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Website Design and Development: 100 Questions to Ask Before Building a Website Paperback – Nov 30 2010
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From the Back Cover
To get the right answers, ask the right questions
Planning a website for your business? Get it right, right from the start! George Plumley knows just what you need to consider to create and maintain a site that achieves your goals. He'll be your virtual coach, to make sure you create the best site possible.
What should our site look like?
How wide and tall should it be?
Are we effectively using images?
Will our site work on mobile browsers?
How will we make our users happy?
Should we use popups?
How do we make our links user-friendly?
Will our content be easily accessible?
How can we protect our users' information?
Do we have a marketing plan?
Are we integrating our site with social media?
How do we get other sites to link to ours?
What free online advertising methods can we use?
...And the number one question-
Why are we building a website in the first place?
About the Author
George Plumley has been helping individuals and small-business owners build top-notch websites since 1995, and his outstanding training videos are his signature. He is the author of WordPress 24-Hour Trainer, also published by Wiley.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
One book I've suggested to my customers for a few years is Building Web Sites All-in-One For Dummies. For a book with "dummies" in the title, it provides a very good overview of how professionals approach a site build. Unfortunately, it is almost 800 pages and many of my clients just can't bring themselves to start it, let alone finish it.
That's where "Website Design and Development" comes in. It covers much of the same material as the "Dummies" book, but it's shorter and easier to read. I can tell this was written by a design/development guy -- it's structured for scanning, just like a good site.
Knowing a little about online design and development can save you and your business -- and I'm not kidding, here -- thousands of dollars. Considering you can read this book over a weekend, I honestly don't understand why you'd hire an interactive agency without reading this first. You'll soon know 1) how to see through the smoke of development jargon, 2) which features your particular site needs and which ones it doesn't, and 3) how you can best gauge your site's projected scope and success. (You'll also enjoy the site build more because you can be more intelligently involved in the entire process -- and the process is kind of fun.)
Nutshell: The "Dummies" book mentioned above is still my recommendation for the layman with an interest in really sussing the build process. If you don't have that much time -- or stamina -- then "Website Design" is a great second choice.
NOTE: This review is not aimed at folks who are actually going to build a site, but at those laymen who want to know the process so they can intelligently oversee and participate in such a project. If you want to actually build a site yourself -- do the coding, image editing, programming, etc. -- you'll need a different set of books.
However, the structure of the book itself is a testament to Plumley's ability to present information in appropriate sized units, to provide the tools to relate information on this page to other pages, to allow further exploration via sidebars and DVD, to choose appropriate fonts and colors. The book is so well designed for paper format that one immediately trust's the author's ability to produce appropriate web site formats.
The chapters consist of questions built around a particular issue: domain name, hosting, e-mail, design and layout, user experience, construction, content, marketing, search engine optimization, security. These issues represent the full spectrum of elements of a website. This is a real strength as many similar books present only the business view, the techie's view or the user's view.
For each question one finds:
- a very readabile description of the issue and the elements surrounding it
- a visual indicator of the importance of the issue
- very well done examples
- tips, notes, warnings and references to the dvd resource
- rules of thumb
- a list of the related questions
- a list of action items
All the sidebar items are excellent examples of clear, succinct writing. The list give cross-references in a very unobtrusive and manner.
I would prefer that maintenance, blogs and forums receive attention - and a bit less time be spent on marketing and promotion ... but as I said initially, writing a book like this is a thankless task. I thank George Plumley for taking it on.
As an analogy, suppose I wanted to build a mechanical widget, involving learning engineering and manufacturing. My introductory physics textbook has 90% of all the principles I'll ever need. Unfortunately, after reading the physics book, I still can't design or build the widget.
Analogously, this book is a web design-marketing 101 textbook, and though most principles are covered, a reader still won't be able to design build the website.
I write specifications for websites professionally and liked this book's format and style of asking questions. The book asks why-type questions that helps one establish a thinking process as to how to review website designs and developments. For example, there are books about color in designs, but this book instead asks-- how does the color contribute to the marketing objective? This book asks, what colors are your competitors using?
Informative, but not really valuable yet, as such questions needs to be supplemented by several other books on color theory. More still, color theory needs to be taken in an overall website design-marketing perspective, which is too much coverage in a small book.
If one wants a custom website, shop for a custom web designer (analogously, it is more efficient to hire an engineer than learn engineering). If one's budget is limited, buy a self-build kit (in another word, it is more efficient buy a web template than to self-learn from a book as this).
Overall, well written style and format, but not of much practical use to laymen.
This is not a how to make a web site book. No it's not a web site 101 book. There is no programming or coding to learn. This is the book you read before you construct and review again when it's done. Or, take it to review your current web site to see all the things you have done wrong... and if you just started, trust me, you have done many things wrong.
There are many things that I enjoyed relating to with the Author. His references to programs and methods I have used for years served as confirmation that someone agrees with me. Of course, I picked up a few things along the way as well, so, if you are experienced, it's still a great book to have at hand.
The key to a successful web site is understanding what it's doing for you. When people ask me to do a site for them, they never know what they want. I always start with, "what do you want it to do"? I then get the perplexed look, and just repeat the question. My second question is "who cares"? Because, if they cannot answer that, then they do not know their audience. You cannot just create a web site and expect people to show up. You are merely a tiny rowboat in a sea of yachts.
There are many questions in the book that may seem obvious to many. But, if you take the time to really answer the questions, you would be surprised at how much you don't know. This book is ideal for the owner of a web site. You might pay someone to create it. You may invest in a company to market it. Or you might ask your 12 year old nephew to throw something together. Well, if your nephew can answer all these questions (and he just might!) then he is the man for the job. But, the creation is nothing. Getting people there is the key. Keeping people coming back is the goal. Easy navigation, visual appeal, and instant access to the main point people are on your site, are all very important. As the owner, you should understand the services involved with your site such as domain names, hosting, storage, downloads, and most of all, security.
With this book of answers, you will make sure you are on the right track with search engine optimization, benefits of social networking, constant adjustments needed with ongoing statistics, software upgrades and more. If you are confused about what is involved in creating a site, and not even the person creating it, this book is for you. If you are new to creating sites, and want to check to see you are going in the best possible direction, it's a must buy.
The book offers a good primer on all the following aspects of building a website:
* Domain names
* Design and layout
* User experience
* Marketing and promotion
* SEO (search-engine optimization)
All of the information provided is clear, concise and accurate. I'm a freelance web designer and although much of the information wasn't new to me, I did benefit from the clear and methodical organization of the questions and it will help me to ask the right questions to more efficiently help my clients realize their needs.
The DVD included with the book supposedly contains three hours of additional video content, but I could not get it to work on my Mac running OSX Mountain Lion. The Flash interface loads but none of the video links work, so the only way to access the videos is to manually find them in the DVD file structure. I watched some of the videos and they all take the form of screencasts with commentary from the author that explain and expand on about half the questions presented in the book. If you can be bothered to dig for the videos, you might find them helpful.
I suspect this book was rushed a little to meet deadlines. There are many typos, formatting errors, etc, that would have been caught by a proofreader (for example, in one chapter there is a discussion about strong vs "week" passwords). Not the end of the world, but sloppy nonetheless. Another problem I found with this book is particularly ironic: the accompanying website (ahundredquestionstoask.com) is woefully incomplete - it seems to have been abandoned prior to publication in 2010! This is unforgivable since the book talks about the danger of having a website that is never updated! The website promises "Two questions added each day until the book launch", and yet only 7 out of the 100 questions are listed on the site!
The last problem I have with the book is the images - they're small and greyscale, so they are often too hard to read. Many of them are montages of web pages but there are no borders between the different pages so it can be hard to know exactly what you're looking at (where does one page end and the other begin?).
Despite my few gripes, I still recommend this book - as long as you aren't expecting a technical "how-to" on building a website. If you follow the advice presented in the book (either by discussing it with your web developer or learning how to do it yourself), your website will be much better for it.