After much delay I finally have to force myself to carve out time for our website redesign. It's been coming for a while now and to be honest well past it's due date.
While contemplating our messaging and translating that into a visual representation I had an epiphany about how we design websites today vs. days in the past. There has been quiet a lot of transformation not only in the visual experience, but in how the process works.
In “the old days” it was very expensive to build a website. Before we had WordPress or Joomla we had to build everything with custom code. The process was time consuming and costly. Not only that, but after the site was built it took a programmer to make any changes. So the web design process was very different. We had to get designers who would create visual mockups about every page the website was built with and developers would take those designs and program them in. The gap that occurs is translating a 2 dimensional design into a multidemensional experience. Things like hover effects, click behavior, conversion paths weren't addressed and had to be interpreted. Add in responsive design and things get really complicated pretty fast.
The advent of open source content management systems
This new concept for the way to build websites changed everything. First to come were Joomla and Drupal around 2003. This is free software built by a community and supported by the community. I chose Joomla at the time because the templates had better designs out of the box. Since the system came with designs you could apply to the software engine we could tailor designs to a particular brand without the need of a designer. I believe this is what sparked the new methodology of web design.
As a developer I design from functionality and build toward visuals as opposed to a graphic designer who builds from design toward functionality. I think my way is better (of course) because the end result is a much better user experience with ease of use and accessibility to information. The actual truth however is it's a balance of both visual and functionality. I just have my method because of my background is software engineering.
So having a template or theme pre-made and tailoring to a specific brand has had an interesting effect on web design. The process starts with finding plugins or features that are required and incorporating into the design. For example, if I have a website that needs a calendar, membership feature, and email newsletter signups, I'll first find the plugins that fit best for the project. Once I've identified and installed the plugins I will then apply the theme to the features. This is what I consider “designing from the inside out”. From a developer perspective it is much easier or efficient to work this way. Whenever I program a website that was designed by a graphic designer the end result always seemed less functional.
That's not to say we don't need graphic designers. We just use their work in a different way. Instead of designing the website I will incorporate graphics into the design. This is “branding a theme” by using a business logo, colors, and graphics we circumvent the process and shortcut the development.
This has another interesting effect on the life of a website design. The life span of a website design is getting shorter and shorter. It used to be that you could build a website and leave it for 5 years or more. Two things are no longer true. You can't just leave a website without continually updating the content, and the lifespan is now around 2 years. I believe this is causing another effect of changing the website from a product based to a subscription based platform.
Seeing this effect has made me realize we need a better way to offer a web design service. Spending $2500 to $10,000 for a basic business website that will only be viable for 2 years no longer works. Not to mention the maintenance costs for supporting WordPress to prevent hacking and other malicious activity.
So we developed a better solution. We now have a managed network for WordPress websites. Instead of paying thousands and just having to rebuild it in a few years you just pay $99/mo. We will design the website for you and give unlimited support forever. The only thing not include is the actual custom content because the amount of work in that area is unlimited. To learn more check out www.softwiredweb.net. You can also schedule a walkthrough with us right now for more details about the system.
So now back to our new website design. After a few months we finally have our concept and are pushing forward fast. It really should be awesome...for the next year or two.