company site design advice

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by emt8q5, Nov 23, 2009.

  1. emt8q5 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2007
    #1
    hello all,

    I'm a marketing director for a small software company and I have been tasked with doing a total revamp of our company's website. We have a decent amount of dynamic functionality on our site, so we needed more than just an online brochure. We initially began talking to local web design firms but quickly found that to get anything close to what we wanted, we were looking at a price tag of 15k+.

    Fortunately (unfortunately?), our head developer kindly pointed out that many of our product support engineers have working knowledge of php, MySql, javascript, html, css, blah, blah, blah... So the decision was made to sub out the design work and do the actual coding in house.

    That brings us to today, with myself in possession of 3 .psd files making up our home page, 2ndary page (industry/product category sub pages) and tertiary page (product info page). I have been put in charge of the project over a group of our product support engineers who are ready to start tapping out code. I have the majority of the content ready to rock, we just need to put the thing together.

    Never having done this before, I'm a bit unsure of myself regarding how to get this project started and I have a few questions:

    1.) essentially, the website is going to consist of 3 different page layouts for our purposes. We have our Home page, a sub-home page (for individual industrys, support page, etc...) and then we have a tertiary page which is for anything below the secondary tier (individual product pages, video room, contact page, press page etc..) We all use Dreamweaver cs3 here and I have been considering using Dreamweaver's template function for the static parts of the site, would this be adequate for our needs?

    2.) What about content managment systems? Would it be worthwhile to look at doing a custom wordpress/drupal/joomla setup to make things easy or would that be more work than it's worth? There are plenty of people in our office here who can update a basic html page w/ dreamweaver in terms of content so we wouldn't really benefit from a CMS in terms of ease of updating content. The only reason I would go with one is if it gave me an advantage in terms of completing the project sooner, taking advantage of built in SEO capabilities and/or simplifying the creation process.

    3.) If we don't use a CMS, I'm responsible for structuring the website on the back end. Is there a resource where I can find SOPs (standard operating procedures...or whatever you WebDev folks call em) for this? I have questions like how to structure the site to best take advantage of SEO as well as adhering to basic standar practices. For example, should each section of the site be in it's own directory? (i.e. "www.company-name.com/industry-1/" and where do I put php includes, scripts for forms, and other stuff that may be used on multiple pages?

    4.) We have plans for some limited javascript functionality on our site. Simple stuff, such as drop down menus, rotating banners (on the home page) and popular support article widgets. What about using Dreamweaver's built in javascript functionality for our menus and rotating marquis banners? is this considered unprofessional or poor form? Will it be suffecient or should I look elsewhere?

    This may not be the best place to post these questions, but I enjoy these forums immensely and everyone is always kind and helpful, so I figure I'd give it a shot. Any outside resources you can point me towards would be tremendously helpful as well.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. astroot macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2009
    #2
    Wow, you certainly have your hands full it seems!

    I'm just going to point you towards some good resources that may aid you in your process. Honestly, web development is a learning experience that is pretty easy to do on your own by reading from others and following examples.

    Web Standards Solutions by Dan Cederholm - I read an earlier edition of that, but it's a great resource for everyone, no matter if you're a beginner or a pro.

    Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools - you'll need a Google account to use these free resources, but they're worthwhile. Analytics provides free tracking, Webmaster tools allows you to submit a sitemap to Google and see how Google would see your pages, etc.

    jQuery Javascript library - IMO, the best Javascript library out there. You can basically do anything with it, very easily, and with a limited knowledge of Javascript. Just read through the documentation/demos and copy/paste.

    Make sure you download the Web Developer toolbar extension and the Firebug extension for Firefox. If you're using Safari, turn on the Developer menu. Those will help you immensely once you have some pages up.

    Great sites to check out for web info: alistapart.com, smashingmagazine.com, nettuts.com, patterntap.com.
     
  3. decksnap macrumors 68040

    decksnap

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2003
    #3
    And you wonder why they wanted 15k. :rolleyes: That's not a lot of money for this kind of buildout.

    Ask yourself if it's really going to take your team less time than that at the rate they're worth to get this done. Then hire a professional.
     
  4. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    #4
    I have to agree here. Depending on the size of your team and the time involved, this could get much more expensive for you... and you often wind up with an inferior result...
     
  5. emt8q5 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2007
    #5
    Thanks for the responses so far as well as the links, I'll be getting in some quality reading time tomorrow!

    From the start, my vote has been outsourcing to a 3rd party with the expectation that we would get what we pay for in terms of quality. Unfortunately, I was vetoed. 15K was absolute low end estimate we received, with the caveat that it was likely to be more. in my opinion, I don't believe the owner grasps the importance of our website to our operation as the primary channel of distribution for our products. That being said (Anyone see Curb last night ? :) ) I have no control over the decision, I just have to do the best job possible.

    I think we're in a uniquely dangerous position in that we know just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to push out quality, standards-based, work routinely. The people I'm coordinating on this aren't complete newbies, all are experienced with php and MySQL stuff and have done some custom work for some internal CRM stuff as well as our existing ecommerce system, not to mention a variety of forms, email scripts and database interaction stuff Our actual product developers are going to handle all interaction with our product licensing database and everything related to that, so I don't have to worry about that type of stuff. We're using a 3rd party ecommerce system with some customization work done to it by a company called UltraCart, our shopping cart is hosted on their end and the database interaction on our end is mostly pre-existing, it will need to be tweaked, but again I'm not so much worried about that because I'm not responsible for it.

    My main concern is building a standards based, php site with mostly static pages containing some dynamic elements (nothing too far over and above what I mentioned above). My biggest question marks have to do with:

    • SEO
    • layout and presentation (i.e. is there a standardized unit of measurment for css layout? When we've done pages in the past, we've just used pixels, should we use ems instead? )
    • Site structure (how to properly structure directorys and files)
    • Any other no brainer stuff that I'm missing (overly broad, I know!)

    Just to give you guys an idea of where i'm coming from, I've posted images of the .psd's making up our 3 pages.

    Thanks for the continued assistance!
     

    Attached Files:

  6. iMasterWeb macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    #6
    I'm pretty much just as experienced as you are, but I believe that pixels vs em is your decision. I use pixels for two reasons
    1. I don't get "em"
    2. I find (and I think you will, too) that pixels are much eaiser to work with, especially since you already have a .psd: the measurments are already there, you just have to transfer them to CSS

    Good luck with this project!
     
  7. astroot macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2009
    #7
    In terms of directory structure, a basic setup would just be something like this an example for your About page:

    http://yoursite.com/about/

    Google, etc will like that much more than something like http://yoursite.com/content.php?pageid=13

    There's no general rule or anything, but for CSS, JS, images I just do this:
    http://yoursite.com/css/cssfile.css
    http://yoursite.com/scripts/javascript.js
    http://yoursite.com/images/pic.png

    Another way is doing http://yoursite.com/assets/ and then having the CSS, scripts, and images folders underneath of that assets directory. But honestly, it doesn't really matter too much.. just do whatever you want.

    This is probably one of the best articles regarding em. http://jontangerine.com/log/2007/09/the-incredible-em-and-elastic-layouts-with-css. em really compares to %, not px.
     
  8. starshape macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    #8
    I'd agree with asroot 100% on jQuery and the Firefox plugins, I wouldn't want to work without them.

    For a CMS I'd have a look at Silverstripe or ModX if you are planning to go for a Linux host, or Umbraco if you are using a Windows host. My preference would be to go for a CMS over using Dreamweaver to update the content. If you must use Dreamweaver then use Contribute to update the content (not sure if Contribute still exists, I gave up on DW a few years ago).

    One thing to bear in mind if you are re-structuring an existing site is how well you are currently ranking in Google. You will need to permanently re-direct an existing page to the new URL or your pages will drop from the Google index.

    Using pixels for page structure is probably the best way to go, I still do things that way. There aren't really any standard page widths, I tend to go for 960px, the most common ones seem to range from 800px to 1000px. I use em's for typography to allow text to be increased and decreased in size but the user using the browsers text zoom.

    Any questions please feel free to ask. My specialism was (until redundancy) creating valid XHTML and CSS templates and plugging them into a CMS.

    P.S. I'd be willing to work on the HTML templates if you can persuade your bosses to outsource that part of the project (could probably get all 3 templates done within a few days) get in touch. I can promise it wouldn't cost you too much and would save you quite a bit of project time.

    Hope this helps.

    Thomas
     

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