How to Choose a Web Developer to Create Your Online Template Site

Introduction
There are many web sites that offer you an inexpensive way to create a website with their template system. The templates exist on their servers, and the resulting website is hosted within their system. This is different from getting a template that you move into your computer to create your website. Some common places that you can go for these sites are Yahoo, Network Solutions, Volution and, possibly, even your webhost.

Online template systems are found online, and, typically offer you an “easy” and inexpensive way to build your website. Notice the quotations about easy. The actual process of building and maintaining the online template site might not feel like it’s easy and inexpensive. The reality is that, in most cases, it really is easier to use an online template system than it is to start a new website from scratch. Also, you can get a site up much more quickly because the internal structure and background images of the site are already done.

One downside is that because the site is held completely within a different system, you can’t just take a copy of it, if you decide to move your site. The only parts of the site that are yours are your own images and text. Another downside is that the site is only changeable within the areas of the pages that they have set the programming to allow the text or image changes. Some online template systems allow more changes than others. Finally, while these sites offer many professional quality graphics for your use, those same graphics are available to their other clients.

How Online Templates Work
Most everything that you add to your online template website is through a normal online form. You enter your titles, prices, image descriptions, paragraphs, etc through a form. You upload your product images through a Browse button. In other words, you don’t have to do (or know) any coding. You fill out the forms and the pages are created by the programming.

However, using these systems is not as “bingo presto” as the advertisement say it is. There is no getting around the fact that even small websites are complicated. They are a combination of code and design and images and photography and text and, marketing.. It is not realistic to expect that a unique website can be built with a couple of clicks. Online web templates have to give you a place to add elements that will show up on every page, such as your banner and contact information. They also have to deal with your content pages. If they decide ahead of time what pages you get, you might want those changed. What if you want some of the content on the pages to be formatted your way, instead of their way? It is possible that they will give you a place to add your HTML code, but then you have to know the code. The templates have to allow you to add images, but do those images go where you want them. And, if you supply the images, who will create them?

Some online templates that look great, only look great in certain browsers and at certain screen resolutions. I have looked at the coding, for some online templates, and found many coding errors, which some browsers can deal with and others not. One situation was when an acquaintance sent out the web address of a relative’s new website. I opened it in one browser, and the middle of the page had sunk below the first screen on most pages. When I checked the code, I found many CSS errors – but you have to know the code to understand what happened.

If you want an online shopping cart, you will also have to have photos of all your products, product descriptions, prices, shipping information, tax information, your merchant account information for credit card processing, etc. If you have hundreds of products, just the task of preparing the information for your shopping cart can be quite lengthy.

Finding the Right Developer for your Template Site
Some people who sign up for a template site, do just fine figuring out the system on their own. Others are completely lost. I have been asked to help with a Yahoo template site and a Volusion template site. Even with years of web development experience, I did not find either system intuitive to use. In fact, I was surprised at how badly they labeled the links to go through the systems and how badly they explained the development steps. I did find that Volusion had excellent technical support by phone, but it would have been better if they had just created a good interface for regular people instead of for their own techs.

So, the developer for your online template site should have some experience with online templates (as opposed to just building sites from scratch.) Before you sign up for an online template system, ask the developer which template systems work best. If they already have successful experiences with a certain product, it will save a lot of time ($$$) to use that system. The developer will also be able to tell you the shortcomings of different systems – but not all systems as they come and go.

Your developer should also have great communication skills to show you how to weed through the backend mess. In most cases, you don’t want to depend on your developer for every little website change in the future. That’s why you are using the templates in the first place! But, ask your developer if he or she will be available to give you a hand, if something unexpected comes up.

Your developer should also understand how websites work. Such a developer will know what ought to be available in the forms and will have a better idea what to hunt for. The developer will also know what to ask technical support, who may or may not communicate well. For example, by calling technical support, I found out that Volusion won’t allow you to have more than one domain name unless you register those domain names through them. For that client, I had the second domain name pointed through their registrar, by-passing the online template system. But, I had to have the background to know that it should be available and that there had to be another way around the block.

Finally, it is not unusual for an online template system to go down (broke.) That means that your website will disappear. And, as I mentioned before, you can’t pick it up and move it. So, have a backup plan for a new website.

Choosing a Website and the Right Web Developer

A website is a very important business asset. In some cases, it might be the most important business asset and in others, the only asset a business has. For example, Facebook, Yahoo and YouTube only exists as websites (web systems). These businesses do not necessarily need a big building with a thousand workers and a big manufacturing machine. They only require a powerful server and a few employees and the internet which is almost free. Their websites are more important than everything else.

Choosing a website and a web developer is very critical and may determine whether your website will become an asset or a liability to the business. A website may make your small business appear like a multinational business. On the other hand it can humiliate your big business and make it appear less than it actually is.

Websites may be categorized into many categories. But they basically fall into either business, institutional, product, celebrity, news or social websites. I will give you exclusive explanation on what you need to know before you acquire a Business, institutional or social website.

Business websites are very useful and makes up a significant part of the internet.

Depending on the kind of business, it should be clear, attractive, have rich content and have an easy navigation system. If a visitor lucks what they were looking for in your website, they may go away for good. Even if you have contact details to answer more questions, not many clients want to call. They want to see all the relevant information about you online mostly those browsing through many similar websites.

For a brick and motor business e.g. a store front containing the products and their prices; but requiring the user to go and buy the product physically, the website should have: a header and a footer, images of the products/services which are clearly organized with price tags, related products and all the relevant information. It is good practice to organize them in broad categories and narrower categories. An auto-suggest search engine would make easier for visitors, clear contact information, location, a client order form would be great and online after sale services. Whatever business you are trying to acquire a website for, assume you are the visitor and spell out exactly what you would expect to see.

Purely click business websites demand for even more. Such websites do not require any physical contacts between the buyers and sellers. An example would be a software, games or eBook web site where users can download products and make payment online without making any physical contact with the seller. Such a website should be clear, powerful (code that doesn’t crash) and conclusive. This is because it is not only a website but also a business. It should be very organized since it holds very much content. The website should also provide easy and quick after sale services and real time customer interaction.

Institutional web sites are not very different from business web sites; only that they attract a greater range of visitors. When planning to acquire such as website, have in mind the clients, staff, distributors and perhaps the government. Such websites should have vital information e.g. about the institution, contacts of perhaps all the relevant staff members, mission and vision statements and a photo slide show of staff members, events or promises. A video would do well too. Location and maybe on Google map makes it easier for clients to find and visit you.

The last category is a social website. These types of website are too important to even think about their prices. The quality should be the most important consideration. A social websites attracts virtually all kinds of visitors and mostly gets more responses than the owner plans for. Facebook for example was created to serve an institution, but now it serves the globe with about a billion followers. Out of these these are several hundred thousand institution, celebrity or product pages and several thousand hackers. When creating a social site and if you believe it is unique, consider all those users. Be clear with what you want to the developer. If its video sharing, let it be video sharing and nothing else. Social websites should not talk much about themselves or about their owners. The users don’t care how it works or who developed it or how they can contact you. They are more worried about the stuff they are sharing and their profiles. Such websites are database driven and one would never tell how large they can become. What you assume is that it will have several million users. The header and footer may have rich colors like blue, red, brown and the body a white background. I bet most of those social websites outside there have that. The text should be black in color, the font type Times new roman, Arial or Tahoma or any other professional not fancy font. The headings should be bold, larger and/or underlined and the contents should be separated by horizontal rule. Make links blue and visited links purple… simple. You do not have to decorate, the website, the content being shared will decorate it for you. This is very important. A social website should have an autosuggest search engine and if necessary paged content. Don’t let them span too long. They should be addictive and free of errors. Most of the users nowadays use search engines like Google and have Facebook and twitter accounts, they also have email accounts like yahoo and Gmail. All these sites are very user friendly. That same user when visiting your social site compares it with those. Make thorough error provision features. A majority of those who will use your site have minimal or no computer skills. Finally it’s good practice to make sure your social site opens well in all platforms and browsers. A social website should open in a cellphone comfortably and fast.

As I conclude, a website is not something you just fix together to get it online. It is just like a magazine that you arrange the contents carefully and choose styles skillfully. Think and plan carefully before building one and select a good web designer. It would better take longer or cost you more but finally become your long term asset.

Open Source Web Development

The Picture

Imagine if you will, trying to buy a car, it looks slick, shiny, fast, the salesman wants you to have it as bad as you do. But you’re a smart buyer you want to check things out before you lay the money down. But the salesman won’t let you see inside! Won’t let you look under the hood. You have no idea what the vehicle can actual do or if it can do anything. I feel the very same way with commercial software. It cost half a grand for the Operating System to run a computer, another half grand for some decent graphic design software, and however much for a legitimate HTML editor. From this and, of course from the title, you can tell that I am focusing on software for web development, but many principles discussed here can be applied to all software. So many stores sell on the web, it’s a hassle free environment, and so many people buy from the web because they know they can buy anything. So a web page may be something you really want, but you’re going to want to get what you paid for, or heaven forbid it being an investment….more out of it than you put into it. Read on!

Why Open Source

The reason Web Development is a such a huge industry is because it is a business that has everything all other businesses don’t have. Accessible from millions of locations, in every country that has plumbing, AND….theoretically it can be manufactured, maintained, changed, or destroyed from any internet capable computer (included phones, and hand helds). The biggest upside to anything Open Source is the cost of the software, you cannot compete with free. The cost of a website is pretty high when you go through a company, which takes their cut and then assigns it out to one or two employees that do all the work. But that company has to buy software to run right? Of Course! But what does a company do when an Open Source product is better then the ones it is currently using? Do the people on the inside of the company prefer to use the same software, usually not until they have had that software pounded into their head, and even not then if it costs a lot. So why Open Source, is it the cure all? You still have to work, have hardware to run it on and so on and so forth. But then you can pay just for the time of an employee, you can try different solutions. And since we are speaking about web development, we can look at the amazing content managers that are Open Source such as Joomla, or PHPNuke where anybody can put the content in.

Big Companies and Open Source

So knowing that Open Source is free and it’s freelancers and underpaid programmers that work on this with the occasional paid employees and projects that have sponsors, who benefits and who does not from the Open Source movement? I will readily let you know that I benefit extremely from all the free software that is out there in my own freelance web design, like I explained above, the software to edit graphics and HTML code is expensive, I could not imagine also paying for the FTP (File Transfer Protocol, use to upload files to a server) client. Now it is a given that all us little people save tons of money, but now who does it hurt? I was doing a little research and found that a lot of companies that were beginning to embrace Open Source solutions such as IBM and Novell, also any smaller company providing a service and struggling to become larger. The larger companies like IBM don’t mind that the programs are free because they are making hardware and if people don’t have to spend as much on software they would spend a little more on the hardware. Novell wouldn’t mind because they can make the code flawlessly integrate with the Operating Systems that they can see all the code for. The only software company that is hurting (I’m sure I could find more if I looked) is Microsoft, funny to me it seems that Microsoft would put so much money and time into their gaming console when it specializes in its operating system. At first I though it was another piece of the market that Microsoft wanted to dominate, but now knowing how prevalent Open Source is becoming, it was actually a brilliant idea that will give them something to live off of when people eventually switch over to Linux or any other free OS.

The Internet in All We Do

The reason this article focuses on Web Development along with Open Source is that we spend so much of our computer time on the internet, if it were not for music I think I wouldn’t need a large hard drive at all, I only have a few gigs of applications at any given time. But if my computer cannot connect to the internet I feel stranded! I mean, I got to check my e-mail (the two different online accounts that I have), edit or just view my website, chat with my family in Canada and friends that still live an hour or so south of Salt Lake City, and make web pages for other people. So the internet is critical for myself, and that is why I need Open Source products, I could never afford to buy high end software and then make a web page for as little as I do.

This Concludes this Broadcast Article

Thanks for reading and please give Open Source a chance, if you are using Google you can type in Linux, Joomla, SourceForge, or Open Source and you can find all that free software for Linux and Windows. Enjoy!