Let's say you run a Small or Medium sized business and that you need a new company website. You aren't big enough to justify an inhouse web designer, but you still want a website that projects a professional image and that will help grow your business.
One of the more frustrating issues you're going to face is that the terms used to describe common web technologies are basically Greek (or Geek) to outsiders. To exacerbate matters, there are some unscrupulous Web Designers and Developers out there who will think you are an easy mark just because you are unfamiliar with concepts such as Content Management Systems (CMS), Responsive Design or the HTML5 standard.
You don't need to stress or be discouraged by technology that at times seems dark and mysterious. Remember, it's not your business (or your problem) to keep track of every new development in web technology, that's what Web Developers are for. What you will need is a basic understanding of the nuts and bolts of web technology so you can speak effectively and intelligently with your Web Developer and avoid being dazzled by shady operators in the web world.
1. Why has Responsive Web Design become so Important?
The huge growth of the iPhone, iPad and other smart devices has changed the way web content is presented to the user. If you want customers to visit and interact with your website, you have to give web visitors an easy and adaptive interaction. Your site needs to be able to render content seamlessly whether on not it is displayed on a desktop or any number of mobile devices. Not sure if your present site is responsive? Here's how to quickly check: open your site on a small screen such as a smart phone. If you have to scroll left or right to access content or if elements of your site are missing or displayed incorrectly, your site is not responsive.
Responsive Web Design is the new standard for modern Web Development. This basically means designing an adaptable site that will modify itself to accomodate the different screen sizes and configurations of mobile devices. For example, if you visit a website with a tablet and then rotate the device, the site will automatically rearrange and reconfigure its layout to match the new screen perspective. If you visit the same site on your smartphone or desktop, the website will again reconfigure itself to display properly on the different sized screens. In all cases, the site is optimized for the best possible user experience and readability.
2. How are HTML5 and CSS3 used to Build Websites?
HTML5 and CSS3 are the basis of modern website design. HTML5 can be compared to the framing and foundation used to build your home. HTML5 tells your browser the best way to organize and render the content on your screen. CSS3 is in charge of the aethestics of the site and in the in the home example would provide instructions regarding paint color, plants and trees, furniture styles and artwork choices. In short, CSS3 deals with the general look and feel of your site.
HTML5 and CSS3 are harmonious languages that aren't particularly valuable unless they are used together. Both have become absolutely necessary parts of Responsive Web Development.
3. Why do I need a Content Management System?
Content Management Systems (CMS) make the job of managing and administrating a website a whole lot easier. Prior to the introduction of CMS, a web administrator had to make a static HTML document and then manually upload it to the site before anyone could see it. Over time, site structures became extremely complex and featured thousands of pages and corresponding menu items. If you were cursed with having to make a global change to your site, each page needed to manually updated with the correction. Something needed to change and Content Management Systems were the answer.
You don't need to be an HMTL guru to deal with the everyday changes to your website. A CMS allows you to concentrate on creating your content and not worry so much about how the website will render the page. This gives you more freedom to add and change content more frequently without having to overhaul your site. Many popular San Francisco Bay Area websites run on a Content Management System such as Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla or an enterprise application.
You don't need to be a certified auto technician to know the rules of the road and simply drive your vehicle. In the same manner, you don't need to be a web designer to understand the basic underlying technology that makes websites work. Understanding basic concepts like Responsive Design, HTML5, CSS3 and Content Management System will help you make the right business decisions when it comes to your web property.
It doesn't take a whole lot to get yourself up to speed on current web technology and start making informed decisions you can feel good about. As far as the nuts and bolts go, leave that part to the web designers and developers.