All posts by resourcesforlife

Visit http://AboutGregJohnson.com

Website Development Supportive Roles – Glossary and Guide to Professional Skills Required to Create a Website

Website Development Reference Document by Greg Johnson

Summary. This article attempts to explore the general categories of people who create websites and what roles they serve. A chart at the bottom of this page shows a simple graphic representation of this. With website development, these people can and often do work independently with great success. When they collaborate, they can active more. Some website development agencies have multiple people on staff, while others outsource when needed depending on the demands of a particular project.

Website Designers. In my mind, someone who is a website designer is a person who probably majored in art and has a degree in graphic design. In addition to having the credentials on paper, they have the experience and skills combined with a passion and love in their heart for creative design work. Whether on paper, or delivered to a computer screen, graphic designers are passionate about inspiring others through the images they create. An example of this would be BrownWingStudio.com.

Website Developer. I believe that a website developer is different than a website designer (an artistically gifted graphic arts person). The developer could be comparable to a general contractor, and sometimes they do outsource the work required to complete a project. In some respects this is good, because they recognize their weaknesses and also desire excellence in what they create.

Website Programmer. Some people who create websites are doing so from a computer programmer background. They see websites as programming code that creates a desired result. Or, in the case of Content Management Systems (CMS), database geeks see websites as simply a universally accessible public database that serves up data on demand in the form of text, images, and media content on web pages. Either way, they see websites differently than most people, and may tend toward minimalism instead of embellishments.

Artists. Those who have artistic skills, but don’t have the technical expertise of a digital graphic designer, can still contribute to the design process of a website. Their aesthetic sensibility and traditionally crafted artistic designs can be an asset. For example, any painting, tapestry, or sculpture can be photographed and placed on a website to make it unique. Sketches and drawings can be scanned in and placed on the web as well. This combining of old-world artistic media and new world technology produces interesting results.

Business Owners. Sometimes a tech savvy business owner will launch their own website simply by signing up for one of the many instant website services offered by today’s hosting companies. In such cases, templates and stock photos are typically used, and most business owners don’t have the time to regularly post new content.

Writers. From a writer’s perspective, websites are all about the written word, and in a world of web traffic driven by search engines, skilled content writers are a valuable resource. Simply because the sheer volume of what they create, a disciplined and prolific writer can create a blog, without even having their own private domain name or custom website, and get considerable notoriety.

Advertising & Marketing Specialists. Those involved in advertising and marketing see the variety of website content like fishing lures. Different content pulls different readers. Google AdSense offers an automated mechanism for evaluating content and serving up ads based on the topics covered in any given article.

Photographers. A professional photographer knows the power of images in advertising, print, video, and on the web. Most powerfully attractive websites are inviting and awe inspiring because of the photos.

Videographers. The popularity of YouTube is proof that we live in a culture drawn to video. Consider that a single YouTube broadcaster with zero budget and a “channel” that has minimal aesthetic appeal amounting to a single-page website can get millions of views and subscribers in the six figures. This fact causes one to realize that a quality video with content people are interested in can trump all the fancy website design you can muster. It’s a testimony to the power of content. For this reason, when an attractive and well designed website includes video, there’s a greater appeal.

Social Organizers. These days, the web is all about social networking. On a budget of no time and no money, a single Facebook page can organically grow to have more traffic and subscribers than a heavily advertised and promoted free-standing website. Increasingly people are living inside the online gated communities created by social networks like Facebook.

Hobbyists. A powerful and influential group not mentioned above, or in the chart below are the hobbyists who launch websites that receive thousands of daily visitors. Search engines favor such sites simply because a specific search on a particular craft or specialty topic may only produce a few meaningful links at the top. If you launch a website about a topic like rock painting, it won’t take too much effort to quickly become the world authority on that topic. The more esoteric and specialized the topic, the more likely it is that you’ll become the #1 search result.

Blackstone-ic.com Restaurant Website by Mike Demuth — Review and Rating

Website Review by Greg Johnson

Introduction. There’s a lot to like about the fresh look of the Blackstone website. The site is as fresh as their food and as elegant and inviting as the atmosphere at the restaurant. So, it’s a good fit and conveys a lot about the restaurant. Because Blackstone is not just any typical restaurant, it’s appropriate that their website is equally unique. Below I’ve written about some highlights of what I think works well with the site. It’s another example of the excellent design work done by Mike Demuth, as well as a good representation of his exceptional ability to match clients with an aesthetic design that fits their business.

Rating. Overall, I’d give the site a 9.5 out of 10, taking .5 off for the use of an email link rather than a feedback form on the contact page, and for the use of a smallish photo on the About Us page. Those items are easily remedied, and I may be in the minority opinion about that email link. Feedback forms are just my personal preference. Otherwise, the site looks great! See the full review below.

About Blackstone From My Perspective. I’m not a regular customer, so I can’t speak too authoritatively about Blackstone. However, a few years back, some friends asked me to dinner at Blackstone, and I still remember the experience. The atmosphere was welcoming, inspiring, and fun. The food was great. It was the perfect setting for our meeting that night. We were having a brain-storming session about a business idea. It’s the kind of place you enjoy enough that you want to stay longer, and enjoy good conversation with friends.

About Us. The About Us page is nice. The description is well written. The photo seems to be a good quality photo and everyone is all smiles, which is important. However, the photo is small in comparison to the other photos on the site, and it looks more like a snapshot photo. I guess I would have expected a formal (but relaxed and happy) photo of the owners with a nicer backdrop.

Adobe Acrobat PDF Pages. It’s increasingly common to find PDF content on the web. In the past, this created issues for people who didn’t have the Acrobat Reader. Those who did have the Adobe Acrobat Reader still had to download documents to open then and view them. It meant being distracted from web content. In my visit to the site, the pages opened in a new tab and looked just like any other web page. I’m using Safari and the built-in Adobe reader function make the experience seamless.

Blackstone Logo. I really like the Blackstone logo, shown at the top of this page. The combination of the narrow and heavy weighted font conveys something solid and grounded along with a kind of elegance in design. It tells me that I want to dress nicely, but I don’t need to be snooty. It’s fancy without the snobbery. That’s just my take on it. The fire design from the ‘o’ is well done and suggests warmth, a stone hearth, or the traditional old-world cooking done with real fire baking. I’m not sure if that’s what it’s supposed to communicate, but that’s what I read into it.

Catering. Something I learned from the website that I’d not known before is that Blackstone offers catering. The Catering page provides just the right amount of information — enough that you know you want to call them for your next event, and the contact information to do so.

Contact. The Contact page is well done. It’s a nice touch that the Google map shows they have 26 reviews with an average of four out of five stars — high enough that you know they are good, but low enough that you know it’s not just their friends who are rating. There’s a “Tell Us How We Are Doing” link on the contact page that’s an email link. I’ve always preferred web-based feedback forms. The email links can be problematic because on most computers they launch the email client (like Outlook), and most people are using web-based email these days. So, it’s just an annoyance. If someone is using a computer that’s not their own, the owner’s email program will launch, along with all their private emails.

Education Usability. As the rest of this review indicates, the site has an excellent usability in class for courses and workshops about proper web design. This makes it a good reference and resource for those in the web design business.

Food Menus. Having all the food menus online in PDF format is a smart idea. I’ve helped some restaurants in the past with posting menus online in HTML format. The problem is that most people aren’t comfortable with website design. Even with today’s visual editing systems, PDF sill provides you with the flexibility to create something attractive without using any programming code. Most people want to print menus and put them up at work or on the refrigerator at home. So, having them ready in PDF format is an extra benefit. Printing web pages, particularly those that extend beyond one page, can be a hassle. Inevitably pages get split and often in unpredictable locations — sometimes cutting off text.

Gallery. The Gallery page of photos has been set as the home page for the site. In a WordPress installation, this would be done in the Dashboard under Settings > Reading > Front Page Displays. I usually pick a static About page or Welcome page that set’s the context for a website, but for a restaurant having the gallery is a great choice. I’ll probably use that in the future for client projects.

Mailing List. The Blackstone Club has been smartly configured to use Constant Contact. I signed up, and found the registration process very quick and easy. That helps to not dissuade people from joining. Constant Contact is on the short list of reputable and reliable mailing list services.

Menu Navigation. The navigation menu across the top offers the essentials and nothing more. Just seven links. It’s interesting to note that the Apple website has only seven navigation links at the top. Seven links for a business worth 158 billion dollars. That’s pretty good, and if it’s good enough for Apple, it’s good enough for the rest of us. I like the mouse over black background used in the navigation menu. It’s quick and easy to see.

Mobility. The site seemed to look great and function properly when viewed from my iPad or iPhone 4S. So, it passes the mobility test.

Photos. The first thing you notice about the website are the beautiful photos. If I eventually find out who the photographer was, I’ll put a credit here. Perhaps Mike Demuth does his own photography for the sites he designs (that would be cool). Whatever the case, I like that the landing page (the opening page of the site) is the slideshow gallery of photos from the restaurant. Each photo tells me something about what I can look forward to at Blackstone: colorful and refreshing drinks, artistically decorated and warmly inviting tables and booths, rich delicious deserts, fire places, fresh food with beautiful presentation, and a bar that’s fun, social, and abundant with drink options. So, if a picture tells a thousand words, then there are ten thousand words on their home page! Seriously, though, it really brings home the point that the right pictures on a website can convey so much more than words.

Private Dining. The Private Dining page really sets Blackstone apart from other restaurants and earns it a position right next to other hospitality industry event destinations in our area.

Simplicity & Elegance. It’s an interesting thing about simplicity — it can be austere or elegant. Something I like about the Blackstone website is how it has an elegant and sophisticated simplicity.

Site Design By. I like how Mike Demuth’s tiny logo is quietly and modestly placed in the lower right corner. That’s a nice touch.

Social Networking. The choice of Facebook and Twitter is a smart one. On my own site I have seven social networking buttons in each page footer, but I sometimes wonder if too many cause people to get lost. Facebook and Twitter are probably going to serve the needs of 90% of all site visitors.

__________

Update. I try to contact designers when reviewing their work. After posting the above review, I contacted Mike Demuth and we had a good exchange about the observations above. A point he made, which is a good reminder, is that sites are often setup by a designer, but subsequently managed by a business owner. With regard to the smallish photo on the the About Us page is a photo uploaded by the owners for that page. (20120214tu1849)

Westwinds Real Estate Website by Intagent.com

One decision in the process of deciding who to design your website is whether to go with a template, custom designer, or a company that specializes in your industry.

Intagent.com is a website development and hosting company that specializes in creating, maintaining, and hosting websites for realtors and real estate companies. In recent years, the site for Westwinds Real Estate of Iowa City was redesigned by Intagent. One of the benefits offered by Intagent is an integrated automated system that publishes listings across multiple real estate listing websites.

Below is the new front page for Westwinds Real Estate.

Click on the page below to visit Intagent and view website samples.

Hello World! … We’re Iowa City Website Designers! (ICWD)

Hi, Welcome to IowaCityWebsiteDesigners.com (ICWD). I’m Greg Johnson. You can read more about me on my bio page and the links from there.

Why ICWD. There are a few reasons why I setup ICWD and a few goals I hope it can accomplish:

  • Central Dispatch. I setup this website as a central dispatch for website developers in our area. It’s similar in concept to the site IowaCityComputerSupport.com that I launched a while back. Potential customers call a single number, and actually get someone on the phone who can help them sort out their options and figure out who is a good match for their needs.
  • Personal Portfolio. I wanted to create a web-development-centric site where I could showcase my own work. Rather than calling it DesignsByGreg.com (or something else personalized), I wanted the name and the site to more broadly reach and serve the local web development community.
  • Reviews. As someone who thinks and lives with cooperation and collaboration in mind, I wanted to provide some positive reviews of the work being done by other web developers in the area. I thought ICWD would be a nice place to feature and review local website designers and their work since we have many good people in our area doing high-quality web development. Some of the best sites on the Internet are brewed right here in Iowa City.
  • Training. For those wanting to get started in web development, and for clients who want to be more independent, I want to provide some tips, training, and best practices. I hope to share transparently the open-source inner workings behind my own development work.
  • An SEO Case Study. Part of the motivation for launching a website with a seemingly generic sounding name was to create a website with a domain name that utilizes keywords people will likely search to find website services in our area. I’ve tested this method a few times before, and wanted to further explore it’s possibilities as an SEO mechanism.

Background – My Big Tent Success. Until recently, I’d put all my content under a single domain, the ResourcesForLife.com website, as a unified umbrella to aggregate content. The idea was to reduce time and money invested in hosting by having a single site that serves many purposes. So, I’ve used that site since about 1996 as the home to my various business operations and personal interests. In 2002 with the launch of the SmallHouseSociety.org identity I was interested to see if a single website (ResourcesForLife.com) could effectively serve disparate user groups while maintaining the unique identity of each. The past 10+ years have proven that the cross pollination of different interest groups creates synergy, and the outcome is more than the sum of the parts. There are many web-based resources that need not be duplicated in a shared environment, such as the Contact Us page, Donations/Payment pages, Feedback forms, Privacy policy, advertising affiliate agreements, and account connections to a long list of social networks. The social network unification system proved to be a huge time saver — providing a single point of entry into every social network on the web. This meant that each additional “user group” or micro website at ResourcesForLife.com needed only to have a simple page to be launched, then it could immediately piggy-back on the existing infrastructure of the site and the existing social network connections.

Big Tent and SEO. My long-time concern about having an all inclusive website was the matter of search engine optimization (SEO). A site without a focus would presumably be difficult for a search engine to make sense of. In the old days, when you’d submit your website to search engines, it was necessary to provide the purpose or theme of the site by choosing one item from a long list. Search engines weren’t really setup for mega-sites. Yet, with the growth of Yahoo, MSN, Excite, and other early networks, as well as the launch of Wikipedia, search engines became smarter and could be more aware of the topic branches within websites. Using a mix of keyword URL naming and keyword page naming, I was actually able to get some fairly reliable page 1 (and often position #1) search results positioning for keywords of my choosing. I’m not one to manipulate SEO methods for personal gain or create undeserved positioning, but if there’s a legitimate case for content to appear on page one for non-commercial reasons, I’ll work to see that it gets done. I believe that SEO practices need to be genuine, authentic, and valuable to the searchers. Since SEO is ultimately measured by a mix of machines and genuine human interest, it’s ultimately difficult system to trick. Authentic and valuable content eventually rises to the top. I’ve learned a lot from my SEO research and experiments. What I ultimately realized is that you just have to cook good food — meaning, you need to create meaningful content and (almost) ignore everything else you hear about SEO.

Small Tent Method. My interest now is to explore the benefits of creating independent branding and design for my different interests and endeavors. As the time and money invested in website hosting costs and domain registration fees have declined, this is now more feasible. It also allows one to utilize keywords in the domain name rather than simply further down in the URL.

ICWD Google Ranking. Back in September of 2011, I setup IowaCityWebsiteDevelopers.com with the intent to use it as a central dispatch for website developers in our area. I did nothing with the domain and the “website” remained as an untouched generic WordPress site without any content until February 2012. What’s interesting to me is that despite having been abandoned from its inception (which probably cost some SEO points), the site is currently showing up on page 9 of a Google search for Iowa City Website Designers (as of 20120208we1524). I’m interested to track the rise of the site to page one for that keyword search and see what methods appear to be effective for helping it rise to the top. I’ll plant to post some progress updates here.

__________

Document History. This document was originally created automatically on September 15, 2011 when this website was established. It was revised on February 8, 2012 but the original creation date was retained to avoid broken links with Google’s search engine.