How your web site is built will determine not only it's operational efficiency but it's level of adherence to web standards, how easy it is to maintain, it's susceptibility to hacking, and it's expected lifetime before requiring replacement. The following is a list of the most common web design methods:
- Static Web Design
A Static Web Design is a web design consisting of individually coded HTML web pages. In 1999's Teach Yourself HTML 4 in 24 Hours (by Dick Oliver) this is what was taught. Even today some web sites are built in this manner by new web designers wishing to learn HTML. As far as commercial web designs go, this is probably your worst option but static web design still has it's place.
A web designer might choose a static web design for a site consisting of only a single page or for a single page on more complex site where the page layout differs significantly from the rest of the web site. A static web design can take months to complete and can get very expensive if it needs frequent updating since a skilled HTML coder is required to make any changes.
The advantages of a static web design are simplicity and speed. Static web designs have no server requirements (programming/database etc.) and can be delivered to the visitor by the web server very quickly.
The disadvantages of a static web design are that it takes much longer to construct a web site in HTML, coding errors are common, and they require a web designer to update.
The latest CMS systems such as Drupal are caching dynamically built pages resulting in speed of delivery almost as quick as static web designs.
- Website Builder Designs
A Website Builder is a program that builds your web site for you allowing you to get a web site up very quickly and very inexpensively. Sort of an automated web site designer.
They do this by first allowing you to select a template for the basic appearance and layout and then prompting you for desired features and customization options such as color scheme and typography styling. Once the basic design is complete, site content is added through easy click-and-type editing. The resulting web site can be automatically published and can be updated or further customized by using the same website builder.
The advantages of a website builder design are speed, cost, and ease of updating. The biggest disadvantage is limited flexibility in layout and customization resulting in a very generic looking web site. If time and money are your greatest concerns, a Website Builder design may be right for you.
Design4Effect's WebSite Tonight website builder starts at under $5.00/month including web hosting. You can check out Website Tonight's capabilities at: WebSite Tonight Home.
- CMS Web Designs
CMS is an acronym for Content Management System. CMS web designs are the most sophisticated web designs in use today. CMS systems allow the building of extremely complex sites in very little time and at a very low cost since most CMS systems are Open Source code ready to integrate and customize.
A typical scenario for integrating a CMS web design would be to first establish a list of design requirements (functionality) for the web site, choose the best CMS to meet those needs, and then build the web site. Depending on the CMS, a web design can be built ideally suited to anything from a blog (a great marketing tool) to a sophisticated eCommerce site.
Editing content on a CMS web design is done using a simple WYSIWYG editor. In most cases the editors are not developed by the CMS designers but are 3rd party open source projects so as a result no matter what CMS you choose editing content will be similar. The most important factor in choosing a CMS is it's functionality (and quality).
Unlike a Website Builder (described above) a CMS web design offers total flexibility in both esthetics and functionality. Web sites built with CMS systems don't all have to look like a new face on the same site. Depending on the chosen CMS, thousands of add-ons may be available to customize the site design including:
- Chat Modules - chat real time with site visitors
- Gallery Modules - show off your portfolio
- Calendar Modules - keep track of events and schedule content publication
- Feedback Modules - allows visitors to give feedback on your site
- Newsletter Modules - keeping your clients informed of new products and services
- eCommerce Modules - start selling your products and services on-line
- and many more...
Almost any combination of modules can be integrated into a CMS web design allowing you to build a completely unique system perfectly suited to your design requirements. For this reason, CMS web designs have become the most popular web designs today.
Unless you are a web designer familiar with the capabilities and hosting requirements of the various CMS systems you should seriously consider hiring a professional to do the initial set-up for you. CMS systems have a steep learning curve on becoming familiar with system integration and customizing templates. As well, you want to be sure your CMS design is secure. Fortunately a professional CMS web designer can usually set up your site in very little time (a few days to a few weeks) so the cost is a fraction of the cost of a custom built web design.
Design4Effect has been working with CMS web designs since Mambo was released as open source in 2001. Mambo is the CMS that started the revolution and from which Joomla (one of today's most popular CMS systems) has branched. Since then Design4Effect has worked with many CMS systems including WordPress, Joomla, e107, SilverStripe, and Drupal (today's top rated CMS system recently promoted to Pact Publishing's 'Hall of Fame' ).
- Flash Web Designs
Flash refers to a browser add-on originally designed by Jonathan Gay while attending college in 1992, acquired by Macromedia in 1996, and later acquired by Adobe in 2006. Originally intended as a vector animation tool Flash now supports vectors, bitmaps, and bi-directional audio and video.
By 2000, Flash was a mature product. March 10, 2000 was the height of the dot-com boom and by this time many leading web designers were focused on Flash web designs. Flash web sites were so captivating that many companies just getting on the web insisted on a Flash web design and even companies already established on the internet were converting their web sites to Flash web designs. Even Chrysler already having what was considered a beautiful web design completely re-engineered their site to a Flash web design. Everyone loved Flash web designs and Macromedia became the leader in web design tools.
What wasn't immediately apparent to Flash web designers was that search engines were unable to examine the content of Flash web sites. Flash web designs consisted of only binary files and images none of which could be interpreted by the search engines. As a result Flash web sites were nowhere to be found in the search engines (still true today.)
Other complaints started surfacing about Flash web designs. The most common complaint was usability. Flash developers were designing their own user interfaces on flash sites. Gizmos people didn't have a clue how to use were popping up everywhere. Web site visitors would often leave sites in frustration from not being able to navigate.
To the left is an example Flash web design done by Design4Effect for the Allen Farrell web site in 2000. Clicking the image will allow you to see for yourself what we are talking about.
As much as owners loved their new Flash web designs what they cared most about was their bottom line. Flash web designs were very expensive and weren't effectively generating leads. Even Chrysler, only a few months after their Flash web design went live closed it down and returned to HTML.
Today, very few web designs on any budget are built with Flash. Those that are are built for very specific purposes and not search engine ranking. Flash designs are best suited to the following applications:
- advertising (banner ads)
- illustrations (re-sizable)
- streaming audio/video
- prototyping (product simulation)
Today's web servers are yesterday's mainframes and web designs can be considered as applications running on powerful computer systems that are managed off premises. Not a new concept, just much much cheaper. So today's question is "What CMS should I design my web site with" and my answer is - "Determine the task(s) you want your web site to perform and choose a CMS that best accomplishes those tasks". No matter what your application, there is probably a CMS ideally suited to your web design needs.
- Personal Web Site Designs
A Personal Web Site is a web site designed to showcase the interests of an individual. Personal web sites often contain:
- Personal Profiles
- Image Galleries
- Hobby Showrooms
- ...or anything of personal interest
Personal web sites are often the easiest to design because content is not as much of a concern with the initial web design. The types of content you wish to publish have to be taken into consideration but unlike web sites designed for commercial purposes, there is no need to generate initial content to sell web site visitors on. Personal web sites are not designed to generate immediate leads*, once the web site is designed site owners generally add content as opportunity arises.
The WordPress CMS is the most popular content management system used for personal web sites. Thousands of WordPress driven web sites are in use today with the vast majority of them being personal web site designs.
WordPress was originally designed as a Blogging CMS, sort of an on line diary. Site owners create new web pages for each entry they want to make. Pages are created using simple WYSIWYG editors and may contain text, pictures, links, lists, or even YouTube videos. Snippets (teasers - usually the first few lines) are extracted from each entry and posted to the web site's front page as an index. Since it's initial release many add on modules have been developed for WordPress but the basic design concept has remained.
Designing a WordPress driven web site involves:
- Installing the software on the server (WordPress) along with any required modules
- Selecting one of the thousands of available themes (templates)
- Customizing the theme to personalize it, or having your own theme custom designed
- Configuring the CMS and modules to work together
- Securing the system to avoid hackers and spammers (ie CAPTCHA)
- Training the site owners how to use the system
As with any software system there is the occasional need for updates (security and features) but fortunately you never have to pay a web designer to code and debug them, just install them and that can usually be done in a few minutes.
If you are inexperienced in web design, CMS systems, and in particular WordPress; you should contact an experienced CMS web designer to do your initial set-up. Your web site will be up and running much faster and the resulting web design will usually end up looking and running much better. A web designer familiar with WordPress can also give you a crash course in using it so you can get started immediately publishing content on your own personal web site.
Design4Effect is a WordPress hosting provider. We can install WordPress for you and after you choose from any of the thousands of free themes available install the theme of your choice. Your own personal web site design can be on-line and ready for content within hours (Any customization or feature enhancements may take longer.)
* Many companies are using personal web designs to compliment their commercial web sites.
- Brochure Site Web Designs
Brochure Web Sites are the most common web designs found on the internet. Their purpose is to promote products or services.
Brochure web designs usually have a limited number of pages including:
- Home Page (starting point)
- About (your company)
- Products (list with descriptions)
- Services (list with descriptions)
- Contact Us
Brochure web designs may contain additional pages including: Testimonials, FAQs, News, or others but the pages listed above are considered the essentials.
The Home Page usually contains a welcome message, a brief company profile, a list of goals and achievements, and links to other pages on your web site. The home page is usually the first page seen by web site visitors so it's appearance is critical in controlling whether your visitors stay to find out more or click the BACK button and move on to the next site.
The About page allows visitors to find out more about you. It usually includes a biography, a description of the company, company objectives, and a description of what sets you apart from the competition. It may also contain pictures of you, your business, your staff, or your equipment.
Products or Services pages contain descriptions and possibly photos of any products or services that you may offer. These are most often the pages that generate actual leads.
A Contact Us page is essential if you do want to generate leads from your web site. These may contain phone and address information, possibly a map of your location, and most often a web form they can contact you through.
For brochure site web designs intended for the presentation of a fixed number of page styles that are to be managed by non-technical users Design4Effect suggests the SilverStripe CMS. Voted Most Promising Open Source CMS by PACT Publishing in 2008, and nominated for this year's (2009) "Best CMS" awards SilverStripe is often referred to as 'a web content editor's CMS'. SilverStripe is amazingly easy for non-technical users to manage content with. Editing content in SilverStripe is a matter of clicking, dragging, and typing. SilverStripe was the CMS chosen to host President Barak Obama's web site for the 2008 convention. Their web site is a typical brochure site web design, designed to present information and the site is managed by writers, not web designers.
Design4Effect has been working with SilverStripe since it was released as open source in Nov 2006. After studying it's MVC architecture, Object Oriented Design, and Sapphire framework; and after building several prototype web designs with it, we put it to to the test on several live web designs. We find SilverStripe an exceptional tool to use for it's intended purpose and that is brochure site web designs. Our clients (non-technical business managers) were able to control their own site content after only a brief lesson in basic operations including how to upload and size photos directly from their cameras, how to create pages and use the editor, and how to manage the menu. The total training time ranges anywhere from 1 to 2 hours with only the occasional call for assistance after that.
As far as generating search engine optimized pages, here again is an area where SilverStripe shines. It generates search engine friendly URLs, generates XHTML 1.0 Strict validating HTML, and allows Meta Tag per page control even by computer novices.
Here is an example of one of our brochure site web designs Alberta oil well service using SilverStripe. You can see from reading the news at the bottom of the home page what this web site has done for Parasolve. When you are ready to get started contact us and we'll have you up and running in days.
- Web Designs for Web Services
Web services are among the most lucrative web designs in use today, even above eCommerce web sites. Web services are also the hardest to design often requiring a team of programmers, graphic designers, operations managers, and marketing professionals to complete.
eBay, PayPal, Digg, FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Yahoo, and Google are excellent examples of web service designs. Design4Effect's own domain services center is another good example of a web services web design.
Web services don't have to be as large or as complex as the mega-giants listed above. Essentially any web site that allows visitor interaction can be considered a web service. A forum is a web service, a trouble ticket system is a web service, any web site that allows users to post content is a web service. That is what sets a web service apart from a brochure web site design. Brochure sites are meant to provide information, web service designs are intended to allow user interaction.
Designing a web service takes a lot of planning. Capacity requirements planning, security, and fault tolerance are all considerations in web designs for web services. Web services often require extensive custom programming and user interface design as well as a solid foundation to build on. The Drupal CMS is an excellent choice as a base to build a web service on. It's small framework and modular architecture allow customization to meet the needs of almost any web service.
If you are planning on starting a web service you should contact an experienced web designer as early as possible to get their input on available resources. There may be a solution to your web service design needs already available. If not, they will be able to help you put one together. Design4Effect has been designing Drupal based web service sites for years. We can integrate available modules or design custom modules to make your web service perform almost any task you can think of.
Here is an example of one of our web designs for web services wholesale beauty supplies built using the Drupal CMS. The site allows price lookup only for registered beauty professionals. It also provides event services, classified ads services, a forum, and newsletter services making it as easy for Sams to publish and deliver a newsletter as it is to add site content.
Design4Effect has built dozens of custom web designs for web services using Drupal. If you need your web design to do more than simply display content drop us a message (Quick Message in side-bar) and let us know what you need. We'll have your web service in operation in record time.
- Web Designs for eCommerce
eCommerce (Electronic Commerce) refers to the buying and selling of products or services over the internet.
Since 1979 when online shopping was invented by Michael Aldrich online shopping has grown to become a $204 Billion dollar industry. Amazon reported $199,000 profit in their quarterly report ending Sept 30, 2009. Despite the recession eCommerce is still very much alive.
Inventory control, shopping carts, and payment gateways are an integral part of eCommerce web design. Security is a major concern with eCommerce web designs, if your site is handling personal and financial information it must be running on a dedicated IP address, have a Secure Server Certificate, and provide SSL encrypted communications.
If you only have a few products you wish to offer on an otherwise brochure web site you might consider PayPal. They have 'Buy Now' buttons you can create and place on your web site (or even blog) that handles the complete transaction securely for you. They even have a shopping widget you can place in the side-bar area of your web site to provide a complete store. With either PayPal system the entire buying session is handled by PayPal. All you see is a transaction with minimal details in your PayPal account.
If you have more than a few items or would like to provide shipping, tracking, newsletters, or other services to your customers your web design should include a full blown shopping cart. There are a number of open source shopping cart systems available ZenCart being the most popular. If you are shopping for a shopping cart and doing business in Canada, be sure that the shopping cart supports Canada Post (or your other delivery service) and Canadian Taxes (PST/GST/QST/HST).
If you choose an eCommerce web design based on an open source shopping cart a web designer familiar with the software will be a major asset. The web designer will install the software, customize a template for you, setup the inventory, shipping, and taxes, and test your payment gateway. Once the web designer has completed the initial setup you should be able to manage the store yourself with only the occasional call to the web designer for instructions, updates and security patches.
The most flexible eCommerce web designs are based on content management systems with eCommerce modules added. Drupal with the UberCart module added has proven to be a very popular eCommerce web design. As with a stand alone shopping cart, it's a good idea to hire a web designer familiar with the software to do the initial setup.
Here is an example eCommerce design built using the Drupal CMS with the UberCart eCommerce module: beauty products.
Design4Effect has years of experience in eCommerce using PayPal, osCommerce, ZenCart, UberCart on Drupal and many other systems. We can provide web hosting on static IPs, SSL certificates, and even install, set-up, and customize your store. If an eCommerce web design is what you need contact Design4Effect today.
A Community Web Site is a web site designed as a social networking or messaging service. MySpace, Facebook, and Digg are examples of community web site designs.
Community web site designs are some of the most ambitious projects on the internet. They require an incredible amount of processing power and bandwidth, and are usually managed by a team of support people.
On a more manageable level, Drupal has an Organic Groups module that enables authorized users to create and manage their own groups. Each group has a home page (with their own theme) where subscribers can communicate among themselves. Group membership can be selective or public.
Running the Organic Groups module under Drupal provides some interesting possibilities for community site web designs. In an educational setting, the group leaders could be teachers with the students as the group. In a public service setting, the group leaders could be elected officials with the members of their riding as the group. A web design integrating Drupal Organic Groups could allow you to assemble any group of professionals you wish into one consortium of experts.
Here's an example community site web design Fast Company build on Drupal with Organic Groups. If you have an idea for a community web site design project contact Design4Effect for more information.
- Web Designs for Education
Today, one of the most exciting areas of web design is web design for education known as eLearning (aka. E-Learning).
In 2000, Several teachers in the North Vancouver School District volunteered their time and effort to write a Grade 11 Social Studies course. They wrote the course material at home in their spare time using word processors.
Design4Effect converted the documents to HTML and published the resulting web pages online (see Social Studies Grade 11 Course). The CourseWare is being referenced daily by people around the world wanting to learn more about social studies from a Canadian point of view.
In 2001 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced a 10 year plan to post virtually all its nearly 2000 courses on the web for free. In 2009 (only 8 years later) MIT has successfully posted 1900 complete courses on their OpenCourseWare site.
Another good source of open textbooks is the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER), a joint effort by many community colleges and universities to develop open educational resources (OER) in community college courses.
North Vancouver's Capilano University was the first Canadian institute of higher learning to participate in the Open CourseWare Consortium.
In October 2009 Vancouver was host to the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) E-Learn 2009 - World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare & Higher Education. The conference focused on web design for education.
One of the leading Learning Management Systems (LMS) is ATutor, an open source project of the University of Toronto. A demo including a video showing how to set-up a course is available here ATutor LMS Demo.
Design4Effect's web designs for education include ATutor hosting, installation, and customization. Contact us for more information.