Web Design Quick Fixes – Are Businesses Falling Foul of Free Website Generators?

Buses in Cambridge are like web design in Cambridge: reliable, convenient and reasonably priced. However, I am given to understand that the story is not the same elsewhere. Indeed, books have been written on the subject of why such vehicles often come in threes. Suffice it to say that the hidden mathematics of everyday life also extend to the life of a freelance web developer. If I am asked about a particular web design topic or technique, no matter how obscure, I can pretty much guarantee that the question will crop up again very soon afterwards with a different client.

At the moment, in the land of web design in Cambridge, the burning web design issue is free website generators. Many web hosting companies offer these programs as a “quick start” to getting your business online. But do they work? If you haven’t got a lot of time, the short answer to the question: “Are website generators any good?” is: yes, for a limited time, then no.

Many business owners make the mistake of thinking that a website can be established and then left to mature like a fine wine. It isn’t the case. You can get immediate positive impact from a website, but after that point, it’s a bit of a labour of love. To keep yourself in the search engine rankings and encourage return visits from customers, you have to work hard at it: tweak page titles, descriptions and keywords; add new material and respond to user feedback. In short, you need to be creating noise around your site (albeit an excited buzz, not an annoying drone…) to keep things moving.

Free website generators address the immediate need, but some can fail to lay the groundwork for a sustainable website.

Use of images

The most common crime of the free website generator is to use images where text should be. This is hugely damaging for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) because search engine crawlers can’t read images, so your content is wasted: it’s not working for you. Text readers won’t be able to read your pages either, so disabled visitors don’t stand a chance of using your site.

Content Management

Many free website generators are intended to provide a starting-point, so once you’ve created your website, you may not have the opportunity to go back and edit your pages. One Cambridge web design client had the experience that meaningless URLs (e.g. A.html, B.html etc.) were being generated and could not be renamed, with the result that his pages could not rival those of his competitors. Changing page titles, descriptions and keywords are all important parts of managing your website which may not be available to you with this kind of program.

HTML validation: An experiment

As an experiment, I decided to run a website generated by one of these free website generators through the W3C Validator, a useful tool for web designers and developers, which can pick up on any errors in the code on the page. Such errors can represent accessibility issues which can prevent visitors from using your site properly. It wasn’t good news. The validator came up with 69 errors, beginning with failing to identify the document type, with no XML declarations at the beginning of the webpage.

You don’t have to be technical to understand that these are quite fundamental problems. The webpage hasn’t even declared what code it’s trying to use, so the validator doesn’t know where to start. Many other errors referred to HTML attributes which are now deprecated (i.e. no longer used) which also suggests that the website generators are not updated to reflect changes in XHTML standards.

Another Cambridge web design client’s website, also generated by one of these free programs, had far fewer validation problems. Why? Because the whole website was made up of images. The only reason the validator didn’t pick up on more problems was because it can’t read images in the same way as it can read text. This goes for Google, Bing and any other search engine you care to mention. If you fill your website with images and Flash instead of text, it can seriously damage your site’s performance in search engine rankings.

Why not try it out yourself?

Think of a search term and Google it. Most likely, on page 1 you will find text-rich websites which run through the W3C validator with few or no problems. Click on the last pages of Google and you will find sites dominated by images or created using Flash.

Sometimes designers make the decision to use images in place of text, mainly for cosmetic purposes. The number of fonts available in most web browsers can be limiting and can lead to a repetitive look and feel. However, with web design as with so many areas of life, you need to know what you’re ignoring. If it is a conscious design, fair enough, and knowledgeable web designers will probably take other steps to boost SEO in lieu of the images. However, if you’re a newcomer to web design, you may not even be aware of this distinction.

I think it is unfair that businesses – especially small and medium-sized businesses trying to economize – can be led to thinking that a free website generator is going to be enough to give their website a fighting chance. It is a false economy. It doesn’t pay to take these errors lightly in web design, because they prevent visitors (especially disabled visitors) from being able to use your site properly and can do serious damage to your Google ranking.

So if you are planning to use a free website generator, what can you do to ensure the quality of the result?

  • Start by searching the site for “web design”, “css” and “html validation”. These issues should be addressed upfront or in support documentation.
  • If possible, view a tutorial or trial the content management system (CMS) to ensure that you can manipulate the design in the way you want and that it’s easy to use.
  • If you can find an existing website produced with the same generator, try running the site’s URL through W3C’s website validator: http://validator.w3.org/ for yourself to see the results. This will let you know whether the HTML the generator produces is suitable.
  • When inspecting other sites, if you can’t highlight text, right-click. If you see the option “Save Picture As…”, you are looking at an image, not text, which could potentially cause accessibility and SEO issues.
  • What are the other options?

 
The other options available to you depend on how comfortable you feel with the process of web design and development and the level of commitment you are willing to provide. If you are willing to learn HTML and CSS or have someone in your organisation who is able to do so, you could try http://www.freecsstemplates.org/? This website provides great CSS webpage designs which are already validated and make a great basis for your own site. I used a template recently for a Cambridge playwright and author and found the templates to be well-designed and documented (you do need to retain a credit to the original web designer).

Alternatively, you could employ a local web designer to do the work for you. If you take this route, there are many more options you need to consider, but that’s a different topic for another day. Do your homework Whichever route you choose, the most important element of the process happens before you sign up to any package, whether free or paid. Invest your time before you invest your money – with the best will in the world, it’s the best way to ensure that your expectations are met and your online business flourishes.

Which Is Better – Dreamweaver or Expression Web?

For over a decade, the world of web development has been dominated by two software programs: Macromedia’s (later Adobe’s) Dreamweaver, and Microsoft’s FrontPage. For many years, the general consensus among web development professionals was that Dreamweaver was the superior program in a multitude of ways. A few years ago, however, Microsoft released Expression Web Designer which in many ways leveled the playing field. The question many ask today is, “Which is better? Dreamweaver or Expression?” This article will try to answer that.

Ease of Use

Both programs have very good point-and-click WYSIWYG editors, enabling even people who know nothing about HTML and CSS to build quality web pages. In this category, however, Expression is probably slightly better. Expression looks and feels very much like using Microsoft word, right down to the red squiggly underlines beneath coding errors, much like how Word points out spelling errors. Expression’s user interface makes it very intuitive and easy to use for novices. Dreamweaver, on the other hand, has a more complicated, feature-packed interface that hold greater appeal for experienced web developers.

Client-Side Scripting

Both programs handle Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) extremely well, automatically generating and displaying it accurately. Again, Expression is slightly better in this area, displaying CSS code more precisely.

When it comes to client-side scripting, it is difficult to see which software is better. They do different things, but both do it extremely well. Dreamweaver provides excellent support for Spry, YUI libraries, and APIs for jQuerry, but little support for ASP.NET’s AJAX. Expressions strengths and weaknesses are almost the exact opposite. It provides the finest support got AJAX… but little else.

Server-Side Scripting

Dreamweaver generally wins in this category. Dreamweaver supports PHP, JSP, ColdFusion, and several other platforms. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support the widespread and popular ASP.NET server scripting language (although it does support classic ASP). Once again, Expression is almost the polar opposite. Expression provides unparalleled support for ASP.NET, but little else (not even, strangely classic ASP). In the final analysis, Expression is the superior program for web development within predominantly Microsoft environment, while Dreamweaver’s superior support and flexibility makes it better for web development on most other platforms.

Site Management

For years, Dreamweaver’s far superior website management features made it a clear winner over Microsoft FrontPage. Microsoft Expression, however, and considerably narrowed that gap, providing a wider feature set and compatibility with Dreamweaver websites. Dreanweaver, however, still maintains its lead in this category with a wider and more efficient range of website management tools.

So Who Wins?

Unfortunately, it’s a draw – at least according to your own personal preferences. I am more of a Dreamweaver guy, and believe they are going to be around for many years to come. Each program is better for certain situations, but poorly suited to others. If you are an amateur web designer working with an all-Microsoft environment (like a corporate network), Expression is more compatible and easier to use. More experienced web developers working within a cross-platform environment (a mixed network of Unix, Linux. and Microsoft platform is very common these days) would find Dreamweaver’s flexibility and robust feature set more useful and efficient.

As internet technology continues to grow, diversify, and specialize, the days of a one-program-fits all solution are quickly fading. Today, one needs the right tool for the right job. To that end, web developers may find it more effective to keep both Dreamweaver and Expression software in their virtual toolbox.

Hire Interspire Developers for Interspire Development and Customization Services

Creating a creative e-commerce website is not always effective, and may not help you gain any benefit unless it actually conveys the message or target the potential customers in the manner it should be doing. If you have an ecommerce website, then you need to understand the fact that every ecommerce business has different needs just like real life brick and mortar businesses. You may get shopping cart software, but at times getting shopping cart softwareis not just enough to run yourecommerce business. Along with this you need to know how to use it and this is where many individuals and companies find it intricate or even tricky to use, which ultimately results in the total wastage of precious time.

Today where Interspire is one of the best ecommerce shopping cart applications available in the web and features some of the most unique SEO friendly structures, but yet when it comes to implementing unique look, modifying features or altering the structure, the application may appear very tricky. Therefore, it requires proper attention and should be handled professionally by expert web developers, so that existing structure doesn’t get disturbed. These days, there are many e-commerce development companies that are offering Interspire website customization services.

The key profit of getting assisted by these e-commerce web development companies is you can have a proper Interspire website development. Being empowered with experienced and talented Interspire developers, these companies actually carry a good proper knowledge of interspire features, working style and thus capable enough in offering that unique look that in turn can make it work as per your business plan. Moreover, these experts may at times also enhance your products to be quickly and easily searched by your online customers as well.

Perhaps the major advantage of Interspire customization service is it enables you enjoy the personalized appearance of the shopping cart according to your requirements. Adding to this, you may get every single page layout and design customized to meet the requirements of your online business. In fact, the best advantage it actually provides is a complete management of an online business from a single web-based administration area. Apart from all these, if you are still unsure about availing Interspire web development and customization service, then you better make your mind very clear as it even provides you opportunity to enjoy some of the key benefits, like:

  • HTML-and-CSS-only design compatible for personalization
  • Flexibility in settings and options
  • Quick, safe and easy billing system

Today where Interspire Shopping Cart is an all-in-one application that provides you a platform to sell anything online, a proper and effective Interspire customization may further let you have a great looking shopping cart just like any other website design. Though, the only difference you may find is its integrated format as an alternative of a standard html file.

The service like Interspire customization has taken e-commerce website development to an all new level. It has simplified the process of purchasing products or services online. So if you are really looking forward to begin selling online, do not worry! You better take the benefit of Interspire customization and get your custom e-commerce template.