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We're often asked questions about web design, websites and the web in general, many of which we're asked time and time again. Below are some of the most popular, with our answers

How much does a website cost to design and build?

Because of the nature and the scope of websites it's a very difficult question to answer without drilling down into the nature of the project and what is required. There are so many variables involved in the building of a website. One analogy would be houses; You can't go into an estate agent and ask how much a house costs. You can't even ask how much a semi-detached house costs because an enormous number of factors need to be taken into consideration - its location, has it got a garden, and if so, how big is the garden? Whether it has double glazing and central heating, what the decor is like. How new is the boiler, and is it in an area prone to flooding? Once you get into specifics, then the estate agent could quite easily tell you that a house in this location, in this condition with these fixtures and fittings and a garden this size is worth X, and it's the same with a website.

What Maddison Multimedia web design Newcastle can do, though, is once we've had a chat about what you're looking for, we can work out how long it will all take and give you an up-front cost with the guarantee that if the project takes longer, or is more work than anticipated, then providing the scope of the work involved doesn't change (ie there are no further requests or changes to the original brief), then the cost will not escalate, so you can budget in advance of the work, safe in the knowledge that it will not escalate.

Websites and the World Wide Web - what are they?

The Web, or World Wide Web (www) is a series of linked (by hyperlinks) documents that can be accessed via the internet.

The web and internet are often confused but are actually two different things - the web is the network of documents that is hosted on the internet, which is a giant network of computers that can communicate with each other. The web as we know it came about in the late eighties, an invention of British physicist Tim Berners-Lee, then an employee of Cern in Switzerland. The first browser was made available to the public a couple of years later, allowing anyone in the world to access 'The Web'.

To access the internet, a user requires a computer, an internet connection and a program known as a browser, which allows your computer to interpret web resources. Viewing a webpage requires the user to type in a 'Domain name' or URL into a browser to go directly to any given site, or navigate to a Search engine. Search engines constantly crawl the web for any document they are able to access and record content from each of those pages, ranking them by how relevant and suitable they are to the user searching, based on what they're searching for. Originally, websites were only able to display information with limited functionality, but as the technology has grown, so has the capability of the web and websites to interact with users and to query any number of data sources, resulting in the web being the necessity in each of our lives it is today.

Could you imagine going a day without checking your social media accounts, making a purchase from one of the millions and millions of online shopping sites, or managing your daily admin via an email account or online banking? I certainly couldn't!

What technologies do you use to design websites?

For functionality, we use php, an open-source, commonly used scripting language that is particularly well suited to web development and that can be inserted into HTML. For Content Managed Websites we use Wordpress, an open source, online website creation tool built in php. We use HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript to develop front-end website interaction, functionality and animation. We use SQL and MYSQL wherever we need a database, and from a design perspective we use the Adobe Creative suite to create for the web.

How do we go about building a website, and what web design is involved?

The process that ends up with a successful, beautifully designed, fully functional, well marketed and promoted usually begins with a great idea. Whether this idea is a product or service, or something to plug a gap in the market, a way of making money or something that entertains people - this idea is the key to making your project a success. You need to have a realistic expectation of what success looks like and a plan of how you're going to get there. You could have the best website in the world, and if your idea is a duffer, it's going to flop.

Once you have this idea and plan, an idea of how you're going to measure success, backed up with a good bit of market research you can think about how you're going to push your idea online. (The internet has become that significant that to not have a website in this day and age is not an option!). That's when Maddison Multimedia web design Newcastle comes in. We can help you with expert industry knowledge of what works and what doesn't. What can be achieved, and how we can achieve it. What you're going to need, how long it will take and how much it's all going to cost. We will generally then come up with a site structure, with a number of levels, and a flat design/visual/creative. Once these two key elements have been agreed then we set to work putting the two together and voila! You have a website. The hard work doesn't stop there though. Many people think that you build a website, and you can then sit back and watch it work its magic year after year. Unfortunately it's not like that - a website (and its search engine performance) are a living, breathing animal. You have to tend to it, update it, improve it, add to it and love it, otherwise it won't perform to it's maximum and you won't get most from it.

From a practical point of view, you need a domain (an address for your website so people can find it), you need a hosting company to provide you with space on one of their servers (a computer that you can access via the internet) and you need the files you create, nicely arranged into folders. Once you have all these, you attach your domain name to your server, and software that allows you to FTP (File transfer protocol) or upload your files onto your server. Once they're up there then the world can see your site and you're off!

Maddison Multimedia web design Newcastle can arrange all of this for you - we have great relationships with a number of hosting companies, and we use the latest FTP software, so it's not something you need to worry you - it's included in all new website packages. If you have an existing website and you like to keep the domain name and/or hosting provider, that's not a problem either, we can simply use your existing setup to upload the new site to.

What are the benefits of advertising my business dynamically online via a website?

One of the great features of promoting your business via the web is that you can add to your site almost instantaneously. You could think of an idea for a promotion one lunchtime and but close of business it can be live, with little or no lead time and no costly printing to contend with.

Unlike printed media and traditional advertising methods, if you publish your website and you decide that your offer is no longer available, your prices need to change or you want to change your messaging, you can do it quickly, easily, and more importantly very cost effectively 'on-the-fly', allowing you to be as reactive and as responsive to market forces as you wish.

Similarly, if you have something time-sensitive you wish to communicate to your customer base, you can add it to your site where it can be made live immediately, and once it's no longer needed it can be taken down just as quickly.

You no longer need to scrap boxes and boxes of flyers, or have expensive TV or radio commercials remade. You simply contact your web manager/designer, let them know what the update is, and they will update hassle free. Should you have opted for a CMS (Content management system) website where you have the ability to update the content yourself, then it's even easier! You simply log in to the admin area, navigate to the page in question, edit your text, hit save and you're done!

Flat websites vs CMS - what's the difference?

There are two main categories of website: the flat/HTML brochure style website and the CMS (Content Management System) website. The main difference is that the website owner cannot update the flat/HTML website without web design/development knowledge. They are intended to be built and managed by the web designer/developer, and whenever the site owner requires an update to the site, they would go back to their designer/developer who will be able to make the update for them. This works well for sites that don't require many updates, as they are more cost effective for the site owner, taking less time to set up and build than their CMS counterpart. Flat/HTML websites also traditionally have limited functionality.

A CMS website is built on the back of a content management system (Wordpress for example) and is generally connected to a data source; A database for example (other data-sources are available!). They are also built using more complex programming language; php or ASP.NET for example (along with HTML in many cases) to allow for a greater scope for functionality, enabling the user to interact with the site in much more depth. The main benefit of a CMS website however is that they can be updated and managed by the website owner without any prior knowledge or experience in website technologies. Because they are more complex however, they will cost more than a flat/HTML site, but this is balanced out by virtue of the fact that the site owner does not have to pay a web designer/developer to make updates.

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