Christian Web Design & Hosting

Believe me, I come across a lot of clients who have come to me after having been through many web designers and developers and are totally disillusioned with my industry. It’s not an easy place to be after having been let down, cheated, ripped off, or manipulated. Often they sit in my office and look at me through skeptical eyes and understandably so! Most have spent thousands of dollars already in web development with not much to show for it or with a website that is not what they wanted.

It is unfortunate that this happens but as in any industry, there are people who promote honest and dishonest practices. Based on the information that I have gathered from clients and talking to other professionals within my field, there could be three major causes to having a bad or negative experience with your web designer or developer.

1. Personalities just do not blend.

It’s very important to find a web designer whom your personality best blends with. You will be working with this person for most likely a long time and if you don’t feel you can work with this designer or developer from the initial start, it won’t get better. There will be many decisions and suggestions you’ll need to make on the road ahead so its crucial this relationship is one your comfortable with from the onset.

2. Not understanding the difference between a web designer and web developer.

There are essentially two breeds in the web world and both are very different from each other. The two titles are not interchangeable, really. Speaking in general, the web designer is the creative being that if skilled, can create beautiful designs and concepts for you. Clearly, this is a left brained thinker and would also be the more personable one of the two. Often however, a really good web designer can lack the technical skills to take their design concepts to the coding or development of a website. The web developer on the other hand, can be a highly skilled, technical person and can take a design from start to final phase. However, the right brain developer lacks the creative skills to manifest beautiful designs and concepts. Because each have a weak area, they often contract the other to compensate for other. This is fine but what happens with the overall cost is passed down to the client. It’s important to find a web designer/developer who is well rounded and able to do both equally well. You’ll save time and money in the long run.

3. Lack of understanding about the Web Design process.

Unless you are a designer or developer, your not going to have a good knowledge of the flow and process it takes to design or develop a website. But at the same time, your web professional should assist you in helping you understand the process by educating you along the way. This is where trusting your web professional is important. You need to be able to trust him or her knowing that they have the best interest for your website. Too often, a lack of understanding causes misunderstandings and opens the door to future problems.

Doing your homework and interviewing several web designers or developers is a must before you employ anyone with your website. You will be investing a good amount of money for a website and its critical to find someone whom you can trust and will be able to work with for the long haul. Having a web professional who is local in proximity is good but if you are able to find someone who meets the three factors listed above, then its perfectly fine to have a web designer or developer from a remote location. Just make sure that he or she is always accessible either by phone or email.

Because the web jargon can be confusing, it is easy for you as the customer to be manipulated. Be cautious and always ask for an explanation that you can understand. I believe the need to find good, honest, ethical web professionals will continue to rise. Christian web design and hosting companies are often sought after because those seeking them already have a preconceived notion in the type of ethics and character of a Christian website designer. Its good to work with others who share in the same belief system as you and that work and service is done at a higher standard.

Most Christian web design companies offer hosting as well as design & development services. It is always a good idea to host your website with your design firm if that is available. This way, the designer can work more efficiently since they are already familiar with their hosting servers. Finding Christian web design & Hosting will be worth the effort!

Designer or Developer? Determining Your Skill Set As a Student

To this day, I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. I went to college with the expectation of graduating with a Computer Science degree, but instead I walked out with a Design degree. If anything, I found that my college career adjustments would be a indication as to how I would eventually fit into the web design field. Even now, I wear many different web hats, but they all fit.

But what about you? What do you want to do? Would you rather be a developer – writing code to solve problems? Or, would you rather be a designer – pushing pixels to solve problems? How do you find out which is more interesting to you? There are a lot of questions you should be asking yourself, but don’t expect anybody to give you the answers. You need to experiment to find out where your strengths lie; and in experimentation, many new things come to light.

Blur or Focus?

First off, what are you more comfortable doing? Again with my example, I started down one path and eventually changed direction, but I made sure a lot of what was learned came along for the ride. If you want to get your hands dirty with both disciplines, I recommend the following right out of the gate:

Join a Small Web Design Team

Being on a small design team forces everybody to wear many hats. To be successful, it’s sometimes required of all involved to adapt in their duties and help each other out. Understanding what your partner is doing and having the ability to step up and work on the same project is important. You work fast and you learn a boatload of information in a small amount of time.

My first job out of college threw me into this environment and I loved every minute of it. Even though I had a design degree, I was expected to help with Flash development, PHP, JavaScript, ColdFusion, HTML/CSS, and even some video compositing from time to time. Small team environments allow you to taste a bit of everything, hopefully finding a new interest in a particular area.

While this scenario allows for gained knowledge on a lot of topics, it also comes with a price: the old “jack of all trades” axiom. Sure it’s great to be able to have a lot of different skills, but you are never truly exceptional at any one of them.

Sure it’s great to be able to have a lot of different skills, but you are never truly exceptional at any one of them.

Join a Large Web Design Team

More often than not, larger teams mean a higher chance of specialization. Here you could have a defined role. You may be able to spend a lot more time in a single discipline, work with others with the same skill set (it’s doubtful that you are the only web designer there), then gain valuable experience and insight.

In either case, you get to try both the developer or designer tracks out. With a small team environment, the structure is mutable, so you can quickly move from the designer role to developer and back again. Be warned that you may not stay on one discipline long enough to get all you can out of it. The learning curve is steep and the skill retention is not very long.

With larger teams, you can more quickly build on your knowledge in one area, but you may not have as many opportunities to try different skills on for size.

Designer and Developer?

A combination of both skills is extremely valuable these days. The “double threat” of a designer who can code a bit or a developer who has an eye for design looks excellent on a resume and is sought after by many a company.

If you are primarily a designer, it would be in your best interest to pick up a web development book or two. Even if you would rather focus on the design discipline, having the vocabulary of a web developer will get you far. It can make the workflow smoother between the designer and developer, and your designs can be better suited to the project since you know a bit of the code’s capabilities. If the site will be in Flash, design for it. If the project will be an HTML/CSS/JS combo, then your designs will reflect this.

I don’t mean to say that you should stifle your designs to meet the code, but keeping in mind how the design will be built will help everybody in the long run. By all means, go nuts with your layout.

Conversely, if you are a developer, speak with a designer from time to time. Learn the lingo, understand the basic concepts of grid, typography, and color. Your CSS will be all the better for it.

This may be a different path to take, but it allows for greater focus in one discipline, while simultaneously integrating knowledge from the other side into your workflow. It can only help you. This isn’t the same as a “jack-of-all-trades” situation. You are primarily a designer or primarily a developer with a small bit of knowledge of the other side – enough to be dangerous. You shouldn’t be claiming to be able to do both at an equal skill level.

Conclusion

Well, up to this point I have been writing in generalities. This was not an accident, and this article wasn’t really meant to tell you what path to choose. The point here is to give you a heads-up on how to approach the choice. If you have a little bit of knowledge in each skill, then you are in a good position to make that next step. If not, here’s your opportunity to learn from others more experienced than you.

If you have already made your decision, good for you! But you may want to think about bringing in some of the other side. Ride the fence a bit. Take a look around and make a smart decision that will benefit all who work with you.

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.