There is a conceptually simple category of websites that we could refer to as “showcase” sites, that account for a relevant fraction of existing websites on the World Wide Web.
- These websites have limited interactive functions and are used to provide information on a given topic, business, activity, project etc..
- This information will be mainly textual, but can include images and videos.
- A simple contact form might be available, so that users can send an e-mail to the site owner directly through the web site.
- The number of pages/sections is limited, and so is the depth of navigation. Typically those sites might have just one top level, with a page for each section. Some subsections might be present in some of the sections, and sometimes a third level might be also present (sub-sub-sections/pages). But no more that that. Each additional sublevel adds a layer of complexity to the navigation elements of the web site and should be implemented with a special care to the integrity and ease of use of the site navigation.
Many websites or web services do not belong to this category, and can be viewed more as “hosted applications” rather than “web sites”. Let’s think for example about e-bay, google, amazon, facebook. Of course they are web sites, but they also are a collection of great, complex software. Instead of running on the user PC, this software is hosted on the respective companies servers and is accessible via web. While showcase website are a relatively homogeneous category, the same is not true for hosted applications, where each single functionality or feature is a different piece of software that glues and integrates with the other pieces to create the “web site”. These web sites are often more about “doing things” (buying, communicating with other users, sharing data, documents, calendars…) than about simply getting information.
So we have two worlds, connected, sometimes overlapping, but conceptually distinct: showcase sites, and hosted applications.
When you start thinking that you might “need a website”, it is a good idea to think about which of these two categories your site will belong to. It could also be a mix: a prevalently showcase oriented site, with one or two specific interactive functionalities. These functionalities might be relatively “standard” (say, the management of a subscription-based mailing list) or could be highly custom (say the availability of a complex application form for registration to an upcoming event, with an administrative backend whare you can download all the applications as a single pdf file).
All these factors will impact on the decision of what is the most suitable informatics infrastructure to use in the management of your website.
The good news is that at this time of internet development, the first category of web sites, the showcase sites, can be handled easily, quickly and rather inexpensively (even for free, with some limitations).
Systems exist, (and we have one in place here at wdev.co), that allow to “instantiate” a web sites with beautiful graphics, navigation menus with sections and subsections, contact forms and a number of more advanced, but still “standard” add-ons, in a very short time, and with limited work involved. These systems use pre-made, yet professional graphical templates that can be customized according to the requirements of the new web site, and quickly published online. These systems also allow the access of clients to an administrative backend of their web sites where the site contents can be modified at will, without the need for external help. More to come on these Content Management Systems in the posts to come.
Image credits: Moyan Brenn Flickr