Website Templates & Handmade Code
At Wairarapa Web Design, we believe in taking a holistic view of your business before we reach for the mouse. Whether you run a Martinborough vineyard, a Featherston clothing store or a bar in Greytown, our primary aim is to understand your products, services, customers and team.
What does your business "do"? What do you sell, what service do you provide? We try to get a good overview of your business before we start designing your website. Understanding your target market, your main products and the message you're trying to get out to the World is key in producing a website that works.
After a one-to-one meeting, you receive a project spec, detailing what we intend to produce and deliver. This is an opportunity for you, the client, to review and make sure we're talking the same language. If you're happy to proceed, we get to work!
What will your website look like? Good question; and the answer is largely dependant on what your client, rather than yourself, wants the website to look like. With a knowledge of your target market, an understanding of how your clients might think and "shop" for your product or service, we can make sure that the User Interface (UI) design fits their needs and expectations.
But it's not all about them - well, it mostly is - but you get to have a say too! We ensure that your website design follows your company brand, colour-scheme and styles. We tailor the direction to be in line with your business - corporate, quirky, grand, enticing or traditional. Whatever works for your industry, we can make it work for you too.
So all of these thoughts are compiled into a Design Brief - a guide for the graphic designer to work from that we mutually review and agree. And then we open PhotoShop and dive in - a little while later you have a design all ready to review!
How does the graphical layout become a web page with HTML and all the other code needed to make you website run?
We're often asked if we use templates at this stage, adapting them to match our design. This can be a really time consuming method to make a website, and entirely unnecessary. Trying to use a template that wasn't designed for your site can leave legacy, unneeded code in the background and things can not work as they should, or weigh the page down, making it less favourable to Google search. If you build a Formula 1 engine from scratch, you don't try to shoe-horn it into a Humvee, that's just plain silly!
So we do one of two things:
- Build code from scratch: We use Notepad to write out the code by hand to suit the design. Why have more code than needed? This minimalist, custom build means that the website will be lightweight, simple, clean!
- Use a great framework: There are a number of pre-built HTML frameworks out there. These are a foundation on which to build your site. Bootstrap and Foundation are just two such frameworks that provide a tried and tested structure, plus cool tools to form a great web-build. We then customise this (in Notepad) to suit, trimming out any of the unneeded filler.
Do you use Dreamweaver, Frontpage or Adobe Muse? No, in our personal opinion they separate the designer from what's really happening (and in our opinion suck). If you drive a sports-car with a manual gearbox, you feel the road, the engine and the tyres. But if you drive an automatic, take away the steering wheel and replace the windows with a screen then you're no longer in control or aware of where you're headed.
So we have a design, we've built it into HTML so that it looks nice, can be interacted with and created a number of pages for the website. And sometimes that's all you need.
But what if you want some interactivity, some data-collection, a facility to update the website without needing to delve into the HTML manually? That's where a Content Management System (CMS) comes in. This is server-side (AKA back-end) software that allows an administrator to log in and make changes to the content of your site.
We tend to use either SCK Editor, Wordpress, Zencart or another custom CMS systems; although Drupal and Joomla are commonly used by other web designers, then can be overly complex and cumbersome to manage and learn. The most important feature of a CMS is that you can use it. If not, there's no point in having it.
We provide training for each website we build to give you an insight into the best practices and methods for keeping your site up-to-date. And of course, we're just a phone call away if you get stuck!
This bit is top secret and why we're so good at getting you found online. All I can say is that your website has some special magic dust applied, extracted from fairies wings and wizard's hair. We definitely can't tell you about the extensive research, testing with our in-house software, 3rd party resources and clever SEO-tools that makes it all work on demand!
Testing & Checking
At Wairarapa Web Design, we have a small team, so testing work can be difficult to do in an unbiased way. For this reason we have several stages of test:
- Self-test for the website and CMS: This has the flaw that we are not the end user and also have a more technical insight into how a website works. This stage is carried out simply to check that the basics have been covered.
- Automated Testing: This allows us to make a cuppa and put our feet up for half an hour (yeah, right!). We have a suite of top-secret software that checks for broken links, compatibility on different browsers (Internet Explorer through to Safari), Search Engine Optimisation, spelling mistakes and so on.
- UAT (User Acceptance Testing): You are the end user for your website's administration system and a good judge of whether it does what it needs to. We provide you the system to work through and check for issues. Similarly you can check the public site, what your customers will see. When you're happy that the site works and we've met the original specification, we can go-live.
- Re-Review: As a matter of course, we revisit your website after around 1 month to ensure that all is well and that your website is performing in Google search as it should. Any issues are addressed directly or raised for your feedback.
So the site "goes live" and the public have access to the pages, products and services. And hopefully within weeks or even days, you start to appear in Google search for relevant search phrases. Your site will probably rise slowly through the search results for the first month or three.
But don't become complacent... if your website becomes stale, you don't make any updates for several months and nothing is up-to-date anymore, then you start to fall off the radar. Your competition will be updating their current websites, creating new websites, getting paid advertising and so-on. So just remember that it's an evolving entity and needs to be fed and watered on a regular basis.
Article published Friday 7th of October 2016