Is it time for a site redesign?

Latest posts by Jonathan Hudson (see all)

The venture industry is abuzz about Web 2.0 – a rejiggering of web technologies that promises more interactivity and a better end-user experience.

If you have a website that promotes your business, now might be a good time for a redesign. The three top browsers (IE, Firefox and Safari) all render pages about the same for end-users, and you’d be surprised at what a good developer can whip up on your website’s backend these days.

To give you some idea of the real economic value that Web 2.0 is ushering in, I can speak from the experience I’ve had at my company. We are currently redoing our entire website from front to back, and are building a user and event management system, as well as a tool for digital goods delivery, using the technologies that follow below. It has been two weeks since we finalized the spec, and we’re about two weeks away from launch – not bad for part-time work. This system will free up the time of two employees to let them focus their efforts elsewhere. It is only recently that the following three technologies have come together and have made it possible for us to do this for a low cost, without sacrificing any of the functionality our system needs.

CSS + XHTML: If you’ve touched any part of a web page’s design in the past six years, chances are you had to do your layout with tables. Well, cascading style sheets and standards-compliant xhtml are here to change all of that. A style sheet is a global document that controls the layout of all the design elements of every page on the site. If you get a new corporate logo and with it a new corporate font, you can make a change to the .font attribute in the stylesheet, rather than changing the font on every single page of the site. I looooooooove CSS+XHTML. Updates to non-CSS sites are usually tedious and, therefore, costly.

AJAX: The acronym for "Asynchronous Javascript and XML," AJAX is a set of technologies that can give your site a lot of interactivity. GMail uses it heavily, and more and more sites are coming online with it. If you have any sort of interactivity on your site, you may be able to AJAX it for better usability.

Ruby on Rails: Whoa, this one came out of left field. Ruby on Rails is a framework that lets developers rapidly create tools like weblogs, search utilities, and the like. I’ve been amazed to watch my developer turn out little web apps like blogs and user registration systems in five to fifteen minutes. He actually wants me looking over his shoulder!

If you’d like to familiarize yourself on all of this, start at the CSS Zen Garden to understand the magic of CSS. There is a great accompanying book, and in addition to that one, check out Professional CSS, which is good for beginners and pros alike.

Jesse James Garrett at Adaptive Path has an article about how AJAX works and why you should use it. After reading that, subscribe to the Digg.com RSS feed and check the articles on AJAX that seem to crop up daily.

As for Ruby on Rails, start at the Ruby website and see where it takes you. There are a lot of resources there and much learning to be done.

Any other tips out there from developerland? Am I missing something that might make the site even better?

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