As a service provider (ad agency, web developer, designer, etc.), or a business, you may readily agree that any business in the 21st Century has to have a web presence. That’s where things get complicated and confusing fast!
The lifeblood of any online business, or presence even, is traffic, the number of people or eyeballs that go to your site. The way these eyeballs can find a site, unless they’re reading the URL off of an ad, business card, coupon or hearing it in a commercial, is through a search. Therefore, for a website to be truly enabled to function on the internet for any commercial purposes, large or small, it has to be Search-Engine Optimized.
Anyone can be a web designer. Particularly nowadays with all of the user-friendly web authoring tools and technologies, determining how a site looks is not as difficult as it may have seemed before. But that may not produce a product that really works hard for the business it represents. In contrast, a web developer provides a product or a suite of solutions that enables a business to truly use the internet for all that is available.
This age of the internet has drawn together people from wildly different poles, coders and designers. Coders, to pick just one word, represents people who started with software languages and learned how to use those to build solutions. Designers, to pick just one other word, represents people who focused their attention on how visual elements communicate concepts and emotions, both subtle and overt.
Web design has mashed these two groups together in a confusing huddle that is still trying to sort itself out. A handful of developments have made things much more efficient and worthwhile.
It’s useful to know or remember that even the geekiest Coder very quickly opted to use Copy and Paste as they built websites and other interfaces. Instead of doing everything from scratch, re-purposing vital elements of web pages and websites made complete sense. The real prize lay in the final results and being able to go to lunch. Copy and Paste is available to anyone.
Likewise, Designers, like custom tailors, learned that if you can’t make something unique, or make something serve your (or your client’s) purposes, then there wasn’t much point in it. Also, uniqueness is great, but if it’s hidden in the forest, under a haystack, or some other metaphor, and no one can find it, that too is pointless.
Which brings us to the first of the handful of developments to make things much more efficient and worthwhile in web development and design: XHTML/CSS.
XHTML/CSS has capitalized on the idea of collecting all of the data that tells web pages how they’re supposed to look and storing it in one document and has revolutionized web design by making it so much easier and more logical.
The next development is scripting languages (PHP, JSP, ASP) designed to make dynamic web sites. A dynamic website is a website that doesn’t really exist on a server as a set number of pages, such as a static site does. Instead, a dynamic website, using a scripting language, calls up chunks of web pages (templates) and creates a page on the fly, in nanoseconds, containing and displaying the data that the user, the person browsing the site, requested to see or read by clicking a button or visiting the site in the first place.
Blog publishing applications and Content Management Systems are another of these developments. There’s some confusion about blog software and CMS and indeed, a fair amount of overlap and blurring. The simple distinction is that blog software allows a website to publish posts or blogs and a CMS allows a website to manage communities of people participating in one subject matter or many. Blogs serve information out to many, CMS sites serve many types of information out to many.
Which brings me to WordPress. WordPress is many things (wordpress.com, wordpress.org and wordpress-mu), but for now it’s a very powerful blog publishing application or software that allows a web developer, either a Coder or a Designer, to generate a website instantly. This instantly generated website provides the client the 100% complete ability to edit it, depending on whether they want to just publish pages of information or time-relevant posts of news and views or actually “open the hood and look inside.”
The Designer, thanks to the wonders of XHTML/CSS, can make this same instantly generated site look unique and branded according to the client’s needs; the Coder can too, but my guess is that the Designer would do a better job. With some nominal learning about the rest of what WordPress offers, this Designer or the Coder can expand the functionality of this instantly generated dynamic WordPress website to truly be a powerful ecommerce presence.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, at this years WordCamp SF said that WordPress provides 80%-90% of the Search-Engine Optimization a website needs to compete on the internet.
So, if you’re doing web development, I strongly recommend that rather than worrying about re-inventing the wheel either through web-authoring tools such as Dreamweaver, to create static websites, why not use an incredibly stable, powerful, scalable and tested platform such as WordPress to provide the engine of your next website and use XHTML/CSS to make it unique.
Of you can crank up your favorite web-authoring tool and build each page your client needs, for them, and hope for the best.