Webdesign FAQS

Domain names

A domain name is somewhat like a personalised number plate. Having   www.you.co.nz instead of the less interesting www.yourisp.co.nz/you/ or the really exciting Thats the address system that computers actually use to talk to each other, and thats exactly why we have domain names.


Many people, Ive done it too, intially think that they dont need/ cant afford a domain name. They go through this predictable process of starting out under their ISP or host`s name then later upon deciding to take their endeavor to another level have to change their domain name. Meanwhile they have built up a client base under the old name, and, as life would have it are also in the middle of building a house, and having a baby.   Confusion reigns as youve got several different addresses floating around the net.


My advice is try not to go there. Domain names are considerably cheaper and definately more useful than the car kind. Get one, um now. The only preface to this, is that you have to have already established your branding. So that comes first.


Securing your domain name is the key. You can have a domain name without a website, absolutely. You can either `park` the domain, that is to say, its yours you own it forever, and not use it for anything. But a better option is to start out with a basic email package. Taking this route for a few bucks a month youll get someone to host your domain for you, and attach it to an email box or two.



Its important to understand that email boxes, email addresses, and whatever service your ISP offers are all seperate entities. You can have lots of addresses from lots of doamins going into one email box, many different email boxes if you want, and all of which you can clear via your usual ISP, or any other ISP for that matter.


In the short term you can either simply get a `redirect` from you@yoursblablabla.co.nz to your present email box or take the oppurtunity to start a second box that helps keep your endeavors mail somewhat seperate from your home traffic. Any half way decent email program can clear multiple boxes.


Marketing value of email addresses

Be mindful that having your own email address and domain is a good way to promote your endeavor. Every email you send for whatever purpose serves effectively to advertise you, rather than a certain large telecommunications company that shall go unnamed for the present moment.



When starting a nice new clean as a whistle email box, it certainly pays to be aware of ways to reduce your future spam loading. Spam filters are getting better, but they are fighting a losing battle. Heres some tips:

  • avoid sending emails with large lists of recipients. These are great fodder for spam and virus distribution.   Use BCC. Encourage others to do the same.
  • avoid giving your email address to unreputable / dodgy looking websites.
  • use one of several methods to camoflage your email address when you place it your own or others websites.
  • If your address turns up in a google search, within 2 years your box is going to be struggling under the weight of hundreds of spams per day.
  • where its feasible from a marketing POV avoid common dictionary words in the first part of your email addresses.


Hosting domains

Domain registration has become deregulated in the past couple of years and there are now hundreds of registrars. Many of which will be cheaper that the good old Domainz registry. You will be asked for various contact details, and be aware that these will be publicly available on-line as part of the international domain registration system.


The simplest method is to get your web or email host to register the domain and they will handle the whole process. Otherwise one host can host the domain name and you can then point the domain to the another host who happens to run your website or email boxes for you. In this way you can move the hosting and leave the domain name where it is.


What exactly is a website and how do i update it

This is a really good question, and having even a passing understanding of it will save you money. One or more websites are hosted on a webserver. A webserver is just a computer that serves files to people who ask for them. The files are in a format which web browsers understand (html). Its a mixture of plain text, and some format markup (codes which effect bolding and font size etc. for example <b>This is bold text</b> ). Every seperate webpage is a seperate file and that includes every single image. In that sense a website is made of a number of webpages.


The webpages are made on your designers computer, or yours if you are keen to have a go, then `uploaded` using a protocol called file transfer or FTP.


Free webspace

The best place to look for free webspace is to ask your ISP. Some NZ ISPs dont exactly shout about the fact, but offer a free small webspace for personal use. For business use youll need to look elsewhere of course, but not-for-profits will find a range of providers who offer free or cheap space for targeted groups. Lastly shop around, there is a wide array of advertising supported space, and occasionally the odd firm that offers free space for a period while they are building client base.



Ok so the skys the limit with the technologys available and your best bet is to seek reliable neutral advice as to what will serve your needs. There are ASP camps for instance and PHP camps. HTML4 and XHTML camps. And so on. Its not far from a PhD to come to grips with all this and it changes from day to day.


Database driven sites

One thing that you need to know about though is whether your site will be static or dynamic. A static site is one where the information and the presentation of it are hard coded into each page. This works for one or two or even 10 pages. But beyond that it becomes a real repetitive mistake-prone hassle to update either the information or the layout and color scheme.


A dynamic site is one where the information is stored seperately from the formating / page layout schemas. This way you can update the actual content information seperately, and indeed independantly from the layout/ page formating . Each webpage then uses one or two predesinged layout templates, inserting the content information into the layout template only when the page is requested. Its tremendously powerful and all large websites use it. It scales from 10 pages up to millions, as quickly as you can produce the content.


Imagine you have a growing product or service line, and you just add or edit each product, by entering into a webbrowser, its name, description, category, price, an image or two, and the website automatically inserts it into the the right section and the index, creates thumbnail and large images, cross references and the works. Now you know what a database site can do.


Content managment systems

A CMS is a breed of database based site. Its a package that allows a website owner or his/her staff   to update the content information easily and on a day to day basis, without any kind of web design training. If it sounds good, it is. This site is CMS based, and its a breeze to update, i can do on any computer in the world, without any special software, almost on a whim.

And that is important because it has to be easy for it to happen much or even at all, modern life sees to that.


BTW a blog is type of CMS. Blogs are becmoming more common especially in the states, where you arent somebody unless you have a blog. A blog is an online ramblings, a public journal of sorts organised by date. A wiki is another type of CMS, and its a great `chaotic` collaberation publishing tool if ever there was one.


The main limits of CMSs are these:

  • They herd each page into a certain layout, which can reduce flexibility over a complex site of mixed content types.
  • Many CMSs create busy clutter filled pages
  • You are dependent on having someone around who understands the CMS in question, and many are very very complex. A simple template change can involve a staggering amount of reading.


What should you put on line

The web in a truly unprecendented publishing phenomonom, never before has just about anyone been able to reach a global audience, cheaply and easily. If you have ever produced a newsletter you will have an understanding of the chore that that can be. It means writing or coaxing others to write succinct topical material, grappling with copyright, political correctness, um basic spelling and grammer, layout design, squeezing into the page count, dealing with printers (not for the feint of heart). Collating, binding and distribution are the easy parts. And it s expensive.


The web is different. Not offending anyone doesnt change, but most else is up for grabs. For instance instead of not doing it at all, the odd typo is seen as acceptable because its recognised that pages are produced as fast as you can type. Obviously if you are trying to present as a professional organisation thats different, but what i am getting at is that publishing on the web is easy, and that the kinds of things that may never before have been published can now be published. People generally can, and do begin putting various learnings in line, as a way of sharing information (`standing on the shoulders of giants`).   The web was designed initially as a way for scientisits to share their papers, and now the information revolution is escalating human evolution, hopefully, to the point where some overall sanity is gained.


Secondly businesses and service providers can provide huge ammounts of detailed pre and aftersales documentation, that previously was just not possible. Without leaving home you can (theorretically) find out in the least minutae about the things you want to buy or use, or have bought and wont work. This is the number one thing that most businesses have failed to grasp, the power of the web to provide details. What`s it made of, hows it made, when was it made, and by whom. What are the consumables, whats the weak points, what are the spare parts numbers. The web is ideally suited to this because it doesnt cost anything to reproduce, and discerning customers will love you for it. And return.


So web publishing is a new muscle, once started youll be suprised of the uses youll find for it.


Web fonts

Unfortunately websites can only safely use a small handful of fonts. This is because your audience uses different kinds of computers and the only fonts a webpage can use are ones that exist on all of the audiences computers. That means Times Roman, Arial, Tahoma, Courier, Verdana, Georgia, Comic Sans and Trebuchet. (ie the ones installed by Windows or MS Office   (in the case of macs) which are on 95% of the worlds computers.)


Web standards

As usual computer languages change, grow, and breed. Pages that we produced 10 years ago were different to pages we produce today. If you want to able to ask for what you want and sound intelligent, then the following summary may be of use.


  • html3 and html4 -- back in the old days we tended to produce pages with muddled content and formating.   Every heading would be enlarged individually and coloured individually and emboldened individually. Looks messy and proved to be hard for diabled viewers to render with speech readers, and other such aids.
  • xhtml1 -- these days (about half of us) have adopted the newer standards which require us to keep content and markup somewhat seperate using styles (much like word processing styles if you use them). The markup simply tags the line we want to be a heading as a heading, and what each heading gets to look like is defined elsewhere in the document. It looks cleaner, makes the page considerably smaller, and like styles in general makes changing the way all your headings look as easy as changing the style definition. Most importantly the 10% or so of your potential audience that have some form of visual impairment will have the best chance of reading your site.
  • text as graphics -- in the old days of the mature html4 standard designers got around the limited font availablity on the web by using small images to render the text in a nice font. These days its a dont do, although still common.
  • PHP + ASP -- These are `scripting laguages` that automate websites. ASP is a proprietry Microsoft language that runs on Windows servers (in the server world: the minority). PHP is an open source equivalent that is widely used and interoperable with the most common webserver Apache, and all its bits and peices.
  • CSS -- cascading style sheets, the implementation of styles for webpages. Groovy stuff, you want it.
  • Javascript -- This is a trendy client side scripting language that runs on the audiences computers, little programs that download along with the webapge. In the past its been used for a range of mundane bells and whistles of little real use, eg: image rollovers. However there are starting to be some neat uses for the techology in new breed of smart computer applications, like google earth and gmail. For most purposes now though the challenge is becoming how can XYZ be done without javascript, and thankfully CSS is increasingly stable and powerful.


Costs involved

Total cost of ownership looks at both startup and ongoing costs, and the below should give you some idea of whats involved for an entry level site for NGOs and small businesses.


First there is site hosting. Site hosting has become quite competitive. $50-$100 per year will get you a reliable entry level host with a few email accounts. On top of that your own domain name will cost about $45 per year.


Then site development. For a   one page brochure style site can be had for about $300. You can be setup and running with a content management system for around $1200.


If you amortize the startup costs over say 5 years, then you get:

[hosting         | $145 pa

dev                   | $240 pa

Total TCO   | $385 pa   ]

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