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Why your business should make the most of the world wide web

Answers to questions we've been asked about web design and the wider web and internet - shared with you to help you get the most from your website

How do we measure web design success? What reporting is available for websites?

If you own a shop, you're aware of trends - maybe Friday evening is always busy in a fish & chip shop, as is Saturday lunchtime. You know how much you took on any given day, and how many fish you got through, but beyond that, the details of your success elude you. How many people looked at the menu on the pavement then walked away? How many people came in your shop but didn't buy? And for what reason? Which were your busiest tables? Who tried to find a seat but couldn't and went to the chippy up the road? How long did it take people to finish their fish supper and leave?

With the web and the web-tools we have available now you can find out all of that! Who came to your site, where they live, what time they visited, how long they spent on your site, which links they clicked on, how many pages they looked at, whether or not they bought anything, if they watched your video or downloaded your guide, if they read your opening spiel on your homepage and decided that your site wasn't for them.

The same applies for your campaigns. You can get any number of metrics to determine whether or not your promotion was a success, which parts of it were well received and which bits you can improve in order to make your campaign a resounding success next time.

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.

How do we go about building a website, and what web design is involved?

The process that ends up with a successful, beautifully designed, fully functional, well marketed and promoted usually begins with a great idea. Whether this idea is a product or service, or something to plug a gap in the market, a way of making money or something that entertains people - this idea is the key to making your project a success. You need to have a realistic expectation of what success looks like and a plan of how you're going to get there. You could have the best website in the world, and if your idea is a duffer, it's going to flop.

Once you have this idea and plan, an idea of how you're going to measure success, backed up with a good bit of market research you can think about how you're going to push your idea online. (The internet has become that significant that to not have a website in this day and age is not an option!). That's when Maddison Creative web design Newcastle comes in. We can help you with expert industry knowledge of what works and what doesn't. What can be achieved, and how we can achieve it. What you're going to need, how long it will take and how much it's all going to cost. We will generally then come up with a site structure, with a number of levels, and a flat design/visual/creative. Once these two key elements have been agreed then we set to work putting the two together and voila! You have a website. The hard work doesn't stop there though. Many people think that you build a website, and you can then sit back and watch it work its magic year after year. Unfortunately it's not like that - a website (and its search engine performance) are a living, breathing animal. You have to tend to it, update it, improve it, add to it and love it, otherwise it won't perform to it's maximum and you won't get most from it.

From a practical point of view, you need a domain (an address for your website so people can find it), you need a hosting company to provide you with space on one of their servers (a computer that you can access via the internet) and you need the files you create, nicely arranged into folders. Once you have all these, you attach your domain name to your server, and software that allows you to FTP (File transfer protocol) or upload your files onto your server. Once they're up there then the world can see your site and you're off!

Maddison Creative web design Newcastle can arrange all of this for you - we have great relationships with a number of hosting companies, and we use the latest FTP software, so it's not something you need to worry you - it's included in all new website packages. If you have an existing website and you like to keep the domain name and/or hosting provider, that's not a problem either, we can simply use your existing setup to upload the new site to.

What about good web design and Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization, or SEO is the process whereby you make your site as finely tuned as possible in order to ensure that Search Engines such as Google and Bing consider your website worthy enough to show ahead of all the competition.

This involves writing the content in such a way that it relates to the words (keywords) your potential customers will be searching to find whatever it is you're doing/selling/saying. It also entails making sure that all the key elements of what makes up a good website are there and put together properly. Titles, images, framework of your site, links - they all have to be right.

This also includes things you can't see - the invisible tags that sit behind your webpage, but that do an important job nonetheless. A good web designer will do all of this as a matter of course, but there's always room for improvement, especially as time marches on, and best-practice and guidelines change and what used to be the done thing is now frowned upon.

Is it possible to work remotely with Maddison Creative web design Newcastle?

So you're based in Manchester - wouldn't it be better to recruit a Manchester based web designer to build your new website rather than Maddison Creative web design Newcastle?

Because of the nature of the web, of web design and the technologies we have at our disposal nowadays there really is no necessity to physically restrict yourself to people and businesses that happen to be based around you any longer. You can choose a company based anywhere in the world and it won't be any more difficult to work with them than it would be the company next door.

150 years ago in the California gold rush, people flocked to the rivers of the Sierra Nevada in order to make their fortunes. So many people relocated in fact that it was said that it wasn't the gold prospectors who made fortunes, it was the hoteliers, and the bars and the stores selling picks and shovels and bedding that cleaned up, because of the massive influx of people. Nowadays, the 'gold rush' would more than likely be a digital one (think of the dot com bubble in the early 2000s), and those hoteliers and traders would go without because the 'prospectors' would search for 'gold' from the comfort of their own homes and offices.

If we were building a website for someone it's not uncommon to have a teleconference over the internet in the morning with three people hundreds or even thousands of miles apart, once we're all happy, we all switch off and get to work at our desks, by the end of the day some progress has been made, we jump on to a product design program like InVision where we can share screens and attach comments to a visual, we'll continue to instant message each other via Skype, have another Webex call over the net the following morning, the website will then be built, sanity checked by sharing it around our closed group on Slack, user tested via What Users Do and launched and despite being in constant contact throughout the entire process, the first time any of us meet is at the launch party!

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