The multiplicity of web designers, web design companies, web design platforms and DIY outfits that exist today is enough to confuse even the tech savvy business owner. There will always be a product, platform or service that you're not using and should be using or are using and shouldn't be using. Opinions are about as diverse as the packages and platforms available, so how do you choose?
There is no right answer to that question. Your choice will depend on the information available to you at the time, trial and error, availability and of course, your budget. However, you can make better decisions about web design packages by knowing a little more of the terminology used to describe them.
Basic websites are generally built from templates. DIY web design platforms are well known for their templates with basic templates free to use and more complex ones or edgier designs going at a premium. Web designers may also use templates that they have created or that they have sourced from elsewhere. Generally, using a template will bring down the overall cost of building a website.
Template designs differ from bespoke designs in that they are like cardboard cut-outs that make it possible to build a site faster and more efficiently as there are no complex bits and pieces that require specialised developer services. The disadvantage is that websites created from templates often look like a hundred other websites that used the same template or they lack functionality.
Bespoke designs are more expensive, but they do offer a greater degree of flexibility. Bespoke designs are websites made from scratch, fit to purpose, including all the required functionalities and often unique in appearance. An ecommerce website may benefit from bespoke design services, particularly if the product offering, its variants or its distribution is complex.
Hybrid design is a newer term that refers to a website design that makes use of both template and bespoke design and development. The website build may start with a template, but a particular functionality is required and is not available with that template. A web developer will step in and build the necessary extensions to include that functionality on the website.
Whether a template, bespoke or hybrid design is used determines which programming languages the web designer will use to build the site. HTML and CSS are the basic building blocks of any website and a basic understanding of what they are is required even if building a site on a DIY web design platform. Professional web designers should be fluent in at least HTML and CSS.
For bespoke designs and hybrid designs that require more functionality, the web designer or developer will need to know the programming languages API and PHP. These are used for what's known as deep development. API and PHP are complex programming languages not easily acquired by the DIY designer and generally require the input of an appropriately qualified designer.
Apart from programming languages, there are also many platforms to choose from in web design. The most well-known of these platforms is WordPress, which is used by lay people and designers alike. More complex platforms that offer a greater degree of flexibility and functionality include ASP.NET, Drupal and Magento. The platform used depends on what the website requirements are.
A basic knowledge of the terms used in web design and development will go a long way towards helping you make an informed decision about a website package and whether you want to go the DIY route or employ a web designer to get through the nitty gritty on your behalf. The best decision is an informed one, so find out all you can before committing to a service and especially a contract.
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