Web Design, A Beginner’s Guide

The need for web presence

As the world becomes increasingly digital, having an online presence for a business or even an individual is becoming an essential prerequisite to any traction, success and visibility. Before anyone wants to do business with you, or even hire you, they like to conduct a ‘Google audit’ about you, as they try to understand you better and gauge your credibility to a better extent. So the point is that having a decent online presence is absolutely important.

How can I build a website myself?

There are many ways to build your website. How extensive your website should be really depends on your industry and area of business, your goals and your budget. There are several cloud-based and other content management systems (CMS) like Wix, Squarespace which let you create your own basic website for no to little cost. There are also open-source platforms like WordPress and Joomla which are very popular for this purpose. The most commonly used CMS is WordPress. For someone trying to build their own website, the best approach is to purchase hosting from a hosting provider like Siteground.com. Many hosting providers include a domain for free in their annual or multi-year subscription plans, however a better approach is to purchase the domain for your business separately by using a domain registrar like namecheap.com or godaddy.com. Once a domain has been purchased, it can be easily linked to a hosting account and then a CMS like WordPress can be easily installed. Once the CMS has been installed, you can select from some of the basic themes and then customize them according to your business’s information and graphics etc.

What if I need a custom design for my website?

Websites like Envato Market offer thousands of themes which are built for various kinds of professionals or businesses in mind. The best approach is to spend some time searching for and selecting the right theme at such marketplaces. If you are lucky, you might find a website design which might be highly suitable for your business with minor customizations. If you like a theme, it can be purchased and then installed on your domain hosted at the hosting provider you selected. However customization of the theme can be pretty daunting task for a new user and it can take many days for someone to get accustomed to how the theme works and how to customize it according to your unique needs and preferences. This is the place where a website developer can help. Sometimes the features and plugins included in the original theme aren’t sufficient to implement exactly the kind of design which you might have in your mind. In that case, there is a need to develop custom plugins and make CSS, HTML and code based modifications to the theme to produce the results you require.

What if I don’t like any theme but would want a custom website designed and developed from scratch?

For a truly custom design, a product owner can work with a skilled professional in graphic design who will design custom screens and interfaces using a platform like Photoshop or Sketch etc. The layers of the graphic designs are then programmatically built into a web HTML and CSS interface. Programming languages like PHP or Ruby on Rails are used to integrate the front end of the website with the required functionalities and the data is stored into a database housed on a backend or cloud based server. Such development can be expensive as highly skilled team of professionals can implement a truly custom design like that.

Can a custom website be designed in WordPress or Joomla?

Yes, WordPress and Joomla are basically open-source frameworks which have ‘plugins’ which can be conveniently ‘mixed and matched’ to implement your custom design. When a uniquely new plugin is isn’t available, it can be developed from scratch. Due to the availability of various plugins, custom development in these frameworks is relatively less expensive compared to full scale custom development.

What is the best way to hire a designer or a developer in Richmond, VA?

There are many ways to hire a designer and a developer in the Richmond, VA area. The best approach and the most cost effective approach is to conceptualize the required design of your website yourself. One way to do that is to look at websites of competitors or other businesses which you like. Many a times they would also be built using themes which can be customized for your business as well. If you have a clear design in mind, it is best to work with a web developer to develop that design. There are many freelance platforms like Upwork and Freelancer.com which can help you to directly contact developers. Companies like DevSoft Digital provide local designers and developers who can directly talk with you, give you a feasibility analysis and quote and an opportunity to share your website ideas directly with them without any hassle or communication bottleneck. Sometimes it’s best to speak with a real person about your web development ideas so that you can get real feedback and also better understand how the web design and development process really works.

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