THE ANATOMY OF A WEBSITE
Nuts & Bolts of the Small Business Web Development Process
Designing the look of a website can be likened to designing the look of your living room. You don't haphazardly start buying furniture, painting walls, and choosing carpet without an overall look in mind.
The first thing you decide is what the function of the room is going to be - visiting with company? music at the grand piano? reading? television watching?
Once the functionality of the room is decided, now it's time to decide the form. What types of furniture is best for a room that is primarily for visting large groups of friends, or a room dedicated to watching TV? How should that furniture be placed in the room - will there be small clusters of seating in one part of the room and a piano in another? Will there be one large wrap around couch that will encompass most of the room?
Now it's time to select your style - contemporary? modern? antiques? What colors are you drawn to? What type of art work do you like? You want your room to be up-to-date but still reflect you, your style, and your sensibilities.
Now you're ready to create the room - paint the walls, lay the flooring, buy the complementary furniture, place the lamps, paintings, and knick-knacks creatively around the room.
A tweak here, a tweak there, and the room is complete and ready for company!
The same thought process should go into planning the look of your website. There are many considerations and decisions you will make before and during your small business website development process. The following is a guide to the steps you will be asked to make as we build a website that reflects you and your business or organization:
Step One - FunctionalityWhat is the reason for your small business website? Consider it's function. Is it to provide information about your product or services only? Is it to sell items online? Think about what is important to present to your audience.
- Example: Philip is an attorney. He decides that the primary function of his website will be to inform potential clients of his practice. A brochure site will suit his needs perfectly. The site should include information about the type of law he practices - estate planning, wills and trusts. Clients will also need to know where he is located and how to get in touch with him. Upon further reflection, Philip decides he he also wants to include information about his background - where he went to school, etc.
Step Two - FormNow that you know what the function of your website is, it's time to consider what form the site should take. Organize and group the functions from step one. By dividing functional areas into categories, the number and type of webpages you need will begin to come together.
- Example: At first Philip thought he would have a one page website, with a short paragraph about his practice, and his location and contact information. But as he considered the functions he listed in step one, he realized that what he wanted to present should really be divided into several categories: 1) information about his background as an attorney; 2) what is comprised by the term "estate planning"; 3) the differences between wills and trusts, probate, power of attorney, etc.; and 4) contact information. It became clear that a four page website would be the most appropriate one for his business.
Step Three - StyleWith function and form set, it's time to turn your attention to the look of your small business website. If you don't immediately know what your sensibility is, it is often helpful to start paying attention to websites that you like the look of. By listing a few sites that have caught your eye, we can break down what it is that attracts you to the site. It might be the color combinations. It might be the amount of "white space" in proportion to the text, or the number and type of visual images that are included. It might be that you like the form of a competitors site and would like to structure your own small business site in a similar manner. The more information you can give about the look that attracts you, the better chance you will be pleased with the outcome of your own small business site.
- Example: Philip started looking at other attorney sites on the web, and jotted down the addresses (domain names) of the ones that he liked the most. He realized that he didn't like the classic lawyer visuals of court houses and law books, but gravitated more to visuals of people working together. He noticed that he didn't read sites that were "busy" - full of small, tightly packed text. He liked the look of light, airy sites the best.
Step Four - The BuildUsing the information gleaned in steps one through three above, it's time to build your site. Now the detail web work begins - written content is developed (copy); visual images (graphics, photos, banners) are selected or created; SEO keywords and emphasis are picked; colors, fonts, and page formatting is designed. At RMBWorks you decide how much you want to do yourself and how much you want to leave up to us. You can write your own copy, or we can write it for you. You can peruse stock photo sites, you can give us graphics or photos you have developed yourself or with a graphic designer, or, we can select or create them for you.
- Example: Philip was comfortable writing the copy for his website and in doing so realized that the webpages he envisioned after step two needed to be changed by adding a new page of information, and combining two of his previous pages - what is estate planning, and the difference between wills and trusts - into just one page. Though he had a vague idea of the type of images he liked - people pictures - he didn't have any images he particularly liked, nor did he want to spend time looking through stock photo sites to chose them, and wanted RMBWorks to pick them for him. After getting pointers on how to determine SEO keywords from us, he put together a list for inclusion into his site.
Step Five - Going LiveYour small business website is now complete. You've looked it over all throughout the process in a test area created for your project on the RMBWorks server and are ready to show it to the world. Two essential steps need to take place before your site can go live: 1) acquiring a domain name (such as www.RMBWorks.com), and 2) contracting with a company to host your site on their public servers. Some of our clients are comfortable taking care of these steps themselves, and provide us the information we need to put their site into production. Many others chose to let us take care of all the mechanics for them. Either way, once the domain and host are ready, RMBWorks will upload your completed site to its new "home" and your site will be revealed for all to see!
- Example: Though Philip had an idea of what he wanted to use for his domain name, he did not know much about how to go about acquiring a domain names or how to select a web host, and wanted RMBWorks to advise him. After contemplating the information, he decided that he was most comfortable with RMBWorks setting up the domain and hosting for him.
Step Six - MaintenanceOne of the things that you will be asked to consider in the funcationality and form steps of the small business web development process is the frequency in which changes will be made to your website. Sometimes after the intial build, a website stays largely static, with infrequent changes needed. Other sites are, by their very nature, always changing. And some sites have a page or two that needs constant changing or additions, but the majority of the pages remain static. Your site will be built to accomodate the frequency of changes you foresee.
- Example: During the small business web development process, Philip reasoned that once his website was built and live, there would be little need for changes. For a year and a half it remained static, but then Philip added a partner to his firm, and needed the website updated with the partners information. He contracted with RMBWorks for the changes, and was presented with a proposal and a quote for the work. A few months later, Philip and his new partner decided that they would like to add a blog to their site, giving themselves the ability to continually update the content with entries about estate planning issues. RMBWorks designed a blog that fit seamlessly into their web design and look, but that was completely accessible for Philip and his partner to update as often as they wanted.
Whatever your needs may be, RMBWorks is here to help you achieve your goals. All of our websites are custom designed for you at a reasonable and affordable rate for small business budgets. Please contact us with questions or to get started on your new website!