In our first post, Discovery, we promised to do away with confusing industry jargon. So, we’re going to do just that. We are going to invite you in to the Developers’ Magic Circle (except there’s no actual magic and you don’t need to be sworn in…), breakdown the acronyms and lay it all on the table, to show you exactly what happens at each stage of the Development process.
Here we are, with the penultimate post in our 5Ds blog series. To recap quickly, for those who haven’t yet read the first three posts, the 5Ds is the framework we use at LEAP in order to clearly define our services and processes for digital projects, for example a website launch or relaunch.
In our first three posts, we explained:
The first port of call with any digital project. We research, gather data and assess how well your site communicates to both human visitors and search engines.
With the data and intel collected during the Discovery stage, we move into the planning phase. At the end of the Definition stage, we have a clearly defined project brief to outline the scope of the work, lots of creative ideas and a visual representation of the project, made up of a sitemap, a content framework and wireframes.
During the Design phase, we review and refresh the content on the site – both the written words (copy) and the multimedia assets (video and imagery) to ensure they meet the project objectives. We ensure the site is optimised for search engines, set brand guidelines in place and then take the site for a digital test drive to review the user experience. We ensure the design is appropriate for different devices (mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktops) and create a suite of marketing assets to promote the new site.
By stage four, Development, we have an awesome looking site, which we now need to bring to life with the help of our genius technical team. Web development is essentially the tasks involved in developing a website for hosting via the internet (or in some cases, an internal intranet). If you consider the Design as the outward-facing elements, you could say that Development is the nuts and bolts within site that actually make it work. So, how does it happen?
There is front-end development and back-end development. Front-end development (FED) refers to the graphical interface of a site, which encompasses all the clever animations and interactions you see on a website.
- Making website code reusable
- Following best practice for SEO
- Ensuring accessibility for different devices
- Ensuring compatibility with different browsers and devices so all users can access the site.
Front-end development creates the graphical interface, and back-end development is the power-house ‘behind-the-scenes’ that provides the functionality. It usually uses open source code (software that is available to anyone), to:
- Connect the website to a database (where data is stored and retrieved)
- enable secure user registrations, logins and personalised content.
- Power the website itself.
Back-end development is also required if a website needs to integrate with another site or feed, for example, pulling in a feed from a social media platform. It is also required if the website uses a Content Management System (CMS), so that content can be created, managed and modified by the client. WordPress is a great example of a CMS. The back-end developers will take the CMS and configure and connect it to the website that our front-end development friends have created.
Phew. Are you still with us? It doesn’t end there. Back-end developers have a lot of responsibility. They also:
- Build and test websites that require the secure handling of data
- Manage the hosting infrastructure (where your website and your database is hosted)
- Manage your website URL and connect your domains to your website.
- Ensure the website is running effectively.
Remember all that lovely content we created during the Design phase? Well we need to upload that to the website.
We create templated pages in the CMS, and then upload the content to these templates. The great thing about the CMS is the client has full access to edit the content as and when they need to.
David Kimmer, Managing Director, LEAP
Imagine you’re moving house. You pack all your belongings into boxes, tape them shut and load them into the back of the removal van. Did you use your Sharpie to label those boxes? You see, the problem is, and the same can be said for SEO Migration, if you move things but don’t label them correctly, when it comes to finding them in their new location you’re a bit screwed. The removal firm have placed random, unlabelled boxes in random rooms and you’re left wondering which one of the 50 cardboard boxes your teacups might be in.
SEO Migration is the most important aspect of technical SEO. If you’re changing the structure of a website, you need to be aware that it can have an impact on how that site performs in natural search. In fact, it is completely natural to see some fluctuations in rankings after a site relaunch. An absolute worst case scenario would be the complete loss of natural traffic to a website. If pages URLs have changed then the links will be broken in the search engines and traffic will be lost. Any existing search ranking built up for this content will also be lost – and that’s not what anybody wants!
Website Hosting & Hosting Environments
The hosting environment has two main roles: it determines how secure a site is and how well it performs. As we touched on earlier, a hosting environment is the place that your website, your email and your database is hosted. Ensuring they are all correctly configured is vital in making sure your website works as it should. If your site experiences technical issues due to its web hosting, it can have a hugely negative impact on your conversion, your customer confidence and your search engine rankings.
We choose to work with a trusted hosting company on our digital projects. Having a good hosting provider is worth its weight in gold!
Nick Morley, Digital Consultant, LEAP
Internal & Client Testing
Once the digital project has been built, we set up the complete system in a test environment, so that testing can happen thoroughly and independently before going live. We have a stringent checklist that we work through, before the client carries out their own checks. The site is then ready to be launched!
External Accessibility Testing
A website needs to be accessible to everyone, and everyone has different needs
We perform Accessibility Testing to ensure that the site is usable by people with disabilities, for example, hearing, colour blindness or an age-related impairment. At LEAP, if a client needs to achieve AA standards we aim to get as close to these standards as possible, which is the gold standard for accessibility.
“To make a site accessible, we look at elements such as alternative text descriptions on images, site navigation via the keyboard and ARIA tags so that screen readers can interpret the information.”
Kelly Newton, Project Manager, LEAP
So there you have it – all the key elements of Development that combine to enable your site or digital project to work beautifully. And we’re nearly at the end of our five-part series! Next up is Delivery, where we’ll be explaining the all important Google Analytics.
If you have any questions about any part of the process, please get in touch. Leave us a comment, or drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.