6 Things Every Website Developer Should Know

With all of the tools out there to help you build websites these days, it seems that anyone can call themselves a “web developer”. However there is a lot more that goes into making a website than adding some links and images. Websites today usually require thorough planning, development and testing processes to ensure functionality when the site goes live.

Before venturing into the world of professional website development, a developer should have an understanding of the following.

Design of the website: You want the design of the website to positively portray the business. In a global economy most people will never meet you at your office, so having a professional looking website will greatly improve sales. Having a website designed by an amateur shines a poor light on the business making it appear untrustworthy or amateurish. A website should be pleasing to the eye. Using obnoxious colors, extremely tiny or extremely large text (not for design purposes) will make users go elsewhere to fulfill their needs. Take a look at websites in your industry and if your website doesn’t compete with them, you should seriously consider revising your design.

Website Structure and Coding: If you’re still building with table based layouts…stop! Tables are an extremely antiquated way of building sites; they are code heavy and do not allow for design nuances today’s visitors are expecting to see. Using Cascading Style Sheet (CSS)-based layouts will allow you to design and build more complex sites that allow for greater functionality and visual imagery. Your code should also validate to XHTML standards. For example, when you have an opening tag there should also be a closing tag related to it. Tags should not be closed out of order. If you are bolding, italicizing, and underlining you should close with underlining, italicizing and then bolding. This ensures browser and platform compatibility.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): All website developers should have a basic understanding of search engine optimization. All Flash sites are cool and fun to look at but they rarely rank well in search engines. Unless your customer is a household name chances are they need people to find their services and a Flash site will hinder that. You don’t need to be an SEO expert to build a site that is SEO friendly. Be sure to use well formed code (as stated above), adhere to the rules of H tags (using only one H1 tag per page), use H2-H6 tags for headlines not to change font size, and make sure that you leave room for at least a paragraph (50-100) words of text on each page.

Programming Languages: Although this is not mandatory for web designers (people who create the graphics) and the casual website builder, a website developer should know at least one programming language. Knowing one or more languages allows you to create interactive features for users. Think about the sites that you may frequently visit such as Facebook and YouTube. There is considerable programming involved to create the functionality, however it is that functionality which keeps the users coming back. Keep in mind you can always contract out with a more experienced programmer for those jobs that may be above your skill level.

Server Configuration & DNS: If you plan on developing websites for a variety of customers you’ll eventually need to put those websites onto a server. Your client will most likely expect you to know how to get their website onto the web. If you’re not sure how to load the site to a server and where to point the domain name to you really should not be on your own developing websites for customers. Generally when you purchase a hosting package from a hosting provider they will supply you with the domain name, ftp username and password and other related information. However if you have a client who purchased their own domain at some earlier time you’ll have to change the name servers in their domain registrar to the hosting companies server that you are using. This is all fine and dandy with basic hosting, but with more and more spam problems arising the email and website may be split onto multiple servers. This can cause major headaches with your clients if you are not making the correct entries where they are needed.

Customer Service: This should go without saying; treat your customers like you want to be treated. Web developers and programmers sometimes get a bad rap from the multitude of programmers who have a “programmer personality”. If you have ever needed more advanced technical support chances are you have met this type of personality. Being friendly and helpful will go much further toward getting additional business and being respected in your field.

Is it Safe to Outsource Your Website Development to a Developing Country?

The whole western world seems to be outsourcing everything to the developing nations but is it a good idea for Website development?

Firstly, let us look at some facts – taking India as an example.

* India has 1 billion inhabitants

* The Indian culture has a very strong work ethic

* The cost of living in India is very low compared to the developed nations

* India has very strong family ties

* India has a very good education system in the cities

In the past many Indians would leave their country in the hope of finding a better standard of living abroad. While many have succeeded, the vast majority of educated Indians have had to accept less intellectually stimulating jobs.

Outsourced Development

Improved telecommunications and technology have now given a large number of people the opportunity to stay in their home country and maintain a decent standard of living.

However, the vast number of inhabitants causes the demand for these outsourced website design and development positions to be very high – with the result that a person is likely to be more highly qualified in India for the same position than a person in the developed world.

So what does this mean to the Web Development market for IT outsourcing:

* Large number of highly skilled, motivated staff

* Much lower overheads than the developed world

* Time difference is excellent for support

However, if anyone thinks that an India web development company can simply send a form to a customer for them to complete with their website requirements and build a perfect website – they will be in a very bad surprise in all but the simplest of cases.

Web design is not like buying a microwave oven. The customer will have a very clear idea what they are trying to achieve but communicating these thoughts in black and white to someone 12000 miles away is no easy matter.

Ciudad de Panama Website Business Analysis

This is where the local IT Business Analyst is so important. Their role is three fold:

* Understand exactly what the customer requires and write it down in a manner that the Website Developer can understand

* Act as the intermediary throughout the development process, conducting regular reviews, using the Internet, at key milestones to ensure that the project is on track

* After the development is complete, the BA provide assistance to the customer in testing, migrating and implementing the new website.

We believe that website development outsourcing is a good idea as the cost savings will be large but only if the correct infrastructure is in place – otherwise you, the customer, will be severely disappointed when you get delivered a microwave oven when you thought you had ordered a grill…

What do you think?

OS X Utilities To Aid Any Developer

Apple’s OS X operating system offers a great platform for software, web or other developers. Combining an intuitive user interface (UI) with a BSD-based underlying architecture, Mac OS X is a pleasure to develop on.

Though as a child, I grew up around various computers, such as old Apple Macintoshes and IBM PCs, my Information Technology career started off predominantly supporting Windows computers. I love computers, no matter what the platform, and a lot of my troubleshooting and development skills were first honed on initial versions of MS Windows. When I first started using Apples though, I got hooked on their intuitive desktop operating system. From OS 7 on pre-PowerPC CPUs, through to the current OS X on Intel hardware, Apple has had a very different approach to the desktop environment and user interface design than their competitors. I find it enables me to be more productive and be less stressed while developing, designing, writing or being entertained. Here, I will present to the reader some lesser-known utilities built-into the OS X operating system which can especially help web developers in their daily tasks.

Locking the screen quickly from the menu bar

As a developer or any professional working on clients’ files very often, I like being able to quickly protect my screen from prying eyes. When I get up to grab a snack, go to the bathroom, etc, I am able to lock my screen quite quickly. While you can assign an applescript to do the same thing and assign it a shortcut key, I am happy to use the following method:

  1. Open the Keychain Access application ( This is inside the Utilities folder which resides inside your main Applications folder ).
  2. Open the Preferences panel via the Application menu.
  3. Set the “Show Status in Menu Bar” to enabled.
  4. Done. Now you may close both the Preferences panel and Keychain Access application.

Now at the top right hand side of your screen, you should see a tiny padlock icon. Click once on this to open the menu, then choose “Lock Screen” to ensure your privacy before stepping away from your machine. This is not the same as logging you out, so when you come back to your computer, simply press a key or move the mouse to prompt for your password and resume work as you left it.

Applescript for web developers

On Apple’s OS X operating system, there are, of course, many ways to do one task. But, there is also one way to do many tasks – it is called AppleScript. AppleScript has been made available by Apple since it’s legacy operating systems were sold. It allows for creating automated workflows between the OS X system and Apple software, and also 3rd party software, which has opened up scriptable control for some parts. An example workflow would be that every time you turn your MacBook on, it would automatically open your favorite news website and read you the first 3 headlines. While this may sound a little gimmicky, many daily tasks for web or software developers can be automated using AppleScript and save you hours of time and energy over the course of a week.

A great example AppleScript which my team and I use very often is a custom dialog which allows us to bring up a list of all our clients’ domain names ( 400 and counting! ). Once a domain name is selected from the list, we are presented with a myriad of options, including:

  • Open in browser
  • Copy URL
  • Copy IP
  • Copy user
  • Copy password
  • Display all info
  • Login to SSH
  • Login to SFTP
  • Login to FTP
  • Download SQL
  • Connect to SQL
  • Connect to MAMP SQL

These commands and more are a huge time saver and negate the need to input each domain’s information into FTP clients or lookup login information in a text file each time we need to connect to a remote server via the Terminal application. For SSH logins via the Terminal, we simply click the button to connect and AppleScript enters the appropriate commands sequentially, waiting for the required delay before inputting passwords, etc. This also eliminates the need for us to maintain security keys for each domain for each user in the company – a great time saver! For high latency servers, we can simply click the button to connect and go back to working on other things while AppleScript handles the slow, boring login process for us.