Pick Your Tools- Website Design Options

New to website design? There are a number of options available to first-timers and novices. From cracking the books to online site builders, a few of the most common are explained here.

The journey from first getting that spark of an idea for a website and the finished product can be long and difficult. This article will focus on the various means available to create a web site. Finding a suitable place to host it is another matter entirely. It is generally wise to, if not already have your site complete, have a very good idea of what the finished site will be before shopping for hosting.

Do-It-Yourself Options- Design Software

There are 2 kinds of “do-it-yourself” options, design programs and online site builders. Design programs can vary wildly in both scope and complexity. For simple, static sites, an easy-to-use editor with a limited feature set might be ideal. More complex sites may require more complex, and usually more expensive solutions. In an industry where highly varied personal preference is the most common factor in choosing a design program, it’s difficult to say there is an “industry standard” design package. Popular design programs include Dreamweaver from Macromedia/Adobe, and FrontPage, from Microsoft. Dreamweaver is a powerful and complex program with a reasonably steep learning curve. FrontPage is targeted more towards the beginner, but in doing so, compromises a great deal of quality in its resulting code.

Additionally, a number of web design programs can be found on the web as “freeware” and “shareware”. Searching various file repositories such as “download.com” will reveal a wealth of alternate choices, far too many to list here. Do research and test them out first before making a purchase, you may find one you enjoy and are comfortable using. If you wish to go the extra mile and learn HTML itself, your design software options may include something simple like a text editor. Many web designers swear by Notepad as their favorite design tool. Learning HTML may seem a little more daunting than learning a single web design program, but the benefits, even if you still choose to use a more advanced, graphical editor, will stick with you. Having an understanding of how the underlying tags work will make your design work much easier.

Do-It-Yourself Options- Templates

One additional option to consider if you wish to use a design program is a template. Website templates are, usually, complete sites with graphics and placeholder text that you can modify using most any kind of design software. Templates provide a kind of design ‘shortcut’, allowing the user to move almost directly into adding content to an already existing site. Be aware, that most templates require some knowledge of either HTML or skill with a design program in order to use effectively. Also, they may require a graphical editing program if you wish to change any graphic elements. Commonly this editor will be Adobe’s Photoshop, which, unlike design software, is the widely regarded “industry standard” in graphic editing. Though templates can be a short cut, they are more a short cut for intermediate to advanced users who can effectively exploit them.

Do-It-Yourself Options- Online Site Builders

Those looking for an alternative to the older method of design on a local machine and upload to the web server may want to consider online site building programs. These programs, of which there are a few, are generally provided by your hosting company and viewed through your web browser. They don’t require any information to be installed on your home computer. Everything they do is handled remotely, through the browser, so your site can be created then updated in “real time.” All site builders share a few common traits. First, they will all be template based. Not exactly the same kind of advanced template discussed above, but a general color and layout you will select from in the initial stages of the site builder’s setup. The bonus to online site builder templates is that you can change your template selection most any time and have your entire site change automatically and immediately, without losing any of the information you have uploaded to that point.

Second, most online site builders will have some kind of editing screen into which you will type your content. The exact method by which individual site builders accomplish this can vary. In all cases you will be able to add and delete paragraphs. More advanced site builders allow you to add items like additional graphics and tables. Finally there will be various “extras” and “features” you can add to your site. Again, what these features will be will vary according to the specific feature set of the site builder you use. They can include everything from rotating text to a full shopping cart. If you are interested in using a site builder, contact your prospective website hosting company and ask if they have demo of the site builder they use or where such a demo can be found. By their nature, most site builders have online demos to allow users to test drive the product before use.

Profession Design Solutions

Those unwilling or unable to learn either HTML or design software will need to seek professional assistance. Like the plethora of design software, there is an even greater assortment of design firms ready and willing to take your business. Even someone experienced in web design may know when their current project outstrips their personal skills and calls in some additional help. Certain types of sites simply lend themselves to a team rather than a single designer. Very large ecommerce sites are one such example. Professional developers can split their resources among coding the site, setting up the shopping cart, and entering the products. By having a professional team working on a site, the site can be completed faster and more efficiently than by a single individual.

Finding a web design firm can be as simple as web search or even a trip to your local yellow pages. This becomes a matter client preference. If you wish to meet the designers, have face to face discussions with them about the nature of your project, then you should confine your search to local firms. If you are comfortable with phone and electronic communication, then most any web design firm you track down on the web should be able to accommodate your needs. In many cases, online firms will have a kind of “Customer Relations Management” or CRM tool, that allows direct interchange of information and content between the client and the designers.