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Websites and the world wide web

A few things we're frequently asked about the world wide web and websites in general to help you get a better understanding of the web.

Websites and the World Wide Web - what are they?

The Web, or World Wide Web (www) is a series of linked (by hyperlinks) documents that can be accessed via the internet.

The web and internet are often confused but are actually two different things - the web is the network of documents that is hosted on the internet, which is a giant network of computers that can communicate with each other. The web as we know it came about in the late eighties, an invention of British physicist Tim Berners-Lee, then an employee of Cern in Switzerland. The first browser was made available to the public a couple of years later, allowing anyone in the world to access 'The Web'.

To access the internet, a user requires a computer, an internet connection and a program known as a browser, which allows your computer to interpret web resources. Viewing a webpage requires the user to type in a 'Domain name' or URL into a browser to go directly to any given site, or navigate to a Search engine. Search engines constantly crawl the web for any document they are able to access and record content from each of those pages, ranking them by how relevant and suitable they are to the user searching, based on what they're searching for. Originally, websites were only able to display information with limited functionality, but as the technology has grown, so has the capability of the web and websites to interact with users and to query any number of data sources, resulting in the web being the necessity in each of our lives it is today.

Could you imagine going a day without checking your social media accounts, making a purchase from one of the millions and millions of online shopping sites, or managing your daily admin via an email account or online banking? I certainly couldn't!

How have web technologies evolved with time?

The web is built on several technologies working together to produce the dynamic resource it has become. But what are these, and how did they come about?

The basic building block of the web is a markup language called HTML. This enables content to be presented to the user in a particular way using 'tags'. Without it the web simply couldn't function. HTML was introduced as an experimental technology in 1992, allowing web designers to build a page using text, images and a basic framework to share information to users browsing remotely from their computer.

Mosaic was the first browser to be released, and despite it being launched eons ago in web technology terms, it is still recognizable to a user of a web browser today. Opera and Internet Explorer soon followed, as did HTML2, an evolution of HTML. In a relatively short space of time HTML3 and HTML4 were introduced, and included significant input from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in order to ensure that competing interests from involved parties wouldn't compromise the technology.

HTML4 would become recognized as THE version of HTML for the next ten years because of this, the '4' was invariably dropped in favour of just 'HTML'.

Meanwhile, Javascript, Java and Flash were developed and launched to allow greater complexity in the design, animation, interactivity and functionality of websites. CSS was then introduced to separate the content of a webpage and its styling. Several other browsers followed, including Safari, Firefox and Chrome, and small updates were made in the guise of XML in the following 10 years but it wasn't until 2008 and the introduction of HTML5/CSS3 that HTML made a serious leap forward. HTML5 gave the designer and the user even more scope for dynamic, interactive client side content, running natively in the browser, Flash having been long since phased out due to its reliance on a third-party plugin.

Maddison Creative web design Newcastle were founded in 2009

Today, the main driver of technology change is the increasing number of devices that browsers use to access websites - mobile phones, tablets, touchscreen devices - all dictate how websites are built, replacing the once ubiquitous desktop browser.

Why should my business worry about having a website?

There is an ever increasing reliance on websites globally, especially in the UK where over 87% of adults use the internet. Around 99% of adults aged between the ages of 16 and 24 are online, and as they get older, this internet savvy audience will replace the current crop of more traditionally internet-cautious middle-aged and elderly people who can find the technology confusing, having been brought up prior to its existence.

People now turn to the internet before exploring any other channel for a wide range of needs, including shopping, leisure activities, watching live streamed media, participation in online communities information gathering and gaming. Largely because of its convenience, availability, cost, versatility and adaptability.

You cannot get this kind of global exposure with any other kind of media. And if you're looking to target people in your area and surrounding areas (any area in fact!) you can target them using tailored advertising campaigns. If you marry this with Google's (other search engines are available) search algorithms, you can ensuring that only people who are interested in what you have to say/sell visit your site, so you don't waste their time, and they don't waste yours. And with great interactive design and functionality, once they're there, you can ensure they keep coming back!

What are the benefits of advertising my business dynamically online via a website?

One of the great features of promoting your business via the web is that you can add to your site almost instantaneously. You could think of an idea for a promotion one lunchtime and but close of business it can be live, with little or no lead time and no costly printing to contend with.

Unlike printed media and traditional advertising methods, if you publish your website and you decide that your offer is no longer available, your prices need to change or you want to change your messaging, you can do it quickly, easily, and more importantly very cost effectively 'on-the-fly', allowing you to be as reactive and as responsive to market forces as you wish.

Similarly, if you have something time-sensitive you wish to communicate to your customer base, you can add it to your site where it can be made live immediately, and once it's no longer needed it can be taken down just as quickly.

You no longer need to scrap boxes and boxes of flyers, or have expensive TV or radio commercials remade. You simply contact your web manager/designer, let them know what the update is, and they will update hassle free. Should you have opted for a CMS (Content management system) website where you have the ability to update the content yourself, then it's even easier! You simply log in to the admin area, navigate to the page in question, edit your text, hit save and you're done!

What's the market like for eCommerce and good web design?

The eCommerce sector in the UK is huge and steadily growing. UK online sales increased by an estimated 15% last year. 77% of people who went online made a purchase, with an average order value of around £78.

Around a third of e-commerce traffic in the UK is on a handheld device. In terms of mobile traffic distribution, a third is on tablets while the remaining two thirds is on a smartphone, which is a result of the increase in size of the screens on mobile phones.

Investments in digital advertising are also on the rise. Last year they represented almost exactly half of the total advertising spend in the UK, and this is expected to climb another 10% by 2020. Given the growth of e-commerce in the UK, it is normal that more and more advertisers are choosing to dedicate a more significant part of their advertising spend to online channels.

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