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.

Thriving With Web Design and Development

If you are a Web Designer or Web Developer, you most likely have asked yourself “Where is the work? How can I utilize my skills for a living?” The first answer that comes to your mind is “new businesses”. This in many cases is not accurate and you will not succeed or gain new clients with a marketing goal only targeted to new businesses. You have heard that you must find or achieve a niche when marketing a business or product right? The same rules apply.

Web Designers and Developers seem to compete for projects, so it seems only natural to find the source of business from the start and hopefully bid and win the job over “the other guy”. Other industry specialists such as Domain Investors and other Web Developers already have the projects and established capital, marketing plan, and usually a concept for their project or campaign and you better believe they need your assistance. This is not going to be the time to bid on a project and make $4,000.00 per job but instead is ideal for you to reply to their plea for help and offer “assistance” at a reasonable business to business rate.

So, where do you find other established Internet Professionals? Your first thought is probably SitePoint or some other forum or marketplace and while these are excellent establishments and offer a huge community of diverse web professionals. I feel that jumping into an existing community to solidify your brand or services from ground zero is not appealing and typically attracts the wrong attention. Realizing that exposure and conversions will not happen over night will prevent bogus attempts to get your name out. Create a task list for your promotion efforts and reserve a slot in each workday dedicated to writing helpful articles, providing scripts or designs for public use, and offering relevant insight in areas where help is needed while displaying your contact information (without over-doing it).

Remember every key stroke represents your business, you will achieve richer more targeted, quality results with a patient, proactive approach.

Web Typography For the Element of Design

When designing your site you may want to decide what font you are going to use before you start writing your content. Each different style of font will render differently depending on your operating system and your web browser. You web typography will also have a different effect on each area of your site. There are a few things to watch for when deciding which font to use. There are several different fonts are the safe typography for web development.

Sans-Serif Font and Serif Fonts

To start things off there are two general categories of fonts. There are sans-serif and serif fonts. A sans-serif is most common with Arial and Verdana on a Windows operating System and Helvetica for a Mac operating system. Sans-serif fonts have no flat spots on the text. These small flat spots have a nick name of feet. A serif font is Times New Roman and is the most popular serif font that developers use. The best way to determine if your font is serif font or a sans-serif font is to look at the bottom of the text. Serif fonts have small feet at the bottom of their text and sans-serif fonts have clean cut offs at the bottom.

Windows Fonts Linux Fonts and Mac Fonts

Each operating system has different style of fonts. Of all the popular operating systems, most of them have the same fonts. There are a lot of windows fonts that are not supported by the other operating systems. Windows Vista has added a lot of different fonts to its operating system. If you choose a font that isn’t support by the operating system, this will force the operating system to choose one. The result can crash your web design. But choosing a font that is supported by all operating systems will keep you design safe from rendering incorrectly.

Web Safe Fonts
These typography fonts have been common to all versions of Windows, Linux and Macs:

  • Andale Mono
  • Arial
  • Arial Black
  • Century Gothic
  • Comic Sans MS
  • Courier New
  • Helvetica
  • Georgia
  • Impact
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana

Finding your Web Typography

When finding your font-family you need to find a good size and weight. Font size can be very important. Make sure that you font size is readable on all operating systems and browser. Font sizes verify between operating systems. A font size of 12pt on a Windows operating system is smaller than a font size of 12pt on a Mac operating system.

Font weight is also by the font size. When choosing a bold font weight, size can change how much bold effects your font. A small font size will take a small amount of bold, where a bigger font size will give it a stronger bold. Bold is really use for focus points and important items.

Typography can be Fun!

There might be fonts on your developing computer that you might love. But it might not be the best choice to use for your site. Play around and be creative with your web typography. Just keep in mind what your users will be using different internet browsers and operating systems. If their computer can’t find your font, it will be the computer’s choice by default. This could change the whole outlook of your page. Always check your pages in different browser and operating systems. An easy way to do this is to use a website called BrowserShots. (www.browsershots.org) It will run your website throw different scenarios of internet browsers and operating system and output the results in thumbnails.