This week I caught up with Debbie Campbell, a Colorado web designer and developer and the owner of Red Kite Creative, and asked her about the latest trends in web design. I've been following Debbie on Twitter for a while. This week she posted a few tweets about web design and WordPress, so I asked her to share a little more.
In the projects you take on, how common is it for websites to integrate a blog? Are there any trends you're observing?
I almost always suggest that my small business clients consider including or adding a business blog to their sites. I've been doing this for several years, but only in the last 6-9 months have many clients either been agreeing to the idea or, even better, they came in with it in mind at the start.
When you integrate a blog into a site, do you code the site in an authoring tool such as Home Site or Dreamweaver and then add a blog, or do you put the entire site in a blog, using the blog's navigation and page functions as a CMS?
If it's a new site, and an overall CMS is also needed by the client, I would build the entire site in WordPress if it can accommodate all the features they need. But sometimes the client is only interested in adding a blog to an existing site, or is not interested in a CMS but wants a blog.
In that case, I can create a custom WordPress template from any cleanly-coded HTML page and create a 2 or 3-column blog layout that matches the rest of the site perfectly.
If you use WordPress as a CMS for the entire site, how much of the content can the client maintain? What about with the other method, when the pages are created with Home Site / Dreamweaver?
If the site is built in WordPress, the client has access to everything -- they can easily edit and add pages and posts whenever they like using the administrative back end. How much they can do depends ultimately on how interested they become -- I have some clients that only write posts, but others who understand how to install addons to enhance site functionality.
Regular HTML-based sites can only be changed if the client knows HTML and has access to both an HTML editor (like HomeSite or Dreamweaver) and FTP software. I would not recommend this route for a client who has no experience with HTML.
As a web designer, how do you avoid being inundated with free tech support for the life of the website? (Especially when it's a WordPress installation, where users may have a lot of questions or do something that corrupts the pages.)
Tech support isn't free. I'll make corrections at no charge for two weeks after launch, but I stress to all blog and CMS clients that the burden is on them to learn and understand what they now own. Clients are shown how to backup their sites and databases, but it's their responsibility to do so unless they've signed a maintenance contract with me and specifically requested that I take care of their blog or CMS updates and backups.
What level of interest do clients have with SEO when it comes to sites? What do you tell them?
Most clients are quite concerned about SEO and rightly so. I do basic SEO on every site I build (researching keywords, appropriate coding such as ALT attributes and link titles, and writing specific title and description tags for top-level pages) and have done larger SEO projects in the past on my own; I work with dedicated SEO professionals on many projects.
As a former Internet retailer I have hands-on experience in both SEO and PPC and can talk to clients about the pros and cons of each. And I choose open source software that's search engine-friendly.
Overall, as sites like WordPress enable clients to do more web publishing and management themselves, what problems do you notice? Do users quickly get themselves in trouble?
Not really. I'd say that most of my clients who've gotten a blog in the last six months are doing just fine with it -- that speaks to the ease-of use of WordPress vs. some of the more complicated blog and CMS platforms.
Can you comment on any other trends you're observing in web design? Are there more requests for shopping carts (for example, for people to start their own businesses), more jquery additions (for example, to create custom image galleries), more emphasis on SEO so people rank higher, more blogs?
Emphasis on SEO has been steady or growing since I started my company in 2005, and I think that it will stay that way (even as the nature of SEO work evolves). I've had a lot of gallery or portfolio-based sites in the last six months or so - some of my favorite types of sites to build -- and am starting to see more e-commerce site requests recently.
It seems that about 2/3 of my clients are now getting or considering blogs. I think that's a good trend to watch; it's a fine thing when a small business owner begins to realize that he or she really is an expert in what they do, and can use their website to both share that expertise and build interest in their business.
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