Since mRELEVANCE began building websites years ago, web development has seen many changes. In the early days, we built basic HTML sites, but eventually made our way to WordPress version 1.3 websites, then onto PHP sites. Today, we use a custom CMS application that provides our clients with seamless data, integration and content management processes. Web development is the foundation of a company’s website because it provides tremendous value by giving administrators control to quickly and easily publish new information. With current web technology, a company can display relevant content and receive relevant data.
Every year, mRELEVANCE attends PubCon, the leading SEO, Social Media and PUBlishers CONference. Although the main focus of the conference is on organic traffic and creating an environment for engagement, attention usually focuses highly on websites, web development techniques and web development standards. The information we gain from Pubcon is leading edge and provides us the most advanced tactics and techniques to reinforce our competitive advantage. We use conferences like Pubcon to remain at the forefront of our business for our clients.
Tips to improve the process of web development:
The first tip actually comes from a quote from Stephen Covey's book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People; "Begin with the end in mind” – The best way to start a new project, and not just a new website project, is to define your goals and what you want the project to accomplish. Spend the time you need defining specific functional requirements and design documentation in the beginning. It will save you a lot of time in the end building and tweaking everything to get it just right.
Be really clear in this documentation and make sure everyone understands what the goals and requirements are. Take the extra time to create business case documents (yes, put this document in writing) so the business side of the company understands and can clearly articulate when they have changes or modifications.
Use these documents to create wireframes that demonstrate the functional requirements and even go as far as adding callouts, when necessary and appropriate, on the wireframes that show WHERE and HOW that layout answers the functional requirements. Design exactly towards the wireframes and functional requirements, because if both of those have been approved by the stakeholders, the design will naturally follow.
The next tip reinforces what we learned as marketers in our first marketing class or at our first job - “Build your site based on your client needs, not what you want to show them." Remember, no one wants to be sold to, yet most people do not mind help in their purchase decision...especially at the point of sale. Some even need a little extra 'encouragement' that you understand what they are looking for and what their situation is.
Your website IS their point of purchase (or zero moment ot truth (ZMOT)) in the decision process. You must take the responsibility you have to your customers seriously and not simply dump your info on them in a way that makes you happy. Give them what they want in a format that makes it easy for them to interact with. Keep in mind that there is a good chance they will visit your website from their smartphone, in addition to their tablet or computer. Your web site must adjust the display, and even the content, based on the device, connection speed and screen size (resolution) of your customers...while still utilizing the same code and the same site for SEO principles.
Responsive Design and Dynamic Serving are the two web development techniques that accomplish the task of providing your content in a way that is easy to see, read and search from a smartphone. A responsive site adjusts the display of the content based on the screen size and resolution of the web visitors device. Smart phones have a small screen size and typically are utilizing a slow cellular connection. Keep this in mind as web visitors do not have the patience to wait even 10 seconds for a tiny website to load. They want to get to what they are looking for quickly and easily, without compromising too much in design. They won't wait for too many photos or design elements to load, but the mobile site still needs to be pretty to be effective. As web developers, we have a little more leeway with visitors on tablets, but still have to consider connection speeds.
A dynamic (or adaptive) serving site uses the same principles, but takes it one step further. Not only should the site use the same code base and adjust the display of the site based on device, but serving different content based on device gives an even better user experience. Think about delivering a well written paragraph of effective content for computer or tablet visitors, but serving the same message in an effective bulleted list for smartphone visitors.
Companies that do web development need to think through dynamic serving, also called adaptive design. When this is done correctly the results will speak for themselves.
Remember, responsive design is good, but dynamic is better for mobile SEO. The website should adapt and then respond. The key to both of these development standards however, is leveraging the same code and content for SEO. Search engines want to see a single website with all of the company content on it. Search engines do not want to crawl a separate blog and website, or a separate mobile site anymore. Best practice is to develop one site that adjusts for the user with all of the content that proves your expertise and shows up in the search engines during traditional search and mobile search. In fact, Google recently announced that they will stop serving sites without effective mobile strategies beginning April 21, 2015. Read more about it on www.HuffingtonPost.com.