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Landau Design Launches

While we love building websites for money, every so often a time arises when a site must be built from a desire to give back to the community. Landau Design has just launched CAPD Support.

It's a Joomla-driven website for individuals and families effected by Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). The site contains information about CAPD, a library with links to online articles, a resource directory for therapists, audiologists and online information as well as a message board.

The site is meant to support parents trying to determine if their child has CAPD, or help find solutions if their child has already been diagnosed. It is also a place for adults with CAPD can come share their experience, get support and find solutions to everyday challenges.

Putting Web Ancronyms into Layman's Terms

Creating a website is a big project, and it can feel really daunting if you don't really understand what the developer is talking about. The following acronyms are commonly used when developing a project. Hopefully this information will help you understand what your developer discusses with you.

HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol)
This is the method that your web browser uses to talk to a web server. When you type a URL into your web browser, it sends a message to a web server in order to retrieve the elements for the site you want to view. The message to the server and the information sent back to your web browser are relayed using HTTP.

HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer)
HTTPS is a secure method your web browser uses to talk to a web server. When you arrive at a page where the URL begins with HTTPS, it means the information from your web browser that is being sent to the web server is encrypted before it is sent. In this way the information is secure. Any time you make an online purchase, before entering your credit card information look at the URL to make sure it has the HTTPS.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
This is the address for a website (i.e. resource) on the Internet. It tells your web browser how to find the information you are seeking from a specific set of files on a specific server. For example, is the URL for Landau Design.

IP Address (Internet Protocol Address)
Every server connected to the internet has an IP address assigned to it. It's usually broken up into 4 segments separated by periods ( It's like the servers' phone number which the entire Internet calls up every time they are trying to reach that server.

DNS (Domain Name Server)
Layman's definition: When you type in a URL, what happens in your web browser is a message is sent to a domain name server. When the message arrives at the server, it says to the server "Here is the URL I am looking for. Please give me the IP address of the server it is on." The domain name server is like a giant phone book that cross references URLs with the IP addresses of the servers they live on.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
This is the original language of the Internet. It is not a true programming language in the sense that it does not include logic statements (i.e. if this happens, then do that). Instead it is a language that literally tells the web browser how to display the contents of a page. So things like paragraph breaks, bolding a headline, colors, images, etc. are specified in a HTML file so the browser knows how to arrange the contents of a page. Not all browsers read HTML the same, which is why sites do not always look the same across different browser types.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
CSS is a way to deliver information about layout and appearance that is more specific than regular HTML. For example, with CSS you can specify that your menu bar be 20 pixels from the top of the browser window. In this way you can accurately compile your website layout based on specific parameters without having to rely on the web browsers interpretation of HTML.

CMS (Content Management System)
A CMS is a program used for creating and managing website content. A CMS utilizes a database to store the site's content, and it provides built-in functionality for displaying that information. Generally a CMS allows the site owner to update their site using a WYSIWYG editor. It also allows for integration of more complex functionality since most CMS's on the market have plugins that can be integrated without custom development. At Landau Design we build sites using Joomla, which is one of the most popular CMS's available.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
This is the method used to transfer files on and off a server. Putting files on a server is like copying files from a CD onto your computer's hard drive. When files are transferred onto a server, as they are transferred the software used needs to know what type of file it is because different types (i.e. text vs. image) require different types of coding when uploaded. The coding for different file types is handled by the FTP program you use.

RFP (Request For Proposal)
The document the client puts together to define the project and assist the developer in compiling an estimate. Read Save Time By Writing an RFP for an outline of how to create this document.

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
This is what they call a content editor that displays your site's content in the same manner it would appear on your web page. WYSIWYG got their name because before WYSIWYG, editing of sites was only done by looking at the code. So the person working on the code had to load the page into a web browser in order to see what it looked like. Dreamweaver is an example of a WYSIWYG editor.

Design Your Navigation From The Outside In

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when designing a website is labeling and organizing the information with the terms the internal company uses. It is very important when organizing your content to look at it from the user's perspective, not the company's.

How Do I Organize From the User's Perspective?

1) Who are your visitors?
The first thing you do when creating your website is ask yourself who is coming to this site and why are they coming. What are their ages, computer experience, knowledge? What need do they have that you are going to fulfill? This gives you a picture of the user-types who will be accessing the information. Any time during the following process if you are unsure of how to organize your information, go back to this first question to get the answer.

2) How do we currently interact with these users?
What questions do they ask us to elicit information, and what information do we give in response? This is the beginning of understanding the labels your customers use in relation to your business. The receptionist in a company is often the best person to answer this question.

3) How do our users see our organization?
Now looking at the information that your users are seeking, consider how this information would be logically organized. Consciously put aside the method your company uses to organize this information. This is generally the most challenging part of the process since you are used to looking at your information in a particular way, and you must move back and take another perspective.

For example, if you were a physical therapist, you might not organize your information with the therapies you provide. Instead you may organize it by the physical challenges the users face, and within those pages talk about the therapies that apply to those challenges. In this way you've related the information to your users rather than how you related to the types of therapies.

4) Create an outline of how users would see the information organized.
Consider the categories and subcategories of information. Do not forget to include site basics such as how to contact your organization and brief description of your company's purpose (even if you feel your clients know this already).

5) Label your categories.
This part is often tricky as different people within the company will have different opinions about which labels to use. Cutesy labels are definitely poor usability and should be avoided. Labels should describe the information that page contains, or at the very least be a branded term that your clients know the meaning of. Labels should always be the same part of a sentence (noun, adjective, verb) or similar phrase structures. Consistency in labeling makes your site predictable.

6) Ask some users for feedback.
Share what you have organized with typical users from your client base. Ask them for feedback. Be open to their responses, and allow them to assist you in creating a logical and easy-to-use organization of your information.

Why Shouldn't I Build My Site in Flash?

The simple answer to this question is: because the search engines won't index it properly. Flash looks cool, and it's fun, and yeah the menus can bounce around, wave and do some back flips for you, but you really have to ask yourself "does this add to my business message?"

What is Flash?
Flash is a programming language that allows the designer/developer to create really beautiful animations. They can create sites that respond to your movements, and involve some really cool morphs of menus and content. You can see some examples from Landau Design at Ralph White and Lapolla Inc websites. The opening animation of photographs and words are created in Flash.

Why can't the search engines index Flash files?
The code required to build a flash animation is held in an SWF (Shockwave Flash) file format. The search engines cannot see into these files, so they cannot review and record the text information contained within them. Recently Google announced a change in Flash indexing. Unfortunately this change only relates to the auxilliary files that make the Flash file run, they still cannot index the Flash file itself.

Does that mean I should never use Flash?
No, flash files can add some dynamism to your site. You shouldn't build your entire site in flash, but embedding a flash file within your site is fine. You can compensate for the lack of indexing in your title and metatags, as well as any content you add to the page. The animations I shared above are inset into a frame of HTML code. The search engines cannot index the flash animation, but it can index everything around it.

How do I decide when to use Flash?
You need to consider whether the flash animation adds to your business message. So many companies today build all-Flash sites because they look cool. But they're not in the entertainment industry, and while it's fun, a fully animated site does not add to their business message on their site. And the trade-off is that the search engines will not index the content on your site. Only you can decide if the WOW factor adds to your business message, or it's more important to employ SEO tools.

Building on Your Competitor's Links

Recently Google announced a change in Flash indexing. Unfortunately despite this change, there is a long way to go. Link building is by far the most effective way of increasing your ranking with the search engines. How many links you have to your site is sort of a "grade" of how popular your site is. The quality of those links is important, so how do you find out what types of links to get?

The Link Discovery Formula
To find where you should build links, you should look at your competitors. To do this:

  1. Do a keyword search for a company like yours. For example, we just built a site for Play and Learn Family Daycare, so we might put in "daycare torrance".
  2. Look at the results that come up, and choose a business on the first page that is similar to your own. It does not have to be in your city, just a similar type of business. In this case we chose Sound of Music Preschool.
  3. Using the URL for the business you chose, use the following formula and type into Google: "+www.soundomusic.+com" Type it exactly the same, with quotes and +/- signs. This formula will show you all the pages that have a link TO this company's website.
  4. This preschool has 108 links to its site.
Building Your Link List
Now start looking through the list of links. Ask yourself the following:
  • Are any of them places where you could get links as well?
  • Do any of them give you ideas of other places you could get links (i.e. They are in the Yahoo business directory and you know Google has one of those too)
  • Are there phrases you could use to search in Google to find more of these types of links?

Go Get Your Links
Now put together a plan for working through your link list, and obtain those links! Dedicate a time each day or each week towards obtaining these links. Also consider using social networking methods for increasing your links organically.

You should run through this process several times with different keyword searches and looking at various companies. This is an excellent project to implement over several months, and you can see very quickly you can obtain high-quality links to help with your search engine rankings.

I Just Launched My Site, Why Isn't It In Google?

The Internet often appears to be a magical mix of invisible interactions, and when you plunge your foot in, don't you believe something amazing and unexpected is suppose to happen? So many of our clients believe just this, and the day they launch their site they wonder why they don't appear in Google and throngs of new customers haven't found them.

Google indexes the Internet about once a month. If you have a popular site, it will index you more often, but generally if you're a new site they won't get to you for a while. You can submit a request for indexing to Google, but this won't guarantee they get to you faster. How soon they index you is determined by the popularity of your site and the quality of your page ranking.

To increase the likelihood of your getting indexed faster, invest your energy in getting links from sites that are indexed daily. These would include:

  • popular social media sites such as LinkedIn or Digg.
  • Adding comments to blogs or other sites is a great way to get links coming into your site. Go to blog aggregators such as Technorati or StumbleUpon and look up the most popular blogs to add comments to. Do not add spam comments, but sincere comments that add value to the blog.
  • Also, submitting your site to lesser-known search engines helps you get indesed into Google faster.
  • Finally, starting your own blog is a great way to generate links into your site. If you start a blog with Blogger, they are owned by Google and indexed daily.

Create a Custom 404 Error Page

It's worthy to note that sites or pages that have been indexed and are taken down will remain in the Google directory for months until Google comes back around to re-index them and finds them down. Nothing can be done about it. You can tell them to take it down, but doesn’t mean they’ll get to it faster. If you remove pages from your site, it behooves you to create a custom 404 error (page not found error) page which will redirect users to a site map so they can find what they were looking for. Without the 404 error page they will get the standard page from your hosting company that won't even have your site logo on it, let alone the navigation.