What is Website Design?

Website design is no different from any other design discipline.  It exists to define a finished product, as well as the process by which that finished product is created, delivered, installed, maintained, repaired, and even decommissioned.  Design is a comprehensive discipline, and involves up-front costs, often substantial.  If the design process is successful, these costs represent an investment with a positive return, in other words good design pays for itself.  The implication is that poor design is costly.

The key for the client then, is a successful design process which will ultimately pay for itself.  The difficulty in Website Design, as with software in general is how do we define a product that by its nature is nearly infinitely flexible and where the cost of real-time design modifications appear to be very low?

The answer is simple: knowledge of how to leverage the flexibility while avoiding the hidden costs.  Simple in theory, difficult in practice.  Naturally, the hidden costs don’t announce themselves the moment you implement a change in the code.However, there are tools and techniques that can assist and your developer should be using them.

 

Design vs Function and Content

There are three areas to be addressed during the process of website implementation:  Design, content, and functionality.  Technically content and functionality are addressed by the Design Process.  In other words, in a perfect world, we begin with Website Design and all else follows in an orderly and happy way.  However, in the real world, we tend to be results-oriented and want to see concrete progress asap.

Functionality First Approach

This is a common approach and at Montana Technical Solutions Kalispell Website Design and Development Services we work with our clients, regardless.  This means that even in less than perfect situations we will strive to deliver a functional, usable, cost-effective site.  When the design process is sacrificed, as often happens, we know we can still deliver excellent results.  We also know the pitfalls of this approach and can help our clients mitigate the worst of the consequences – namely excessive costs.

The Trade Off

How we do this is simple –  incorporate certain design elements into the development process. The trade-off here will be some limitations in modifying the appearance of the site. Many clients are more focused on the content and functionality of the site and are happy to forego minor changes in appearance.  It is worth mentioning here that  those clients who cannot accept these limitations definitely cannot afford to skip the initial site design process where all elements of the site are defined:  colors, fonts, images, artwork, graphics, page layouts, menu  and navigation functionality, site applications, security considerations, and all infrastructure parameters.  If complete control over the appearance, functionality, and content of your site cannot be sacrificed, DO NOT SKIP THE DESIGN PROCESS.

Design First?

As mentioned, the trade off in deploying a site with little or no design documentation is limited control over its appearance.  As with all things software, we know it can be changed, the problem is that every design change on an established site with no design documentation, will have unpredictable consequences.  Sometimes we are fortunate and the simple change doesn’t have a domino effect.  But much of the time unexpected changes are introduced – columns are broken, text disappears, images are cropped or distorted, non-conforming colors appear, vertical alignment breaks. This is a slippery slope – as we attempt to fix each broken element, other elements break.  There is no quick fix so we have three choices:  accept the existing design, implement an entirely new design, or deconstruct the existing design so that we fully understand it.  It is important here to re-iterate:  If 100% control over site design is important, begin the process with a thorough design document that completely defines site appearance, and functionality including a complete css implementation.  The effort will be well worth it in the long run.

 

Montana Technical Solutions Website Design and Development Computer SecurityRemember This?

This is a screen shot of a compromised website after WordPress websites were attached worldwide two months ago.  At that time we reported that no websites managed by MTS were compromised by the attacks.

These cyber attacks continue unabated, making the news regularly.  This past weekend’s headlines indicate that hundreds of locations worldwide were struck by crypto-attacks where data is encrypted and held for ransom.  Here’s how the extortionists break the news to their victims:

Montana Technical Solutions Safe From Cryptolocker AttacksThis is not an actual screenshot, but closely resembles those we have seen in the course of our duties.  It is no joke to be attacked in this way, because if the data in question has really been encrypted it will be essentially impossible to unencrypt, necessitating a restoration from the most recent set of backups.  MTS has helped several clients in this fashion.  Note that, in the absence of a secure, uninfected set of backups, data will be permanently lost.

MTS Clients So Far Safe

We are pleased to report our clients continue to be operational and not reporting any serious issues from the most recent round of crypto-attacks, thanks to greater vigilance as well as in-place measures.

The Four Categories of Website Functionality

At MTS we categorize all the functions a website can perform for your business into four functional categories:

  • Assurance
  • Monetization ($)
  • User Experience (UX) (Welcome)
  • Eta => return on investment/efficiency

Monetization

  1. Montana Technical Solutions Website Design and Development Kalispell Website Monetization FunctionalityMonetization.  There are two main ways in which websites are ordinarily monetized – direct collection of revenue via payment systems and/or eCommerce, and indirect monetization via paid advertising.  MTS can help you with either or both.

Functions by category

$

Monetization – online advertising.  Become a participant in online digital marketing platforms and generate passive revenue from your website traffic.  Pre-requisites:  1) Sufficient website traffic.  The actual amount of traffic required will vary, but sites with less than a few thousand visitors per month generally need not apply.  However, for those who are committed to learning how to acquire site traffic, who are willing to commit to a daily time investment, and have a specific area of expertise, there is always opportunity to generate passive ad revenue.  Contact MTS for more information and assistance.  2)  Membership in digital marketing platform(s) 3) Website integration.

Monetization – eCommerce.  almost $2 trillion worth of transactions are now conducted online each year.  Even relatively small enterprises can benefit from adding eCommerce functionality to their website.  The cost of implementation can be easily made up through reduced receivables, growth in revenue, and added revenue streams.  Ask us how we can help!

 

The Four Categories of Website Functionality

At MTS we categorize all the functions a website can perform for your business into four functional categories:

  • Assurance
  • Monetization ($)
  • User Experience (UX) (Welcome)
  • Eta => return on investment/efficiency

User Experience

The User Experience.  We classify the User Experience as its own set of functions and its own major aspect of website design and development.  It is extremely important that a website be user-friendly.  The obviousness of this statement shouldn’t allow it to be exempt from deeper examination.  The ultimate success or failure of a website, depends largely upon how well the user experience is managed.  Poor user experience undermines virtually all of the other functional areas.  Weak monetization is often a result of a poor user experience and dramatic results may arise from subtle user experience improvements.  The same can be true of all forms of critical user engagement, such as prospecting functionality, where we desire to have site visitors engage in surveys, subscribe to updates, etc.

 

The Four Categories of Website Functionality

At MTS we categorize all the functions a website can perform for your business into four functional categories:

  • Assurance
  • Monetization ($)
  • User Experience (UX) (Welcome)
  • Eta => return on investment/efficiency

Return On Investment

Montana Technical Solutions Website Design and Development Kalispell eta – an efficiency metric, eta is representative of the return on the time and money invested in your website.  There are numerous functions in this category and each one has its own measurement – site optimization is measured by average load time, site engagement may be measured by bounce rate, goals achieved, etc., quality of site content can be measured by analytics tools such as time spent on a given page.  Our 30 functions checklist below, is a valuable tool when it comes to measuring site effectiveness, as it can easily be used to identify and apply appropriate metrics, which in turn can be used to improve site performance.

We identify at least 30 functions your website should be performing on an ongoing basis and categorize each of them.  This is helpful tool both to assess if your website is doing everything it can for your business and to assist in prioritizing web development activities.

Functions by category

eta

  1. Analytics Tools (and how to use them)
  2. Search Engine Optimization
  3. Social media
  4. Effective Site Content at Creation
  5. Effective Site Content – Ongoing
  6. Users as Strategic Asset – User Engagement
  7. Users as Strategic Asset – User Interface/User Experience
  8. Users as Strategic Asset – Customers/Clients/Prospects/Browsers – CRM
  9. Users as Strategic Asset – Customers/Clients/Prospects/Browsers – Contact Mgmt
  10. Users as Strategic Asset – The Sales and Marketing Aspect
  11. ADMINISTRATIVE
  12. Backup and recovery
  13. Software upgrade and maintenance
  14. Website Design and Associated Code Management
  15. Website Operation and Associated Code Management
  16. Users as Strategic Asset – User Administration
  17. Website Data and Associated Code Management
  18. Routine Site Administration  – broken links, missing pages, near misses, etc.

The Four Categories of Website Functionality

At MTS we categorize all the functions a website can perform for your business into four functional categories:

  • Assurance
  • Monetization ($)
  • User Experience (UX) (Welcome)
  • Eta => return on investment/efficiency

Assurance

Montana Technical Solutions Website Design and Development Kaliispell Website Assurance FunctionalityAssurance – any function that, individually or in coordination with other functions serves to mitigate risk, enhance security, deter criminal activity, increase corporate credibility, protect and preserve data and other IP assets, improve website operational quality, reliability and availability metrics, and reduce exposure and liability is an Assurance function.

These include, but are not limited to the storage, delivery, and end-user acceptance of Terms and Conditions of Use, Privacy Policy, Statements of Product and Service Guaranty and/or Warranty, liability disclaimers and waivers,  identification of IP such as copyrights, patents, trademarks, creating and preservation of auditable electronic records,

In short, your website should be a valuable business asset for the entire organization, if used strategically, for example, as one element of risk mitigation.  Policies, procedures, legal forms can be made available on the website for public and/or private review, announcements can be made, press releases posted, archives stored, etc.  This can be a valuable way to re-iterate significant corporate policies and positions, in support of compliance efforts, and legal requirements.  Your corporate website can also act as a data repository if need be and can be exceptionally secure if it is properly setup and operated.

Throughout our website, Assurance functions are identified with the certificate image.

 

Functions by category – Assurance

  1. Risk mitigation
  2. Terms of Use
  3. Privacy Policy
  4. Patent, Trademark, Copyright
  5. Confidentiality and Security support functions
  6. Creation and preservation of auditable electronic records
  7. Site Optimization and Validation
  8. Support of Domain Ownership Claims,
  9. Disaster recovery
  10. Discourage theft and other criminal activity
  11. Reputation protection, credibility
  12. data security and privacy
  13. REPUTATION – your site should be a pro-active tool both to protect your reputation and to refute and surpass your competition.
  14. Proactive Social Media  activity.
  15. Online Directory Strategy – combat the Aggregators, succeed with SEO

Montana Technical Solutions Kalispell Website Design and Development Services

offers only one website  hosting option.  We do not work or consult on any websites which are hosted elsewhere.  There are several very persuasive reasons why this is so:

  1. Backup => reliable, ongoing backups are critical to any website which updates its content regularly and has more than a few visitors.  Our hosting platform automates both scheduled and on-demand backups for both our ‘live’ and our ‘in-process’ websites.  This save our clients the worry of any possibility of lost data, and saves our developers hours of precious development time.  Time which can be spent improving our Clients’ websites.
  2. Availability => Our clients’ websites are available more than 99.9% of the time, and are always complete and up-to-date when they load for a visitor.
  3. Security => Our sites are already very secure, thanks to our 24/7/365 monitoring activity in place to proactively and pre-emptively deter and/or intercept attacks and intrusions.  In the next few weeks we will be implementing,
  4. Confidentiality =>  Our websites and their confidential data are stored independently of large data aggregators such as Google, etc., who reserve the right to examine any and all of your stored data, at will, with the explicit intention to use what you store with them for commercial purposes.
  5. Optimization => We are experts on WordPress website performance and optimization and employ a world wide system of CDNs (content distribution networks) as well as aggressive caching to ensure our websites load as fast as possible.   This is critical to SEO and to retaining site visitors. Montana Technical Solutions Website Design and Development Kalispell
  6. Maintenance =>  Websites require maintenance. Where possible, this maintenance is delegated programmatically to our web hosting service.  Again, our clients benefit through faster, more reliable websites, more secure websites and our developers benefit through time savings.
  7. Reliability =>  Website hosting is often taken for granted and regarded as a commodity.  However, the reality is that all website hosting services are certainly not equal.  Mistakes and errors happen and when they do, your website may not work properly.  Your website developer may end up spending hours troubleshooting website issues, only to discover the problem lies on the hosting side of things.  Development time is much too valuable to spend troubleshooting somebody else’s problems.

Bad Hosting Service, Bad!

Fortunately, or otherwise, I’ve hosted websites with numerous services over the years (almost a dozen, at last count), and unfortunately, I have spent more hours than I care to count, troubleshooting website issues that turned out to originate with the hosting service.  This may happen occasionally (although I have not experienced it with our current hosting platform), and sometimes we have to simply accept that people make mistakes.

Good Hosting Service, you go!

Montana Technical Solutions Website Development and Maintenance in Kalispell MTHowever, our job as IT consultants is to develop strategies to defend against these situations.  Our strategy is simple.  Our hosting platform is dedicated to WordPress hosting exclusively, and ONLY WordPress hosting.  There are no other products in the mix and  we live and die by our WordPress Hosting product.  No distractions, no compromises, no alternative but to be successful at WordPress hosting.  In a nutshell, our strategy is that this Hosting service must be 100%  successful because the alternative is liquidation.  To date, this strategy has served us very well.  Each of the aspects of Website Hosting listed above has performed in exemplary fashion since we launched our first sites in January 2017.

 

Is your data being stored confidentially?

It is disturbing to those of us who often read the Terms and Conditions associated with the delivery of Cloud Services (such as web hosting, email services, cloud applications, etc.), how libertine these Providers often are concerning the status of the data stored and transmitted to and from these services.  Here are a few examples:

…from Google’s Privacy Policy (May 27/17)

“Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection.”

Privacy Policies => Turning the Word Privacy on its Head

Normally, we would be inclined to equate the existence of a Privacy Policy with a the presence of at least a nominal effort to protect the privacy of the data, not simply the identity of the individual and/or organization that owns or (theoretically) controls that data.  Not so in today’s world of ‘big data’.  The reality is that in the universe of ‘big data’ the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, much  much greater. This explains how companies such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple etc. can offer such a comprehensive range of services for ‘free’. The data/information they acquire through those free services is valuable, very valuable, and you, the user, provide it to them at no charge.  In exchange, you use their services for no charge.