Tag Archives: SME

Web Development Lifecycle

The web development lifecycle (WDL) is a more specific variation on the general framework for developing any application development project. Unlike general application development, all web design and development projects follow a similar structure, so the web development lifecycle / process can be drawn upon as a point of reference for both the web development team and the client to determine the status of any given project and the area of activity to address next.

The Web Development Lifecycle is made up of eight identifiable stages described as follows:

1. Initial Consultation

The Initial Consultation seeks to understand the high level business requirements, the scale of the web development, required delivery schedule, and the overall feasibility, web design and cost of the project.

2. Project Specification

The business requirements of the proposed website are iteratively established between the Client and the web design team, and documented in the form of a High Level Requirements Specification. Focus here is on the relevant business rules and outputs. Implementation of the system, how the requirements are actually delivered, is reserved for later. Once agreed, this document will form the basis of the subsequent stages of the Web Development Lifecycle.

3. Web Site Architecture

Here the software and hardware requirements for delivery of the web application are established, such as the most appropriate web and application development language, operating system, database management system (DBMS), and hardware / hosting environment that are most appropriate to support the final website in a robust and reliable manner; taking account of the likely growth of data volumes, visitor numbers web traffic, and functionality.

4. Web Site Design Cycle

Deliverables out of this phase have a particular focus on the web design of the system, include mock-ups or prototypes of the screens that make up the system, combined with system walkthroughs which will enable both the Client and the software developers, designers and project management team to clearly understand how the website will work from the user and administrators perspective. The design of the CRM would also be full considered here also. This web application functionality is considered in the context of the defined outputs and business rules, and may result in the High Level Requirement Specification being updated or changed. Following this, a key deliverable here is a Low Level Website Design Specification / Document precisely defining the required implementation of the web design and forming a blue print of the project for the software developers.

5. Content Collation

Any required textual and graphical content for the web application is developed or acquired by the Client (or the software development company, depending on the relevant situation). Admin functionality which enables the Client to amend the full content of the site from system launch, and on an ongoing basis, is assumed to have been included and defined within the High Level Requirements Specification, as mentioned.

6. Web Site Project development

At this stage a detailed project plan will have been established for the implementation of the web design, resources identified, time scales defined, and project dependencies clearly understood – especially with respect to which parts of the web development can be done in serial or parallel. This stage actually overlaps with the next stage of the Web Development Lifecycle since all web developed modules are unit tested to destruction by the corresponding web development team members. Further, it is very important that all code produced by the software developers is quality checked to ensure adherence to project development standards.

7. Testing & Quality Assurance

Many forms of testing are carried out during this phase, from system and volume testing – in order to ensure that all components work together within the web application and can easily cope with both the initial and anticipated future demands on the system – all the way to User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and sign-off. There are many forms of testing required during this phase that are beyond the scope of this introduction, such as cross-browser and security testing – all contributing towards the delivery of a high-quality website and service to the client.

8. Web Site Deployment (Launch)

Once the website implementation is tested and released by both the client and software development company as being fully operational, the website is deployed to the production environment and open to the relevant user base. Following this there is generally a pre-agreed period of warranty and an ongoing support agreement can be established at the discretion of the client.

The process can vary but, generally speaking, the dependencies and features of a successful process of delivering webs applications to the client does not. I hope this has been a useful introduction to the process of delivering quality web applications to any business.

About Us: Time Critical Solutions (TeCS)

Time Critical Solutions (TCS) Ltd, aka “TeCS”, is an international business company (IBC) incorporated in Cyprus (a full member of the European Union). The company primarily serves wider-Europe, the Middle-East and Mediterranean regions – but also has clients in many other parts of the world. The company was originally incorporated in the UK in 1998 as Radiant Systems Ltd, which operated as an IT consultancy boutique directly serving FT100 companies throughout the United Kingdom. From around 2003 there was a significant growth in the demand for IT services within small and medium sized companies who were realising the opportunity that the web presented to their business, as well as the cost savings that could be achieved through automation and streamlining of their operations.

The SME market for IT services continues to grow to this very day. However, it is true to say that the quality of service being offered by the IT industry to the SME varies widely, often with loose adherence to industry standards of design, development, documentation, support, and general customer care. Unfortunately, the industry continues to be sales, rather than service, orientated – and price, rather than value sensitive – causing many SMEs to fall foul of poorly qualified, inexperienced service providers.

In 2005 our reaction to this situation was to restructure our services as ETL Motion Ltd, with a focus on providing the same high standards of service and expertise to the SME as we would continue to offer to our large-company clients. Today our philosophy remains the same, to offer consistently high levels of service and delivery to all company clients however large or small. Time Critical Solutions (TCS) Ltd, industry-standard technology solutions against the clock.

What SMEs Need to Know When Hiring a Web Developer or Designer

Your business is… well, whatever your business may be: human resources, plumbing, running your restaurant. Many SME owners are privileged to do what they love and work very hard to make their businesses successful. Whatever you do, you want your website to work for you, but you want to spend your time running your business, not working on the nuts and bolts of website design, so when you need web services, how do you ensure that you are doing the right thing for your business?

This straightforward checklist will allow you to manage your web service needs from start to finish and to make sure you get the best quality and value web development for your company.

Which web services do you need?

If you don’t yet have a website, the first step is to write down exactly why you want a website and what you want it to do for your business. Is it an online business card for reference? Do you want to sell products or services via your site? Is it to improve communication within or outside the organisation? All of these factors influence the design and development of your website, who might be best suited to do the work and the potential cost.

If you already have a website, try to pinpoint exactly what you do and don’t like about the existing website and how things might be changed. Try and be specific: rather than noting that it looks outdated, identify what makes it so: is it the colour scheme or the fonts? Is the navigation clumsy or out-of-date? You don’t have to be a web design expert to do this, but it will give you a head start in looking for a web developer to solve these problems.

Next, prioritise your “wishlist”, which may be a combination of specific points, e.g. improving the layout and more general needs e.g. “I want to drive more business to my website”. Once you have this, you have a brief which a web developer can use to work out the web services needed and how to achieve the desired results. Since the list is prioritised, when it comes to obtaining quotes for the work, you can decide how much is achievable within your timeframe and budget.

Choosing the right person

Do you need a web designer, web developer or programmer? The terms may all sound similar, but there are distinct differences in the work they do and therefore what you can expect from their web services for your site.

A web designer focuses primarily on the appearance or look and feel of the website, including the layout. A good web designer should be an expert in making websites visually powerful and impactful and in drawing visitors to the right areas of your website. Some web designers combine their services with graphic design, so if you have a new look and feel branding on your website, they can incorporate it for you on company letterheads and business cards too.

A web programmer focuses more on functionality. He or she might program solely for the web or may do software programming too. The programmer’s concern is getting features of your website to work. Examples may include building an online intranet or database application, where information can be stored on your database and manipulated via your website. In larger companies, these roles are often split so that programmers work on the “back end” – the features that make a website work and then apply the “front end” created by a web designer to make the site more attractive.

A web developer muddies the water considerably, sorry. Web developers can incorporate elements of design and programming. Web development is a broader term for getting a website online and making it work. You can expect a good web developer to have an eye to both the appearance and functionality of the website.

If you need to narrow it down and you’re not quite sure about the technicalities, have a look around your site. Most likely your URLs in the address bar will have some kind of extension e.g.(.html,.asp,.php,.cfm). Try Googling for terms like “asp developer” to find someone with the specific skills to enhance your website.

Grill the portfolio When you visit a web developer’s website, check their portfolio thoroughly and don’t stop there – look for their clients’ website online. If you are looking for website redesign to allow you to update content more easily, how well are the developer’s portfolio sites maintained? If you are primarily concerned with Search engine optimisation (SEO), how do client sites fare on search engines for the relevant terms?

The personal touch Above all, pay attention to client recommendations. The website can show you the end result, but the recommendation can tell you about the web design process with this particular individual or company. Every SME is different, but with all those I have worked with, one thing has remained the same: the importance of the personal touch. Whether you are employing a freelancer or a big web development company, you need to ensure that you can establish a good relationship with your web developer. How quickly and thoroughly do they respond to emails or phone calls? Are they forthcoming with advice and what sort of advice do they offer? Again, you don’t have to be an expert, you just have to judge whether you think it rings true and fits for you and your business

Go big or go local? Web design and development is big business and variety is the name of the game. Google, Bing and Yahoo! can play a big part in your decision, but rankings aren’t always the whole story.

It is well worth considering a local web design company or developer, because they may have local contacts to help you promote your website or greater access to resources like online business directory listings which can boost your search engine rankings.

I worked with a Cambridge charity who wanted to employ a Cambridge web developer because they knew the web services needed would be ongoing and that discussion and meeting face to face in Cambridge would be important to them, rather than discussing their needs over the phone or email.

How much should web design cost? As with any investment you make for your SME, it goes without saying that you should shop around and get a few quotes. Even if you know which developer you want to go with, it is worth checking that you are being charged the going rate for the web services needed. If the web design prices are above average, you need to decide whether your relationship with the company or freelance web developer are worth paying the extra cost. If the prices are considerably below average, this should set alarm bells ringing. Canny SMEs know that you always get what you pay for.

Working as a freelancer, I know that my clients prefer me to be upfront about costs and that it builds trust. Beware companies who hedge their bets with quotes as it might be a telltale sign of inexperience. However, it is worth bearing in mind that quoted prices are only a starting point. As an SME, it is down to you to hash out exactly what is included and what is not. For example, many sites offer SEO friendly websites. This means that the web design will incorporate the features needed to give your site a boost on Google. However, SEO does not stop here. In my experience, building websites for Cambridge companies in search engines is an ongoing process which takes place over a period of time.

Web design prices: break it down If in doubt, ask the web designer or developer to break the cost down per task. That way, if there is a time-consuming feature which is not at the top of your web design wishlist, you can decide whether or not it is worth the web developer’s time and – more importantly – your money.

Your SME, your website Love or loathe the internet: your website is a big part of your company’s identity. It pays to get it right; it costs to get it wrong, so take your time to find the web services you need.