Work Placement – Website Design Project
Friday 13th May 2011 – updated Friday 10th June 2011
Final Design for LifeStyle Computers Website
I’ve decided that while I’m technically on a work placement with LifeStyle Computers that I would look at some long standing web projects and take the opportunity to research and prototype a new design for the company website. For me the key to this new design is my new familiarity with WordPress, having used it over the last year to Blog and document my work during my first year at University. So it was an easy choice to look at using this platform for the basis for a new company website.
One off the great things about WordPress is that it is easy to test your designs online by opening a free account and picking one of the 100s of Themes to help you get started. When it comes to design I tend to want to get something up and running very quickly and then go back and re-design/modify rather than start with a blank sheet and map out a design. I know the latter choice should be the preferred way to design but it’s not my way of doing things.
Over the year I’ve been looking at the range of Blog/Theme designs and most fit into a basic structure of a choice of number of columns and sidebars, some themes include Footers and the option of modifying the header image. This means that I can basically choose a theme to start and modify this at any point in the future without dramatically changing the look of the website, of course if you start with a design that has sidebars and then switch to one without, this data will not be displayed so it’s probably better to work from the other way round, that is pick a basic theme one column and one sidebar. Then if you want to change designs later to say two columns and two sidebars no data will be lost.
Pages, Categories and Custom Menus
One of the things I’ve come to understand about Blogs is that essentially all the posts are stored in one file/location in post date order so the most recent post is the one shown first. The way that a Blog displays posts other than date sequence is by the use of categories, by selecting these the posts set with this category are pulled from the Blogs database and displayed in category/posting date order.
Pages and there are two types can be set as Static Page or default dynamic. What this means if you set a Page to be static this Pages and it’s data are fixed which makes it ideal to become the Home page of a Blog site or for any Data that you always want to be displayed regardless of Post Date order.
One of the great things about Blogs I’ve become aware of is Custom Menus, using this option it is possible to design a navigation menu using a mix of Pages and Categories so for example I could have a Menu that includes a static page for my Home Page and Categories as Menu options which would look like dedicated pages on the Menu bar. But Category Menu links would work differently from Page menu links because the data they hold will be dynamic. By this I mean the content would change depending on Blog postings using this category. For example say I had a Menu Heading using the category ‘New Products’ when a site visitor clicks on the Menu Heading ‘New Products’ all the Blogs with that category would appear on this Menu option latest displayed in date of posting order with the most recent shown first.
Now what’s even more exciting about designing a website this way is that the site owner can just Blog to their site in the normal way, but by setting the category they automatically tell the site under which Menu heading they want the content to be displayed. This effectively gives the user an effective content management system without the user having to understand anything about website design. Even better if they use a Blogging tools such as Microsoft’s Writer they can just add content as simply as they would say write a Word document.
Another great thing about designing this way is the ease of adding more Menu headings, just add a new category and include this in your custom menu and it’s done. You can even choose sub categories and parent these to the main categories giving you Menu sub-headings.
I’ve tried some of the Themes freely available on WordPress rather than design one from scratch, which I plan to do when I have both the time and the tools to do so. But for now the off the shelf Themes will do while I concentrate on designing Menu options and deciding on what content I want to show. I’ve added some examples of some of the themes I have looked at below, the most promising of which is the single column and two sidebar design with the orange coloured header.
Prototype Website Location
To see the progress of my website design so far click here