Category Archives: Web Design

In-house or Outsourcing?

By | Business Intelligence, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | No Comments

Does a website created by in house IT or “graphics” people save money or cost money? Using your in-house people to create your corporate website could save a couple thousand dollars. It can also cost you tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales.

Many CEOs think that the worst thing about having their website created in-house is its appearance. Most likely, a poor appearance is the least of your worries. Chances are your in-house people don’t know how to address your target audiences, incorporate your marketing strategies, emphasize your areas of specialization or worst of all, fail to recognize your unique selling proposition or competitive advantages.

Even if your in-house people consider all these points, do they know how to optimize the site so it can be found in a search engine? Do they know the latest techniques to make your site search engine friendly and optimized? Do they know how to properly market your website on the internet?

Will they employ the latest web standards when they build your site? Do they know web industry best practices to developing a site? Do they know the best information architecture for a website?

You should ask yourself, “Is this beyond the scope of their job requirements”? It is understandable to have employees wear many hats, especially in a small business, but having someone design or build your website in-house when this is not their primary function not only harms the final project outcome, but also devalues your employee.

Having experience in web design or search engine marketing is not the same as being a web designer or internet marketer.

Another aspect to consider is time. You’re asking an employee to split their time between their regular job duties and this new project, which can greatly hinder their ability to launch the site in a reasonable time frame. How many potential clients or sales can you afford to turn away while your website sits incomplete or displaying an “Under Construction” message?

A website that has an unprofessional appearance and doesn’t deliver your marketing message to your target audience can lead your prospective customers to think that your company is unprofessional and unable to deliver quality, cost, delivery and technology solutions. A company with a well-designed website that has relevant and well written content seems like a much better choice.

Tables are Dumb (part II)

By | Business Intelligence, Uncategorized, Web Design, Westward Strategy | No Comments

So in the first part of my little rant here, I discussed the training, or lack thereof, of designers and developers and how it has ingrained in them the techniquess more often than not used in today’s coding of websites and applications. Today I will cover the argument that they do not have enough time to learn new ways of coding.

This argument comes up more often than the first. Interface developers always complain they never have enough time to learn new standards of practice. Let me put it this way – are you saying you don’t have the time to give your clients a greater return on their investment? You don’t have time to advance your skillset to make your job easier, less time consuming and more consistent? If you answered yes to these questions send all your clients to us and stop reading now. (Hey, it’s worth a shot!)

In all seriousness though, if you could be guaranteed of the above benefits, why would you not want to start learning these techniques? How many times have you had to wade through dozens if not hundreds of pages to change all the font tags or scoured nested tables to find all of the content to update? On average our sites that are built using structured markup and divs use just 200 lines of markup and that could easily be cut by a third if we weren’t so damn picky about the format of our code. Mind you, that is just the markup and does not include the content.

Need to change a heading style – no problem! Just load up the CSS and change it in one place! Put your waders away and stop straining your eyeballs, one change in one place and you’re done!

Now is it easy learn these new rules and syntax? Hell no! But it’s not rocket science either. Just like anything it takes practice and dedication to get it perfect. My suggestion – start small. Start by stripping out all the presentation markup for your content. Take out all the deprecated font tags and spans that have no structure. Replace with paragraphs, headings, and unordered lists. Create a simple stylesheet and link it to your page. There you go! You’re on your way to becoming a css guru. Call me when you’ve reached zen master level and we’ll do battle.

Next time I will discuss all the benefits of your new skill set and where to go to get information on your path to enlightenment. Join me!

Tables are Dumb (part I)

By | Business Intelligence, Tips and Tricks, Web Design | One Comment

This is a bit of a soapbox rant aimed at other designers and developers, but one the general audience of our readers should enjoy as well.

Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh, but tables for layout is stupid. It’s hard to believe four years after that little diddy was published this conversation would still be relevant. Why have we, as designers and developers, become complacent? Stagnant if you will. Has the internet become boring? Sure, if you had the wads o’ money Mark Cuban does the internet might be boring. I’m sure thousands of businesses, designers, developers and marketers would disagree (strongly), but I digress.

So why is it taking so long for web standards to become the standard? I think for many interface developers it comes down to two problems – training, or lack thereof, and time. I believe these are ridiculous, petty arguments when viewed in the grand scheme of the benefits to client and self of implementing and coding to a modern standard.

Many, if not the majority, of the code jockeys out there learned to write html haphazardly through chance and circumstance by choice or by force round about the time of the big bubble, when the internet was in her infancy and many didn’t know better. They knew they could beat the browsers and create any kind of layout they wanted by changing the columns, rows, and cells of a data table. Accompanied by abuse of the transparent gif image and border=”0″ they beat the purpose and semantics out of each and every html tag until they were satisfied with their pixel-perfect layouts. The browsers never complained. They took everything these tag slingers could throw at them and figured out some way to display it. And so their methods were ingrained and passed on to other code jockeys for replication in their haphazard tradition.

Slowly the browsers became aware of the poisoned tag soup they were swilling. By then it was too late to abandon the millions of malformed, nested tables out there.Only when the jockeys began to realize their good intentions had created document after document with no hierarchy, no meaning or semantics, did some begin to look for a better solution.

Creating a table layout is easy, systematic, and not complicated for the brain to process. Not to say I haven’t seen some pretty complicated table layouts, but for the majority of the time to process transforming a graphic to a grid begins in the top left corner and works across the columns of that row to the end and then moves down to the next row and so on and so forth. A standards or “div” layout shatters that thought process and blows all the years of training and know-how of the jockey out of the water.

They’re now required to think about blocks or groupings of elements, how those elements build relationships with other blocks and the hierarchy of each, not in a graphical perspective but in a coding perspective. Why not in a graphical perspective? Because we have a new boy wonder, a super hero he-man to solve all of our presentation pixelation problems – Cascading Style Sheets.

Many jockeys cannot make this leap of gray matter marvel, for the old process is so ingrained in the fleshy folds of stuff between their ears. It’s natural for humans to fear the unknown, to fear change, but only through the admission and conquering of our own fears can we become better humans and therefore better jockeys.

So I stand with many others and humbly make this sermon. Stand up fellow jockeys, shed your shields of transparent images and your swords of colspans and join us in a new battle to build a better web.

Join me tomorrow as I beat down the argument of “I don’t have time to learn new ways to code”.