Website Design

Our Design Process

A successful project requires a plan that identifies the goals and layouts out the steps to meet those goals. We work with clients to identify what their goals are, and the best ways to get there within a budget. The amount of planning depends on the project size, but we will prepare for clients a general plan of work that helps to develop a thousand foot overview of where the project is headed and what is needed to formalize the project scope.


Scope

In developing the project scope, we will define all of the requirements and features that are to be included in the final delivery in order to meet the goals determined in the plan. This includes defining the content, structure and any bells and whistles that might be included. Furthermore we define what is expected of us and what is required by you to make sure that the endeavor is a success.

Site Mapping and Layout

One of the most important steps is deciding how content will be delivered in terms of page and page layout. As sites grow, a consistent page layout and structure is a key element in making sure the site is cohesive and easy to use both by your users and your staff. This is why developing a site map and a general wireframe of the page layout is crucial. After that we can start to build in the visual elements to create a memorable presentation.

Designing the Site

We emphasize separating content from presentation. This means that the text and images are separated from the visual template for displaying them. This is important for two reasons. First, as your site scales up, new pages are added or existing pages are modified, there is no reason to adjust HTML code. Second, with the variety of browsers and devices such as PCs, PDAs, Phones as well as the variety of users from different countries or even physically impaired, separating content and presentation allows the information to be displayed in the best manner for the user.

Site Development

Once we have developed a goal and drawn up a project scope, AgaveIS will develop your project according to clearly spelled out milestones. Depending on the project, we will present you with a number of concepts, based on your input, for your approval.

Delivering the Finished Product

Once a specific layout and design is agreed upon that sets the right tone and delivers a professional appearance, we will begin working on the final design. Unless otherwise specified, we will deliver a site that is good-looking, fast and standards compliant, and one that is easy to manage going forward, whether it is by us, you or others in the future.

Web Development Standards

We strive to develop all projects to meet strict web standards which allows you to both project your site to the widest audience possible and at the same time makes the sites code as manageable as possible in the interest of long term maintenance.

Valid Code

All of our code is developed in a manner which is validated for HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS and other web standards so presentation across browsers is consistent. We will document this and certify this before presenting you with a finished product which will conform to your project scope. Two of the most common certifications are World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) XHTML and CSS standards.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!

Efficient Code

In addition to confirming to web standards, sites are developed with performance in mind. There are a number of commonly accepted web performance guidelines.

Keys to Page Efficiency

Efficient XHTML Compression

HTTP compression, otherwise known as content encoding, is a publicly defined way to compress textual content transferred from web servers to browsers. HTTP compression uses public domain compression algorithms, like gzip and compress, to compress XHTML, JavaScript, CSS, and other text files at the server. This standards-based method of delivering compressed content is built into HTTP 1.1, and most modern browsers that support HTTP 1.1 support ZLIB inflation of deflated documents. In other words, they can decompress compressed files automatically, which saves time and bandwidth.

Low Number of Total Objects

When a user requests a website, the user's web browser requests each individual element to be transferred to the host computer for display. Each individual element has a small amount of overhead data which needs to be transferred and therefore the higher number of individual items can significantly affect the performance of the site in aggregate. With this in mind it is imperative that the developer of a web page designs the site in such a manner that the number of individual pieces is kept to an absolute minimum.

There are a few techniques which can be implemented to accomplish this task such as the re-use of common background images among elements, the use of sprites for items like menu bars, and even the elimination of some image items in favor of the use of XHTML generated visual elements.

Small Image Size and Number

For most sites the elimination of images is not possible because the user experience would suffer. Therefore when using images, the images should be compressed and rendered in a manner that keeps the total page size as small as possible. When large images are used they should load in a manner which does not affect the loading of the rest of the page.

Efficient CSS

Using compact and efficiently developed CSS, pages can reuse style elements so that the overall size of the web page is kept at a minimum with the added advantage of keep the site manageable and the output visually consistent.

Low Reliance on External Resources

A big killer on some sites is the use of elements from other sources that can affect the overall page load time. You only have one chance to make a first impression and if that impression is that your page loads slow, you might as well give up. Dynamic websites rely on external content sources for many aspects such as user tracking, special features and content. If your site also relies on this, it needs to be designed in a way that bandwidth bottlenecks do not affect overall performance.

Accessibility

Making a website accessible to people of all abillities and disabillities isn't just always the right thing to do its smart business and easy to use when your site is developed using web standards.

We can help you produce a site within any of the current guidlines designed to allow people with:

  • Visual
  • Mobillity
  • Motor
  • Auditory
  • Seizure
  • And Cognitive Disabillities

We strive to make a site as accessible as possible to all types of browsers and devices and to users with special needs. By separating content and layout we make your site as flexible as needed for your users of all needs. If your project scope requires it we can develop a site which is accessible to the following types of users:

User Types

Cross browser support

Even though web is made up of standards, web browsers do not always follow those standards, and even when they do browsers can display inconsistently across versions and operating systems. When we work with you to develop a target audience for your project scope, we will develop a plan for implementing your site to support those users, browsers and operating systems. And work arounds for browsers which are not supported using standards.

Cross device support

The web has branched out and is not just a place accessed through the PC. In some markets, non-PC web access is the primary means of accessing the internet via other devices such as Cell Phones, PDAs and thin-clients. If your project scope requires it we can build multi-device support, test and implement.

Cross language support

Creating your content in such a way that it is easily translated into different languages is one of the advantages of developing sites with style sheets. This will benefit your site by creating greater exposure to a wider audience and making it indexed by a wider variety of search engines. Sites developed for cross language support need to take into consideration not only the variable language displayed in the text, but also the way which those languages are laid out (right to left, left to right, up to down). Furthermore visual elements, tags, meta-tags and images also need to be created dynamically based on the particular user.

Visibility disabilities

If your project scope requires that visually impaired or disabled users should be able to access the content of your website, you need to plan from the ground up to make this happen by implementing various techniques such as providing alternatives for visual content, using markup and style sheets properly, allowing design elements to transform gracefully when enlarged and making sure that information conveyed with color is also available without color.

Cognitive and neurological disabilities

To use the Web, people with learning disabilities may rely on getting information through several modalities at the same time. For instance, someone who has difficulty reading may use speech output to facilitate comprehension, while someone with an auditory learning disability may use captions to help understand an audio track. An individual who is highly distractible may need to turn off animations on a site in order to be able to focus on the site's content.

Level Triple-A conformance icon, 
          W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0

Scalability and Management

A website should be a dynamic resource which evolves over time. With that in mind, we create sites that can be easily managed in the future when changes and updates are required. We look at who will be managing the site in the future and create deliverables that allow them to manage the site with in their skill set. This could mean:

  • Simple sites for small businesses with out dedicated staff or technical novices
  • Sites which we will manage and make changes to on demand (outsourced webmaster)
  • Powerful sites which can be updated and evolve with your inhouse IT

In order to accomplish this goal, we utilize master / content architecture to create pages which load consistently. This allows your site to be updated and changed when you need it, without the need to design new pages from scratch. All of the elements of your site, headers, footers, menu bars and content pages are separated out into their component parts.