Web Multimedia Blog

Multimedia Web Design Advice, Photography, Video, music, Mobile Websites, and Company News.

How to make a website - Step 1

joel reinke - Monday, January 24, 2011

Web Design Step 1: Planning Stage

Intended Audience: Anyone looking for advice on setting up a website, with basic internet skills

This is a very broad topic, but I will focus on helping you get things ready to build a successful website from the ground up.  This blog post will be about the planning stage, future posts will continue to the next steps.

Requirements: For this post to be of value, I will focus on writing to people with a basic internet skill set.  No super technical skills are required, but you should have familiarity with using email, uploading picture files to the web, using facebook or other social networks (not absolutely required), and using a digital camera device of any sort (cellphone camera, point and shoot, or anything that takes pictures) (taking photos will be in a later step)



We'll start with a checklist of logical items to get you from idea to online:

  1. Come up with a web address and some alternatives in case it is taken
  2. Sketch out a very rough sketch of what you want your home page to look like
  3. Maybe the rest of your pages are layed out like your home page or maybe they have a different design, if different, sketch this out too
  4. Do you already have a logo or a "text-logo"? If so, get the graphic file accessible and ready to use.  If not, design one or hire someone to design one
  5. Decide on which pages you want to have on your web site. Examples: Home Page, Blog, About Us, Products, Services, etc. Do you want an online store? Do you want to start your own Social Network? etc...
  6. Build a team of people in your company, organization, group, or hire a team, for dealing with the many parts of keeping your website updated
  7. Decide on what important images you want on your website.  Will you photograph these things or hire out? Do you have a style you want to go for? 
  8. Also, if you want video clips, animation, audio, or other media: Define what you want 
  9. Start thinking about how people will find you on the internet. What search phrases would you want to come up for?
  10. Define a budget for the project.

That's enough for now. Let's focus on these 10 items to planning a successful web design. (If this sounds too complicated to manage, Contact Us to hire us for this planning stage)

1. Web Address

Wouldn't it be nice if your company name + .com was always available?  Unfortunitely, many good web addresses have been parked on or sat on because of the low cost to set these up and potential high selling cost.  If you can get your name.com, that would be the best, otherwise: time to get creative.  Try to stick to .com and play around with different options for phrasing the shortest permutation of your name or an industry category representation of what you do. Real Important Advice: If you find your name is available, don't wait and come back to it later.  Buy it now! I found a good name once, took a break, came back, and someone parked on it!  So sad. Once you start shopping, be ready to buy. Cause the internet is smart enough to figure out what people are looking for, especially for web addresses.  Some nice web sites to buy domains at are www.bluehost.com and www.godaddy.com - It's usually about $10 per year for each web address (though this could change at any time)

One other Search Engine Optimization aware type tip: You should probably buy your company name + .com if available, but also consider this: if you know your keywords or search phrase you should probably buy a domain name made up of the keywords or phrase separated by hyphens. Like: www.seattle-mice-experts.com if that's what you do. Your search results LONG RUN will thank you for it!

2. Sketch Homepage

You don't have to have any artistic skill to do this! You'll mainly be drawing boxes and labeling them.  Take a sheet of blank paper.  Think up a fun layout that matches the image of your business.  The Homepage sometimes has a more graphic layout than the rest of the pages, but it can be the same format as the rest of the pages too.  Some standard layouts for web pages are: Header with Left Sidebar, Header with Right Sidebar (common for blogs), Left Sidebar Navigation, Header + 3 columns.  All of these usually have a footer as well.
Some other, less standard formats are: Fixed Footer Navigation, 3D Layout, Flexible Size Format, and many more.  Don't feel limited by any of this, just come up with a layout you are happy with.  View my blog on Common Web Site Layouts for more info on this.

3. Other web pages

Like step 2 above.  Just determine if you'd rather have a standard format across all pages, or if you'd like your home page to be different, or if you'd like every page to have its own style.  You should have standard elements across all pages even if you want every page to have a unique style.

4. Logo

If you have a logo already, but its optimized for print (like 1,2,3, or 4 color design), you may want to make it full color for the web. It just might look plain on the web if its not.  If you're starting from scratch you may want to work with a company to develop this professionally for you.  Two prevalent types of logos are: Text Only Logos, and Graphic Logos.
Text Only Logos: These are popular today. Its just the company name in some stylized font or even the text turned into a graphic version of the text.  These logos can be nice if you just want to focus on the company name or its hard to determine a graphic that pairs well with your name.
Graphic Logos: Can be a symbol for your company.  Can be a graphic of some sort either paired with the name of the company or not.  Usually its best if the graphics of the logo are clear and somewhat simple so they can be printed easily as well as look good online. 
Some ideas for how to make a logo:

  • A. Take the first letter of your company name and stylize it into a graphical version of the letter that ties into your company theme or product. Then either continue the name or just use that one 'letter'
  • B. Make a Script Style Logo with the First letter or initials of the company.
  • C. Standardize a Corporate Font that matches your Logo
  • You can sketch out the logo to give your logo designer a head start, but you probably should have a professional make the final graphic design

5. Web Pages and Functionality

To save time when you are in the actual building stage of the web design, it is imperative to have clearly defined web pages, including what functionality the system should have such as online stores, social networks, forms for customer input, etc.  Use a separate piece of paper for each page to jot down your table of contents for your web site.

6. Build a Team

If you are a small company with multiple employees start surveying them for technical skills.  Maybe you'll find one really likes photography.  Maybe you have an author in the making ready to be your blogger.  Delegation of these and other duties is an honor and may add plenty of job satisfaction to the right employee.

7. Images and Photos

This topic will be a whole separate blog post, but for now... How important are the photographic images to your site?  To present your company in the best light, do your product images, store images, staff images, or service images need to be absolutely perfect?  If so, you should hire someone to do your photography.  If not, and your images are only small samples for reference, you could possibly do it yourself.  I hope to publish a blog: photography guide for small businesses, time allowing.  Check back later.

8. Media

Make another 'table of contents' list of what media you want on your site or on YouTube.  This includes Video, Audio, Animation, Specialized Graphics, and Interactive Demonstrations or Interactive Content.

9. Search Phrases

The first goal in Internet presence is to have something worth searching for.  The second goal in Internet presence is to provide search engines a spoon-fed way of finding you.  Think about what your company has to offer, then break it down into short phrases that you believe people on the internet will actually be typing into Google.  Write down a page of these short search phrases on a sheet of paper.  At this point, don't worry about checking to see if these are the actual things people are searching for: we'll talk about that more in later stages.  Again, this will be the source of many more blog posts for me, but right now, this is a good start for you.

10. Define Budget

How much can you spend on a web design project?  Maybe it is $0 and you'll have to be a Do It Yourself-er.  In that case, good luck, there are a lot of online resources that can help.  In my experience, a lot of my clients started out trying to Do It Yourself and ended up unhappy with the results: So they hired someone.  There are just so many things to know that it's nice to have some help.  There is a long, steep learning curve for the skills required for anything more than utilizing a template and adding your own text.  Adding graphics to a template web design can be moderately easy, but you have to have a good graphics editting program to get the graphics to exactly the right size (in pixels wide by pixels high) and optimized for web (just saving as a JPG can result in a file that's 10 times larger than an optimized image and will slow down load time significantly). Another factor is: How much is your time worth? How many hours are you willing to spend trying to design the perfect website? Would you make more profits if you spent that time doing what you do best, and hiring someone who already knows the ways of the web to make your design?

I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm just hoping to educate, and present a realistic picture of the basics of what is required.  If you are a wizard with the computer but not into web design yet, you could probably manage, just contact me if you run into problems.  I'd be happy to answer some basic questions at no cost or hire out if its more complex.

I've seen many web design firms that their minimum cost for a custom design is $3000 so that's scared off a lot of potential clients and has made people assume that they can't get a custom design for less.  I offer many designs for well under that cost (and not just a template based design) and can even help if you're designing and run into specific problems.

Thanks for reading, I hope to provide many more useful blogs on related topics in the future, so please subscribe to my blog via RSS.

-Joel Reinke

Local Businesses Save Monthly Costs while upgrading their Online Features

joel reinke - Monday, January 03, 2011
Intended Audience: Small Business Owners

Many small to medium sized businesses utilize a similar set of online tools to acheive their hosting and marketing needs.  Here is a breakdown of common tools I see many companies using:

  • Domain Name
  • Hosting Company
  • Constant Contact or similar alternative for Mass Email Marketing
  • A Blog platform
  • Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks
  • An Online Store
  • A CMS: Content Management System
  • A CMS: Client Management System

Not all of these systems are necessarily separate, but they often are. I will show you some examples of these costs, how an alternative will save you money and give you more features to attract web site visitors, and make your job easier.

The Domain Name (registry) is a necessity that there isn't a way to save much money on, so I will only touch briefly on that.  Three options I've worked with for this are Bluehost, Justhost, and GoDaddy.  They seem to all be comparable, but GoDaddy seems to be more expensive right now, unless you use one of the less popular .com alternatives. $10 per year seems like an average for this.

The Hosting is a separate service: where your web site files will actually be served up to the public.  The three companies above do have many differences in costs for hosting.  An average per year for this is around $60 - $120 if you don't choose the cheapest option (which I do not ever recommend). I've also seen hosting companies charging $30-$50 per month just for the hosting with no special features or options.  Based on your CMS needs, one of these main-stream options may work for you.  However, if your needs are more complex, I have an alternative solution that will provide you with turn-key operation of all of your online business needs, and does away with this 'hosting' cost.

The average costs for the domain name and hosting up until this point are normal and fairly par for the course.  It is when you begin adding services such as Mass E-mail Marketing Programs and Online Stores that the cost really begin to add up.


Mass E-mail Marketing Programs are online services such as Constant Contact that allow you to e-mail to multiple people without being potentially blacklisted and can cost you between $15 to $75 per month. 
(If you don't know about why you need a Mass Email Marketing program, and why you can't just email to tons of people: I'd have to write a whole other article about it: long story short:  big bunch of email out at one time = blacklist/spam/etc.)

Maybe you are also running an Online Store or wish to, and also have one or more systems needed for updating your web site.  OR, maybe you don't have an easy to use program for quickly updating your web site.  When you start combining all of these separate systems you might be paying $75 to $150 per month after adding together the monthly costs, annual costs, and cost for purchasing software. 

Please! Can't I just have one easy to use, affordable system?

It does exist.  It's a very easy to use system that brings together an Online Store, Mass Email Marketing, Content Management Systems (blogs, forums, custom data, ++), Client Management System, Secure Web Zones, and much more. On top of all this, it is hosted - so that, plus everything else, can save you a lot of monthly costs.  I would like to emphasize two of the most popular system options. The first is an intro option that's only $14.95 per month (it does not provide an online store but allows for 1000 'mass marketing emails' per month) which is perfect for some small businesses, The second option is $39 per month and covers the online store and allows 10,000 mass marketing emails per month.  This is a hosted option run as part of the Adobe corporation's business solutions so its not just some small server sitting out there somewhere. 

Altogether, if you choose the higher level option and add the $39 per month plus the $10 per year for the Domain Name, this equals around $40 per month VS. the $75 to $150 you might pay for all the other services combined.  Buying all of these systems individually won't necessarily be that much for everybody, but some of those Mass Email Marketing programs keep adding new things to pay for, so the fees could get worse. On the other hand, even if you were paying the same as $40 or less per month (which would be tough to do with hosting, Email Marketing, and an Online store), you would still find a wealth of value by utilizing this system with all of these features under one roof.  You'd start saving so much time in one month that it would more than pay for itself many times over.  Please Note: for the online store there can be other costs, depending on which online payment service you choose to use.  There are some services that have no monthly costs, and others that do.

If you check out my portfolio, you can see that I don't recommend this platform as the only solution to my clients.  If you just want to blog, I can put together a nice custom Wordpress site for you. A simple web site? No problem.  Your own custom social network? I make those too.  But if you want an online store or email marketing or both (especially for both): this could be the thing for you.

Changing over to this system can save you money and give you features you didn't have before.  There is no "set-up cost" for the system itself, but depending on how happy you are with your current web site, and what features you want to set up with the new system, we would set up a project cost based on the complexity of the transition.  If you are totally unhappy with your current web design anyway, this can be an excellent opportunity to redesign or start fresh with a certified web developer.

There are also many alternatives to this option for eCommerce, but none that I've found that can offer such tight integration between these systems.  Contact Joel Reinke to learn more about this excellent system.

Thanks for your time,

-Joel Reinke
Web Designer++

Please Note: These prices are accurate at the time of this posting but may change at any time in the future.

New 3D Web Page: My Portfolio

joel reinke - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A new portfolio page has now been launched.  The Mountain MultiMedia portfolio page was in need of an update since the new web page design was launched.  I really wanted to keep working with the 3D Flash package that I used for Carousel: Papervision3D.  This was a great opportunity to utilize it.

I've seen many basic 3D portfolios using a rotating carousel (way more basic than the Carousel web site), and many fading slideshows.  I wanted to try something new and exciting, and I came up with the 'Floating Cloud Portfolio'.



Check it out at: http://www.mountainmultimedia.biz/portfolio

What inspired this? I love landscape photography and landscape painting.  This is kind of the Multimedia equivalent of the two.  The web design is similar to the other new web pages, with the mountain locked to the bottom of the browser and it resizes to fit any screen.  Overlaid on top of that is the clouds and portfolio pictures that move as the mouse moves.  Its like a constantly evolving painting!

It utilizes the particle system to keep the massive number of floating objects efficient.  Clicking on the pictures expands them and gives a description of the design work I did for them. 

It is also easy to update as it uses XML to handle the data.  This program is very easily adaptable for many styles.

If you are interested in using this for your own website, let me know and I'll put something together for you.

Wordpress as C.M.S. (Content Management System) - Pros and Cons

joel reinke - Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Blog Popularity has led to an evolution for Wordpress:

If you don't know about Blogging: Wordpress has taken a lead in creating an easy to use platform for serving-up content.  So much so that their easy to use Dashboard/Control Panel can also be used as a way to keep the rest of your website up to date.  In addition, there is a simple way to adjust Wordpress so that the blog page doesn't come up first: your 'Home Page' does.  You can make a menu system so the whole blog-run website looks and feels like a website with a blog, not just a blog with some extra pages tacked on.

This means Wordpress can be your complete, C.M.S. (Content Management System)
(Not Client Management System - at one point this got me too)
If CMS still means nothing to you, this is a simple way to think of it: you can edit your own webpage easily with no coding needed (at least after it's initially set up)

Now I'm not going to go into how to set that up, there are many other blogs online about how that works.  What this blog will focus on is how I've implemented this for some of my clients and the PROs and CONs of using Wordpress as your CMS.


What are you looking for in a web authoring platform? AND How tech savvy are you?

 

First obvious thing: You want a Blog.  If you don't, there are some better options out there for CMS's
 
These questions can be a good start for helping determine if Wordpress will work for your website.  For example, there are a lot of free templates out there for Wordpress.  I think these would work fine for a casual blog but a blog for a serious business would want to customize the template (or theme) or start from scratch and build a completely new theme.  Skills required: CSS, php, graphic Design, etc.

Another positive: many hosting companies are offering Wordpress as an easy to install addition to your website.  So you don't need to worry about a complicated installation.  If your host does not provide this easy option, we can evaluate what it would take to install it on your host.

The next important thing is the content you plan to put into Blog Posts and Web Pages.   Aside from the nicely formatted header, footer, and (optional) sidebar, and cool backgrounds and designs that will be on your page: There is that content section of each page.  Like for this post, it is just the text and images for this 'article'.  Not the graphics up at the top for the menu, etc.  For just the posts or pages, will you need any special formatting?  If so, maybe Wordpress isn't right for you.  Most of the special formatting can be designed for the rest of the page, but the content section should be kept simple - text, images, movies, and whatever else you can add in - in a straight forward layout. 

WHY?  If you put special formatting into the Wordpress page using their editor, sometimes it can strip it out and you're left with a broken design until you fix it.  It especially can have problems with CSS added in (div's especially).  If you code in HTML directly you can avoid this, but if you switch back over to the graphic editor it often strips it out. 

But, you really shouldn't need special formatting in your post or page.  Design or hire someone to design the wordpress theme so it looks great with simple posts/pages and then when you're writing your posts you can go quickly and not worry about special formatting, just content.

A bit more on 'How tech savvy are you?'  - If you can use email and have ever uploaded a photo onto anything online, you can use Wordpress.  The only exceptions are if you want to customize the look and feel of your blog, you need skills in HTML, CSS, PHP, and graphic design skills or ready to use graphics.  Contact Us if you need assistance here.

There are exceptions to the 'rule' mentioned above about special formatting on pages.  See www.bodyspaonline.com for examples.  If you notice the background changes for each section and there are other formatting changes as well.  All of this was done with specialized design with PHP and CSS but the client doesn't need to worry about that.  She just makes changes or additions to pages - doesn't mess with any special formatting - and the formatting is handled behind the scenes.  The only thing that can throw a monkey wrench into it is if <div>'s get added in and/or tags don't get closed.  The point is: use the theme/design to do special formatting.


There is a lot more to it, but in summary:

Pros:

  • Free
  • Has a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get) = easy to use tool for anyone to edit web pages
  • Some hosting services provide easy install
  • Many Free Themes/Templates that can be a good starting point (Hire us to customize them or from scratch)
  • Can easily insert images, movies, links, and much more

Cons:

  • Customization requires technical skills
  • Special Formatting in content section can cause problems
  • Won't do everything for you (Online Store, E-mail Marketing, Social Networking, :) cook for you)

Thanks for checking in.  In a future post I'll talk more about other C.M.S. options that can provide some of the things Wordpress is limited on.

Still, Wordpress is great!  It's doing way more than it was originally intended for.

Contact Mountain Multimedia if you need a custom designed Wordpress Theme or Plug-in.

Welcome to the Web Multimedia Blog

joel reinke - Thursday, February 25, 2010
Hello,

Welcome to Mountain MultiMedia Web Design's new blog!  We offer complete online solutions with online business functionality.  Its not just online Store software, its a complete package to help you build online success.

Located in Edmonds Web Design this blog is a resource for you for many needs: advice on web design, entertainment and photographs,  news about new offerings from us, and other educational resources related to online design.

Explore the rest of this website to learn about the features of this platform. Here, I wanted to point out were some great ideas about uses for online businesses:
  • Turn your idea into a business: One of the solutions offered by Mountain Multimedia Web Design is a great Online Store Platform and it is really for anyone who has an idea, hobby, full business,or passion that has marketable potential.  You could take this and have a real money stream on your hands.  Whether this is a full time job for you or something you want to run on the side, Mountain Multimedia's Joel Reinke can consult with you to make your idea hammer out into a real business.
  • You can sell e-products with this (online products with no shipping like files and programs)!  You could make your own iTunes for example.  or maybe sell photos, software (shareware), etc. 
  • Make your own subscription based service - like a monthly fee for stock photography.

    I hope I've given you some food for thought.

    Thanks, Until Next time.

    -Joel Reinke
     Certified Web Developer