So after some soul searching you have decided that building our own website is akin to pulling your own hair out and perhaps not a good idea. Your brand is somewhat lacking online and you know that getting leads is important for the growth of your business. You have realised it is going to be great for your strategic plan. You are now at that point where you need to engage an agency or a web developer. But who do you get? What do you look for? Where do you start? AAAAARRRRR! Cue the headache...or keep reading.
Don't worry this guide on web development is for you, it outlines the things to look for when trying to find a web developer and the type of people to avoid.
We see time and time again the same mistakes being made. It goes a little like this, 'I have a friend that does web pages part time..' or this one we always love 'My network guy can do that..' Honestly, these people have the right intentions when they say yes to creating your website, but it is like hiring a general handy man to fix your complex electrical problem, they know just enough to be dangerous.
What is a web developer, and how can you find one that best suits your business needs and goals online? This is a really important question. Understanding your business goals gives you the ability to find a web developer that can meet them.
What a web developer is not
A web developer is not a web designer, they are two completely different skill sets it is like calling an electrician a plasterer. Yes they are both construction trades, both work in the same industry and they usually work in the same environment but they have completely different skill sets.
Why this gets confusing is some web designers can cross over in minor ways. Using the aforementioned example, a plasterer would be able to add power points to the walls he was plastering, but they're not qualified to re-wire your house, or undertake extensive electrical work. This is what creates the confusion in the non-technical and technical community.
Yes, the web designer and the web developer work very closely and are employed by agencies to work within their select skill arena. There is an unspoken rule that each profession should hate the other and they talk with completely different vocabularies that usually reinforce the belief that there should be conflict. This can make for a wonderful exciting and lively conversation when you need to meditate, as projects leads can attest to.
But in truth, in the outside world where the 'normal, not techhead people'' live they don't really see a difference. That is until they make their first mistake, they hire the wrong one for their business case and the whole thing goes from scratch to major headache. Back to square one again. Some tell-tale signs of this syndrome are (which we internally call), "My friend/brother/cousin-twice-removed/ said they could do it and save me some cash, but... now it doesn't rank,... I can't add what I want...it's already out of date..I need your help... "
What is a web developer?
A web developer, or a decent one anyway, is a software engineer. A web developer knows how to build a website from the ground up, they can create custom code to accommodate your unique needs, developing everything from the site layout to features and functions on the web page.
Their role is to take the online strategy created by a business, in conjunction with a web designer, and implement a working model of that vision. Sometimes this a very simple solution, such as a small Drupal website displaying a business's information. Or it could be a very complex site with multiple operations to perform. Either way, to do this you need a web developer to achieve this goal.
Next, of course is 'How do I find someone that can help me achieve my online business goals?'
Who do I need?
At an overall level, a web developers experience can be divided into 5 areas as seen below:
- Technical SEO developer
- Frontend developer
- Site configuration developer
- Backend developer
Most of the time they will be very good at a few of these but will not be an expert at everything and some will be very specific within their skill set.
Technical SEO developer
There are actually two types of SEO. Most people, web designers and even some so called SEO experts are not usually aware of this. Quite often a technical SEO developer will know about all of the above areas but will not be a master in all of them. They will have a strong understanding of the HTML5 standard and the importance of having clean URLS. They also understand UX theory and the implications to the customer and have an understanding of different browsers on all devices, including mobile.
Frontend developers are the showy flamboyant developers of the web world. They are known for their stylish ideas and strange exotic coffees. A lot of the time web designers and frontend developers will cross over into each others field of expertise which can make for interesting conversations (I can assure you).
Site configuration developer
These are commonly known as the 'click monkeys.' They will set up websites, create layouts, add modules (plugins) and configure them to develop a website that will display information that is required by the business. Often scoffed at as not 'real developers' and the highly specialised ones don't really write code (not to say they can't).
The advantages of these developers are they know what CMS they are working on and really know what tools to use in certain business cases. The other types of developers can be a little zealous as to what a system can achieve and don't always see that other tools could be a better fit.
These guys are amazing but cranky as hell on a bad day. A lot of the time they will talk in languages they say is 'backend development' but really it is Martian. Fundamentally they can know many backend languages some of the more popular ones on the internet are PHP, .NET, Python and Java. Backend developers usually have to deal with databases and provide or integrate different services to other websites.
They, at times will be required to do multiple things at the same time. Why do they get cranky?, the reason is simple all the other developers above them are bothering them constantly (not to mention management). The other developers can't complete their work if the data or data structures aren't being displayed the way they need to. So a lot of the time they are being asked to do multiple tasks simultaneously.
Dev-ops are the people that manage the servers so the website will run. They may also be a backend developer and can get very cranky quickly. They will work with things like Apache, Bash ,Puppet, Linux, Msql (MongoDB) and whatever backend code base the team is developing the website or web service in.
Thier goal in life is to automate everything to the point that they only have to flick a switch. It rarely works like that and occasionally they are grumbling about 'Why is it not working?' They hate the words Migration and New Services so be very careful how you communicate to them.
Which web developer is right for you?
In short, it depends on your business needs. Mostly a business will only need someone that is adequate in frontend development, site configuration, and backend development. A web developer can be proficient in all these areas if you have the right one. But for large projects they need to have a planned approach so that they can help your business create a lasting online presence that will benefit your business into the future.
If you have a website project coming up and need some help decided what is best for your needs, call Purencool Digital we will be happy to guide you through choosing a website developer.