Monthly Archives: November 2016

What Does a Web Developer Do?

Web development is a craft that includes many different technologies. However, at the core of it all the responsibility of the web developer is to ensure that the client gets a website that does exactly what he wants it to do. There is a huge difference between being a web developer and a web designer, although their roles do have some overlap, the web designer will rarely be involved with any of the actual code that makes up the web site.

1. Plan The Design And Functionality Of The Website

It usually takes a while before the web developer actually starts to write the code that makes up the web site. When you get the contract for a web project there is a lot of planning and analysis that needs to take place. Usually the customer requires the website to function in a certain way. It is up to the project manager and his development team to estimate how long this will take.

During this stage the web designer will most likely participate to make sure that his design works with the customers requirements. Indeed, the requirements will most likely include details about how the customer wants the web site to appear.

2. Create The Business Logic As Specified By The Customer

When the planning and analysis stage has been completed the web developer will start developing the website. This often includes working with both client side technologies such as HTML, Java Script and CSS and server side technologies such as PHP and.NET.

A good web developer needs to be proficient with many technologies. There is no such thing as a pure HTML developer!

Knowing which tools to use for each part of the web site is instrumental to the success of the project.

3. Implementing The Web Design

You might think that when the web developer is done developing the web site the web designer would start implementing the web site. Even though they often work together it is usually the web developer who is tasked with implementing the web design on the web site.

It is critical that the web designer and the web developer work together on this!

4. Testing, Testing, Testing

Testing is arguably the most important, and most often neglected, part of a web development project. If there are critical errors on the website when it is launched the customer is at risk of losing a lot of money and certainly a lot of credibility.

Having said that the web developer should not be responsible for testing the web site. It is critically important that it is tested by someone who has not been involved in the actual development of the web site.

Would you believe – These 4 stages often takes place at the same time. Iterative development has become increasingly popular, meaning that parts of the website will most likely be tested while other parts of the site is still in development.

What Makes a Good Web Development

The world of web development is still very much misunderstood. We’ve even heard people call it a “dark art”. So when you need help turning your ideas and designs into a high quality website or web application, how do you know who you can trust to get this done?

The purpose of this post is to provide some key points on what makes a good web development company, and will help you understand the kind of questions you should be asking development companies.

This is going to be a very opinionated post and we make no apologies for it. If you disagree with anything we are certainly open to discussing it further.

Now to get on with the post. Below are the key areas we are going to be looking at, and what you should be looking for in a web development company.

  • Able to do both front-end and back-end development
  • Don’t specialise in one back-end technology
  • Should follow best practices
  • Understanding of marketing strategies surrounding the projects
  • Invests time in research and development
  • Has a rigorous testing process, including automated tests
  • Flexible to change
  • Use source control

Able to do both front-end and back-end development
We don’t subscribe to idea of developers that do front-end development and developers that do back-end development. That’s the equivalent of having a plumber who only fits pipes and leaves the fitting of the baths, showers, sinks and toilets to someone else.

We agree there is a separation between web developers and web designers, there’s a completely different thought process going on there, but the separation between front-end and back-end is just wrong. To be a good web developer you need to understand the full development cycle and to be able to get involved in the project from start to finish. There is also much to be learnt from the working with the varying technologies, but we’ll come on to that.

Don’t specialise in one back-end technology
There are a number of good back-end technologies that are appropriate for web development including Ruby on Rails, ASP.Net and PHP (and others). They all have their strengths and weaknesses and not one is perfect. A good web development company should be flexible in which technologies they use, so that they use the most appropriate one for their clients’ needs.

The key reason we have spent time learning a number of technologies is to able to pick and choose the bits we like. Over the years the developers involved in The League have been able to take the good parts of each technology and formulate a number of best practices and use them across all platforms.

Should follow best practices
The key to being a good web developer is not the technologies that you use, but the best practices that you follow. As technologies come and go in our very fast moving industry those best practices will remain, or at least evolve. As a developer if you have a good grounding then you can move with the times and technologies fairly easily.

So what are these best practices that we are talking about. Below are some of the key ones we follow.

  • Writing semantic HTML
  • Follow web standards for all front end coding
  • Automated testing of both front-end and back-end code
  • Use of a MVC framework

Understanding of marketing strategies surrounding the projects
We’ve heard this complaint many times that web developers don’t think about the marketing strategy of a project. This is generally because developers don’t care. Well they should. How can they advise clients and think about helping clients produce the right solution, if they aren’t thinking about the “bigger picture” (sorry, we know it’s a horrid phrase, we’ll go wash our mouths out now). If a developer blindly does the work, they are not offering the client a service, they are just being a meat puppet.

The most important question a developer can ask is “Why?”. Take time to understand the client’s requirements fully, and advise them, after all the client doesn’t understand the ins and outs of web development, you do. Make the development cycle a two way conversation.

Invests time in research and development
As everyone knows the web industry is a very fast moving industry. Things come and go in the blink of an eye. A good web development company gives it’s developers allocated time each week to look at new trends and technologies. Admittedly some of these trends and technologies are dead ends, but you won’t know unless you look into them.

If you want to know if a web development company knows there stuff, simply ask them what their developers have been looking into recently. You don’t have to understand everything you are told, note them down though and look them up on the internet to understand if the company are looking at new trends or not.

R&D is probably the most important time each week for a developer. If developers don’t evolve, the solutions they build will become stagnate and dated very quickly. As a client do you want an out of date solution before you even start?

Has a rigorous testing process, including automated tests
Too often we have seen the client is the tester for a project. If this is happening, then, to put it bluntly, the development company don’t understand your project well enough, they are just “banging out” code.

A good web development company should be writing automated tests (integration tests, unit-tests etc) for all their code, both front-end and back-end. On a simple level, tests help developers to concentrate on the code they are writing at that given time, they also help developers to write more concise code. More concise code means the code base is easier to understand and cheaper to maintain.

The major benefit of a test suite to a client is that when changes are made to the code in the project there can be a lot more confidence in the fact that the change, or new code, hasn’t broken anything else.

We are not saying automated testing is the silver bullet of web development, and tests are only effective if they are written well, but they certainly should be part of any web developers toolset.

Automated tests aren’t the only important aspect of testing. The web development company should also have a level of human testing as well, and this is certainly something clients should be involved in. User stories are key to this process. As part of the development process, clients should work with the web development company to put together User stories, so that all parties involved understand how users will interact with the site or application and the results of those interactions.

Flexible to change
We’ve all heard developers complaining how their clients’ change the requirements of a project midway thought a project. Developers need to stop complaining about this, it happens to us all and it’s never going to change. A good web development company should have processes in place to cope with change. If you are a client, ask how change requests will be handled.

Web developers should work to short release cycles, preferably 1 – 2 weeks. The worst thing that can happen to a project is that the developers get the brief, start the work and then 2 months later they announce it’s finished, only for the client to say “This isn’t what I asked for!”. By working to short release cycles, clients can be involved at all stages. At the end of each release the client should review the project so far and submit any change requests.

Web Development and Cross Web Browser

Does your website look great in Firefox and Safari, but a dog’s breakfast in Internet Explorer?

If so then you need to read this, web development and cross browser compatibility is a very serious issue that should be tackled by any professional web development company or individual.

Web development companies and individual developers if professional should address this issue with their clients to ensure the clients brand and web design looks identical across the most popular browsers.

From Internet Explorer to Opera which are included in the top 5 most used internet browsers (based on statistics taken in October 2010), any professional web development company or individual developer need to keep vigilant with their web browser compatibility checking.

To stay on top of this pressing issue there are a number of free websites available that you can use which will take sample website screen shots of your website and how it appears on selected web browsers.

Easiest way to find these web browser checking sites is to Google the following phrase: “How does my website appear on other web browsers?” This is the current Market Share for the top 5 most popular web browsers as of October 2010: Information source here

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer – 59.18%
  • Mozilla Firefox – 22.83%
  • Google Chrome – 8.50%
  • Safari – 5.36%
  • Opera – 2.29%

In summary cross browser compatibility is one of the key issues that arise when developing a brand new website or custom website application.

It is best practice to ensure your client’s website looks as identical as possible across the most popular browsers. However we do agree that there are a lot of differences in the way some of these web browsers operate and the various scripting and web coding languages they use and their interpretation of this.

So really a lot of these issues can be solved during the development of the website itself. The easiest way to avoid issues is to work with a web development company that already knows the ins and outs of cross browser compatibility.

4 Tips To Ensure You’re Not Losing Customers Because of Web Browser Issues

  1. Download the top 5 most popular web browsers to your pc or notebook and test your website thoroughly on each of them.
  2. Discuss any issues with your web development company or professional developer.
  3. Resolve these issues by checking supported web languages by checking compatibilities for the web browsers themselves.
  4. Web languages to check that appear differently across most web browsers include: HTML v1-5, CSS v1-3 these are the main two that cause the most common problems with web design and browser issues.

If you are the client I strongly suggest you address these issues with your development company. If you are the supplier, I once again strongly suggest you address these issues on the behalf of your client.

Ensuring your browser compatibility is as good as it can be will mean that you or your client potentially won’t lose business leads from customers using one of the top 5 web browsers.

Also customers that may want to purchase off an ecommerce or online shopping website may be put off purchasing because of these browser issues. Online business is serious business – take cross browser compatibility seriously as it can mean increased or lost business for you and your client.

Ben Davis is the sales and project manager for MediaCore a Specialist Web Company based in Auckland, New Zealand. He has had 6+ years of experience managing web design and development projects for his clients. He is also the author of ‘5 Tips To Search Optimize Your Business’.