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Web Site Design and Development – How Are They Different

August 24th, 2018

When building a web site, there are two basic tasks involved. The first is the design of the web pages itself which is called web design. The second is how to link between these pages that are designed in the first step and forward pages according to user requests and the data received by the user.

The first task is the web site design. As stated above, it involves designing the site pages. The designer here deals mainly with the HTML code. This language is used to build the web pages and it is the primary language of course. The responsibly of the web site designer is to design a layout for each page of the site. For example, the designer may determine the placement of images, videos, advertisements and the main content for the page.

Before beginning to make the design process, each element must be known of course. The designer must be aware of what the pages will contain. After knowing the page contents, which can be images, ads, banners…etc, the designer will look at the layout of the page. Thus, the designer acts as a coordinator for the elements of the page. Also he may receive the elements that will constitute the page as blocks without knowing its details. He may just coordinate it.

The elements that form the web page are web languages which can be different than HTML code. It may be JavaScript code, Flash or any client language. Note that the term web page element is used here to represent any code that is executed by the browser on the client side. Below, server side code will be explored which forms the web site development task.

The second task of the web site design is the server side programming development. This is called simply web development. Once the designer completed the web pages design, it is the role of the programmer to design the program that link between these pages. This is true for interactive sites that include forms filled by the user. When the user fills the form and click ‘submit’, the client sends the request to the server to analyze the data. It is the role of the web developer to write the programs that process this data and send back a page accordingly.

Let us take a simple example. If a site has a page that collects username and password and send back to the server. The site has to process the data sent by the client. It will have two choices for the server. If the username and password is correct, the server will send a “successfully logged in” page. Otherwise, it will send “error” page which will contain again the username and password fields to be entered again by the user.

In the above example, determining which page will be sent back to the client is by the program written by the web developer. This program is server side because it is executed by the server. The server side program has two main roles. First it process the data sent by the client. Second it picks the proper page from the pages available that are deigned by the web designer and send back to the client. Moreover, it may write dynamic text to the page that sends such as the current date.

Many server side programs exist that perform the above operations. The most common languages are the PHP, AS.NET, and JSP. These languages are put directly in the page within the HTML code but with remarkable tags. When the server finds their tags, it will execute them. These languages are called also scripts. Remember again that the above languages are server side languages. This is because there are also client side languages that are executed on the client host by the browser.

Web Site Technology – Consider Your Options

August 23rd, 2018

Not long ago, a friend of mine sent me an email asking for my opinion on whether a site he was developing should be done using WordPress, LAMP, or ASP.NET. I’ve used all of those, but have always been so focused on the details and learning them that I never really thought about the great question of “What technology should be used for a given site?”. That is such a good question that I decided to put my thoughts on paper and help provide some education to others.

Some people don’t have the skills and ability to actually be able to choose the most appropriate technology. They know one thing and that is going to have to be made to work in all cases. That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s nice to be able to switch between technologies based on the type of site. The important thing to realize in web site development is that one technology does not fit all.

WordPress

I have several web sites currently running WordPress. I originally thought of WordPress as just a blogging platform. While that is certainly its main use and what it is optimized for, you can definitely use it to create a more “traditional” looking web site. It is very configurable and there are tons of custom plug-ins available that can allow you to add RSS feeds, SEO tags, voting, etc. Since WordPress is developed using PHP and MySQL, it is also possible to create your own plugins and customize your site template. Oh, and that’s the other incredibly awesome thing about WordPress — the templates! There are literally thousands of free WordPress templates available for download. If you can’t find one that fits the theme of your site than you aren’t looking hard enough.

Another nice thing about WordPress is that you can easily find web hosting providers that support WordPress. In most cases, you can click an install link and have WordPress properly installed on your site in a few seconds. Then you go to the WordPress admin console and configure your site. It is all very easy. You can upload multiple templates and easily switch between them. It is also easy to make minor changes to the templates (like changing tag lines, colors, etc.).

The other benefit of WordPress is that it is a blogging platform and the search engines love blogs. You can configure your WordPress install to automatically ping one or more blogging services whenever you add a new post or page. That way they know your site has changed and they should come index your site again. If you want your site to be found then using WordPress as the underlying engine is a good option.

LAMP

In case you don’t know, LAMP stands for Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP, which is a very common and powerful set of technology components used for building web sites (and did I mention completely Open Source and free!). If you want complete control over your web site, then LAMP is a good option. There are plenty of examples, free scripts, etc. available on the web site to help you get started. There are also plenty of free editors and tools to help you along. The downside of LAMP is that it is hard for you to create your own development “environment”. Since most of us run some flavor of Windows as our desktop operating system, we would need to use something like VMWare or Virtual PC to create a virtual machine running Linux. The next challenge is getting all of the components properly installed. While the installers for the LAMP components have definitely improved, they still don’t compare to the ease of installing a Windows-based application. The next challenge with LAMP is debugging. It would be nice if we all wrote perfect code, but the reality is you need the ability to debug. There are PHP debuggers available. A good one is going to cost you some money though.

One of the best things about LAMP is that there are TONS of web hosting providers out there for you to pick from. The reason is quite simple — LAMP is completely open source, so it there is very little cost for the hosting company to bear. That means more margin for them!

ASP.NET

Microsoft’s contribution to web site development is ASP.NET. You can use any .NET language (C#, VB.NET, Python.NET, etc.) to develop an ASP.NET based site. In my opinion, the best thing about ASP.NET is the fact you can use Microsoft Visual Studio for you development tool. Visual Studio is the best tool out there. Yes, it costs money, but you definitely get what you pay for. The other nice thing about ASP.NET is that you can easily develop on your Windows-based desktop or laptop.

It is harder to find a good ASP.NET hosting provider. Believe me, I’ve looked! And I’ve used several different ones. The ASP.NET providers lag behind the LAMP providers in terms of what they offer. You also need to be careful and really understand what the provider means by things like “host unlimited # of domains”. In many cases they just mean you can have an unlimited # of domains point to your single web site. That probably isn’t what you want.

I mentioned the use of Visual Studio before. That tool is awesome and makes development SOOOO much easier. I did quite a bit of development using LAMP and got some sites up and running. I used Eclipse with a PHP plug-in and it worked pretty good. I didn’t have Apache running or Linux, so couldn’t really debug but I still managed. When it came time to create a more advanced web site, however, I quickly decided to switch over to ASP.NET and use Visual Studio. Debugging was a snap and the coding was made much easier thanks to Intellisense and Visual Studio’s ability to “import” web services and make them easier for me to call from my code.

Making the Right Choice

Each of the technology options has pros and cons. If you want to get a site up quickly and it will be displaying basic information (text, images, video) then WordPress is a great option. If you want a more advanced web site but don’t want to spend much money on development tools, then LAMP is the best choice. Finally, if you already have Visual Studio or know .NET programming, then ASP.NET is a good option. If you’re really lucky and can know all three then you can use the right tool for the job no matter what.

Using a Local Web Design Company

August 22nd, 2018

When it becomes time for your company to get a well designed and well developed website many people may look past the local web design companies. When in truth, there are many small local web development and design companies that can design, build and develop better web sites than the city companies.

Using a local web development/design company will offer many benefits:-

  • Face to Face meetings
  • Personal Relationship
  • Cheaper
  • Excellent Web Design and Web Development Skills

If you decide to choose a local web company, take a look at their portfolio of work and ask what kind of results they get on the search engines.

Most small local web design companies will offer an excellent design and development service. When it comes to the Search Engine Optimisation of the site, as long as they follow the main practices of SEO you will have a good standing for then using a dedicated Search Engine Optimisation company to help improve your traffic.

Many local web design companies will have partnerships with Search Engine Optimisation companies. It is near impossible for a small web company to offer a full Search Engine Optimisation Service.

You will need to find out how many employees work for the company and decide if you are happy to deal with either a freelance / Self Employed Web Designer or they main companies I would recommend to work with are web design companies that employ between 2-5 employees. This way you will always have a point of contact and you know that they will have the ability to hit deadlines even if they are busy.