Find Web Developers
Find Web Developers

How to Choose a Web Developer to Create Your Static Website

Introduction

A website with no programming is called a static site. Static means is that every page has to be created and sent to your web server individually. A dynamic website is one where a few template-type pages are created and programming pulls information into the pages and creates the links. An online shopping cart is an example of a dynamic site. Every product page uses the same design, but the content areas show different products. The products are listed in a database or XML file and pulled into the pages when the viewer clicks a link.

If you have more than just a few products, or you need online ordering, it’s not efficient to have a static website. However, if you are a new website owner, it’s a great idea to start with a static site that features a few products, until you’ve taken the time to really investigate the best software for your online catalog.

Software for your Static Website

Choosing the right software to develop your website takes planning and will affect how easy, or impossible, it is to maintain your site over time. For example, I have worked with two websites that were built in the Microsoft .NET system in such a way that made it impossible for the site owners to make any changes without going back to the original developer. In both cases, a different system would have made it possible for the site owner to take control over some of the maintenance tasks. In one case, the developer built the messiest backend I have ever seen.

Do you choose the software that your developer uses, or do you choose the software and then find a developer that is competent with that software? Either way works, if you take a little time to understand the side effects of your decision. If you find a developer who is competent and will be available over the long term, you may want to purchase and use the system he uses. On the other hand, if the developer proves to be incompetent or unavailable, you may be stuck with a difficult system.

Microsoft .NET is best used in a company that has an IT department, where programmers will always be available. The system allows for adding quick pieces of programming to a website. Often “quick” means that the developer doesn’t really know how to program, just how to drag pieces of programming into the pages. If you are going to start with a static site, you do not need .NET. Unless you plan to buy .NET and learn how to use it, do not hire a developer who builds in .NET.

Microsoft FrontPage is an old system that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Many people learned how to use FrontPage to develop quick sites, but did not learn good design or structural principles. For many years, FrontPage was the cheapest tool available. If a prospective developer uses FrontPage, he hasn’t upgraded his skills since the early years of 2000 or before. Do not hire a developer who only has experience with FrontPage.

Dreamweaver has been the “industry standard” for many years. Dreamweaver is a very flexible piece of software that works for static sites or dynamic sites. The software “grows” with your website, as you go from a small, static site to a programmed site. I even used Dreamweaver to fix the .NET mess mentioned above. However, Dreamweaver has a learning curve and can be pricy for many small businesses.

Dreamweaver has its own template system, which makes the development and maintenance of your website very efficient because a change to the template changes all pages that use the template. Dreamweaver even comes with basic website templates already created. But, the template system only works within the Dreamweaver program, even though any of the resulting pages can be opened in other systems.

If a developer is using Dreamweaver, it is more likely that she understands how website structure really works, than those who deal strictly with online templates, .NET or FrontPage. That doesn’t mean that the developer uses Dreamweaver well; so, be sure to check out her work too.

Joomla is a web development system that is growing in popularity. Technically, it is actually a Content Management System (CMS) because after a design is developed, you can add your content through online forms, instead of creating each page individually. Most website owners with Joomla sites, still have to go back to their developers when they want to rearrange items on their site. Joomla also comes with “widgets” such as calendars, which are nice little programmed features for your site.

This list is not exhaustive. There are many other systems available, and more systems will become available over time. Ask your business acquaintances with websites what software their developer uses and whether it is flexible to their needs.

Choosing your Developer

For a static website, you don’t need a programmer; you just need someone who can build web pages. However, there is a difference between knowing how to use a piece of web development software and understanding how a website works. If there is a good developer available, that developer will be able to adapt to new software, even though he will be most comfortable with the systems he has already used. It is better to put a competent person on the software of your choice than to choose someone who can use a particular piece of software, but who doesn’t really understand websites. It has been my task to fix many sites built badly by someone who had only learned the software piece. In many cases, that person had “taken a class” that didn’t teach web principles, only how to use the software. Even more unfortunate is that many of those classes are taught at the university level.

When a developer presents you with some work samples (only accept samples which are currently online), you might consider getting a second opinion on their work. Ask the person doing the second opinion about what the effects of the “back-end” will be on your work to maintain the site. The main thing to consider is that you, the business owner, have to live with the long term results of the developer and the software you choose.

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