Strategy, Structure & Scalability: 9 Best Practices for Web Development
Things to Consider as You Code
The past few weeks, we’ve been talking about how to make your website not suck. 🙂
We’ve covered best practices in website content and design and today it’s time for another important aspect of website best practices — principles to follow in web development.
Website Design vs. Web Development
Before diving into a few of the best practices for website development, it’s worth noting that web design and web development are not the same thing; there is an important distinction to make between the two.
Website design is what happens before a programmer touches your website. This is the stage for determining what you need your website to do for your visitors and your brand. Designers and content specialists hammer out your website’s information hierarchy and then create wireframes that outline what the pages of your site will look like functionally. Once wireframes are approved, the look and feel is developed to fill them out. After that is complete, the process of creating a website moves to development.
Website development is the stage where your website’s design is coded. Here, web developers (also called programmers) follow your design to build a fully functioning website using PHP, Drupal, HTML and other coding languages or platforms.
At this point, your site goes from a concept to a living, breathing digital organism with which you and others can interact in a dynamic way.
9 Web Development Best Practices
When it comes to best practices for web development, it’s best to keep in mind that the only constant is change. Still, there are pillars that strong developers can rely upon to hammer out a solid website for your brand.
1. Strategy. Hopefully, your web design was built with an overarching content strategy in mind that considers the needs and wants of your customer personas. If not, go back to step one and develop a plan for your website that acknowledges the interests of your ideal audiences.
Then, make sure your developers are programming your site with those interests in mind. One granular way this principle applies is with browser compatibility. Make sure you know which browsers your ideal audiences prefer and that your site can accommodate older versions of those browsers as well as the latest version.
2. Structure. As developers build out your site, make sure they put the needs of your customers first. Does the page structure and architecture support the needs of your ideal audiences? What kind of workflows need to be set up for content creators to work efficiently and effectively? These are all things your web development team should consider as they code.
3. Scalability. When laying the foundation of your website, it’s best to allow for expansion. If your website is doing what it is supposed to, chances are good that your number of visitors and session lengths will rise; plan now to build a website that can grow with your visitors and their changing needs without requiring an expensive site overhaul or redesign.
4. CMS. Content management systems should be implemented with present and future user needs in mind. Asking a few questions during development can save your team time and headaches down the line. Those questions can include:
- How complex does the CMS need to be?
- What do visitors need to do on our website?
- How often will a developer need to get in and change it?
- Does it allow for multiple teams and user roles?
- Is it simple, intuitive and easy to use?
5. Data Security. When building your site, make sure your developers are considering what kind of data you will need to store on it. If you keep personal data, you’ll need protections in place that comply with regulations and keep personal information private and protected.
6. Compliant. A related issue to data security is making sure your site is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recently enacted by the European Union (EU), which governs how personally identifiable information (PII) is controlled and processed. It applies to everyone in the EU and could affect your business if you have visitors or customers to your site from the EU, even if your business is not located within the EU. Some of the biggest issues around the GDPR include:
- Obtaining opt-in consent
- Breach notifications
- Data transfer
The EU has said that its citizens have a right to know how companies are storing, accessing and using their personal data. If your company touches PII on its website, you’ll need to make GDPR concerns part of your web development process.
7. Speed. No matter how fast your website is, there is always an opportunity to make it faster. As we noted a few weeks ago, 39 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if images take too long to load or won’t load at all.
What is too long? A single second delay in your site load time can decrease conversions by 7 percent. If your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, 40 percent of visitors will leave. You have 3 seconds when it comes to page load time. But even that will make your site feel like the days of dial-up. Aiming to have your site load as fast as possible is good for conversions and for overall user experience. Have your developers check your site speed with tests like Google PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest and GTmetrix and build it to fly!
Simple fixes like browser caching, optimizing and compressing images and even working with your hosting service to optimize page speed can all make a huge difference in giving users the best experience possible when they visit your website.
8. Integrations. Integrations are the third party services that your website needs to tie into to deliver the functionality and experience your visitors need and expect. Will you need a content delivery network (CDN) to load page content at appropriate speeds? Does your site require a single sign-on? Make sure your development team builds your site to fit your specific third-party integrations.
9. Test, test, test. And document! No website project is complete without thorough testing. After your site is fully built, it is not ready to launch until testing has been conducted. This usually involves visiting every page, clicking on every button, filling out every form and running down every bunny trail to make sure everything works as intended and that the user experience is satisfying across your entire site. Expect issues and don’t get discouraged; everything you catch and resolve in testing is one more opportunity to impress your visitors after launch.
Volumes more could be written about website development; this post only scratches the surface. If your head is swimming, don’t despair. Take a deep breath and call OBI Creative. Our talented team of web designers and developers can help you create and construct an effective website that’s as profitable as it is beautiful.
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