What is Your Website?
When building a website you need to determine what it is you want the website to accomplish. Is your website a simple brochure to introduce your company to a potential client? A tool for existing clients? A store to sell your wares?
There are many different types of websites to choose from, and you don’t have to choose just one. Like any project, the more options you choose the more expensive it will be. Building a one room cottage is going to involve a lot less time and money than building a 12,000 square foot mansion.
Components of a Website
There are various components that make up a typical website. The components range from 100% custom applications to “out of the box” components from various vendors. “Out of the box” components include both free applications that are provided by the Internet Community as well as paid commercial products.
A blog is a page, or group of pages, on a website that present short articles in chronological order. Most blogs are used for one way communication with the visitors to your website, often in the form of a weekly or daily commentary. Blogs are a great way to connect to the visitors of a website by keeping them informed of current events related to your business.
Various types of blog components are available that make it easy for the typical business owner to keep this part of the website updates. Once the blog component has been installed by your ever-friendly technical staff, you can start publishing your articles fairly easily.
Most blog systems only require that you know how to use your web browser. To publish an entry you simply surf to the “edit my blog” link your tech staff has provided for you, login, and start typing your article into an entry box. The blog software handles the formatting of the page, keeping the articles in order, and doing the general maintenance.
Most blog systems allow for extensive customization and extended features beyond the basic “post a new article” feature. Some features include the ability to put articles into various categories, tagging articles with keywords, or allowing commentary from website visitors.
- Pre-built blog systems are downloaded and installed on your server.
- Some clients rent blog software and hosting from a software-as-a-service provider and link to their page at the blogging site.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog, Wikipedia’s definition of a blog
- http://wordpress.org/, Word Press free downloadable blog software
- http://www.blogger.com/, Blogger free blog via software as a service
- http://blog.cybersprocket.com/, Example: Cyber Sprocket’s Blog
- /wiki/Geek_Speak, Blog: Simple Definition
Content Management System
A content management system manages the main part of your website. It provides an easy way for the business to add pages, update content on pages, delete pages, and move stuff around without the involvement of technical staff.
The benefit of a content management system is that the basic page layout (also known as the page template) is usually designed and installed by a web designer. Once the software and the template are installed on your server you then have control over the pages and paragraphs that appear on the site. Normally you will log in to a special web page on your site where you access a “control panel” for your pages. The control panel is where you add & delete pages and provides the links to edit the page content.
- Pre-built contents systems are downloaded and installed on your server.
- Many clients opt for the software-as-a-service model from providers that include web hosting and the content management system in one package ensuring you have the latest updates at all times.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_management_system, Wikepedia definition of Content Management System.
- /wiki/index.php/Content_Management_System Cyber Sprocket – more about Content Management Systems
- /lab/cms.html Cyber Sprocket’s current CMS Hosting solution.
- http://www.icaruscms.com/index.html, Cyber Sprocket’s upcoming Icarus CMS.
A forum is a section of a website that allows visitors to the site to communicate with each other via short articles known as posts. A typical forum is setup by the website owner with various sections representing categories of discussion that are pertinent to the website. Visitors to the website can both post a new question or comment or respond to a question or comment posted by another user. The postings and their responses tend to be grouped together in a way that represents a chronological dialog.
Forums are a great way to allow people interested in your business to share ideas, comments, how-to, and general knowledge related to your business. It often serves as a form of extended support for your client base where both your official support staff assists in answering questions alongside other members of the community that may be well versed about the intricacies of your business.
- Pre-built forum systems are downloaded and installed on your server.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_forum, Wikepedia definition of web forums.
- http://www.phpbb.com/, PHPbb free downloadable forum software.
A store allows users to buy items directly from your website. The variety of items that can be purchased online vary from downloadable software to physical goods to services. Your website becomes a simple way for people to pay for the items they are interested in. Stores can vary from something as simple as a form that collects credit card or other payment information to full fledged product displays with reviews and related information.
Online stores tend to be the most often customized part of a website and often requires the involvement of an experienced technical team. Business owners often desire a specific type of user experience when their clients are buying something from them. Most web software does not provide the desired features straight “out of the box”. Since a customer can be made or lost based on the store experience, it is often worth spending extra time and investment dollars in making sure this part of the website matches your expectations for the sales process.
Simple stores and shopping carts can be setup via a variety of online software-as-a-service providers. The advantage of these providers is a “hands off” approach to credit card storage, limiting your liability. The disadvantage is your are often unable to customize the presentation to meet the exact needs of your business.
- Large stores: Pre-built forum systems are downloaded and installed on your server.
- Small stores: Software as a service, such as Yahoo Stores are often linked to the website.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-commerce, Wikepedia definition of e-Commerce.
- http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/ecommerce/, Yahoo’s Storefront software as a service.
- http://www.oscommerce.com/, osCommerce free downloadable store software. (editor’s note: we’re not huge fans of osCommerce)
Video clips are a large part of today’s Internet landscape. Most people surfing the web today expect more than just a static textual presentation from their favorite websites. Almost every type of business can benefit from the addition of short video segments presented on the website. The videos can be anything from a simple “introduction from your host” to instructional videos to pure entertainment.
Proper formatting and production of videos is as important as proper placement and implementation on your website. Selecting compatible formats that work across many different computers is important. One of the more common distribution formats in place today is the use of Flash video formats due the freely available and widely distributed flash viewer application provided by Adobe.
- Video content is formatted then uploaded to your web server
- Web pages are tailored to present the video inline (middle of the page) or in a separate popup player window
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLV, Wikipedia definition of Flash Video.
- http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash/about/, Adobe’s Flash Player
- http://www.youtube.com, Google’s You Tube – popular video sharing website.
A wiki is a section of a website that is often presented as a series of linked web pages. Unlike the main content of a website, the wiki pages are often kept separate as the content is typically edited by the visitors to the website. Wikis are collaborative documents where the entire user community shares in producing documentation for your product or services. Think of it as a sort of self-help guide written by the users.
The content of a Wiki does not need to be limited to help systems, but that is a common purpose. Wikis can also contain commentary, photos, links to other resources, or any other content that could appear on a standard website. The primary difference is that Wikis usually don’t have a central “controller” of the information. The concept is to allow the community to create content for your site.
- Most wikis are installed on your server using free downloads of the wiki software.