Web development - more than just configuring content management systems

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Difference Between Web Development and Web Design

Before we delve into the subject of what the difference between building a WordPress site and tweaking the code, and web development is, we first need to distinguish between web design and web development…

What Web Designers Do:-

  • User experience –  In order to make life as easy for the visitor as possible, the user types (personas) and their needs are established. Understanding where information is placed in the site and how users will get to it is agreed before any visual design starts. Information Architecture is all about helping users understand where they are on a site and how to get to the information or functionality that they need. Wireframes and lo-fidelity mock-ups are often used at this stage so that the elements of the page can be easily edited and moved around.
  • User interface design – This stage is all about ensuring elements on the page are correctly placed and the websites’ look and feel match the needs of the client, taking into consideration the audience and the goals of the business in question. This is a vital stage and must be carefully considered, as even the colours used can alter the effectiveness of the site. It is best to think of this stage as the ‘graphic design’ part of the process.

During the First Process, Certain Principles Have to Be Abided by:-

  • On Screen Balance – A balanced layout is vital in web design, it is achieved by using suitable quantities of heavy (large and dark colours) and light (small and lighter) colours) in the elements that make up the page.
  • Contrast and Emphasis – Whilst colour theory is all about contrasting and complementary colours there are other ways that Contrast can be used to focus attention on the parts of the page that you want people to ‘really’ see.  This ‘focusing’ is achieved through the use of contrasting sizes, textures and shapes and can be really effective at drawing attention to the appropriate places on a web page.
  • Consistency – Other names for this are repetition and rhythm, and it is a vital part of the web design process. Without consistency, visitors can become confused with the navigation and in extreme circumstances can even think they have moved to another site. This makes it a critical web design principle.
  • Unity – Based on human psychology and the way the human brain organises information into categories, this is all about the relationship between the layout of individual sections of the page and its composition as a whole. Quite a ‘deep subject’ but one that a good website designer understands and adheres to.

What Web Developers Do

Before the term web developer was coined, this group of professionals were called ‘programmers’. Their job is to take the requirements (the technical and functional specification) and the designs created by the web designer and then write the code that is needed to build the fully functioning website.

This phase could include creating carousels of images, interactive buttons, menu systems or more complex functionality like eCommerce or connecting business software systems together.

To deliver this requires the use of mark-up and programming languages such as HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript.

More often than not as seasoned web developers we would build the website using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. (see our blog on building a WordPress site the Right Way)

Website Development Is Not Just About Using Themes and Plugins

So, we can see that the web design process is all about understanding the visitors, theirs and the business needs and that web development is all about getting that website to function in the way that achieve those needs.

Those of you who know about WordPress will realise that both of these can, in many cases, be achieved just by using a WordPress theme and a number of plugins, or at least that is the way it appears.

Problems often start when you begin to try to tune the Theme or the Plugins.  As soon as you change any part of the core code in either of these, when the time comes to update them (essential if you wish to maintain a working and secure website) both will more than likely stop working.

The result can be very serious.  We have seen countless sites becoming in-operational when this system of web building/development is utilised.

A Bit More About WordPress Sites

With the advent of WordPress and its excellent content management functionality, many businesses now often opt for sites that are based on this technology, and in our blog about building websites using WordPress, we cover the four ways that a site can be built :-

  1. Using a WordPress Theme
  2. Customising a WordPress Theme
  3. Configuring WordPress from the ground up (not using a theme)
  4. Bespoke development

Of these four, the last three could be considered as Web Development, because they require alterations to the coding of either the Theme or the Plugins. As mentioned above and in that blog, the second option is very dangerous. Any updates to either most often cause the website to malfunction.

This is why Rouge prefer to Configure websites from the ground up using the core code of WordPress or creating bespoke plugins and integrations. Using this methodology, our team of web developers / programmers, use the core code to ensure that the web pages function as wanted. This is a lot different to altering code that has already been written by others (e.g. themes and plug-ins) and whilst it takes longer, it ends up being far more robust and thus less likely to fail.

This is pure programming and not just tweaking a theme. It can cost more, however, the benefits are that the website is more resilient to changes and the site will ‘do just what you want’, as it is being built to do just what you require from the outset.

The Fourth Way – Adding Extra Functionality to WordPress Sites

There is however a fourth way, – covering the needs of the many businesses that need more than just a ‘static’ site. Often clients need sites that deliver complex functionality or can connect with external data sources in a seamless manner. Nearly every business website that we deliver has functionality that has to be created specifically for them.

Some Examples of Custom Programming / Web Development

Linking to External Data Sources

Many sites use data stored in databases that are held on the same server as the website, the data in effect being ‘owned’ by the business. Many Ecommerce sites fit into this bracket.

As the data is under the control of the business and is locally stored, combining this data into a site is relatively easy. However, when you need to provide data from external data sources, the level of complexity rockets and you need highly skilled web developers to complete the task.

An example of this sort of site is Campbell Gordon. Here Rouge not only combined the data from an external data source, we also created a custom search tool to access and filter the data, thus improving the User Experience for all visitors.

Another example of integrating data from external sources is the site built for RHACC. This community college in London required a site that allowed prospective students to easily search and select from the 1,000’s of courses available. An online payment system was also needed as was the ability to organise interviews.

Combining Web Sites with a Business CMS + Bespoke Reporting

Many businesses use Customer Management Systems to help them better serve their customers. This raises additional problems when data relating the customers is being obtained from their website, e.g. orders or enquiries.

In some cases, such businesses have to manually transfer the data from the website to their customer relationship management system (CRM), this taking a lot of time and being open to all sorts of errors.

The answer of course is to combine the two, so that the data obtained on the website is imported into the CRM seamlessly and without the possibility of it being mistyped or otherwise degraded in the process.

This is just what Rouge did for Pack and Send, whilst also adding a ‘clever’ quoting functionality, and personalisation (this was provided by a Cookie based visitor customisation process).

Location Driven Content

By definition, the World Wide Web covers more countries than just the UK, which in some cases can cause problems for a business. These can include needing to display the site using the local language of the country in question, not showing certain content, or only including those products that can be supplied in that geographic area.

This can be achieved using something called ‘IP Recognition’, this recognising the users location (the country in which they are accessing the site from), the site then uses this information to show / use, the correct language, content or products.

An example of a site using IP recognition is Javac. This being yet another example of the innovative abilities of the Rouge team.

True Web Development

It can be seen that there are many ‘levels’ of Web Development. At the top of the tree are those sites which are developed using 100% custom  code (i.e. they do not use WordPress / Drupal at all). These sites are built from scratch using HTML, CSS, PHP and JavaScript (and other technologies) and are thus highly adaptable and secure as they do not use the code from any other known (and thus hackable) source.

They are one offs, and are inherently expensive to create. Rouge do offer this service as we have a team of web development professionals (see our blog on integrated teams) who can deliver this type of site.

WordPress / Drupal Sites  With Extra Functionality

Further down the tree are those sites that use WordPress (or Drupal) as a base, building on this to provide the extra functionality needed (as covered above).

Whichever route is taken, a large number of skill sets are needed…

A Team of Developers Is Required

Building sites from the ground up or adding some ‘bells and whistles’ to a WordPress site is not an easy task though, and requires the skills and knowledge of different types of web developers. This is where Rouge really score over the smaller web design firms (especially the one person bands) as they cannot possibly cover all the requirements / skill sets needed. Better still, Rouge do not use other web developers in the build process, as this too can cause major problems later. This is another benefit of using a web design / development agency, which has an integrated team (like Rouge Media) for your next business website.

Please do contact us to discuss your requirements.

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