Creating Professional Content Online
Building and populating a website is invariably complicated. Even on the ‘good’ days, there are numerous problems to be solved, people to be contacted, learning to do, resources to gather, and so on.
Most of these things go on behind the scenes and the clients are blissfully unaware of it. That they are (blissfully unaware), is a good thing for both the designer and the client, as explaining each and every different situation that arises is impracticle. Even if it were possible to explain it all, the odds of any one client understanding the complications and implications are almost zero.
Avoiding as much hassle as possible is one of the reasons people hire professional companies like MidState Design to build their sites for them. Most simply do not have time to handle all of the work involved and have no desire to spend years learning it all.
Note: I use ‘kitties’ and ‘cats’ as an analogy for people and problems in this article. The reason is that much of the time it can feel like I’m trying to wrangle cats all day long. Each person that gets brought into the mix can cause any number of issues. They do so by dragging their feet, going off in some weird direction, or even disappearing completely. No disrespect is intended to anyone. Most of them probably feel the same way themselves at times. This is meant to be a ‘tongue in cheek’ way of looking at an otherwise dull topic.
First There Were Two Kitties
The beginning of creating a professional website typically begins with two people. Me, and the client. This is when the project is at it’s simplest form. The client communicates what they would like, ideas get exchanged, plans made, and an agreement is made to move forward with the website. These are good times. Exciting times. There are only two people (kitties), involved, so there are usually very few problems keeping it all together. We are, the client and I, the ‘good’ cats. (Of course!).
Staying with the initial two (Creator, and client), is the most effecient way to get a job done quickly. Introducing that ‘friend who knows a bit about these things’ only causes problems. The same can be said for that ‘family member who has built a website before’.
That’s not to dismiss their abilities out of hand, but once you’ve hired a professional, stick with that. Whether it be MidState Design, or some other company. To introduce others is apt to introduce complications and aggravations.
Then Came Number Three, Then Four
Assuming everything is on track from the beginning and a website is going to be created, I begin to put together some of the more technical aspects. This brings in more ‘kitties’ in the form of domain registration and hosting. If everything goes well, good enough. If not, I have to contact any number of people to get issues resolved. All of this is time consuming, but the client doesn’t have to worry about it or pay extra for this time, nor do they have to talk to people who are speaking ‘techie’. Us ‘techies’ can come off sounding like Martians to those who do not understand the industry jargon. You are better off dealing with one person instead of a dozen for the sake of your sanity alone.
Five, Six, Seven, Eight – The Kitties Start To Congregate
At this point there are a vast array of tasks to do. Installing the WordPress script on the server, setting up email accounts, securing the site, configuring the multitude of basic options WordPress offers, and so on. Things can go wrong at any point during this process, requiring technical troubleshooting that, again, goes unnoticed by the client. What should have taken a couple of hours can sometimes turn into an all day thing.
Once the basic website is installed and configured, the process of creating the overall look & feel of the site begins. If the theme works as intended, great. If not, I try to figure out the problem and/or contact the developers (more kitties!), to work it all out. This can be incredibly time consuming as waiting for a response to a support ticket can take days, or longer. It can also put the project on hold. As long as I think a fix will fall within the time frame agreed to with the client I do not bother them with the boring details.
In between all of this falls the addition of plugins. Plugins are essentially website programs that add features to it. Want people to be able to subscribe to your blog? That is something that could be done by using a plugin. Want to improve security? Much like an antivirus program on your computer, a plugin can be added to help do the job. There are literally thousands of plugins, each requiring configuration. If anything goes wrong it usually means I have to contact the developer. That adds even more kitties into the herd, with each doing their own thing.
Kitties, Number Nine And Number Ten – Might Be Better Herding Hens!
Unlimited ‘cats’ can wind up needing to be ‘wrangled’ during the creation process. There is no reason why I chose ten as the number of kitties to use in this example. It was an arbitrary number. You might have even noticed there aren’t ten kitties in the graphic above. That’s because there are inevitably kitties who get added to the herd in a way nobody could have possibly foreseen. Then there are those cats that refuse to show up and be counted at all. At the end of a project I may wind up dealing with dozens of outside entities to build the ‘simple’ website a client asked for.
The point? In reality there is no such thing as a simple website. At least not when it comes to looking professional, there isn’t. Some websites are more basic than others but they are like cars, planes, and trains. Not one of them is truly simple. Appearances are deceiving. It’s the nature of the beast… er… kitty.
The High Cost Of Free (Or Cheap)
People tend to assume that because so much on the internet is free it must be easy. This is the fault of the industry itself and goes all the way back to the beginning of the internet. The term “Free” has a powerful lure to it. Getting people to pay for things is no easy task, particularly when dealing with intangibles like websites and website services.
Should you be thinking about using a ‘Free’ (or cheap) service to create your website, you need to consider everything that will be required of you, risks you are taking, restrictions that are imposed, and the costs to loosen some of those restrictions. Many times it is cheaper to do it right the first time and pay a professional company like MidState Design to do the legwork for you.
My hope is that this article will help to give you the most basic understanding of what is involved with creating a site. It would take volumes to truly explain everything properly. In the end it boils down to one question. Do you want to herd cats, or hire someone tasked with creating professional content online (and herding the cats), for you?
Update/Edit: While looking for resources to include in this article I discovered another tech company had used a similar analogy about herding cats many years ago. The advertisement they created is quite amusing. Please note that MidState Design has no affiliation with the company in the ad, which appears to have since been acquired by HP.
Photo credits DollarPhotoClub.com
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