It’s really quite easy to spin up a website. According to Phil Greenspun, “nearly anyone can learn enough to build a website in about 22 minutes.” Markup language such as HTML are easy to learn and easy to copy from. There are many high-level application programs used to generate web pages, such as Microsoft’s FrontPage. But what comes out of such programs is often pretty ugly. Not only is the design that is visible to the user ugly, but the HTML code generated is what is known in the industry as “write-only code”. Don’t try to read or maintain it.
What Phil Greenspun doesn’t tell you is that it helps to have a M.I.T. engineering degree before sitting down for 22 minutes. (His whole book is online — see the sidebar reference). It’s like being an amateur doctor or an amateur lawyer. You can do it yourself, but do you really want to live with the results? To get outstanding results takes years of experience with a variety of tools. If you ask a high school student to take on your task at the bargain basement rate, you will get what you pay for.
Noetic Harbor designs websites for all four major browser categories. There are many browsers, but they have four common parents (Internet Explorer, Mozilla/Firefox, Safari, and Netscape/Gecko in order of popularity). You should not assume (as many people do) that once you develop a site for one browser it is going to work for all. We thoroughly test on all browsers. Another surprise is that your web page may look different on two different machines with the same browser. All combinations need to be considered.
To get “pixel perfect” graphics and aesthetically pleasing visual effects, you often need to be able to “tweak” the generated code that is produced by high-level applications programs. We spend the extra time necessary to make the small changes that transform an “okay” site into a remarkable site. Our websites are works of art tempered by engineering compromises.
Sites need to be promoted. It’s not like “Field of Dreams” where “if you build it … they will come.” Noetic Harbor will provide services to ensure other sites will link to yours to provide more visitors. We have found that you get a good return on investment from Google Adwords.
Some Basic Principles
Here are some principles that we use heavily in our work:
Do not use software and tools that you have to buy and cannot change. Instead use open source software.
Make sites work for all current popular browsers. Thoroughly test your designs.
Use the most advanced tools available. But do not use tools that are not supported on all popular browsers.
Make the navigation straightforward and transparent.
Make the graphics tasteful and supplementary to the content.
Use rotating photography and text to create continuing interest.
Show consistency throughout.
Provide fast loading of pages and a server that provides consistently good response times.
Help the client promote the website to draw traffic to it.
Work with the client to get them what they want.