Armadillo Studios Inc.

Shopping For a Web Site? Part 3

Welcome to the final installment of our “Shopping for a Web Site? Series”:http://blog.armadillostudios.ca/article/shopping-for-a-web-site-part-1.

This week, we’re finally getting down to the quantitative issues of Web Site building. We’re going to be talking about potential time lines for building Web Sites and also ‘other’ costs associated with building a Web Site.

So let’s get started.

5. How Long Does it take to Build a Web Site? I Need Mine Up Tomorrow!

Again, we’re going to be very vague with our answer, but on average it’s going to take a few weeks or a couple of months to go live with a web site.

We understand your outrage at the moment, but hear us out.

The reason the process takes so long is two fold.

First, _web design_ is a complex art. Building a web site is never as simple as _I need five pages and I want it to be green_. The smallest error or set of changes can take hours of troubleshooting to resolve. The layout design process alone takes hours. There are dozens of aspects that need to be considered with every design decision. Far more than you’ll probably expect. Things like font size, the color of links, and compatibility with older browsers.

Secondly, a good designer will include their client’s opinions and suggestions into the design process. This whole process of feedback, drafts, alterations and meetings unfortunately takes time. Not that it is anyone’s fault; setting up meetings, writing content, making revisions are all time consuming activities.

We suggest that when you start the process of looking to build a web site keep these two items in mind. It will greatly help with the process and also allow for a good working relationship with your web designer.

Just understand that the entire process takes time and that being prepared before hand will speed things up.

*Armadillo Tip*: _Some companies will have a RFP (Request For Proposal) that will provide you with an idea of the information and questions that your web designer will need to get started. It’s a good idea to use this tool before your first meeting._

_If you want to get an idea of what a designer may ask you feel free to “download and use our RFP”:http://blog.armadillostudios.ca/file_download/7. It will provide a basic understanding of the types of questions a web designer/studio is going to ask you._


.
6. What Other Costs Should I Plan For?

There are four major costs associated with a building a web site.

1) Web Domain Registration. _$10-15 per year per address_
2) Web Hosting _$100-$250 a year for basic packages_
3) Web Site Development and Design _See our first tip in “part 1”:http://blog.armadillostudios.ca/article/shopping-for-a-web-site-part-1 for more info_
4) Stock images, extra fonts and potentially copywriting services.

Now, some studios and some designers include registration and hosting in their initial set-up fees. While smaller ones, like Armadillo Studios, do not.

The reason for this is that Web Hosting is a completely different animal that straight Web Design. So, many smaller companies will stay away from this venture. Web Hosting involves far more technical, security and database support than most companies are willing to take on.

In our experience we highly recommend two companies for all your hosting and domain registration needs:

1) “Domainsatcost.ca”:http://www.domainsatcost.ca for Canadian and General Domain registration.
2) “Dreamhost.com”:http://www.dreamhost.com/rewards.cgi?conturner for all Web Site hosting. (Plus Dreamhost includes “free customized Gmail support”:)

You might also need to be aware of the potential cost of *Stock Photography*, *Custom Fonts* or even the services of a *Copywriter*.

Now, we understand that these are costs which most people won’t even think about, but they are critical to the entire process. If you want to make your web site standout above your competition, you will need to use all the tools at your disposable. That includes the best fonts and the best images.

A perfect font or a perfect photo that encompasses the vibrancy of your business will push your web site into a different stratosphere. Unfortunately, most designers will only have a limited collection of fonts and photos at their disposal. So they might have to add an additional cost for purchasing a font for your web site. In addition, that perfect photo might have to come from a stock photography company (i.e. Veer.com or Istockphotos.com) while these costs are some what unexpected, using these images will cost far less than hiring a professional photographer to capture that exact same image.

The final cost that might appear during the process is the services of a Copywriter.

Copywriters are professional writers that provide custom content for your site. While we all would love to believe we can eloquently write our own content, sometimes your content is better left for the professionals. In those instances a Copywriter is the best solution.

*Armadillo Tip*: _Copywriters are a good investment._

_Hiring a Copywriter will save you valuable man hours and it will give you that extra bit of professionalism. In our experience, for every page of text a client needs, they will probably spend 5-6 hours writing and editing. On the other hand a Copywriter will be able to churn out the same (if not better) content in a quarter of the time. While the cost might be a little more than you expect, the stress and time savings are far greater._

… And with that we conclude our three part *Shopping For a Web Site Series*. We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips. If you have further questions feel free to contact us. We would love to hear some feedback and even ideas for future articles.

Contact us at info@armadillostudios.ca if you have any questions.

Cheers,

The Armadillo Team.

Shopping For a Web Site? Part 2

Welcome to the third and fourth tips in our “Shopping for a Web Site? Series”:http://blog.armadillostudios.ca/article/shopping-for-a-web-site-part-1. The final installment will come next week sometime, but in the meantime enjoy.

This week, we’re talking about Flash vs. HTML web sites and also which Web 2.0 terms are important for your business.

3. Why is a Flash based web site cheaper than a HTML/CSS/CMS site? What’s the difference?

We’re extremely biased when it comes to this question, but we advise our clients to stay away from _Flash Based web sites_. It’s a heated debate in the world of Web Design, but the majority of the industry has moved away from web sites solely based in Flash design towards HTML/CSS design.

In a nut shell, _Flash_ is a web program that is installed on your home page that acts as a web site. The benefits of Flash sites are easy that they are easy to build, relatively inexpensive and allow you to create some very cool effects. (big spirally intros, flashing lights, cool sound effects, etc,) In essence they are extremely flashy… _Yes, that pun was intended_.

BUT, Flash based web sites are filled with draw backs. First, they have a really weak relationship with search engines (a low SEO). Second, unless you own a copy of Adobe Flash (retails for $700 US) it is impossible to update. This means that any adjustments or updates to your site’s content will need to be done through your designer … and really who wants to be handcuffed to pay for the smallest change.

Third, Flash based web sites are not the most compatible with handheld devices (Blackberries, iPhones), older Internet Browsers and even web readers for disabled users. So while your site will look very pretty, you’re probably going to alienate a good section of your potential clients.

All in all, the cool little gimmicks of Flash based web design do not make up for the glaring holes.

*Armadillo Tip*: _All the gimmicks and cool little gizmos of Flash based design can be emulated in a HTML design. There are dozens of java scripts and AJAX plugins, which allow Web Designers far more flexibility with standard HTML design. So stick with HTML design._

_Now we are not advocating ignoring Flash altogether, as there are dozens of flash based apps and plug-ins, which can dramatically enhance your site’s overall appearance. What we are advocating is that instead of taking the easy and inexpensive way out with a full Flash based web site, look at making the investment in a straight HTML/CSS site._

4. What Are All These Web 2.0 Terms? And Do You Need to Understand SEO, CMS, SMS, Web 2.0 & Social Networking?

Yes and no.

Like every industry, the Web Design Indsutry has its trends and it’s catch phrases. These just happen to be the ones being bantered about our industry at the moment. It may seem that every designer you contact will be regurgitating these phrases at a horrific rate. _So, what do these terms really mean_?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the most important term you’ll need to know at the moment. In a nut shell it just means how strongly your web site will rank on the first page of Search Engine Results. The stronger your SEO rating the greater likelihood that your web site will be on the front page of Google or Yahoo.

Web 2.0 & Social Networking are terms used to “describe a new way of looking at the Internet”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0. Before 2004, web sites were very informational and very static. Since then, web sites have evolved to become more interactive and community orientated. Having a web site that takes advantages of the worlds of Web 2.0 & Social Networking will increase your reach and will probably connect you to more customers.

BUT, you’ll only want to involve yourself with networks or communities that appeal to your clientele. If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to incorporate your work into photo sharing sites like “Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com. If you’re a Rockabilly Country Act, you’ll want to create a “MySpace page”:http://www.myspace.com, create a “Facebook fan page”:http://www.facebook.com and even embed some music on your web site. On the other hand, an Oil & Gas Consulting firm probably won’t start contributing video footage to “YouTube”:http://www.youtube.com or “Vimeo”:http://www.vimeo.com. And they probably won’t set-up a Facebook fan page, _but a consulting firm_ might develop a corporate blog and start showcasing their industry expertise for free.

CMS (Content Management Systems) are fantastic tools. We recommend anyone even thinking of building a web site to pay the extra money to have these included in their design.

A CMS is a basic application installed on your web site that essentially allows you to control the content of your site. Most can be accessed via the internet and most will allow you to change information on your web site in a jiffy. Depending on the features of the design you can even great news articles, stories or updates for your web site.

The big benefit here is that it gives the power to you – the customers. With a tradition HTML or Flash based web site, if you need to change your company’s phone number you’ll have to pay your web design an hour or two for them to go in and make that small change. But with a CMS, you can log in and make the change yourself.

SMS simple stands for “Short Messaging Service”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_message_service, is a technical way to describe Text Messaging.

Many web apps and Social networking sites are incorporating SMS elements in to their structure. The micro blogging web site Twitter allows users to receive and send updates via SMS on a constant basis. While the mobile version of Facebook allows users to update and add pictures to their profile via SMS technology.

It’s an interesting component of that is taking Web Design an the internet mobile.

*Armadillo Tip*: _Take advantage of the ability of sites such as Flickr, Vimeo, Revver and Facebook, that have created API (“Application Program Interface:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/API) which allows integration between these Social networking sites and your own web site. Utilizing API’s is a solid way to increase your web site’s traffic and increase its exposure._

The “3rd article”:http://www.armadillostudios.ca/shopping-for-a-web-site-part-3/ in this series will discuss the potential costs and the time it takes to build a web site.

Shopping For a Web Site? Part 1

We’re pretty sure that there are dozens upon, dozens of articles dedicated to this topic. And we’re sure advice on building and purchasing a web site has been covered at nausea by “dozens of companies”:http://www.cairril.com/articles/webdesigner.html. But we here at Armadillo Studios thought we’d provide our own little spin on the topic. So here is the first part of our three part series:


*Shopping For a Web Site? Six Useful Tips for Businesses Looking to Set-Up a Web Site.*

1. What Should You Look for in a Designer/Studio?

First and foremost when looking to hire a Web Designer/Studio, you have to remember that you are not paying for the Web Site itself, but for your _Design Studio (or Designer’s) experience and time_.

This is probably the biggest conceptual block we run across when people inquire about our services.

It is a given that most of our economy functions by paying for physical products. For example, a basic white T-shirt has universally accepted cost of about $15 dollars, so you expect to pay anywhere between $10-20 dollars for your basic run of the mill white T-Shirt. If you pay $1.50 for the T-shirt you know its bad quality and you would only pay $200 for a white T-shirt if it was something really, really special.

Unfortunately, Web Site Design is *a service* rather than a product based industry. Sure your Web Designer/Studio will produce a product (_A Web Site, Business Cards, Banners, etc.,_), but the price you’ll be paying is for the _service the company provides_, rather than the web site itself. While that might appear to be the same thing as the T-Shirt examples, the truth is that they are two different ideas.

So with that in mind, a web site from a large established design firm is going to cost you far more than the same web site from a struggling freelancer. It could be the same amount of pages, content and functionality, but again you’re paying for *their* experience, expertise and time.

It’s best to find a studio/designer that you feel comfortable with. Explore their portfolio and previous work. Visit the sites they have previously built. Look to see how active these sites are? Are the current customers using these sites on a constant basis? Search the designer/studio’s name in your favorite Search Engine. Do they have any published articles or blog posts that explain some of their philosophies?

*Armadillo Tip*: _The business cards of any potential studio/designer are a great gauge of the type of product you can expect._

_The swankier and more detail orientated the appearance of the business cards the greater likely hood of a decent product. Rounded corners, imaginative colors, a good stock quality, and a nice finish will demonstrate their commitment to detail. Also be sure to check their email address. Is it a generic email address (hotmail.com, gmail.com, or yahoo.com) or is it a company email address. A studio/designer with their own domain and email address is more likely to provide you with a great product. Plus, if they can’t even create-up their own email account, what makes you think they’ll be able to set-up an account for you?_

2. So How Much Should You Spend on a Web Site?

The first thing you’ll notice about every _studio/agency web site_ is that they *never* reveal their rates and or have a *fixed price for a web site*.

It may seem like that we only do this to be elitist and mysterious; but the truth of the matter is you can’t put a standard quantitative price on our industries services.

For example a four page web site can potentially require far more billable hours than a 10-15 page web site. It all depends on the features, layout, requirements and design. Therefore most reputable companies won’t provide a flat rate, but will charge a hourly rate based on the requirements.

Does that answer the question? Not really? Okay.

So if your looking for a good quality web site, one that will let you standout above your competition, expect to pay somewhere in the *thousands rather than hundreds*. Be very weary of any company that promises a site and hosting for $500. It will be a waste of money, a major headache and you’ll eventually have to contact a more established studio/designer in a few months.

Trust us on this we’ve rescued a few clients in the two years that we’ve been operational.

*Armadillo Tip*: _If you need a web site and you don’t have that much money to spend, we suggest that you stake out your nearest Art College/Graphic Design school._

_Hey! Art school is expensive and those plus those kids are dying for experience. They’ll be able to provide you with some high quality work for a little bit of cash and another piece to bump up their portfolio_.

The 2nd article in this series will discuss “The Difference between Flash & HTML web sites and What Trends you need to know about”:http://www.armadillostudios.ca/shopping-for-a-web-site-part-2/.