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website design & development, website maintenance, Sheffield (UK) based.



There are now so many internet technologies out there that it is unrealistic to attempt to master them all so I need to clarify. The basic "tools" of Web Design are

  • HTML - this is the core set of commands that define the page structure, things like paragraphs, bullet point lists.
  • CSS - gives more control over the visual appearance of a page. For example font size and style - in old websites that's done in HTML but CSS offers greater control and flexibility.
  • PHP - this is a server-side computer language, it is used when a page is being prepared to send to a user. A simple common requirement might be for PHP to interrogate a database to check the username and password you entered are valid.
  • MySQL - the most commonly used database, widely via PHP
  • Javascript - this is a client-side language, it runs on your computer within your web-browser. Using Javascript means that for some tasks it's not necessary to send a request to the webserver and await a response so responses to your inputs are instant.
  • An image editor - the professionals tool is Photoshop (expensive and complex). If you have complex image manipulation needs it's best to subcontract to a graphics designer with Photoshop and the relevant expertise.
That list is simplified, and the elements are subject to continual enhancement. For example interactive navigation menus used to require Javascript but more recent developments enable similar effects to be implemented in CSS alone.

The more complex tools attempt to bundle together functionality and give the impression of simplicity and ease of use. The down-side of that is that the generated code becomes very verbose and complex. There are several consequences
  • The total file-size of the page may mean it is slow to deliver whan a user requests it. Don't forget that not everyone has superfast broadband. I've seen program generated pages where the exact same page could be one hundredth of the file size if written just using simple HTML. Google downrates slow pages and users lose patience and go elsewhere.
  • Adding new function to a generated page is best done using the original software - if it provides the function you need. If not you've got a problem.
  • You may be able to add new functionality beyond what the product offers but it will probably render the page incompatible with the original software should you ever attempt to edit the page in that software again.
  • Sometimes the generated code is so complex that even changing a bit of text is not possible without using the original software. I've hit this issue with pages generated by web builder software from Apple, Adobe and Serif.
  • Many "website builder packages" lock you in to not just that package but also the hosting provider. That's great as you don't have to worry about finding hosting compatible with your requirements and have multiple invoices for different aspects of your web presence. But of course there's another side to the story.
    • What happens if that provider ceases trading?
    • They might make a change to their offering that conflicts with your needs
    • They may not invest enough in their hosting provision and your site becomes slow to respond
    • They may change their pricing structure
    • You may need a feature they don't provide
    • Some hosted ecommerce providers' fees may be OK when you're starting out but if your offering is a success they can become a significant business expense to you
    • From a support perspective, you're stuck with what they offer. If they're slow to respond or it's simply not very good you have nowhere else to turn
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