Finding the Best Web Design Solution

Web design has become much easier than it was back when I first began building websites. There were a few programs that offered some WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interfaces, but you still had to do a good deal of the HTML coding by hand to get pages just how I wanted them. Javascript coding was done almost entirely by hand. Add to this all the new technologies that have emerged. CSS, PHP, ASP.NET, AJAX, and Web 2.0. Fortunately new technologies have come along to make things easier as well. You can either install software to build your own site, or use an online site builder.

Webpage creating software.

Web Design Software
Programs like Dreamweaver and Visual Studios now remove any need to do any HTML coding, but there is still the occasional need to modify code, but for the most part all the basic coding is done for you. If you are building a simple static site, this might be all you need. If you need to access information from a database, provide and dynamic and interactive site, or develop an e-commerce site; there is no way around having to know some coding.

Build It Yourself Web Design
Another alternative is to use a one of the online build-it-yourself services. Google lets you build free pages, and you can build an ecommerce site (for a fee) using Yahoo! or Big Commerce. These are just a couple options; there are literally hundreds of options. Having used several of these programs, I can say you can build a very nice website, with a lot of great features quite easily. The problem with these options arises when you need your website to do something unique that is not a feature of the site builder. There are a couple of other disadvantages with these types of sites. First, you are tied to services provider for your site. If for any reason, they go out of business or just decide to stop offering the service, you have to start over. This has happened with Lycos, Angelfire and many others. If you have a site built on HTML / Web programming languages, you can host your site where ever you wish without having to redo anything. Second, with these online site-builders, you are normally charged a monthly fee considerably higher than it would cost to simply have the site hosted on your own. The initial cost of hiring a web designer will be much higher, but if you plan to keep your site several years, you will not only save money in the long run, but you will have a much more flexible and customizable design that you own and do with as you please.

Web Design using Content Management Systems
A third option is called a Content Management System. These are like a hybrid between web building software and online site builders. CMSs are pieces of software that you install on a web server. Some of the best and most popular CMSs are free to use. Once installed they assist you in building your own site much like the online site-builders. CMS software is usually has a steeper learning curve than online site-builders, but can create incredibly robust, well featured websites. In the hands of a seasoned web developer, a CMS can be customized to provide almost anything you wish. One strategy I would recommend is to have a professional web designer build a site for you using a CMS, and let you do your own updates and changes. With a CMS making these changes is very simple and about as complex and using a word processor. With this strategy you’ll have a website that can still be upgraded and customized if needed, but you still control it and can have it hosted anywhere you wish without an additional cost for using the software. A web developer that has experience in building CMS websites will normally charge less to build a CMS based site as opposed to building and coding one from scratch.

Finding the Best Website Development Agency

As a business, finding the right web development company is not easy; as there are lots around offering state of the art services at record low prices.

Not to mention offshore companies based in Spain, India and the US – why not work with them. They are after all cheaper (mostly) and may be able to do a better job.

Using a local web development agency.

The main benefit with working with a local agency is that you can visit them and discuss the project face to face. Having an initial meeting with the agency will ensure they are competent and also help in communicating what the project is.

What about using an offshore web agency?

Quality – this would be hard to control if you cannot meet the agency. Skype and webenars are all well and good, but nothing beats a face to face for being able to communicate and discuss.

Remembering that only 10% of communication is verbal, talking on the phone or via e-mail means that the web agency misses 90%.

Which agency if you opt for a UK agency?

There is criteria that most companies look for when choosing a web agency

  • Do they understand the project?
  • Have they experience of your industry?
  • What will it cost?

These are the main things that come up when looking for a web company.

Meet with the agency (as mentioned) is the best way to a/ get a feel for the agency and if they are the sort of agency for you b/ they do understand your project. Many companies will say they understand when they really do not (as no one wants to tell a customer ‘we do not understand’ – could loose the client) understand.

If the agency has worked in your sector previously then they are much better equipped to tackle your project, contribute to is and also second guess to problem solve.

Comparing quotes from local web development companies is really the best way of finding out what the market price is. All companies charge differently and some are quite expensive – to avoid paying over the odds it is advised to get a few quotes.

The Benefits of Webinars For Learning How to Develop Websites

The Problem

Many small businesses and organizations in the United States are located in rural and often remote areas. This is especially true for wood businesses, whose emphasis is the use of local, sustainably harvested raw materials. However, no matter how remote, these businesses still have to reach a market with information about their product to survive, ie. Market their Product!

A website is a great tool to make your information available to the widest possible audience. Many business owners and organizations will contract with a web developer without knowing anything about what their website should do for them or whether they have found a competent and ethical web developer. Others will attempt to build their own websites without the benefit of web development training.

A few of these folks will put together fine websites with the aid of books and tutorials. Some will find a great developer who does a great job. After almost 10 years of teaching web development classes for business owners, I have found that for many, that won’t be the case. Whether business owners contract their website development or do it in-house, they need to understand the business and marketing principles of the web environment, the technical principles of web development, and how people use websites. That training is available at most community college and adult education centers around the country, but those colleges and centers aren’t necessarily accessible to rural businesses. Webinars can deliver the live and interactive training to any location that has internet access.

What is a Webinar

A webinar is live training that is delivered over the internet through your web browser. Teacher and students can be anywhere there is internet access. I have taught webinars from the back of a restaurant, a university office, a home office, and a hotel lobby. My students have attended the webinars from their offices, their homes, and I don’t know where because I can’t see them!

I can’t see the students, but I can talk to them. In fact, everyone attending can talk to each other via cell phone, desk phone or a headset plugged into their computers. While I prefer to teach conversationally, where the attendees can jump in with questions or comments, I can set it so that my voice – lecture style – is the only one heard. Of course, without the interchange, the students might actually be playing solitaire or maybe only the dog is at the computer, but then students play solitaire and check their email in regular lab courses too. At least, I can’t hear them snoring!

With a webinar, my students can see a PowerPoint presentation I have prepared right on their computers. Or the webinar software can show them what I have on my computer, if I prefer, allowing me to demonstrate how to do something while they give it a try. If a student has a problem completing a task, that student can choose to “share” what is on his or her computer, to get step-by-step help as I watch their computer screen on mine! Of course, that also means that I might see the Solitaire game in process too!

Using a Webinar

The process of attending a webinar is:

  1. Register for the webinar. Some are free, and some require payment.
  2. You will receive various emails from the webinar system confirming your registration and giving you a link to the webinar and possibly a call in number for discussion.
  3. About 15 – 20 minutes before your webinar is scheduled to start, Make sure your internet connection is working and go to the website linked in the emails. You may need to enter a code, depending on which webinar system it is.
  4. If the webinar will be through a headset, make sure the volume on your computer is turned up!
  5. If the webinar is through a phone call, call the number in the emails. Again, you may have to enter a confirmation number, which should be in the emails.
  6. After the software loads in your browser, you should see a list of the folks who have already signed in and a central area for the presentation materials.
  7. There may also be a chat box where you can ask questions before, during, or after the webinar.
  8. Just like in a regular classroom, some webinar presenters like to be interrupted with questions and comments, and others don’t. Whether you can interject questions and comments depends on the set up and software too. The presenter should tell you at the beginning of the webinar, although using the chat system doesn’t interrupt the webinar and is usually available the whole time.
  9. After the webinar is finished, you may be able to download a recorded copy for review.

Other Uses for Webinar Software

The webinar format is also excellent for one-on-one or small group training. I have trained people half way across the country, whom I’ve never met in person, how to work on their own website through webinars. Because the webinar system allows us to talk to each other and look at each other’s computer, it can become as comfortable as a classroom setting.

Webinars can also be used for group discussions and meetings. People all over the country can get together without travel costs and time. It is also a great format for a planning meeting because someone can type in the Notes area and everyone can have a copy of the Notes.

Conclusion

At first, not seeing the people behind the voices can be a little disconcerting. And, your internet connection might cut out or your headset might quit working, or your cell phone battery might die. But in the end, it’s a great system.

The National Network of Forest Practitioners has conducted various webinar topics for wood cooperatives and sustainable wood businesses. If the guys out in the woods can to it; so can you!