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Web Design Deliverables

ImageA good number of documents are created during the web design process. There is certainly a lot for the competent web designer to document throughout the discovery, planning, design, integration and delivery stages of a complex web project. Not all of these documents are of interest to the client, and over the years I've learned only to present the minimum number of documents needed to ensure a successful project. The following are the standard deliverables I ask my clients to sign off on.

Creative Brief
I use the creative brief as an overall project definition document. It includes all the requirements and specifications of the project, including scope, audience, objective, call to action, and technical specification for the website we will be creating.

Download Creative Brief Worksheet

Content Outline
The content outline defines every piece of content that will appear on the website. If it isn't on the content outline, it isn't going to appear on the website. The content outline is part of the information architecure, and as such should be organized in a hierarchy that represents the structure of the website rather than a hierarchy based on arbitrary categorization of content.

View Sample Content Outline

Site Map
The site map represents the structure and navigation of the website and should closely coincide with the content outline. There should be a common numbering system in place. Pages are represented by boxes and links by arrows.

View Sample Sitemap

Wireframes
Wireframes are schematic versions of the pages on a website and should similate the final navigation, although the page layout at this point in the process is rough. Wireframes can be made into clickable web pages, allowing the client to preview the navigation of the site in action. Each wireframe should include all pieces of content that the final web page will display.

View Sample Wireframe

Graphic Design
Mockups/Comps The graphic design mockup is a composite image of how the final web page will look. Color, layout, typography, and images are all worked out at this stage for each significantly different page type on the website. I should make clear that even though the composite (mockup or comp for short) looks like a web page, it is still only a single image. It is not a web page, and include no code at this point in the process.

View Sample Mockup

Development Site/Prototype
During the integration/programming step of the web design process, the graphic design comps are converted into code (HTML, DHTML, CSS, scripting, database tables, etc). The site is built and tested on a domain or subdomain of a development server that has the same technical specs as the live server will have. When the site is fully functional on the development server, it is migrated to the live server. This is the final deliverable of the web design project.

Do Not Make These Web Design Mistakes

1.    Believing the hype. “Anyone can be making thousands of dollars with their own website in minutes just by ordering this free CD!”

A good Web design is crucial to a successful Internet business, but it is not the only requirement. The Internet can be a very competetive marketplace. Stories about making easy money by owning a Website are always connected to scams. The problem is that by hearing these marketing hooks over and over again, and hearing antecdotes about how this guy, or that gal started an Internet business from their bedroom when they were 12 and are now millionaires, some people get the impression that “easy” is somehow associated with an Internet business. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like any business you start you need a good business plan. Not a business plan written off the top of your head, but a business plan based on research and knowledge of the market you will be entering. Internet professionals are a valuable source of this information.

2.    Purchasing your domain name and hosting account first, and then looking for a web designer to build your Website.

Not all domain name registrars or web hosting companies are created equal! In fact, either can range from out-and-out scam artists to quality, reputable companies. Your web design professional has years of experience and knowledge of dealing with web hosting companies and domain name registrars, and can save you money and headaches by choosing the right provider the first time. Do you need ASP or PHP? Do you need a database or not? Does your project require a dedicated server? Do you have multiple domains to point to your Website? Your web design professional can help you answer these questions.

3.    Not taking the Web design process seriously. “Why all these questions? Just design my homepage and I’ll give you all the information to put in later.”


If you were building a house, you wouldn’t tell the contractor to start building and give him the plans at a later date. Websites are complex software and informational systems. If a web designer does not have all of the information he/she needs upfront during the planning stages there is a 100% probability that significant design or production work will need to be redone before the site is launched, costing both time and money.  Hastily put together, or incomplete information will undoubtedly lead to a Website that doesn’t meet your needs, or those of your visitors.

4.    Telling the web designer to match a competitor’s website. “Give me a website like ABC.com.”


Copying another Internet business' Website is like dressing up like Donald Trump, and expecting the money to start pouring in. It can be helpful to show a web designer the kind of Website you are looking for, but it is by no means a substitute for doing your homework, knowing your industry and coming up with your own quality business plan. The Website is the client-facing portion of your competitor’s Internet business. Only a limited knowledge of their business model, operations and back-end can be gained by you or your web designer from studying their Website. Your web designer can assist you in building the business plan for your Internet business from the ground up. From that foundation they can build a quality Website that is an exact fit for your quality business.

5. Doing it on the cheap for yourself, just to start out.


This includes:
  • Putting up a quick website yourself and then looking for a web designer to improve it.
  • Having your son’s friend set up a quick website and looking for a web designer to make it look professional.
  • Buying a cheap canned script, and then looking for a web designer to improve it.  

An experiened web designer knows that touching any of these projects is going to be a waste of time and money. He will be able to deliver a higher quality Website quicker and cheaper by starting from scratch.

Discourage Spam

Everyone who has an email account or surfs the web is aware of the wasted time and loss of productivity caused by SPAM. Spam email is unsolicited bulk email (UBE). The senders of these spam emails usually rack up a small fee for each person who clicks on the link in the email, or makes a purchase on the advertised website. If you so much as click on a link in a spam email, or worse yet, purchase something through a spam email, you are ensuring the survival of this kind of advertising. If you want to stop rather than encourage it, you must never click on a link in a spam email, even if it is a product or service you are interested in. Because spamming is generally seen as an unethical practice in the business community, there is a good chance that any businesses you get involved in through spam will be unethical in other ways, and it is best to stay away. If the business being promoted is a major company, let them know directly that you do not appreciate the spam you receive on their behalf from the 3rd party advertiser.

Emails used by spammers are often "harvested" by robots (software programs) from the Internet. If you post your email address on a website, encrypt it using JavaScript or some other method that makes it unreadable to a robot looking for email addresses. If you do post your email address on a website, and do not encrypt it, expect that it will be harvested, added to a spammers list, and you will be receiving a good amount of spam because of it.

SPAM websites are similar to Spam emails in that they are usually put up by a 3rd party to advertise another business' products or services. These websites contain no useful content themselves, only "affiliate links" for which the website owner is paid per click or per purchase. If you do a search, click on a result, but the page does not have any useful information, hit the back button rather than clicking the "sponsored link." These sponsored links are often made to look like standard links or navigation to trick you into clicking on them. If the page has no content, hit the back button and look for another result. 

This is not to say that the appearance of sponsored links indicates that the page is spam, but if there is no useful information on the page, don't reward the website owner financially by clicking on a sponsored link. Digging through these spam results can be a big waste of time and you might even consider reporting the spam result to the search engine you used to find it. Search engines have staff that will review the report, and if the page does violate the search engines terms of inclusion, they will delete it from the results.

Spamming can be financially rewarding, or it wouldn't be so prevalent. It is unlikely spam will ever be eliminated, but you can help reduce it by not clicking. 

5 Reasons Why Your Business Website Needs a Blog

Blogs have revolutionized the Internet. Ten years ago the Web was a different place. If you wanted to find out about a business, you would do a search, find their corporate web site, and find out what they had to say about themselves.

Get Page Rank For SEO

Page Rank is a measurement, calculated by Google, of how important, or how authoritative your web page is. Page Rank, also termed link authority or link popularity is a very important factor in how well your web page ranks on the search engines. It becomes increasingly important as the searches become more competitive.

Other search engines, such as Yahoo, also use systems similar to Page Rank in their search algorithm. Page Rank is based on incoming links to your website. If another website links to your web site, search engines, such as Google take that as an indication that the content of your web site holds some importance. If  your web site has NO incoming links, the search engines may not even bother to index it.

Page Rank is not only determined by the number of incoming links to your web site, but also some of the following factors:
1) What is the Page Rank of the web page that contains the link to your site.
2) Is the text in the link (anchor text) relevant to the content of your web site.
3) Is the content of the web site linking to yours relevant to your content.

To get the Page Rank of your sites and any site you can pull up on the Internet, install the Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com/) and enable the Page Rank function. You will need to accept the privacy policy.

Once installed you will see the word PageRank above a bar graphic. The bar graphic will range from completely white in color (Page Rank of zero) to completely green in color (Page Rank of ten). Now you can check the search engine results pages (SERPs) for your target searches. Click on the number one result and look at the Page Rank of that web site. If it is a competitive search, now you have an idea where your Page Rank needs to be to reach the number one spot.

To increase your Page Rank, get relevant links with your target keywords in the anchor text. Try to get links on pages that have a high Page Rank themselves. Increasing your Page Rank WILL be a lot of work, but if you keep at it, it WILL yield results.

Page Rank Gotchas:
1. The toolbar Page Rank is just a snapshot of the actual Page Rank that Google uses in its algorithm. That snapshot is not updated often, so at any point in time it could be fairly inaccurate. If you are asking why the web page with a Page Rank of zero is higher in the SERPs than yours, this could be the reason.
2. The Google toolbar also has a function that allows you to check backlinks, or the number of incoming links to the web page you are checking. You may see a web site with a Page Rank higher than yours, but is shows no backlinks. First, Google backlinks function is not that accurate, and only shows a portion of backlinks that they have on record. This is particularly true for low Page Rank websites. Secondly, a clever SEO will get links not only to their homepage, but to internal pages in their website, and the Page Rank of those internal pages will naturally flow to other pages in the web site, including the homepage.

Page Rank is a concept that is fundamental to understanding modern search engines. In combination with an understanding of keyword relevance, you are on your way to improving your search engine rankings.

Find out about our SEO Services for small business

Submit a Sitemap to MSN

 Submitting your XML sitemap to MSN is easy if you know where to start. That starting place is:

http://webmaster.live.com/

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If you don't already have an MSN Live account, sign up for one. Once you are logged in go to  http://webmaster.live.com/ and click on "Sign in to use the tools."

You are immediately brought to the Site List page:

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From there, click on "Add a Site." You'll be directed to the page where you can enter the URL of your site, the URL of the XML Sitemap and whether you'd like to authenticate your site ownership via META tag or XML file.

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You'll also be able to enter your email address and choose whether or not you will receive the webmaster newsletter. After clicking "Submit" your site will be added and you'll be given the code with which you can authenticate your site. 

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Click "OK" when  you are ready to authenticate. You'll be directed back to the Site List page. You can now click on the "Web Address" or your site to access the tools. 

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Clicking on "Sitemap" in the top navigation will bring you to the "Sitemap" page, where you can change the sitemap URL or ping the sitemap. 

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 Explore the tools and ENJOY!

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