What Makes a Good Web Development Company

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.

Use source control
Our final recommendation is a pretty obvious and simple one, to most people, but we still speak to developers who don’t use any form of source control. This seems more prevalent with freelancers as they don’t see the need as they are the only ones working on the code. If that’s how they see it, then they are missing the point.

There are lots of reasons why all code should be source controlled. We’re are only going to mention a couple of key points here. Firstly it’s a great way of keeping a log of changes made to code. (As long as developers put a comment into the commit). Secondly and most importantly is allows developers to change code without the fear of losing already work already done. This is especially useful when trying out other possible coding solutions to a problem.

Web Site Advertising For Free

As a consequence of the rise in web site marketing, traditional link building strategies have become less useful and more difficult, but there are marketing techniques which still work extremely well indeed. This article is about how to get a massive number of web site visitors from a free system which promotes your website both online and offline by viral means.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with less conventional ways to get traffic and I’m going to tell you about one system in particular which I believe opens up almost an entire untapped resource.

For any Internet entrepreneur, web site advertising is always going to be vital to your online business. But link building is not the only way to increase your traffic. Have you tapped into some of the new and exciting ways to get traffic that require almost no investment of time whatsoever?

Web site traffic is the life blood of any site. Without it you can’t make money or generate leads.

Lately I have noticed that with the rapid growth in web site creation and promotion tools it’s become much more of a chore to get a new site noticed as everyone is fighting it out for links. Viral techniques however, still work very well indeed but few people seem to know how to fully capitalise on them.

In reality, many webmasters fail to exploit these at all and even when they do it’s almost always “online” marketing techniques that get used. But you can also promote a web site “offline” virally and the system I want to tell you about exploits both. This is a very powerful tool in your search for more web site traffic.

Have you even considered automated viral “offline” web site advertising? The answer is probably “No” and if not then you have been missing out on a huge almost untapped promotional opportunity.

It’s a fact that there are many millions of people who have computers, spend a great deal of time online but who do not have websites. Can you imagine how good it would be if they worked to give your web site traffic?

Sure, they cannot promote your site either by posting an article or by linking to your site but despite this they can still play a vital part in helping your web site advertising as long as they have the tools and the motivation to do it.

What these millions of people do have is the power to distibute information offline for you about your website which can be even more powerful than online promotion.

This massive offline resource is almost completely ignored when it comes to stimulating web traffic because few people have worked out how to tap into it.

Recently though, a brilliant British programmer has created a free to use system which allows you to exploit this huge resource to the full in order to promote your web site or even affiliate url. Without going into detail there’s no doubt that it can simply explode your web site traffic by means of simple mathematical principles and some basic psychology.

This is the only system I know of which anyone can use for web site advertising and which combines online and offline advertising together which is why it’s so powerful.

It’s radical design encourages a natural exponential growth and all you have to do to promote your own web site is to update it for free and then give it away.

This deceptively simple strategy gives you ready access to a staggeringly large number of people who do have access to the Internet and who will become your web site visitors. There’s a link to the full press release on my web site.

You can download the free software here [http://www.get-a-million-hits.com/download.html] and you’ll also find a link through to the press release on the same page. The press release explains in detail exactly how it works.

Steve Gates (Internet Marketeer)

How to Determine Who to Hire To Be Your Next Ideal Web Developer

Critical Benefits and Drawbacks You Need to Know About Different Web Developer Types

I get asked to do website estimates a lot and sometimes it’s downright heartbreaking to hear about the struggles and challenges entrepreneurs and business owners face when trying to find the right web developer.

Too many times I hear about people who feel they were ripped off by their previous webmaster and are very reluctant to hire someone new for fear of the same thing happening again.

Some of these people decided they better do all the work themselves, struggled terribly trying to literally learn a whole new profession. They end up calling me out of sheer frustration that nothing is working and things are worse off than before.

One time I was having a conversation with someone on a completely unrelated topic and he asked me what I did, when I responded he blurted out, “I hate web developers.”

I cringed.

I’m sure this happens in every industry where there are people who are really great at what they do, some who do enough to get by, and some who only THINK they know what they’re doing!

The web development industry is no different.

If you are unhappy with your current web developer or are in the process of finding someone that you can trust and depend on to fulfill your web development needs, this article will provide some valuable tips that will help you find the perfect complement to your team.

The first thing to get clear on is exactly what kind of help you need.

When hiring a web developer, first get clear on what kind of help you need:

There are many different types of “web developers” out there and making the wrong choice can be very costly. So be sure you understand “who” you are hiring first and then your selection process will be much easier from there.

Here are four common types of web developers:

The WordPress VA (Virtual Assistant)

This person has figured out WordPress pretty well. They know how to install a WordPress theme (either free or purchased) and can make some modifications to that theme to help match your brand colours. They will have a good understanding of what plugins are available to match your needs as well.

Benefits: Usually hiring someone for this work charges less per hour than a fully qualified web developer. Putting together small-sized sites are their specialty.

Drawbacks: Often WordPress is all that they know and rarely do they know HTML or CSS to customize your website for any extra bells and whistles that you want to have.

Often purchased themes are so rigid that even moving an element from one part of the page to another is impossible to do with this type of limited knowledge.

When to hire them: You would want to hire a WordPress VA when you are not interested in a fully branded/customized website. You realize that any customization options are limited and you basically get what the theme preview shows aside from some colour, text and image changes.

You would also want to make this choice if you are already well versed in marketing strategy, copywriting, and branding and can simply tell your VA what needs to be done. Anticipate them having limited knowledge in some or all of these areas.

The Programmer

This person is what I lovingly call a “techno geek”. We have a few of these people on our team and we would not be able to be as successful as we are without them!

The Benefits: They know programming inside and out. They live, eat and sleep programming.

The Drawbacks: They can most definitely build you a fully functional website, no problem. But don’t expect it to look pretty! Branding, copywriting, design layout and marketing are rarely found in their list of skillsets.

You will probably need to hire someone else to help with those areas if you are not fully versed in them yourself.

When To Hire Them: You would want to hire a developer of this caliber if you have a complex website in mind that needs to be customized to fit your needs. Whether it’s an eCommerce engine, membership site or a database-driven tool, a fully trained and experienced programmer is your best bet.

The “All Round” developer

This again is a single person who has built enough websites to have a pretty good understanding of the bigger picture. They are what is called “a Generalist” where they have enough skills to be able to design and develop a decent website.

The Benefits: Having one person have knowledge in the different areas needed for web development is a big plus.

Usually this person has enough programming acumen to be able to handle most customizations and challenges that come up and will not need a plugin for every functionality (which will bog down your site’s performance).

They also are knowledgeable enough about branding and visual design that your site visitors will enjoy the experience of being there.

The Drawbacks: Even though they may appear to know a lot about web development, it’s impossible for one person to be really good at everything. It’s rare to find a really good designer also be a good developer (they do exist but they are a rare breed.) So you will still need to be, or have someone else on your team who is, well versed in online marketing and copywriting to help offset any weaknesses the person you hire has.

When To Hire Them: If you are lucky enough to find someone who has these skillsets AND is dependable, then you will have a great asset on your team. You will need to be aware of what their limitations are so that you can offset those areas with other people on your team.

The Web Development Agency

There several different types of web development agencies and for the sake of this article, I’ll focus on the kind that we are, a boutique web development and digital marketing agency. (If you’re looking for a big name agency that only multi-billion dollar corporations use, you wouldn’t have read this article to this point anyway!)

The Benefits: A boutique web development agency is not a one-man show. They are a team of professionals who can offer, as a collective group, all of the different areas of expertise that your business needs from a marketing perspective.

These areas generally include:

Brand Identity Design

Website Design and Layout

Copywriting

Online Marketing / Lead Generation

Video/Audio Editing

SEO

(Note some agencies only have 2 or 3 people on their team so be sure to ask questions to find out what everyone’s expertise is and if any skillset is lacking that you require.)

The other big benefit to using a web development agency is that they are very knowledgeable in your brand, your positioning and the message that you want convey to your ideal clients.

With every request you give them, they will already know what is needed and can discuss options with you to create something for you that is a perfect fit for your needs.

This avoids you from having to know what is needed yourself and also have to ensure other people on your team remain consistent with your brand message and design so you can focus more on what you do best.

The Drawbacks: Depending on who you find, the price point might be outside of your budget. Do your research: ask for and talk to referrals to help you decide if they will deliver what they promise. If they have a good reputation for being on time and on budget, then the extra costs will balance out in the long run.

When to hire them: Hiring a boutique web development agency can be one of the best things you can do as a new business. Doing this will assure that your new venture will get going on the right foot right off the bat. You will save a lot of time and money in the long run if you make this initial business investment.

If you already have an existing business and website but area ready to step up to the next level, this is the time to bring in an agency that can help you with not only the “doing” but also the strategizing to ensure you get to where you want to be without wasting a lot of time, money and energy.

You will also want to look for an agency when you want someone on your team for ongoing, consistent support. After your website is built, you will want someone you can contact at any time for website updates, creating new campaigns, doing SEO work etc.

My final piece of advice is to be sure you do your research on who you approach. You want to find someone with experience and skill who will partner with you to help you build your business.

Unless this is what you’re looking for, you want to avoid programmers and developers who only do exactly what you tell them. Having someone who can offer ideas and suggestions and be a part of your team to be a valuable resource when needed may be more ideal for you.

References are very important in this industry: Always ask to talk to their clients to see what their experience was working with the developer.

Be aware of those that claim to be developers when in reality, all they learned was how to use a “do it yourself” software like WIX or Weebly.

The quality of your website – both in design and in how it is coded – is very important on many levels. Ensure the person you hire understands how to design and build a quality product for you. Otherwise, you will most likely be faced with going through the whole process again in a short period of time once you realize your site is doing you more harm than good by turning off your potential clients instead of attracting them!

Web Development – An Overview

A web page may be created for personal or professional purposes. Technology has made web development a convenient process. In fact the benefits of technology vis-à-vis the web are meant for both developers and users. The increased usage of the web and the growing number of websites are an indication of this. And what sets the web apart from other technologies such as the television and radio is the space it gives to the user. Everyone can have a web site of their own, but not everyone can, for instance, have a show on television.

The mix of personal and professional web spaces is interesting to track. In the initial days of the web, the purpose was purely idea-sharing at an academic level. In about two years, the web was opened up as a public place and you started seeing a mix of personal and professional sites. In the next stage of its growth, the web was filled with everyone’s personal sites. Everyone had a web page up and ready with personal photographs, ‘about me’ etc. And then came the boom of companies on the web, and business on the web grew like never before. The web became an inimitable marketplace for people to buy and sell all kinds of products and services.

In the lifecycle of website creation, the development team evaluates and, if necessary, revises ideas storyboarded by the design team. Web development is a specialized area of work which involves an understanding, even if not knowledge, of all other related processes. It can be said that the development team is directly responsible for the creation of a finished website. Evaluation is not just a technical procedure, and involves some degree of subjectivity also. Developers do not just mechanically use rules to create webpage. Individual web developers would bring their own style to the work, and the final product would be influenced in that way.

Web development is carried out with the use of languages such as HTML, XML, Flash, Perl, CSS etc. Like languages we use in our day to day life, each of these languages used for web development has their own respective logics. A web developer must be well-versed in the use of one or more of these languages. The lay person has a very simplistic understanding of what web development involves. The development stage of a website is in fact a long-drawn process often requiring rework and multiple revisions. Both creation and maintenance of a web space is known as web development.

As mentioned earlier technology is now geared towards making it easier for a common person to develop a web page. There are, now, many tools available to help a person develop a website and make the web development process easier to an extent. The very fact that there are websites taking care of the complete development side of website creation for users, speaks volumes for the complexities involved in web development. A lot of the complexities of web development arise from the fact that a web developer must possess the ability to troubleshoot serious technical problems.

Asynchronous JavaScript And XML (AJAX) is a web development technique used to create interactive web applications. Even though the phenomena itself has been around on the web for about a decade, the term AJAX was recently attributed to this technique which is often misunderstood as being to be a technology. AJAX is very relevant in present day web surfing. There are times when you need your website to seem more responsive. But at the same time to continually process small amounts of data requested by the user you cannot afford for the whole web site to be reloaded. AJAX allows this activity to go on behind the scenes which accentuates the sense of interactivity on the web without affecting the speed of the web site. Filling up forms on websites, and other such activities become particularly easy because of this technique.

The technicalities can be avoided, but any company doing business online must have a good understanding of web development. These companies looking for a resounding web presence must be aware of issues like browser compatibility, accessibility, and web standards. Web standards in particular have been put in place to ensure that websites meet their fundamental purpose if communicating with a user.

In the field of web development ‘web development India’ is the new mantra of success. Global companies are recognizing the path-breaking working being carried out by web developers in India. Companies from across the world are partnering with Indian firms because of the cost-effective, superior quality services on offer. Web development professionals in India with their expertise are attractive key global players towards India. Touted as an industry that will see phenomenal growth in the next couple of years, web development India is surely going to be the way of the future.

Free Web Site Advertising – 3 Places to Advertise Your Web Site For Free!

When you have a profitable campaign, squeeze pages and sales pages that convert good, the only thing you have to take care about is driving traffic to those pages.

To do that, you either write a bunch of articles, get links to them so they get up on the search engines, and submit other kinds of content. Or, you just buy advertising on some websites – these can be text links, banners, or a mix of the two.

But an even better way to go with advertising, is to get free advertising.

Think this is impossible, or it does not work? Well, think once again, because now I am going to reveal 3 great places to have your pages advertised on for free.

1) Forums. Oh, don’t run away, and do not let this scare you. Forums is a GREAT place advertise. But not just to pay for a banner, but become a member of a forum, and start being active. By providing people with useful information, you will become an expert eventually. Then, as you will have a link to your website included in your signature, you will start getting visitors. And not just ANY people, but INTERESTED people.

2) Yahoo Answers. This is a place many Internet Marketers have tried. But sadly, most of them do it all wrong, and get their Yahoo accounts banned. To not be one of them, you have to be careful. Do not post more than 5 links in your answers per day. Additionally, only every 4th or 5th of your answers should include a link at all. Do not be over promotional, and try to not have 5 links pointing all to the same website.

3) Blogs. Yes, blogs is one of the best places to advertise. You can either start to comment on blogs, or you can contact the blog owner directly and ask him if you could have a guest post on his blog. That is, you write one very valuable post, having a link to your page at the bottom, and the blogger submits your post as a guest post, on his blog. This way you not only get a link back to your website, but if the blog is popular, you will get visitors for years to come!

The best way to monetize your traffic, is to set up an autopilot niche campaign. You set it up once, and it makes passive income for months, or even years, to come.