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I'm interested in seeing what other tags would be considered good structure, including what search engines would consider good structure too!
What mark-up taught me was that design was a discovery process, not an expression as it is with art. I now share with all of my clients that design is our last step. We have no idea what the site will look like until we have pulled all of the pieces together.
Beautifully said. Some people approach us and want to see a proposed page before they sign a contract! So we do something very similar when we create a new site -- and tell a client that by the time they see the first page mock-up we are half way to launch. We create a process and workflow proposal, and THAT is what they sign on for, rather than a predeterimned look and feel,
A website is a way of modularizing information. Determining what each of those modules should be, then planning how the user can gain access for each one, that is the most critical process for success. In other words creating the information architecture and menu labels, along with a navigational flow chart must come first. And done properly, unless the site is for a short term campaign of some kind, the visual design (and even the IA) will have enough built in wigle room to accommodate the inevitable discoveries that come along in the first few months after launch,
When site development is approached this way, HTML naturally takes a semantic role and content is naturally central. And the client often gets quite a wake up call that can affect their offline marketing as well.
There is a quote often atttributed to John Wanamaker that says "I know half of my marketing is working, but I just don't know which half." I would say it's the information oriented part that is working. The attempts to create an image is usually where you are wasting your money - not always, but most often.
Absolutely, this is definitely true. You make the initial template, create the css, hack apart the template into the components that will be dynamically generated, script the pages, then adding a new page takes a few minutes, sometimes more if it's got some unique features like complex tables or something.
Ideally the only unique parts of each new page will be the actually unique parts of that page, the ones you'd have to generate somehow no matter what you use, the page content that is. And once you have a solid css file/s to work from, that is very easy to do.
Personally, I'd rather start with a pre existing design, makes creating the template easier.