The Fun, Free and Exciting World of the Web Page
What is HTML/XHTML?
What’s the difference between HTML and XHTML?
XHTML is a stricter and cleaner version of HTML. Stricter in the sense that all tags must be closed, HTML doesn’t require this, and cleaner in the fact that XHTML documents are by nature more nicely formed. This might sound trivial but it really does help for the code to be clean and easy to read, especially when a programmer has to go back through paragraphs of code to find a mistake.
XHTML is the bare content of a web page. If there’s a page in which the first sentence of a paragraph reads, “This is a web page”, the XHTML dealing with this part will simply state <p>This is a web page</p>. The <p> </p> notation that is seen before and after the quote is called a tag, this particular tag being the paragraph tag, meaning it’s used every time a paragraph is wanted on a web page.
Tags are a required part of XHTML and will take a bit of time to master; learning the tags themselves and how to use them properly. Tags are used for anything and everything in XHTML, without them the code will be invalid and won’t display properly on a web page. A great place for learning XHTML is at the online w3schools. Here you will fill find all kinds of free tutorials pertaining to web design and specifically HTML/XHTML.
What are Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)?
CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, are tools used to make web pages more attractive. If pages were added to a web site with nothing but XHTML, there would be nothing but a white page with text on it. The content is of course very important but never underestimate the presentation of that content. Before XHTML, when HTML was standard there were a few tools that could be used to control the layout of content directly from the HTML.
Since the introduction of XHTML, all of these have been deemed poor programming practice since CSS can do all of these things and much more, much better. Not to mention, using CSS helps keep the code clean, which is something good programmers do in practice for it saves LOTS of time when there are corrections or updates that might need to be made later to the page.
Another great feature of CSS is that a style can be set for a particular element in a single page, or can be written in a such a way that it applies to every single page on a website, again making maintenance and updating a lot faster and easier. With less code to manipulate there are fewer chances for errors since there is less code to review. The tutorials at the online w3schools are a great place to be learning about CSS.
Building on the Foundations of (X)HTML and Cascading Style Sheets
Business Web Page Design: The Key Issues
It is usually a good idea to work with a professional web design company to create a search engine friendly business website that also has good sales copy.
Few businesspersons are likely to possess the varied skill set required to create effective business websites. The skill set involves HTML know-how, aptitude for tasteful design, graphics software skills, search engine optimization know-how and more. A DIY business website, even if it uses web design templates or software, can fail to produce results and lead to frustration. Obtaining professional web design services will be a better business decision in most cases.
What is a Business Website?
A business website need not always be a sales website that sells over the Internet. Money can be made from websites that:
- Sell Products and Services: E-commerce and other websites that sell products and services are the most obvious examples of money-making websites. These can be simple websites with a PayPal link to elaborate ones with a product catalog, shopping cart, and payment gateway pages.
- Build a Brand: Getting a business known and creating a favorable impression about the business is important even for local businesses not to mention multinational corporations. Brand building websites present the company and its products in a way that creates a good impression and tells the visitor how to contact them.
- Provide Customer Support: A product knowledge base that helps customers use the product without problem (and in the best possible manner), an FAQ with answers to the questions that customers (or prospects) ask most, user manuals for current and earlier versions and contact facilities such as live chat are typical features of a support website.
- Sell Advertisements: A portal site that has become a highly used resource by a particular group can be an excellent vehicle for advertisers, and the webmaster can make money selling such advertisements.
- Promote Affiliate Products: Webmasters can become affiliates of merchants who sell products or services relevant to the theme of the website and display advertisements or even pages to promote the merchants’ products and earn a commission on every sale.
A Look at the Web Design Scenario
Developing an effective business website involves several things. Some of the major issues are outlined below:
- Identifying the goals: A website designed to sell products internationally will be very different from one intended to provide customer support. Note that both of these are business websites, as customer support is a key success factor for businesses.
- Developing a Design that Tackles Different Issues: Professional web page design will attend to such issues as creating an impressive layout that does not take too long to download, adopting a navigation scheme that makes it easy for visitors to find just what they want and developing landing pages that will get the sale.
- Developing Search Engine Friendly Content: More and more people are using search engines to look for products and services. Unless your website appears among the top few websites, it is unlikely to be seen by these ever-increasing numbers of likely prospects. And appearing at the top of search results requires search engine optimization (SEO) know-how.
- Helping Customers to Contact You: Just putting your email address at the website is not likely to work. At the minimum, you will need a Contact Us form that is highly visible, and these days Live Chat and other options are used in interactive web design that enables visitors to interact with you. And these options require some programming skill.
- Usability Testing: Those who design websites might have become familiar with so many “obvious” things that might not be all that obvious to an actual user. The only way to identify likely problems that such a user might face is to observe some actual users and note down the problems they face while navigating the site.
Website Design Principles
The layout and design of your website can determine whether a visitor stays to read more or hits the back button immediately. First impressions are even more important on the Web.
Good web page design is not achieved by loading the page with flashing graphics and providing a multicolor experience. In fact, these can detract from its business effectiveness. A clean layout with plenty of white space and tasteful selection and placement of text and graphics and clear communication of what you offer can be far more effective.
Graphics files are typically large and increase download times, and the typical visitor will not wait more than a few seconds for a Web page to download.
Navigation is another important design issue. Users typically arrive at a website looking for something specific. Good navigation will enable them to quickly find what they want. Creating such user-friendly navigation is not as easy as it might sound. Instead, it will require looking at what users are likely to do on your site and determining how their tasks can be made easy and intuitive.
Promoting the Website
Websites do not reach prospective customers by themselves. There are billions of sites on the Web and your site will just remain invisible unless you take some deliberate steps to promote the website. Promotional actions include:
- Search Engine Optimization: Identifying the search terms prospective customers use to search for your product or service, and developing web pages optimized for those terms (the more the better).
- Getting Links to the Website: You can publish articles on the Web with a live link to the website in the author bio that is attached to the article. The website can also be submitted to relevant directories, e.g. a travel site can be submitted to travel directories.
- Advertising the Site: Advertising through Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, or at Web portals popular among your prospects, can produce immediate results unlike SEO and Link Building above.
Business web page design requires attention to several issues such as deciding on the objective of the website, creating a layout that makes visitors stay, providing navigation that makes it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for and above all having content that gets the sale.
Building a Content Rich Website
How to Build a Professional Website
Once the website builder has purchased a domain name and bought space to host that domain name on a website hosting server, it is time to build the website. With a little bit of effort, one can build a website for no additional cost and have a professional look in very little time.
How to Build a Website
Word Processing Program: Many word processing programs have the capability to build a website. In order to do this, one has to understand how to upload the website to the host server. The website hosting service should have detailed instructions on how to do this. The benefit to this is that the user can build the website in a program that he or she is already familiar with.
Website Building Program: Many websites hosting providers offer a program that allows the user to build a website on-site. Check the control panel and other options for how to do this. The benefit of this is that the code is usually written for the user and it is usually not complicated to send the newly built website live.
WordPress and other Similar Programs: Some website hosting services have a program that can install a WordPress or similar website through the control panel. This is one of the easiest ways to create a complete, professional looking website. The benefit to this is the multitude of free themes or templates that the user can choose from.
Once the website is built and published live on the internet, there is a whole new world to explore. The next steps are to learn how to optimize the content of the website for search engines and place advertising on the website to earn additional money. Website builders should browse other websites that discuss similar topics to gain a better understanding of how to layout the information on the website and make it look more professional.
Adding Website Content to a New Site
Once the basic outline for a new website is complete, it is time to add content to the site. Adding website content is important and takes time to do it right. The first step is to decide on how to organize the content on the website. It is important that the content be easy to navigate through the use of internal links and tables. For ideas, visit other websites and explore their method of organizing content.
It is important to keep the content on a specific website limited to the scope of an individual topic. A website that is too broad may confuse visitors. Sticking to an individual topic and expanding content appropriately will help add plenty of depth of information. Keep articles short, at between 400-800 words, and keep paragraphs short for ease of reading. Dig deep into each topic, and write on an area of expertise.
Building a website properly takes time and energy and a lot of research into how other websites are built. Taking the time to do it right will benefit both the website builder and future readers. Once the basic site is built, the majority of the maintenance will be adding content.…
Working with Graphic Designers
Getting Greater Creativity from your Advertising Agency
One of the key aspects of producing great advertising is the quality of the original briefing.
This article gives you a structure to use when speaking to agencies or designers, whether it’s advertising, leaflets, websites or any other marketing items.
Describe the Audience
Provide as much detail as possible with clear descriptions, e.g. ‘single males aged 25 to 35 who enjoy reading quality newspapers, take a short break every year with their friends to somewhere like Prague and have a two week holiday in the sun. They live in a 2-bedroom apartment in the city center and drive a …’. Cut an image out of a newspaper or magazine and show it to them if that helps.
Explain the Customer’s Buying Processes
The buying process refers to the steps that someone goes through before they make a purchase and the most important factors in each stage.
Buyers generally follow a process known as AIDA, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. Originally developed by Strong in 1925 for training salespeople (as cited in Marketing Communications by C. Fill, FT Prentice-Hall, 2005), it works equally well today in explaining how advertising works.
For example, they may see an advert first (awareness), which leads to a website visit (interest). If the site is of interest they may call with some queries they want to resolve (desire) before they buy (action).
Say What You Want the Audience to Do or Think
Now you’ve identified the buying process you can specify exactly what role the item plays in the overall process, whether that’s generating awareness, maintaining and developing interest, convincing them to buy or some other purpose.
Explain the Unique Selling Points (USP)
What is it about your product or service that makes it stand out from competitors or other similar products? Identify your USPs by looking at each feature of your product and asking the question; “what does that mean for my customers?”. The answer is the benefit you provide. If your benefits are better than your competitor’s benefits, you have a Unique Selling Point. If they’re not, keep asking until you find something.
Your marketing item should clearly state the USPs relevant to a specific stage in the purchase process, for that particular audience. Don’t say “we sell widgets”, if you’re advertising in a widget magazine. Instead, say “our widgets come with a money-back guarantee”, or whatever the most powerful USP for that audience happens to be.
Give the Full Picture
Following these steps should help ensure that the initial concepts your designer or agency creates meet your requirements. However, to provide a complete picture you should also provide the following;
- Budget – tell the designer or agency how much you can afford to spend on the item. If you only have a few hundred dollars they’ll know not to suggest an all-singing, all-dancing e-commerce website and a full 16-page portfolio accompany it.
- Specific requirements – if you want your logo displayed in a certain way or a sales phrase included, tell them at the briefing, before they start work on the piece. Similarly, if you have specific text or small print which must be included, let them know at the start so they can build it into their ideas.
Now you can look forward to the real fun part – seeing the ideas and deciding which to choose, knowing you’ve given a quality briefing.…