I’ve never liked to use the term “web site designer” in reference to what I do. Yes, I “design” web sites, but the word design seems to suggest, to many people, strictly “visual design.” I tend to prefer developer, because effective web site development must encompass much more than merely designing a “pretty” or “good looking” site.
Web sites need to contain good content. It doesn’t matter how many people “ooh” and “aah” over how pretty your site is. If visitors don’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll go elsewhere.
Web sites need to be functional and usable. If your site contains exactly what your visitors are looking for, but they can’t find it because of a random, incomplete, or incoherent navigational structure, they’ll go elsewhere. If visitors find what they’re looking for, but when they fill out your contact form and hit “submit” they get an incomprehensible error message, they’ll go elsewhere.
Web sites need to be spiderable by search engine spiders, so that they can be found. If your site is extremely functional and usable, and contains great content, but your potential clients/customers can’t find you when they search for your product or service, they’ll go elsewhere.
Each of these factors can — and do — have entire books written about them. And there’s much more. In this brief post I’ve barely touched on the essential components of an effective web site. The web site owner shouldn’t need to become an expert in all of these things. But the web site developer should absolutely have more than a passing familiarity with all of the aspects of effective web site development, or should work with people who do.
Every day I see web sites developed by so-called “professionals,” for paying clients, that don’t even come close. I see sites in which every single page is a giant sliced-up graphic exported in toto out of Photoshop. I see sites that use Flash for all internal site navigation. I see sites that use frames and iframes for all or most of the site’s primary content. I see sites that have the same title and description for every single page. I see sites that return a “200 OK” header instead of a “404 Not Found” for non-existent pages. I see sites with plenty of pretty pages but virtually no content. Sometimes I see all of these things in a single site!
Attention, web site owners, and those in need of web sites: Tropical Web Works is not the only web site development firm that can develop an effective, functional site for your business. But please bear these points in mind and ensure that whoever you do hire understands these basic concepts.