Web Development

Audience Analysis

Aside from the technology that goes into a website, I'll get to that further on down, design has to be the most important factor when attracting user engagement. Engagement is a broad topic, but for the sake of web development it can mean selling more products to keeping and attracting new clients. As a website is essentially a digital brochure, some with a shopping cart attached, it is basically the written word. And, the first element of any written document is considering who the document will be read by, or who's the audience.

You wouldn't write the same way for a children's book as you would for a medical journal. And if you write for a children's book, you can't just write for children, you have to incorporate writing for the parents as they would be the one purchasing the book for a child. Teachers and schools systems would also be included as part of this audience. Geographic location is important. An inner city child would draw different references than a child growing up in the country. This audience analysis is often coined the customer analysis, but I think it's better to think of it in terms of the audience as it implies a closer relationship, and that's the goal.

The Modern Day Scribe

Scribe

The audience analysis is the first step to design.  Graphics and technology compliment the value of your written word.  People that don't know me sometimes ask what I do, and for the lack of wanting to explain, I just say web development or computer stuff and leave it at that.  But, what is it really? I think it's more like the modern day's version of a scribe.

The scribe has been around since the earliest of times, probably the first guy to draw a dinosaur or boobs on a cave wall. Etching out a book for a king from a dingy lit room is what comes to my mind.  In that respect, not much has changed.  Just kidding, a lot has changed and seeing a site fall into place is a great feeling.  If you do it right, form and function unify to create something stunning, both visually appealing and as it glides through it's processes.  You have to love it and have a sincere passion to put the time into it or you'll just create junk. 

Elements of Design

There's a lot of junk out there or better stated, there's a lot of opportunities for developers who can put it all together, the true artisans.  I'd like to think I am one of those guys.  As with any other career, your work defines you.  You can see some of the work I have done here on my portfolio page.  The majority of them started with a blank screen, some without even a logo to build from or worse, a difficult logo to build from.  The logo is the keystone to begin working with or working around.  Either way, it's a starting point to form up a style from, then work your audience considerations in from there into every element that goes on a page.

Like a game of chess, the technical components are your knights, bishops and etc.  Each have a different move on this board and unlike on a chessboard, there are literally hundreds of other pieces to employ.  The design is all about how they unfold, like actors taking a stage or in a symphony, each starts a different time and rides a rhythm that coincides with their role blending with the others.  A lot of analogies can be drawn from here, but limiting it to a chessboard and not an exact measure, the queen is the database.  She can move like no other piece.  Don't have a database driven site, you have no game.  There's plenty of quick website generators for presentation sites, and if that's all you need, get one of those.  I am talking about e-commerce, custom web applications for data entry, reporting, collaboration, multilevel subscription services and the like, all delivered with your style to your specific audience members.  This isn't your Grandmother's Oldsmobile. 

User Engagement

What is user engagement?  It's more than getting people to respond to your emails or respond to your business.  Like I began with, engagement has many facets, but I am going to try and boil it down to a few key points.  Consider why a viewer, potential client or customer would want to be associated with your business.  Businesses are people, cultures and communities.  And, people all over the world are basically the same.  (I know this is a huge generalization, but hang with me here.)  We all want to identify with what's good, what's cool and what's the best.  Consider Apple's success, people identify with it, they want to be like it.  It's attractive.

Attraction, isn't just looks alone.  If I were to ask, what's the most attractive quality, most people would say beauty.  But, it isn't beauty.   It's movement.  If you thought confidence, that can be encapsulated under movement.  As the song goes, "I like the way you move".  Movement on a website is fluid, flowing transitions, speed, graphics, fonts, tone, the whole picture, the whole symphony.  Blend that all together in a custom design and now you're cooking.

The technology employed that makes this happen, is ever changing.  Currently, I build sites with DNN Software's CMS formerly known as DotNetNuke.  I then add some accelerators into the mix to speed up production.  Tricks and code snippets within these tools, well that's like asking for the secret sauce recipe.  I will be putting some tips and samples up for aspiring developers on the resources page (not up at the current time).  My audience here is for all levels, but more importantly for the non technical decision maker looking to have a great website built.  Contact me anyway that works best for you.