Tips on creating your web site by John Yeski and Terri Fassio

Many of us want to put up a web site but we are not sure where to begin — What do you suggest we do first?

Developing a website is important if you want to be have a presence on the internet. One of the most important tips we can give is to first spend time surfing the internet. Everyone has different tastes, and the internet shows them all. Then, set a goal for your website – and consider your target audience in the process. Make a list of your likes and dislikes. This list will be a huge help to the designers and programmers who will be developing your site.

Your next step is to become familiar with the basics on how a website works and is structured. You don’t have to know every knook and cranny – leave that for the experts – but at least have a working knowledge of the pieces that are involved.

There are many parts to your website, but the three basic, and most important parts are:

  1. Your Domain Name (such as www.yoursite.com)

  2. The website hosting package (this is the “space” and “resources” that your website utilizes behind the scenes.)

  3. The site itself (what you see when you look at a website on the internet.)

Every website on the internet today consists of at least the three pieces above. If you are considering an E-commerce site, note that there are other factors involved, such as shopping carts and credit card processing. Each of these parts play a major role in the website development process, and also determine the costs involved.

Are there places that have visuals available you can use on your web sites that are free and you have the rights to? If not, where should we get visuals?

There are many websites on the internet that offer clip-art/graphical elements and photos. Sites such as http://www.corbis.com and http://www.gettyimages.com are two of the largest and most popular, and are both great resources for a wide selection stock photos and images. They both have areas of their websites for rights-managed photos and royalty-free photos as well. But with both of these websites, as well as many others on the web, there are per-image usage fees involved to download the images. There are other websites such as http://www.clipart.com and http://www.hemera.com that charge a subscription fee to access the site itself, but the images themselves are then free to download. It takes a little digging for totally free access and download of images and photos, but sites such as http://www.openclipart.org are out there. But in these cases, you do not own any rights to the images and photos – they are part of the public domain. That means that you can see “your favorite photo” on hundreds of websites.

Many web designers are also true graphic designers, and have a full selection of clip art and royalty-free photos available to their customers, and in the case they don’t have “that perfect image” – they do have the resources to either create a custom image, or find someone who can.

Another option is to create your own visuals. With digital cameras so inexpensive and widely available, anyone can stage their own photo shoots. With a little creativity and some good lighting, many digital photos are just as good, if not better in some cases, than the photo you would pay $400 per use for through Getty Images.

When building a site, do we need to let the web person know ahead of time if we want to put large logos of donors or supporters of our films on one side of the site and can we design it to put logos on both sides?

When preparing for the design of your site, it is important to let your website developers/programmers know that you will be including logos of sponsors and donors. There are no limitations on where the logos have to appear, or in what manner they appear. Some websites have pages devoted entirely to their sponsors/donors. Others have a slide show or some sort of animation displaying the logos in a rotating fashion. Yet others have a row of logos across the bottom of the page, or a list down one side of the page. When you discuss the overall design of the site itself, your website designer will help you find a way to display the sponsor/donor logos so that they do not take-away from your site, but also convey the logos in a tasteful manner.

What are the most common mistakes that people make when building a site?

The two biggest areas where the person seeking a website makes the most mistakes, in our experience, is not having a goal or vision of where they see the completed site, and not being prepared with the information to go into the site before getting started. Developing a website is not something you do half hearted. It is extremely difficult to design and develop a website “on-the-fly” – mainly because there are a lot of “behind-the-scenes” technical pieces to websites that the average website visitor doesn’t see. You do want to attract as many visitors as possible, and an unprofessional looking website, or a website that doesn’t function properly, is not going to achieve this. Websites tend to evolve over time and are never truly “finished”, but that’s no reason for your website look incomplete. Ask yourself what you want your image to be, and make sure your website enhances that image. Is your style polished? Friendly? Trendy? High tech? The look and feel of your site should reflect that style, but also take into consideration the needs of your audience.

Should a site have a blog attached to it? How important is a blog?

Blogs are basically personal web pages, journals so to speak, ones that are the product of the bloggers’ imaginations, interests and wit — and it’s probably this personal touch which has made them so popular, especially for entertainment gossip, political issues and current events. The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic at hand. Whether a website should or should not have a blog falls on the shoulders of the potential blogger. Blogging is a responsibility. In order for a blog to be successful, it needs to be updated frequently. Regular posting shows that you are serious about blogging, generates traffic and drives reader loyalty, as readers come back daily to check your new posts. An updated, current blog can lend a personal touch to a website, and give visitors a look into the world of the person behind the website. It can also attract repeat visitors to your website, and new visitors as well. But, on the other hand, a blog that is not updated regularly is detrimental to the website, having the opposite effect. If a visitor is anxiously awaiting updates, checking the blog daily, and the blog has not been updated in 3 months because the blogger is busy with other things, the visitor will eventually get frustrated, will be less likely to visit the site in the future, and also less likely to recommend that others visit the site as well. It would be better if the website, in this particular example, did not have a blog at all. What matters most regarding your website is whether you are reaching your target audience with your website, not necessarily how many people read your blog.

If you have a film of 10 minutes or less that you want to put on the site is it less expensive to put it on YouTube and link your site to YouTube?

YouTube is a commercial website that allows users to upload videos, so that visitors to YoutTube can then view the videos. There are three ways that visitors can view video on websites – downloading the actual video file to their computer (called progressive download), viewing a prepared flash movie, or by streaming the video file. When utilizing video on a website, certain functions need to be present so that the video can be viewed. Technically, due to the resources needed to host a video on your website, it is less expensive to have you video on YouTube. YouTube is a free service. The most effective and secure way to host a video on your website is by streaming the video. But that is also the most expensive option. Many website hosting companies do not operate a streaming video server. What they typically support is “progressive download” – when your videos are stored on the same server as your web pages and images. In this case, when you view the video, you are actually downloading the video to your computer, not streaming the video within the window of your website. In order to accomplish “true streaming video”, your video must be be transmitted via either a Windows Media and/or QuickTime, Real Media, or similar streaming server, not a web server that only supports “progressive download.” In the case of either streaming video, or progressive downloads, video files are big. Very big. Enormous. I cannot overemphasize this. If you are paying for your web hosting and your video becomes popular, you will exceed your bandwidth allocation and be billed extra. Bandwidth is the the amount of data, including text, graphics and video, that can be downloaded from a website in a given time period. One way to help manage the bandwidth usage is by keeping your videos short, keeping your video resolution (the width and height of the actual video) small, and playing videos only when users actually ask you to do so by clicking on a link. And also by using well-compressed formats like FLV, RealVideo, QuickTime, and Windows Media. Never use a “raw” DV-AVI file.

What do you think makes a great web site?

A great website has focus and clarity of purpose, and is attractive to the viewer. A great website is unpretentious. It doesn’t pretend to be what it is not. It never wastes your time because it always gets to the point. A great website helps you to act – and must contain thought-out navigation. Good navigation seeks to reduce uncertainty and increase familiarity. Establish credibility. If your visitors don’t trust you, they’re certainly not going to trust your services/products! Your website content must be up-to-date and relevant to your target audience. Be wise when using Color. Don’t get carried away using fancy background textures or colors. Too many different colors/patterns make your web page hard to read and navigate — and looks unprofessional. The normal path the eye of a reader takes forms a “z” pattern on the page. It is easier to get the eye to focus on one important aspect followed by multiple pieces of lesser importance, where the eye tends to skim. The home page acts to anchor the reader and help ‘lead’ them deeper into the website. Many homepages are a mess, a compromise between competing interests. Some home pages are so big and complex that it is impossible to create a lead. Your website visitors have a limit. If you bombard them with too many choices, you overload them and they turn off. A good, solid website builds on your image and creates your brand on the web. Specific. To the point. Don’t lose site of why you developed your website in the first place. Every aspect of your site should somehow contribute to your goal — be it to sell, inform, or simply entertain!

Thank you both for your creative input.

SkullCo Technology Solutions is located in Huntington Beach, CA. Specializing in developing dynamic, interactive websites, SkullCo provides computer-based services to better leverage technology for small and medium sized businesses. Each with nearly 20 years in the Information Technology and Graphic Design industries, developer John Yeski and designer Terri Fassio’s unique synergy has allowed them to create visually appealing and empowering projects for many different genres and businesses, both privately and for major corporations. Visit their website at www.skullco.com, or call 714-847-3470.