It was cold. I was emailing a friend about web design basics. I was trying to find a Made To Stick analogy for web design. I love the web. I spend most of my time thinking about web sites, design and looking at cool stuff friends are writing or creating. All businesses are controlled by small families of people who care passionately about the space. There is always a small family of fellow travelers who recognize each other instantly. This tribe of creators don't care about money (much), fame or external realities (much). They care about the space, invest in it daily and live to see it thrive, grow and change. This post is about web design basics to help those outside our web design tribe.
Web design is like five fingers of a hand I thought randomly. Here is how I explained the Five Fingers of Web Design to my friend.
Five Fingers of Web Design
- Presentation layer = macro design and layout of the web site
Usually controlled by a graphic designer but never a good idea to blank slate a designer. Always create some working parameters or development takes too long. Not all the space on a site is equal read my post about the Golden Triangle, the area in any web sites upper left to see why not all space on a web site is the same.
The graphical elements within the presentation layer. Should be web color correct and as small as possible. Total graphic weight per page should not exceed 50K or the page will load slow and that is original sin.
- Back end database(s) or Content Management System (CMS)
Usually built by a techie and may use products such as Drupal or Joomla. Learn more about Web Content Management Systems (or WCMS) on WCMS on Wikipedia.
- Metadata and Navigation
Page title being most important, link anchor text and image URL's followed by other stuff like keywords and description most bots now ignore but I like to include anyway found in the document's head - see this area by doing a view source on a page.
Keyword dense yet natural language copy is critical. Use a tool like WordTracker to understand the most important keywords. Google can tell if you write TO keywords and they don't like it so don't.
It is rare to meet anyone good at a component who understands the whole. We all specialize these days. When I meet a backend person who understands SEO well enough not to create hidden traps and bombs I tend to hang on to them. They are rare birds. When I was a Director of ecommerce my backened team was concerned about efficient use of programmer time. Programming efficiency is important, but not the most important thing. Efficiency must be weighed and measured next to SEO requirements or you lose lots of money very fast. My favorite example was when our lead programmer decided, on their own, people with cookies turned off should be able to see the web site. He added a line of code and the less than 5% of people visiting the site with cookies off could see the site. The code created a "spider trap", a place where search engine spiders go but they don't come out, and killed $300,000 worth of search engine traffic. It took months to find and eliminate the trap.
My old IT team violated the first law of search engine economics - never do harm. If a web site is in a search engine's index then fixing problems is as difficult as that old Operation Game. Remember that game where you had to lift out organs with metal tweezers? Touch the sides of the organ area and an alarm sounds. Any changes should build on the existing platform.
You have to have someone watching the store who is sensitive to preservation of what is good, and "good" is anything Google et al. likes. The key is knowing how to watch the hand develop, do no harm and watch every move like a hawk looking for field mice.
Want to build a GREAT web site but not sure how? ScentTrail E-Commerce guarantees we can help or we know three people who can and if this boast is not correct I owe you lunch ☺. Call Martin at 919.360.1224 and I will be glad to help, find friends who can help or just listen and empathize (lol).