When all you have is a hammer

hammer

The old adage is that when the only tool you have is a hammer, you see everything as a nail! The idea is that you tend to use the tools you have and tend to see everything you do in terms of the tool(s) you have available. Bring that principle into the 21st century and web design.

Graphic designers see everything as a design issue; coders break out their editor of choice to fix any problem; those using WordPress see plugins as the panacea to every problem. The reality is that web design is both complex and multi-faceted. It requires graphic design, coding and third party help to make a killer web site. The problems come when you only have a subset of the skills/tools required – then the natural inclination is to use what you have to fix what you need. But hammers tend to mangle screws and the wrong tool can at the least make your web site more cumbersome than it should, at worst it can make an unholy mess of what should be a sleek and elegant design both on the surface and under the hood.

What do we need?

The greatest requirement with web design is to have someone who understands all the methodologies required and can objectively decide what is the best tool for each part of the job. As with IT in general, web design is fragmenting into ever more niche disciplines – and experts in those disciplines can struggle to see the bigger picture.

Talking to a young graphic designer recently his inclination was to find a graphical tool within WordPress to do the bits he couldn’t. He was looking for an ecosystem within an ecosystem. The fact that these exist in abundance proves the point. The problem is that the all encompassing theme or plugin becomes the cuckoo in the nest that overtakes the WordPress framework. The downside is that there is still a huge amount of work involved in learning the ecosystem, with much less benefit in that investment.

My advice? Start by understanding HTML, CSS, server side coding and databases. Then a grasp of graphic design principles and the use of CMS ecosystems such as WordPress can be employed to build an effective web site. Understand the principles before choosing your tools.

Remember that clean code behind the scenes is as important as that slick interface that everyone can see.

So, keep that hammer to hand, but you might also like to consider acquiring some screwdrivers, spanners, torque wrenches etc., or at least be aware of what they are and what they can do for you…

The Small Business Blog

Expanding your network during the downturn

Expanding your Network

The small business has many advantages in difficult economic times. The lack of size enables a greater deal of flexibility. A small business can change direction faster and with less cost than a larger organisation. Costs for the design of a large business web site can also be prohibitive as the complexity of the site and the planning and permissions required for every change make updates a major undertaking.

For the small business seeking to reach out to its customers, to build and maintain a relationship a weblog is a cost effective tool for putting control in the hands of the business owner rather than the web designer. In order for clients or customers to return to a web site there must be a good reason: information, offers, advice, updates.

Where do your clients go when they require information? Do they pick up the phone, or email? Do they ask for a fax with the information they have asked for? It is a simple matter for the business owner to add all the essential information to pages on a weblog. It is also simple to add announcements, special offers and updates in a timely fashion when the business owner is in control.

The small business blog puts the power to communicate back in the hands of those who hold the information allowing a greater immediacy of communication with your customers.

Recently Datawise Computing was asked to help a local church with a very limited budget to revamp their web site. With a combination of a basic WordPress blog, some useful plugins and a free template communication has started afresh. The power is back where it belongs, with the providers of the information. A relationship has begun, the network is spreading…