If great web design is design that achieves its purpose, then great web development is what enables that design to work.
Since most of us are so visually inclined, we often think that once the picture is painted, the hard work is done and someone just needs to press the “build website” button or drag and drop some pictures and text here and there.
With web projects, nothing could be further from the truth. To draw some analogies: what good is a Ferrari body without a Ferrari engine? Would you really spend that much money only on the body style and interior if there wasn’t some serious horsepower under the hood?
Similarly, don’t sell the infrastructure of your website short. It really matters how it’s built if you intend to consider your website like an asset and derive long-term value from it. The Internet is a complex and changing super-highway, and your website’s underlying software is the engine that truly enables you to navigate it nimbly. Your design is what turns turns heads and sparks interest.
To put a practical spin on it, the way your website is developed will affect how rapidly it can evolve with your business. If you have a site now, how easy is it for you to change existing content? How easy is it to add new pages? Whole new sections? How long does it take to add a custom input form?
Can you quickly add a secured area for customers with unique content for them? Can you divide that area’s security by customer type? How about e-commerce or a social component? Would you have to rebuild everything to add those?
Depending on how you answer questions like that, you may be able to pat yourself on the back – or you might slap yourself in the forehead. Simply put, great web development would have set you up to do any of those things with relative speed and affordability. We’re not saying that any lay-person could create a secured customer portal with simple tools; we’re saying that if your web developer did you justice, he or she put you on a platform that could be extended into such features without having to reinvent everything.
How Does Great Web Development Happen?
While we believe that everyone is a potential designer and can contribute to the intelligent design of their own website, the same really cannot be said of development. Not everyone is a web developer.
The most critical design skills we simply acquire through life – thinking creatively, observing, and analyzing the world. If you can draw shapes and write meaningful sentences, you can design.
Development skills, however, are acquired through study and practice. To be a great web developer is to be an engineer – a software engineer to be precise.
Sure, there are people out there who can make functioning websites simply by twiddling around with simple, off-the-shelf platforms (and only lightly dabbling with code). But such developers (and their clients) find their limits pretty quickly.
Great web development happens when the people behind the code are practiced and experienced engineers who understand how the Internet works, how web servers work, how web software works, and why one way of building a site might be better than another.
Great web development is the most thoughtful, most complete, and most adaptable to the ever-changing world of online business – but it might not be the cheapest. And yet, great web development doesn’t have to be expensive, either! Coupled with great web design, smart choices can lead to very efficient solutions for both the front-end and back-end components of your online business.
How Do I Get Great Web Development?
Go for experience. Broad experience if you can. Find someone claiming to be a professional web developer and ask them questions about how they build sites: what tools they use, how they solve architectural problems like content organization, user management, security, media management, and custom databases. Judge their answers and use your intuition. A truly experienced developer will understand that there are many ways to skin a cat, and will suggest a careful approach to analyzing your needs.
Your business model might be tried-and-true, like an e-commerce site. Given the vast amounts of information about e-commerce solutions, you should expect a pretty standard response, like Magento, one of the leading e-commerce platforms.
Furthermore, whatever platform is finally decided, be sure your developer is experienced with it. It is entirely possible to “code yourself into a corner” even within quality frameworks if the developers involved don’t really know what they’re doing. Pick a development company with experienced leadership and senior developers who will be involved in the critical architectural decisions.
With the right architectural choices, a good project management system, and a strong quality assurance process, the junior devs can then execute the bulk of the work, saving you money.