A Basic Guide to Designing a New Website

There are currently over 4 billion web pages on the internet. That makes it the largest single market in the world. Given that enormous number, competing in the internet space is not something to take lightly. You must ensure that the right decisions have been taken about your website to convey trust and authoritativeness. These are critical because internet services are non-personal and users make judgements based on what they see and perceive from your website content.

One of the challenges website owners face with their websites is the wrong choices they make at the time of launching their designs. There are some factors that should guide the decisions you make, especially as related to the framework used for your website design. Here are important considerations you should make:

  1. What Design Options Are Available
  2. What does your business need?
  3. Basic Considerations For Design Switch
  4. Final thoughts.

Let's look at these considerations in greater detail:

 

What Design Options Are Available

The starting point is to look at the design options available and supported by your hosting account. If you are a starter, after choosing your domain name and launching your web hosting account, you will be limited to the options your web host can support. But in most cases, these options will be enough to support your project. Here are a few you should explore:

Website templates

Many web hosts will offer this for free. Usually, this is a drag and drop template and the easiest way to start your online project. You can also purchase any available templates from professional template builders. It will cost just a few dollars.

Using these HTML templates will be the easiest way to go especially for newbies. You will need little or no experience to configure the templates and all that may be required is to edit your chosen template and customize it for your website.

Templates are usually safe and more secure. There will be no issue of exploitation, SQL injections or some plugin vulnerability which are usually an issue with database driven content management systems. We will look at content management systems in the following section.

HTML template-based websites come with some additional benefits:

They are fast. That makes them loved by Google and website users who increasingly want to spend less time seeking information.

Easy maintenance -  They have little or no maintenance costs, no updates may be necessary and no security issues have been known with these templates as they are plain text templates that do not run applications. Occasionally, you could find the need to correct some typos and add some new content to the existing. Template itself will hardly undergo upgrades in years.

When Should You Use an HTML Template

An HTML template will serve you in many ways and can be deployed for various purposes. But primarily, they will be suitable if the website will not require regular updates like you will have with a blog, news website and similar situations. You will find the plain HTML template useful if you have little knowledge on working with codes and you do not have an IT professional available to help.

In this regard, there is really no need for a company to run a complex website if it only wants to showcase its services and does not need to update regularly. We have had clients who simply will not add anything new to their websites in five years after initial design is completed. Such companies do not need to go for complex designs and simple, quality templates should be good enough for their purposes.

The Trouble With HTML Templates

The downside of these simple templates is that they are really difficult to optimize. You will need to perform search engine optimization for each page and that can take a long time to achieve. Customization can also be time consuming. For similar reasons mentioned earlier, customizing templates takes some long hours because it has to be done on every page. It is also not suitable to run large websites like major news websites that get updated hourly, take comments. and interact with users.

 

Content Management Systems (CMS)

Content Management Systems (CMS) allow you to implement the simplest tasks to the most complex tasks. The beauty of CMSs is that they can be transformed for different functionalities. You can create different sections including blogs, community, real estate, hotel reservation, social network and so on. The power of CMS s appears to be limitless and anything you can conceive could be possible to achieve with a CMS.

But they have some limitations. They require regular updates, require some training to understand and use, they can be exploited if a bug is found and they use a lot of third party applications that require close monitoring.

Popular Content Management Systems

WordPress

Joomla

Drupal

Magento

And hundreds of others.

What You Can Do With a CMS

You can do practically anything with a CMS. In fact, one of its advantages is that it can be transformed to achieve any task be it hotel reservation, social networking, automatic payment systems, e-shop, and so on.

The Good Side of CMS

Most CMS are dynamic and allow for easy website management.You can add fresh content with ease which supports your SEO goals, you can run updates with just a single click, you can transform your website with new functionalities by installing applicable extensions, plugins or modules. One great advantage of a CMS is that they are optimized for search engines out of the box. In most cases, they meet about 95 percent of the search engine optimization expectations of Google so they can perform very well in Google search. This does not necessarily imply that static pages do not perform well in search but the point is that static pages will need a lot of optimization while CMSs are already optimized out of the box.

 

The Problem With CMSs

The major problem with a content management system is that they can have security setbacks. Most popular CMS are open source so their codes and not completely hidden, smart hackers can therefore exploit any vulnerability that exists in their coding.

CMSs require regular updates to their latest version to guarantee their security. This update can sometimes be technical and complicated for users that are not so experienced in performing such tasks. For example, migrating a Joomla 2.5 website to version 3.0 was a difficult task and in many cases broke the websites causing a White Screen of Death (WSOD). If you are inexperienced in performing such tasks, you could run into problems with your website and jeopardize its search engine performance.

Further reading:

Before You Install a WordPress Plugin, Ask These Questions

 

What is the Purpose of the Website

Your purpose should define the design technique you should deploy. As mentioned earlier, if your intention is just to showcase the services you offer and add some images and do not need to update your website regularly, then you should avoid using complicated software that undergo core updates which you may not be well equipped to handle except you have the technical competence to take care of that.

The basic considerations here are the activities to which the website will be deployed. If you intend to perform some complex tasks like hotel reservation or airline booking, then you should be concerned about maintaining your database and keeping up with security updates for your software.

On the other hand, if your intention is simply to present your company profile and the services you offer in plain text combined with some images, your needs will be significantly different from a business that wants to sell something and wants to maintain the records of sales, deliveries and revenue generated.

So the framework you choose should be influenced by your purpose.

 

How will the website be managed and maintained

Maintenance decisions are critical for every website project. First, it affects your online success and can help you put up some new information about your business. But quite frankly, not every business actively maintains their websites. So, depending on the technical requirements for maintenance and management of your website, you should be properly guided on the design options you choose. Here are our suggestions.

Maintain an In-House IT Staff

You can choose to keep an IT staff to handle your website maintenance. The advantage of this is that they will be engaged in other productive aspects of your business and can help with other technical areas beyond website management. The disadvantage is that the cost of running an IT department could be higher than the cost of outsourcing technical assistance for your website which makes the idea uneconomical.

Contracting Website Management to An Agency

You could also choose to contract the management of your website to some external agency. The advantage here is the agency will be well experienced in managing our software and avoid any breakdown of website functionality during updates. Specialty organizations are unlikely to break your website. On the other hand, you will be giving out vital login details of your websites to a third party which increases the risk of a security compromise.

Recommendations

You will need to evaluate what is best based on your budget and peculiar needs and circumstances. There may really be no economic sense in maintaining an in-house staff just to update a website with photos and minor announcements which can be better handled by an external agency which will charge less. Besides, a two hour training can get you to understand how to handle these aspects of your website.

So, you need to be guided by the security implications and the economic sense to choose which options are best for you.

Generally, if you are able to manage your website yourself and familiar with content management systems, it may be worthwhile going with one. However, for a small business, we recommend a static website which can be better managed with less risk of security breaches.

 

Basic Considerations For Design Switch

Switching or redesigning your website could sound like an easy task, but it is not so simplistic. There are some considerations you need to take into account before you decide on how to go about switching or redesigning your website. Here are some key takeaways:

Core software: First, you will need to consider the software upon which your website has been built. Be it WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Contao or any other tool, you need to consider the procedure that can work for your redesign intentions and purposes.

You will have to choose between a complete redesign or implementing a new template on your existing design. If you choose to implement a completely new design, you do not need to break existing websites and create tons of 404 errors which will negatively hurt your website. We suggest that you retain your current website and use the .htaccess file to launch your new website.

Template Framework. Most websites are built on frameworks developed by various template builders. These frameworks make it easy for people to launch new websites and some of them have drag and drop features. But the key thing here is that it is usually impossible to implement third party templates on such frameworks so you must be very skilled in changing frameworks if you are implementing a new template on an existing design. You may need to check with the template developer for basic instructions on implementing your new template.

Software version: This is an important consideration in implementing any template, extension or plugin on your website. The key takeaway here is plugins are built to be compatible with different software versions so if you use an outdated version of software on your website, you will likely break your site. It is important to check the compatibility of any software you want to implement with the version of your core software upon which your website has been built. For example, you cannot implement a WordPress template built for the 4x series on a WordPress website designed with version 5x. Same way you cannot run a Joomla 3.0 template on the 4.0 version.

 

Final Thoughts

Whether you are building a new website for the first time or redesigning an existing website, you need to consider the purpose for which you intend to put the website, the people it will serve, the management or update requirement and the software to deploy.

These critical decisions will be necessary to help you run smoothly and not face challenges of what to do when there is a need for an upgrade or a redesign. You also need to consider the cost of outsourcing your website management and compare that with the cost of running an in-house IT department or a dedicated webmaster.

Generally, you will have to review how changes and update needs which could be necessary due to security and bug fixes will be managed to guarantee that your website will be safe from exploitation.

Except it is really expedient, we recommend that you run a static page which will be easier to update with minor changes and will not be vulnerable to exploitation such as SQL injections and software vulnerabilities. If you must run a complex application like WordPress, take time to review the challenges including the need for regular security and feature updates as well as migrations to newer designs which will become necessary over time.

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