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July 2012 - Temp3.net Web DesignTemp3.net Web Design

Temp3.net Web Design

Website design, SEO and Marketing FREE Tips and Techniques

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Know Your Web Browsers

You might think to yourself that a discussion about web browsers has no place in website planning. You are very wrong in many ways. When planning your website or a website for a client you should keep in mind the user experience. After all the work is done, the user is going to use a web browser to visit your website. This is not a discussion or argument in favor of one browser or another. This is just a note about the market to which you are targeting your website. Over the past 4 years, mobile internet has became more popular than expected. We will dived this discussion to 2 separate ones.

 

Desktop and Laptops

Looking at the market share data on the right we can see the Internet Explorer still controllers 52% of the browser market share use. This should come as no surprise, because every new windows pc is shipped with Internet Explorer pre-installed. These figure are decaying, but it is not going to change by much in the near future. When you are planning a website, for yourself or a client, think about the browsers your average user might use. You may conclude that all your users will use Firefox, maybe because your website is about Firefox plugins. A good practice would be to test out the final product on the 4 major browsers, Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari. If it works on all of these, chances are it will work on all.




Mobile Internet

The rise of the mobile internet almost duplicated any work web developer need to do. The data shows that currently (January 2012) Safari controls slightly over 52% of the market, with Opera mini and android trailing behind. This is a complete different ball game than what we saw in desktops and laptops browsers. Also, the screen size and functionality changed significantly with touch screens and smaller screen sizes. You should presume your users will want to access any website from a mobile device or a tablet and accommodate it accordingly. Sometimes that mean redoing the entire site and others just a minor CSS change. Either way, get hold of the main 3 devices or emulators and test out the final project on all browsers and platforms.

Final thought
As a final note on browsers. This might seem like a lot of work, and sometime it is. However, after doing it once or twice without the initial thought, you will learn to keep all this in the back of your head even before you begin to think about development. As is with security, the end user has to be thought about throughout the entire process of building a website. At the end of the day, if you build a website users don't like, it's life will be very short lived.

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Domain Name & Hosting

Getting your own domain name

Why should you get your own domain name? Because it will allow you to grow farther than anything else. Having your own domain name will give you control over the content showed on your website. For example, if you choose to build a WordPress blog using WordPress free services, you won't be able to put any ad units on it. That means if you are thinking of getting any revenue from your website via ads, choosing WordPress is a bad choice.

 

Choosing the right domain name

There are many good tips a guides for choosing the right domain name that will come up with and google search. You want to keep in mind the domain name you chose will be one you will have to stick with. Why? Because it some time to get traffic to a website and you don't want to do a lot of hard work and then switch the domain name. These are a few rules I feel are good to stick with:

  • Keep it short and simple
  • Try to stick to ".com" or ".net"
  • Easy to type
  • Grammatically correct

If you need more help with this you can try How to choose a domain name and 12 Rules for choosing the right domain name. Brainstorm on your ideas for a while. Do not settle on something just because it is taking you a long time. If you find noting is going your way, walk away and think some more later. This might be one of the most important decisions you make after you have decided to build a website.

 

Choosing a hosting company

For the last thing, you should choose your hosting company wisely. Unless you plan your website content to engage in any adult or prohibited materials, any of the big names should do. Personally, I would avoid GoDaddy.com. Why? I have my reason that are mainly political and irrelevant for this discussion. I would highly recommend bluehost and hostgator for hosting and buying a domain. When we start doing some practical stuff I will use either one of these for demonstrations and screen shots.

 

So what should you look for? Well, the main thing I look at is:

  • Disk Storage size
  • Domain Hosting
  • Web mail addresses and email forwarding
  • FTP access
  • SSH access (optional)
  • MySQL and php 5 support
  • javascript support
  • Built in feture (such as wordpress, Drupal, Tikiwiki, e-commerce features etc...)

This list widely depends on what you need from your web hosting provider. We will go into more detail as we go along this guide. In general, it doesn't really matter at this point and you can always switch providers. We will go over all this later on again and again.

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3 Ways to Start a Website

Pay someone else

This is probably the most expensive out-of-pocket route, but it is there if you wish to take it. There are many people, like me and others, that will be glad to do the work for you. The difference you have know some knowledge about website building. Now when you go hire someone you can ask relevant question and be sure you aren't be scammed. Know this, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Try to hold yourself from being cheap and getting some programmer you found online that will build you a website for $20. While it might be true, it probably won't end quite the way you want it to. My advice is either to find someone local or at least someone who is available to Skype with or talk over the phone. I have heard some horror stories in this department that I don't really care to repeat. If money is an issue, consider hiring a young high school or better yet a college student. Having someone with little experience is not as bad as you might think.

 

Do it yourself

This might be the most time consuming, but it is the most rewarding. If you do decide to it yourself, make sure you have the time, are a fast learner and are generally above average on a computer. Just because you know how to logging in to Facebook and check emails on Gmail doesn't mean you are ready to take the construction of your website on yourself. Fear not, there is a lot of help available to you online, but it is a changeling task. Many people chose this option just to find out they don't have all the tools they need and give up half way through. You have to be committed, have a plan and stick to it. This is the route I chose to take and in the following stages I will go into every detail I can about what I did and what I am doing as I go along.

 

Using a Framework

Frameworks are not new by any means. The first frame work is dated back to 1993 named Common Gateway Interface or CGI for short. We have come a long way since then and Frameworks have become very powerful. Some of the popular ones include but aren't limited to Drupal, Joomla, Rails, Yii Framework and etc. There are also tools like wikis and blogging platforms that for the sake of argument we will consider Framework. So what does all that mean? A Framework takes away all the overhead of building a website and give you some tools that can make your life a lot easier. Should you do it? It depends, if you are considering it you probably have some basic web skills and can figure it out by yourself. Most of these Frameworks are very well commented and well supported by large communities. In the mean time I will wish you good luck with these.

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Basic terms to know before you start a website

Weather you decide to build a website yourself or if you hire someone else to do it for you, there are several of terms you might want to know. These will help you communicate with someone in case you do outsource the construction of your website. They will also help enrich your knowledge in case you do decide to do the work yourself.

 

Domain Name

A domain name is the web address of your website. It is a string that appears in your web browser address bar and that your visitors may enter to get to your website. For example, this website home page address is www.temp3.net.

 

Web Hosting

This is where your website will be parked. It is a space allocated on a server somewhere storing the files of your website. When a user access your website their computer 'fetches' the files to display your website content.

 

FTP or File Transfer Protocol

FTP is an internet standard for transferring files. It makes uploading and updating your website very easy. This is something you should check that your hosting service provides. We will look more in to this when we consider making a decision about hosting services.

 

SEO or Search Engine Optimization

SEO has been the biggest thing of recent years. It refers to having your website setup so it is found by search engines. The following is what Wikipeida has to say about SEO:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search,[1] news search and industry-specific vertical search engines.

 

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Planning a website

So you understand the basics of your needs, you have your targets identified and have a general grasp of what an anatomy of a website is. Where do you go from here? Well, you need to plan the "tree" layout of your website. Before I present my work for Temp3.net, lets run a little exercise together.

 

The objective

For the sake of this exercise, lets say we have a flower shop. After much thought we decided we want to build a website and we came up with the following goals:

  • The website needs to contain our phone number for customers to call
  • The website needs to have pictures of flower settings for customer to see what they are getting
  • The website needs to contain some background information about us (such as how long we have been in business)
  • The website needs to generate at least 1 call per day in the first 60 days of the website.

 

Analyze

So we start off with these goals in mind, but how is do we go from this to a website? You start from a home page. After that we need to decide how many children, that is how many pages are linked from the home page. We need at least one page for the pictures, one for background (or about us page) and one for contact information and maybe even our physical address. This means that so far our website will look something like this:

wpid-webite-planning-example-1_1-2012-07-19-12-131.png

Growth

Having your website planned in a tree like structure has many advantages. For instance, let us assume that the first 30 days have past since the lunch of our website and we have got 3 orders a day at least directly from a website. This is great, but now we want to add some more information. Lets say we want to add also a page about flowers for special occasions and we also want to add a page to show off what our customer think about us. This enlarges our tree and now we have more than one option of what we can do. The result:

wpid-website-planning-exampe-2_1-2012-07-19-12-131.png

or maybe

wpid-website-example-example-3_1-2012-07-19-12-131.png

Which ever way you go, try to make it simple, yet informative and intuitive. Think about yourself as a customer. If you are looking for a flower shop for you wedding, which website layout is better? The one where you first go to flower settings and than to flowers for special occasions or when it is linked from the home page? I would say the second one is probably preferred in this case, but that is not always the case.

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Prepare to start a website

Before you start

Before you chose any of the three paths I mentioned on the previous page, there are some preparations you need to do before you get to the actual building of your website. I will use some of my experience on this website, Temp3.net as an example, but the same applies to any website. Let's name this step the prepare stage. This is where you will sit down and brainstorm everything you want your website to do and everything you want to accomplish with it. My personal recommendation is that you do this step with a pen and pencil or a whiteboard. This is not a must, but I found these two as great tools for brain storming.

 

Understand the target

Perhaps this is one of the most vital piece of information to get early on. You have to have a goal in mind. It doesn't have to be much. It can be as simple as I want my photos to be online to share with my family, or I want a blog to help me quit smoking. It can also be as complex as I need to generate more orders for my flower shop. Whatever the reason might be, you need to have this in mind and write it down. Having a main goal from the start will help you along the process to have a successful website. Also, understanding your market target will help you gear your website to the appropriate market. Many websites fail simply just because they are geared toward the wrong market share. We will come back to this later on when I cover the design of a website.

 

The anatomy of a website

This is a complex issue and might require more than just a paragraph or two, but I will try. In a nutshell, a website is a collection of html documented linked together via links. Your website will start with a home page, this is a landing page and the frontier of your website. From the home page your visitors will be guided to other pages and perhaps also subpages and subpages on. This is a tree like structure, from the root (the home page) to the direct pages liked from it and so own. The next page will describe how to plan a website before you even start thinking of any technical aspects.

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Questions to ask before you start a website

Before we begin talking about a website you might need to step back and evaluate these two questions in your mind. Everyone is different and you might find yourself with these question in mind.

 

Do I need my own website? 

There are many reasons you might find yourself in need for a website. Maybe you are a business owner, or maybe you are looking for a job and are wanting to get yourself noticed. Perhaps you are taking a class, or maybe you are just want your own place on the World Wide Web. Whatever the reason might be having your own website in our day and age is pretty much a must and a given for any of us. Having your own website will get you noticed and generate awareness for whatever you are trying to promote.

 

Where do I start?

So you have rightfully decided you want your own website, but where do you start? Well, there are about three different routes you might take. Keep in mind, these are not the only options, but are suggestion I find are easy to follow. The first is to get someone else to do it for you. This is the easiest route to take, but is not the best route. This is also more than likely the most expensive one. Even if you do decide to hire someone else to do it for you, I urge you to keep reading the next few page. It might save you more than a couple of bucks in the long run. The next option is the other extremest, do it yourself from scratch. This option is good, but is time consuming, and as we know time is money. It may also requires you to learn some new skills. And then there is the third option which is the intermediate between them. The option is to use a framework to help build your site. A good example for this is WordPress. This will take away some of the technical issues and leave you to work on content, which is the main reason you have a website in the first place.

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SEO Truths

Let’s have an open talk about SEO and SEM. Both these terms are used so frequently these days, but many are still confused on what they actually mean. Please note that I am by no means an expert on web marketing. All the information to follow are evidence I have collected over the past 2 years and the conclusions I have made are completely biased. That being said if you wish to correct me I am more than open to suggestion and comments. If I am wrong about anything and you can prove it, please do. I will update this post immediately if I am wrong.

So, what is SEO? What is SEM? Lucky for me that’s about the only thing everyone can agree on. SEO stands for search engine optimization and SEM stands for Search engine marketing. Great, now what? Well, now its fuzzy. Most of the research I have conducted was about SEO, I know less about SEM at the time I am writing this. Rest assure I will not leave it out. However, I am going to start by addressing SEO.

SEO is the method that become popular in optimizing a web page or an entire site to be more search engine friendly. There are a number of big search engines, but the most popular of them is google. Now matter how much time and money you spend, if google doesn’t like you, the effort is futile. Although google tries to help with there SEO guideline, not much is really known about the search algorithms of google. If anyone claims differently they are lying to you and want your money. I will get back to Google’s guideline in a bit, but I want it to be absolutely clear. No one knows the inner works of Google’s search algorithm. We have some ideas about it, but there is no secret method that has been found by a guru. Save your money, weather it’s a free e-book or a thousand dollar seminar. They all come done to a few points that everyone agrees on and a lot that is up to debate.

Let’s go back to Google’s SEO guideline. I do urge you to read through it and take from it what you need. Check out Google’s SEO guideline summary. The tips coming from google are those everyone agrees on, and in theory are all you need, but the Internet is doesn’t work in theory mode. In reality, the SEO guideline is meant for webmaster. For individuals that have been creating web pages professionally. All the guides, secrets, e-books, seminars or what ever others are trying to sell you is elaboration on Google’s guide. So what you really pay for is for someone to explain you things you can find out for free.

If you read carefully every blog about SEO or book or the guideline it comes done to a few points that will probabbly help your SEO ranking:

  • Write content, describe everything and don’t be ambiguous.
  • Be real and non automated. The internet is for humans, not robots.
  • Do not force visitors to your site, allow them to come naturally.
  • Be patient

Now of course there are many more points you will need to consider, but these are what it comes down to. I will continue to follow this post with supporting posts describing how and what you can do to improve your SEO. The main point I am trying to get you to acknowledge is that all the evidence are that SEO, is something that is comply in your control and is free. You don’t need to spend money and give your hard earned cash to anyone and there is no “Rank #1 in google tomorrow” way.

If you do choose to be patient, over the next couple of weeks I will have all the guides up that will take you from A-Z on website optimization, SEO, SEM or whatever you want to call it. If you can’t wait and have to spend $$$ for that one pice of software that claims will make you climb to the top of the charts overnight, go ahead. I can guaranty you that won’t happen. If it does I will personally give you $1,000 and post on how wrong I am, but that won’t happen.

 

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How the Internet Works

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Most people take the internet for granted, without any insight to how it works or connected. First let's setup some definitions. The Internet and the World Wide Web (www) are often used to refer to the same thing. This is wrong. The internet is not the same as the world wide web. The Internet is a network of networks. The world wide web is a set of hyper linked text document, it's what you see in you web browser when you open a page that links to another page.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an organization that keeps some order in all the chaos that might happen online if we didn't have some common census. Think of W3C as the manual of the internet, where you can find definitions and explanations for almost any term you will learn in any paid or free design course. Take some time to visit the website are read the documentation, get a feel for what you need to know.

The high level picture of the internet is the world wide web, it is what you see in your browser every day. Behind this text and every other text there are many parts at work getting you the information you request. At a low level, the internet is a (very large) group of servers that are inter connected. This server range anywhere from private ownership to government and education networks. In fact, anyone could put up a server and connect it to the internet from their own home. Every server has a unique address. When you type in a url (http://www.temp3.com) it gets translated to a number address. Something like 127.0.0.1 (localhost). We have name servers that are in charge of only translating these words to numbers. When that number is retrieved, it goes to the server where the page is stored and then sends a packet of information back to the browser. Then your browser receives that a copy of the files and displays it according to the html within them (or php, javascripts, etc...)

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