Choosing a Website Marketing and Development Specialist

What to consider when looking for quality web site development

Once you are done planning and preparing for your web site, the next step in establishing an online presence is finding the right company, contractor, or consultant to deliver the web development services you need.

However important a website’s appearance is, the performance and results of any website rely largely on what’s beneath its surface; that which is not seen or fully understood by most. This article is not intended to be a general how to guide on comparing prices and services, but rather advice from an expert on what you should consider when looking for professional website design, web development, and internet promotion that you may not already be aware of.

Differences between Building, Designing and Marketing web presences

Understanding the differences between designing a website, building a website, and making a website visible online will help ensure that you choose a website developer that can meet all your goals and demands.

Building proper and professional web sites which perform and operate optimally is a highly technical process. This includes a website’s load time, certain aspects of its speed of operation, the ability for the web site to work properly and coherently across the many different web browsers and operating systems, and many aspects of potential online visibility. Each of these factors are dependent upon the build of the website – the way in which it was programmed and created. Properly building a website is something many web designers and online marketers fail to be concerned with or take interest in, and frankly they are often unable to handle the process correctly.

Creating effective and appropriate custom website designs on the other hand is an artistic and creative process. You want your web site to be easy and intuitive to use and navigate. It should be enticing and interesting to browse through, and you want the mood and emotion your web site portrays to reflect your identity and image branding. Not only will this catch your audience’s attention – it will enhance your credibility to deliver the products or services you are promising. The design of a website is extremely important, and should be managed accordingly.

Online Promotion and Marketing of web sites encompasses all aspects of a website’s online visibility, including internet advertising, visits from search engines, links from external web pages, and so on. Depending on a website’s goals and purposes, market, and competition, internet marketing is often the most beneficial and cost effective form of promotion available to a company. A website that pulls in around 10,000 visitors a month and generates, say, $30,000 a month in income, could possibly generate $100,000 a month if only it had 40,000 or so visitors. The problem is, as a highly technical and constantly evolving area, most websites are not developed with search engine optimization (SEO) or other important aspects of internet marketing for websites in mind. In fact, studies reveal that as many as 90% of all business-related websites currently on the internet are not built or developed with any regard to online visibility!

Evaluating prospective Web Developers

It is important for anyone who is seeking website development services to understand that many website designers know surprisingly little about properly building or marketing websites. Likewise, many website developers know very little about design and online promotion, and many internet marketers are not concerned with web design or properly building web sites. Understanding what you need and what you will be receiving is imperative to the success of your web presence, and automatically puts you at an advantage over 9 out of 10 websites.

Evaluating Web Design – Portfolios

The only place you should have to look to evaluate a web developer’s designs is to their own website’s portfolio. Any established website developers will offer a portfolio of web sites they have created for other clients, as well as links to the sites. Depending on what you are looking for in a web developer, some things you may want to look for in regards to this portfolio include;

  • Is their work generally similar in design, or do their clients’ sites look unique and appropriate for their purpose?
  • Are their designs and sites consistent and appealing throughout?
  • Are any of the sites flashy and largely graphical?
  • Are there videos, animation, or custom graphics?
  • Are there any e-commerce sites, shopping carts, or other interactive elements?

Evaluating Website Builds

Unfortunately, the people who can spot a good website creator are usually web site builders themselves. Whereas a website appears to most people as simply presentation and function, the truth is that the elements most detrimental to many online presences’ success rates are factors that most people and even many website developers overlook or are often simply unaware of.

There are only a few things that someone without a website development background can easily evaluate in terms of building websites properly:

  • Look for any inconsistencies across pages, odd characters, missing graphics, forms not working, pages not found, or any other technical problems you may be able to identify on the websites.
  • If you have access to several different computers with various operating systems (Windows Vista, Windows 98, Mac OS, etc.) and web browsers (Internet Explorer, Fire Fox, Opera, Safari, Netscape, etc.) you can visit the sites on different browsers and computers and check for consistency and functionality.

Evaluating Online Promotion and Web Marketing

Trying to evaluate web promotion services can easily become confusing. With all the technical terms and fine print, it is often hard to know what you are really getting. For instance, many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies guarantee such things as first page listings with a major search engine. Often, however, they will use technical terms to provide clients with something else – usually a paid advertisement that appears on the first page, which is not nearly as valuable.

The best advice I can give for evaluating online promotion performance is to obtain actual performance results, and preferably references. Evaluate what was promised by the website promoter, what was actually delivered, and the value of the marketing. There are no set limits to the performance of a website; all you can do is try to figure out who can provide you with the biggest return on investment and the service most valuable to your site.

Also, be weary of any companies that make specific search engine result guarantees – no one can directly control their results, as algorithms and competition evolve. No search results are set in stone.

Choosing the right web developer for you

There are companies and consultants who specialize in single areas of design, building, or promotion of websites, offering only these services, and others who specialize in the entire aspect of web presences. While choosing the right solution for your particular website depends on your specific needs and goals, having an idea of the various options and knowing what to look for in a web developer allows you to make a more informed and better decision.

So You Want to be a Multiplayer Web Games Developer?

In my first article “So You want to be a Games Developer?” (http://ezinearticles.com/?So-You-Want-to-be-a-Games-Developer&id=70920), I discussed various games genres, including Web/Email games. This is one of the easiest ways to start developing games- you aren’t restricted to one language or platform and the costs are pretty low. In this article, I’ll look at the various technologies that you can use, and give you an idea of what its possible to do and how you get started.

Web games fall into various sub categories- email games, browser games, and multi player games. Email games are by far the simplest- technically they aren’t web games and you don’t even need a computer to moderate them, just to send and receive. Browser games can be implemented in Flash, JavaScript (dhtml), Java and even ActiveX/COM. I’d guess that most single player games are implemented in Flash but I’ll save that for a future article. To start with, though I’ll take you through what is involved in developing Multiplayer Web Games.

Before you start, go and take a look again at the Multi Player Online Games Directory- http://www.mpogd.com. Its an excellent resource and gives you an idea of the type of games out there ranging from small free games to the massive games like Sony’s Everquest.

The big multiplayer games aren’t web based but they do work across the Internet. They tend to have their own custom written clients, with encrypted protocols, fast 3d graphics and large teams of customer support staff. I recommend http://terranova.blogs.com/ as an excellent blog on this- you’ll find articles and quotes from luminaries such as Richard Bartle who produced the first Mud (its short for Multi User Dungeon), and Professor Edward Castranova; an expert on virtual world economics. Muds also tend to use their own clients, usually based on Telnet. Although these are not web games, I recommend you widen your experience as much as possible. Muds in particular although not the most popular genre still do exist and provide a good model for interactive games.

Breaking into computer game design and programming is as easy as becoming a fulltime commercial game programmer- i.e. its not! But there is nothing to stop you developing your own web game, and MPOGD will be happy I’m sure to list it in their directory. If its Open Source you can set it up and find other developers on Soiurceforge.net.

There are two categories of web game: real-time and turn based, and this dictates the type of technology that drives it. Real-time is more complicated- the server has to support multiple connections at the same time and care has to be taken to synchronise actions between clients. If you attack someone and they’ve already moved but your client isn’t keeping up then your game is not going to be popular.

A crossover between multiplayer web games and custom client games is possible with Macromedia’s Flash. It is likely that multiplayer action games based on Flash will become more prolific- there are quite a few around now. Sadly sourceforge has many such ideas that have not got past the planning stage. Also what does exist may not be open source as creating such games takes a lot of work. Googling for flash, multiplayer game returns a couple of million results but add open source and it drops to a few hundred thousand.

Unless you are an excellent Flash developer and can write good server code as well, I suggest you stick to turn based games. The good news is that web based is an area where open source development is prolific. A search on sourceforge.net for ‘game servers’ returned several projects that are mature or beta. Fancy developing an RPG in Java? Use Arianne. Or if C# is more your style, have a look at Ovorp. The most popular languages are C++ and Java (for the server) but C# projects have now started appearing and you’ll find C, Perl, and Python as well. But don’t limit your searches to sourceforge- there are many projects elsewhere as well. An excellent resource for finding games is dmoz.org-= the Open directory Project. Have a look at http://dmoz.org/Computers/Open_Source/Software/Games/ and http://dmoz.org/Games/Video_Games/Roleplaying/Massive_Multiplayer_Online/Independent_Developers/

E.g. Black nova Traders, which is located on sourceforge at http://sourceforge.net/projects/blacknova and has its own url http://www.blacknova.net/ BlackNova Traders is a web-based, multi-player space exploration game inspired by the popular BBS game of TradeWars. It is classified as a turn based mud. It is coded using PHP, SQL, and Javascript. BNT is officially at Beta but is a pretty complete game that is just not finished. In fact it may never be as long as developers keep tweaking it!

If you are going to develop a web game you need a server. Yes you could do it online but thats slow. Best to setup your own server.

A good starting point with the most popular technology is the Open Source L.A.M.P. family. That is Linux, Apache, MySql and Php. If you are replacing your windows pc with a new pc, wipe the hard disk on the old pc and install a Linux distribution and hook the two up with a crossover network cable. What was a relatively sluggish Windows PC is now a good development server running Apache, Php and Mysql. Linux Guis are pretty friendly these days but if you are unsure of administering Linux, download webmin from webmin.com and install it. It makes all the Linux administration stuff like configuring Samba (if you want to share drives), adding virtual sites to Apache etc very easy. Or easier still is the W.A.M.P route with everything installed on your Windows box. For pros and cons of this have a look here. http://ezinearticles.com/?Windows-vs-Linux–Hosting&id=21972

One word of caution. You might consider exposing your web server to the internet down your dsl connection. Nothing wrong with that though it limits you to having two or three users at once. If you have a static IP its pretty easy to map a domain to it. It can also be done with a dynamic Ip connection as well. Search for dynamic dns to find out how to make that work. Be sure in either case that you have enough firewall protection. An unprotected Windows pc will likely be taken over in under 15 minutes. I strongly recommend that you buy a firewall router or invest in a professional software firewall at the least.

In future articles I’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of game software development and start developing an open source game.

How to Choose The Best Web Designing Services

Nobody can deny the fact that websites are influencing the prospect of the business in today’s world considerably. However, you cannot achieve full benefits of a website unless the same is attractive and effective. Not everybody can design and develop such good sites and you need to take the help of a professional to get it done. When you start your searching for a professional web designer, you may come across with many companies claiming to deliver better products. You certainly will end up in confusion over whom to assign the job. You will have to take many things in consideration while assigning the job to a service provider.

• PSD conversion: – The design files will be created in PSD formats usually and it needs to get converted to HTML/ XHTML/HTML5 to create a website. This conversion is a crucial job which may makes or mars the quality of the website as a whole. The professional web developer can convert the PSD file to HTML/XHTML without losing the original charm of the design. A web developer should guarantee pixel perfect design while performing PSD to HTML conversion.

• Along with pixel perfect designing, perfect coding is necessary to make the website more search engine friendly and to enable a fast loading. The web designing service provider should have enough experience and expertise to do the work perfectly.

• PHP programming, UI development, module development etc are other crucial areas where the web development company should be able to provide the best result and should give guarantee that the entire work is as per the quality norms put forth by various international organizations such as W3C.

Now you may feel that it is a bit difficult to identify the right service provider for your website. There is nothing to worry. You can select the right company by following a few steps mentioned below.

• The web development company might have mentioned about their portfolio on their official website. Try to find out the websites developed by them earlier and assess the quality of the same. Assess the unique features they have provided in each of those websites.

• If you can inquire with any of their existing clients, that will be even better.

• Try to have long discussions with the service provider about your exact requirements and find out how fast they understand your needs. When they can follow you easily, you will not have any communication problems in the future. Proper communication is necessary to get the best outcome.

• Inquire about the technical abilities of the service provider and about the technology and the equipment they use. It will be better to go with those who use the latest technology and sophisticated equipment to have better results.

• Ask them clearly about the technical support they are providing.

• Find out whether they have any pay-back policy. Only those with full confidence on their ability can offer to pay back the entire amount if the client is not satisfied with their work.

• Certainly the price is a criterion, but should not give much importance to that as the best things will always be costly.