Components to Build Your Site
Glossary of Terms
Of all the websites online, there are dozens of categories of sites. But there are only a few types. The website type is the starting point, it must be the first choice, because all development that comes after is built upon that.
Typically, a website that has no CMS (content management system). Pages would need to be updated by either the developer, or the site owner would need HTML knowledge.
A site that uses a CMS (content management system) or an eCommerce system. This allows site owners to update their own site (and products) through an admin page.
A site that uses a shopping cart to sell products or services. Shopping carts also have a CMS, but a simple version. Site owners are able to work with their products and change / update some content.
There are many ways to put together an eServices site. The most common way is to use a normal shopping cart that allows digital product sales and downloads through extensions. Sometimes it can be a normal site modified for user input if just a few services are being sold.
CMS (Content Management Systems)
CMS sites are now the norm for business... and many personal sites as well. There are literally dozens to choose from, but the most common are listed as follows. CMS's differ in a number of ways, so it is best to consider the following before settling on a choice.
- Expected size of your business
- Expected website traffic for your business
- Requested design options & customization
- Your own technical understanding and know-how
PHP/MySQL CMS suitable for large businesses and heavy load. More complex for developers, but also more customizable. Recommended for medium to large businesses with medium to heavy traffic. Drupal has a loyal and helpful developer network. [Slyd Studios Recommended]
PHP/MySQL CMS suitable for medium businesses with medium traffic. Easier for developers.
Coldfusion based CMS. Lightweight and fast, but limited availability (many hosts do not have coldfusion). Good for small businesses, agencies and information sites.
PHP/MySQL CMS suitable for agencies and small to medium busineses. Originally created for blogs, it has long been expanded for building complete websites. Wordpress has the largest set of free extensions and modules. It needs to be optimized and configured for security properly, otherwise it can get oversaturated with spam and bloated functionality.
eCommerce / eServices
eCommerce sites typically have an online shopping cart. Most times, instead of a CMS, the shopping cart itself takes control of the site. Shopping carts include administration, which allows site owners to add products, descriptions, images, discounts... everything needed to present a product for sale, whether a physical product to be shipped, or a digital product to be downloaded or subscribed to.
Full scale PHP/MySQL eCommerce system with modular functionality. Community Edition is free, although the vast majority of extensions are premium (and can be expensive). Recommended for larger eCommerce businesses. Built in CMS which can be customized (if the developer knows what he's doing) to provide additional locations and functionality.
WooCommerce is a Wordpress based shopping cart. It is installed as an extension and is recommended by the majority above other Wordpress eCommerce solutions.
If we take brand names out of the equation, here are all the eCommerce possibilities.
- Free application, configure payment/shipping, some cost to begin selling products
- Subscription application, payment/shipping pre-configured, some or little cost to begin selling products
- Cloud based subscription application, payment/shipping pre-configured, some or little cost to begin selling products
- Subscription or Cloud based premium subscription application. All the work is done for you. Moderate to high cost to begin selling products
Themes come in many layout variations, but there are limited types of themes (just like site types). The theme type is the blueprint for the look and feel of your entire site.
This theme comes in two flavors.
- A stripped down, bare bones version where only layout elements and limited features are in place.
- A bare bones theme with an extensive feature set. It already has all the elements available, so you copy/paste the element to the page you want, and just add the content.
Bootstrap is the starting point for many modern sites that use extensive customization. It is easy on performance, has responsive layout built in and can easily be modified. [Slyd Studios Recommended]
A responsive theme changes image, text size, and moves the layout around depending on the size of the screen. This means whether you are looking at it on large desktop screens or your mobile device, the site will remain clean and professional looking. Most modern themes are responsive.
This takes the responsive theme one step further. It adds a animated element so that images, text size and layout shrink and expand dynamically depending on screen size. A cool look and not much more difficult to work with, but with smaller devices where the screen size doesn't change, this would be a wasted feature.
A website that scrolls (and is also responsive). Clicking on a link will scroll the site down to the requested page. Most Parallax sites also have sections that aren't scrolling, for more complex layouts if necessary.
In many cases, CMS and eCommerce sites will need to have their themes (and/or child themes) installed. Both types can be modified to where a theme does not need to be installed, but sometimes this is the way to go, as installed themes are usually more complete. Responsive and Parallax themes are a little harder to find for CMS and eCommerce sites, but they are usually available.
Website elements are small parts or widgets of a site that enhance the user experience. They are not overly difficult, and most are based on JQuery animation or effects like faders, sliders and carousels.
For business sites, this is the home page main area of presentation. Slideshows are almost too common these days, which leads many customers to skip beyond them... so keep the slides few and the messages impactful.
This acts like a simple small scale slideshow, typically with rotating options to present the client and customer logos you have worked with.
Usually in a widget, a series of testimonials that fade or rotate out and in.
Most commonly based on a JQuery called Isotope, it allows tab or link based categories inside a single page. It animates and floats a combination of images and descriptions, so it can be used for a cool looking portfolio or a small image gallery.
Usually a widget. A set of bright icons to highlight links to your social media pages.
A scaled down version of the Category Organizer. In a single page it allows different sections of content to appear depending on the tab you've selected.
A series of single-word descriptions for your site. Usually in a widget, tags act somewhat like keywords and potentially give your site a slight SEO boost.
Types of styles associated with JQuery or similar, that allow pieces of text to animate in different ways (like flash, pulse, skew, rotate, etc...).
Usually on your contact page, a map to highlight your location and directions to get there. Over 90% of the time, a Google Map is used.
Website utilities are much more extensive than elements and widgets. They usually require a separate installation and configuration, and additional modification of appearance to tie it in with the current site design and functionality.
One of the easier utilities. It is usually set up as a parent page that lists all the articles and an overview of them, and then link to a single article page. An option can be to set up a feed (RSS), so that articles can be displayed as widgets on other portions of the site.
Easier to set up, harder to integrate into your sites theme. You can API to a Google calendar or similar, or install/configure an independent script. There are quite a few choices out there.
There are multiple options to set up a gallery. You can API to a site where your gallery is located (like Flickr or Shutterfly), or you can install/configure an independent script. Each has its own advantages, but if you API to a gallery site, chances are that your site will take a performance hit, especially during heavy traffic hours.
As described in Blog / News, RSS (called "Really Simple Syndication") is a way to market a series of articles on your site. This can also be used to list articles coming from other sites, such as Huffington Post or CNN.
Contact Forms are a dime a dozen, but custom forms bring a new level of functionality to your site. They can be used to create accounts, or sell individual services without needing a broad eCommerce type system.
If your site is business based, it is good to have a page for support, even if you don't sell anything. This allows your customers to understand what you have to offer. It can also complement your physical location by allowing customers to look up contact info (or fill out a form) online.
If you don't want to use a simple cut/paste Google Map, other choices are available... including multi-location maps. Designs, styles and behaviour options depend on the kind of map you wish to include.
More involved than just links. Many social media sites offer API's which you can confgure to interact with your site on different levels. For instance, a paragraph on a page may post to Twitter, or a News Article may post to Facebook.
Directions can be both ways as well... Facebook can add an article to your site or an image can be posted in your gallery. There are hundreds of options, however, configuration may be complex and time consuming.
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