When thinking of commissioning a website for your business, its important to consider exactly what you need from it now, and where you think your business may be in five years time. What your website needs at the start of your business is not necessarily what it will need later on when your business and needs have grown.
Some website developers may persuade you to have a site that is larger or more complex than is necessary because it will glean them a larger profit. Some developers may emphasise the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) but advocate a basic site – because this will be easier for them to build and be easier to optimise for SEO. The site may rank reasonably high with Google but it could be at the detriment of the design and functionality of your site.
So it is important to know what types of websites are available, and the benefits and downsides of each one so that you can make considered decisions about what is the best one for your business.
The most basic website is a Static website. Mainly used for brochure sites, this type of website is ideal for providing quality graphics and animations where interaction, drop down menus and shopping carts are not necessary.
As its name suggests, it is very much a ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ site as there is very little going on behind the scenes. The site’s content is delivered without using server side processing. Because the site is not gleaning information from the users decisions and mouse clicks, it cannot provide complex user interactivity and statistics.
The main limitation of this type of site is that any new developments and changes that become necessary, have to be made on each page individually. This is time consuming and if it is the developer who is making the changes, then this is adding to maintenance costs. That said, for a small business that has no real need for a large or interactive website, a well developed static website can provide a good business tool and search engine performance.
Unlike the Static website, a Dynamic website relies on server side scripting to provide complex user interactivity and aids content delivery. This is particularly suitable for developing formulaic content in large websites – for instance, those with brochures and a complex series of data. In order to allow users to search the site, to sort or to restrict access through a log-in procedure, a dynamic website is necessary.
Changes to the website are generally easier through the use of the database to store and deliver content. Maintenance and updating is much more efficient than with a static website, where the information is automatically fed down to the appropriate levels rather than each page being changed individually.
There is a downside to Dynamic websites however, and that is with the efficiency of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If the site is not designed with the SEO needs at the development stage, it is far more difficult to implement those needs once the site is up and running.
An extension of the dynamic website is the Content Managed website. A password protected interface is central to this type of website to enable many different users access to the site to add, change and delete content.
This accessibility is crucial where a large site is maintained and updated by many different contributors, some in remote areas or throughout the world.
Another extension of a dynamic website is the eCommerce website where financial transactions are processed. An eCommerce site is used to enable visitors to browse its stock, to select and gather goods in a shopping cart or basket, and then proceed to a checkout where a secure online payment system will finalise their purchase. An eCommerce site would work particularly well with a content management system, where product details could be added or deleted, and, with some advanced features, stock could be updated.
With the Web becoming more accessible by portable devices over the past five years through laptops, smartphones and tablets, Mobile websites are becoming more vital. It is predicted that with current growth rates, web access via people on the move will likely exceed that of desktop computers within the next five years. Whilst most standard websites can be viewed adequately on a handheld device, it is the Mobile website that makes the viewing experience more comfortable and the searching experience slick and faster.
For anyone who wants to build and maintain their own website or blog, WordPress is a free software programme designed for just that. WordPress designs are based on a ‘Theme’ chosen from hundreds on their website. A reasonably knowledgeable client may set up their website using just this tool and have a good website. However, because of the way WordPress is programmed, it can be used by a web developer to customise the ‘Theme’ to their clients own corporate design and logo and to give a whole new professional feel.
The WordPress interface is also very easy to use. It works like a simple word processing programme, but with various levels of access granted by the site administrator, allowing others to contribute to the site. Also, because the interface is web-based, access can be obtained remotely from anywhere with an internet connection.