typically limited to the templates they employ on their site. Customization is very limited to the confines of the structure they provide.

- Extras may cost extra and beyond. If it's even offered -- things like an online gallery, shopping carts, and forums might come with a hefty price tag attached it. Be sure to read what you're getting for that low cost..

- If there's a glitch in the website coding, unless the website offers extremely helpful, timely and effective customer support - you may be out of luck.

*MAJOR WARNING: Make sure you read the fine print. Some of these cookie cutter "all-in-one" sites offer a simple monthly payment arrangement, but in turn they ultimately own the domain name and in some arrangements, they claim the right to use your material. (We have an upcoming article that will outline the difficulties of protecting your media for another blog entry.) But for now, we want to make certain that you own your domain name if you decide to move to another hosting company. Many of these sites claim ownership of your domain and if you ever have a problem or decide you want to move -- making certain that your domain name comes with you .... maybe extremely problematic..

If you're trying out the web for the first time and you want to see how to create a website from scratch, a cookie cutter is going to work for you. But eventually you're going to discover the limitations to the design and template -- and you're going to find yourself ready to take your website to the next level.

WYSIWYG editors are computer applications like Adobe GoLive, Dreamweaver and Fusion. Other WYSIWYG editors like Microsoft's failed "Frontpage" is thankfully no longer in circulation. These editors have come a long way over the years, but they're all far from perfect. They work on the premise not unlike PowerPoint or MS Word where you can "drag-and-drop" your content and arrange your layout to your liking. These editors interpret when you click drag and move your logo to the upper left hand corner of the layout, and then these WYSIWYG editors attempt to decipher each placement and translates that into the HTML code that goes into your website.

Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

But in order to make that happen successfully the computer doesn't think like a designer -- it thinks like a computer. The result is a very mish-mash, hodge podge assortment of coding which adds a great deal of "programming fluff" and makes it look great in the preview, but literally impossible to troubleshoot. The additional "fluff" can also add bulk to your website which means for slower load times. (while the number of high speed internet folks is increasing, there's still a good number of folks still on dial-up.) Also, if there's any glitches anywhere in the coding and you want to change it... good luck. Your WYSIWYG editor will be limited by the level of troubleshooting it can provide. Keep in mind that because the WYSIWYG editor is designing the code in a very verbose manner -- it's going to be incredibly difficult to troubleshoot it without the editor. It most situations, the editors will only compound the problem and make the problem worse.

Just like a brush in hand that comes in contact with the canvas, a web designer who hand-codes a website and has complete control of each stroke, each line of code and the designer knows how to tune each piece of code into something definitive for the website. Hand coding is therefore much different because good designers won't hobble hobble your website like a WYSIWYG editing software program can do. Good coding can allow YOU, the user to make changes to your own website with a little bit of instruction. Good coding can allow you to make your own revisions as needed without needing to constantly employ a programmer or the designer to make those changes.

Someone who hand-codes a website so that any editor (even Notepad) can be used to make changes to your website. Also, someone who hand-codes websites understands the intricate nature of website design and can troubleshoot problems at a coding level. A WYSIWYG editor merely interprets what the site is reporting, but it has an impossible time trying to troubleshoot the issue it finds.

That said, some design will have to go through a web designer due to the complexities of the menu structure and your technological skill level. Some menu structures and effects are derived with the help of programs like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe ImageReady. Other menu structures are created using programming languages like CSS and javascript, so depending on your technical prowess you may be able to make these changes to your website on your own.

The last really great trait about hand-coders is their ability to keep things nice and neat. Most computer programmers love to keep their coding nice and neat because if there are any problems, they can go straight to the area in question and make the necessary changes. Good web designers who operate in the same manner will have nice clean coding so that anyone can come along and see exactly what's a website doing and make any changes to it. WYSIWYG programs and do-it-yourself template construction don't care if the coding is clean or not - and oftentimes makes it incredibly tedious to work with sorting through it all -- it often is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Like an artist touching a brush to canvas and making art, the web designer creates elaborate pages with a combination 1's and 0's is a bit of an art form. Good web designers use wide range of brushes with a critical eye to the design of your website. Your website should have character, form and a style that makes it unique and different from other sites.

If you're a painter, why put your artwork in something that you will limit you. Your internet presence should be a unique as you and your artwork.

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At April 24, 2009 at 8:14 AM , Anonymous Web Design London said...

Nice little section about the web designed being like an atrist. I would definately agree with those sentiments.


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