In many cases the first impression customers have of your brand is based on the user experience with your site, so it’s important to get it right. Beyond leaving a good first impression, a quality website manages the overall perception of your brand and can provide an additional platform for generating revenue, whether through conversion/lead generation, ad placement or e-commerce.
Back to the main question: what is web development? The development process is made up of several phases, including user interface/user experience design, front-end web development, back-end web development, testing and deployment. Since the overall process is so labor-intensive, it’s best to hire a dedicated web development team rather than trying to build a site in-house.
While having an in-house web developer can be useful for maintenance, a web development company will usually produce better results during the initial build-out, expansions, and any subsequent redesigns. This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a company that specializes solely in making websites. In fact, digital marketing and PR agencies often have web developers with cross-discipline experience in marketing, SEO, and other considerations, along with their expertise in cutting-edge web technologies.
Front-End Web Development
To keep this article from reaching novel-length, we’ll cover the research and design phases of the process in another article and stay focused on development itself. Front-end developers build the portion of the website that you can see. Typically, a web designer (more often a UI/UX designer) will create a layered design using software such as Photoshop, which is then given to a developer. This design looks almost exactly like the finished website and should include all aspects of the user interface.
Now that the majority of visitors to any given website are using mobile devices, front-end developers use a process called mobile-first development in building out the designs they’re given. This is done using a principle called responsive design, in which a website’s appearance responds to the size of the browser, using features such as breakpoints within the website’s cascading style sheets (CSS). Modern websites are designed to be viewed on mobile devices, with content shifting to accommodate larger displays when viewed on devices such as tablets or desktop monitors that keep important UX aspects, like site speed, in mind.
Back-End Web Development
Whereas front-end developers focus on the portion of the site that a user directly interacts with, back-end developers focus on the underlying functionality. One common task is the integration of a front-end site into any number of content management systems, such as WordPress or Drupal. They also help build the portion of web-based applications that interact with a web server. For example, if your website uses an API to allow users to sign in to your site through their social media account, this may be a back-end task.
Back-end developers also specialize in the development of APIs, setting up e-commerce platforms, or using back-end frameworks such as Laravel. As such, they have a lot in common with more traditional software engineers. Programming languages on this end of the web development stack include PHP, Python, Node.js, C# (using .NET Core), and many others.
The Bottom Line
Modern web development requires familiarity with dozens of rapidly changing technologies. In the current technological landscape, it’s nearly impossible for one person to keep up with all of them, making a team of expert developers necessary. Web development is a lot more than just sitting at a keyboard and coding: it involves an entire process of engineering.
When done correctly, this can have an enormously beneficial impact on any business. Done haphazardly, you’re likely to waste a lot of money and end up hiring a new team to start over from scratch.