Websites 101 - What to know before engaging a web designer

One of the most frequent issues when developing a website is a clients understanding (or lack thereof) about the web design world. This includes terminology, concepts, platforms, workflows and basically everything else that designers and developers take for granted. It's easy for a client to make the wrong decision or end up with something they didn't want originally because of confusion during the design or development process.

Just like you should do your research before buying a house, or a car or anything in life, a website is no different. One thing that does set it apart from a lot of other services or products is that its virtual - It's not tangible so it can be hard for people not in the industry to get to grips with the basics. The following is a brief guide to some of the most common terms and concepts you will face when making the decision on what type of website you want.

First things first..

There are three main types of website which you can ask for. They can come in an almost limitless amount of designs, shapes and sizes but its the functionality and use is what you need to consider first.

  1. Static Website: This is a website where the client has no ability to change or update content. It's usually cheaper to develop but will require either coding knowledge or contacting a developer to make any changes that are needed. Ideal for websites that don't have a lot of updates to content or blogs.
  2. Dynamic Website: In this type of site the client has the ability to make changes to the content of the website including images and text and also add different pages, delete material and possibly alter the layout too. 
  3. eCommerce Website: This is a website with the capability to sell products and services on it. The applications and uses are many and obvious.

Some terminology

Now that you know the three main types of websites you need to understand some common words and phrases which you will hear when discussing the right option and design with your chosen developer.

  • Responsive Design: This is designing a website whereby the design automatically adjusts to the width of the device it's being viewed on. Before you would have had to design a separate website for viewing on a desktop, another for a mobile etc. Responsive design means one design does almost everything.
  • Mobile First: Developing a website from a mobile first approach means that the design will start on the smaller mobile screen and go form there up to a large desktop screen. This puts the emphasis on how the site works and functions from a mobile which is fast becoming the most popular method of surfing the internet. 
  • Content Management System (CMS): This is a system built into a website whereby the user is able to update and manage the content on their website. This is used to create a dynamic website. Wordpress is a common example of a CMS.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This helps search engines to better understand the content and what is on your website in order to rank it higher in search results.

  • Plug-In: It can be expensive to develop everything from scratch so sometimes third-party code and services are used which can extend and enhance the functionality of your site for a fraction of the cost to develop it bespoke.

  • Domain Name: This is the name of the website that you are looking at. www.mywebsite.com for example.  

  • Hosting: This is where your website files are stored on web servers. 

  • Analytics: This is how you capture and analyse the data on who visits your site and what they do on it.

So What Now?

It's important that you don't go in blind to a meeting with a designer. Here at Squawk we always like potential clients to send us examples of websites they like, dislike and are competing against. It helps us gauge your likes and dislikes and its a good starting point to discuss how you want the site to look and function, so get browsing and feel free to contact us about any project you may have in mind.