Armadillo Studios Inc.

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”:https://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”:https://www.armadillostudios.ca/shopping-for-a-web-site-part-2/.

iPhone goes Enterprise

A couple of weeks ago we posted an article detailing the potential importance of the “Apple’s Iphone to our Canadian customers”:http://blog.armadillostudios.ca/article/iphone-arrives-in-canada. Well, with Mondays iPhone news at the “WorldWide Developers Conference”:http://events.apple.com.edgesuite.net/0806wdt546x/event/index.html it looks like the next release of the iPhone will have far more impact on your business then we thought.

In simple laymen terms, it looks like Apple is poised to take a bite out of Blackberry’s dominance on the Business Wireless Device market. With the release of iPhone 2.0 software, the iPhone will _now_ contain Enterprise software comparable to Blackberry offers. So what does that mean for your business?

Essentially, this news solidifies the iPhone’s future cultural importance and will open your business up to an entire group of _new users_ that will have a greater access to wireless Internet. In particular, it means that your *web site will need to be compatible with the iPhone’s internet browsers* or you will be missing out on a slew of vital customers.

And as one analyst has already pointed out – “we’re witnessing the birth of a third major platform, after Windows (PC) and OS X (Apple Computers)”:http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2008/06/liveblog-steve.html.

iPhone Arrives in Canada

Here’s a quick question for small businesses to consider; why is the news of “Roger’s decision to finally support the iPhone in Canada”:http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080429.wrogersstaff0429/BNStory/Business/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20080429.wrogersstaff0429 important news for your business?

Well, ponder this. Apple’s iPod popularity over the past few years has been well document and it’s dominance on the portable music market in Canada is undeniable. With Roger’s decision to finally support the iPhone in Canada, Apple seems poised to once again alter the dynamics of the prosperous Cellular phone market. But more importantly for the iPhone to work, there needs to be a major shift in wireless cell phone data rates in Canada; thereby making it cheaper and easier for people to surf the web on the their cell phones.

It is this element of Rogers’ announcement that is critical news for your business. As data rates decreases and the technology for cell phone based web browsing grows; users will be doing more surfing away from the comforts of home or their office. Instead, users will be surfing the net waiting for flights or on their daily commute. Heck they could be checking their email while at a concert or twittering their friends about the night’s activities.

With one of the highest rates of broadband usage in the world, Canadians already spend a majority of their time surfing the net. Whether it’s at work or at home. Simply put – we are a wired nation. Now with reduced cell phone data rates, the ability to surf the net from any location will allow users more time to browse the internet. That’s where it be comes imperative that your web site is designed with cell phone browsers in mind.

No mater what type of business you run, your web site needs to be compatible with all browsers. More importantly *your web site* must be compatible with Safari and Opera browsers (The common iPhone browsers) and mobile devices in general. The best way to ensure your site is compatible is to have it developed in Web Standards or in an HTML/CSS combo. A complicated Flash web site will not function as well in mobile browser and will not provide users with the information they need. While a CSS/Web Standards based site will still provide both regular desktop users and mobile users with the information they both need.

Armadillo Studios already builds our web sites with mobile devices in mind. But as the demand for the iPhone increases we will be moving towards “enhancing our sites”:http://www.bittbox.com/general-web-design/have-a-website-its-time-to-add-a-webclip-icon/ to fully embrace mobile technology. If you are interested in adapting your web site for the mobile web, give us an email at info@armadillostudios.ca.

Dreamhost goes Gmail

So first it was the upgrade of the “WordPress”:http://blog.armadillostudios.ca/article/wordpress-25 interfacen and now Dreamhost has moved from the archaic SquirrelMail to the new Gmail Email service. I must say April has been a great month for our clients.

For most of our new clients looking for a web hosting service, Armadillo Studios strongly recommended “Dreamhost.com”:http://www.dreamhost.com for all your hosting needs. They provide excellent and prompt support, a very simple user interface and more storage space than you could shake a stick at …

Unfortunately, for quite sometime Dreamhost has been utilizing the archaic squirrel mail system for mail accounts. This has been the overwhelming single complaint we’ve received form clients about their great service.

But now, Dreamhost has upgraded their mail services to function through the Gmail interface. Gone is the frustrating navigation and layout of squirrel mail. Instead users are treated to all the benefits of Gmail’s wonderful mail service, but through their own mail domain.

Users can now utilize everything that “Gmail has to offer”:http://mail.google.com/mail/help/intl/en/about.html. Customizable contact lists, searchable folders, a simple calendar, and Gchat all through their own domain server.

If you would like us to upgrade your email service for you or would like more information, feel free to contact us at “info@armadillostudios.ca”:mailto:info@armadillostudios.ca.

SXSW08: Advertising for Newbies

We know we’re jumping around a bit on describing SXSW, but it has been a fairly hectic few days since returning from SXSW.

So let’s get back on track, Day two of SXSW was an informative and inspirational day of sessions. As mentioned in the previous post, the very interesting “icanhasacheezburger”:http://blog.armadillostudios.ca/article/sxsw08-guess-the-web-site session really took over the day.

But one of the most important client side sessions came early on Sunday morning. A session simply called “Online Advertising for Newbies”:http://2008.sxsw.com/interactive/programming/panels_schedule/?action=show&id=IAP060555.

Here at Armadillo Studios, have been continuously working with our clients to capitalize on various revenue generating streams; it was nice to see some of the recent success stories and to discover some new ideas.

The session provided ample information regarding different avenues in which web logs can transition their content and passions in to revenue. Some ideas were fairly basic and included; the incorporation of “AdBrite ads”:http://www.adbrite.com or “DoubleClick”:http://doubleclick.com ads into a site’s layout. These ads generate revenue for the publisher based on clicks per million visits. (Basically the number of clicks an ad gets based on a One Million views) Or bloggers can align themselves with large professional blogging networks like ProBlogger or “eMoms at home”:http://www.emomsathome.com/blog/, which will pay bloggers who bring their wealth of new readers to their networks. Or even the idea of bloggers selling local banner space to local restaurants and businesses to provide a local connection to their readers.

Some of the more unconventional ideas included incorporating Amazon.com’s referral program or an iTunes referral program to give bloggers a percentage of all purchases directed from the site. Web logs that deal with pop culture issues or deal directly with cooking can greatly benefit from this form of revenue, as it generates income based on content. This idea works hand in hand with sites that promote or review a variety of products.

If you are interested in ways to generate income on your web log, feel free to contact us. You don’t even have to be an existing client; we really enjoy helping people get the best from their web logs.

Hey! That’s why we call ourselves blogging experts.

SXSW08: Blame Canada

Two years ago, South By Southwest was sparsely attended by only a handful of Canadians. Even worse there was only a mere three attendees from Calgary and the Southern Alberta region. This year there was an encouraging boost in the number of Canadians at the conference. Even more encouraging was the dramatic increase in the number of Calgarians and viable Calgary centric corporations. Companies like “istockphoto”:http://www.istockphotos.com, “veer”:http://www.veer.com, “DigitalArts Alberta”:http://www.digitalalberta.com/, and “Cambrian House”:http://cambrianhouse.com had a strong presence at the conference.

One of the most explosive and interesting panels from Monday’s SXSW session was the “Blame Canada Panel”:http://2008.sxsw.com/interactive/programming/panels_schedule/?action=show&id=IAP060310 which explored the 7 reasons Canada is ahead in New Media Development. Containing five, top new media experts in Canada, the panel spoke to the largely Canadian audience about the advantages and disadvantages of startups in Canada. It explored the dynamics of a small population base, spread out over a large landmass. It also explored the many benefits of our strong government supported initiatives. Including the important S.R.E.D fund.

But the real fireworks came at the end of the session, when a challenge regarding Canada’s _actual industry presence_ was brought fourth. Which brought up some valid points on Canada’s percentile representation at SXSW and our representation in the Industry as a success. Many valid points were presented on both sides. By the end of the session a strong sense of accomplishment and _we can do more_ was really explored.

As a company based in Southern Alberta, it was very interesting to connect and see some of the strong activity occurring in Calgary. It was a great opportunity to meet with the people from “Digital Alberta”:http://www.digitalalberta.com and see the strong work they are doing to promote the industry in Southern Alberta.