How to Become Efficient With a 5 Step Web Development Life Cycle
Are you an aspiring web developer or an experienced programmer?
Efficiency and improving productivity are two goals that every professional web developer should aim to achieve.
But how exactly do you transform from a newbie engineer to an experienced and efficient developer in this fast changing and dynamic profession like web development?
Before I jump right in and outline a 5 step web development life-cycle that has helped me boost my productivity over the years…
…here are three reasons why you should aim to maximize your efficiency as an enterprise web developer with a proven website development life-cycle.
1. Shorter Development Time
A proper web development life-cycle would ensure there is enough planning that goes into an application development.
This will ensure that a lot of time is saved upfront because all the aspects of the application will already be put into consideration before any coding begins.
That is to say you remove surprises along the way, which are the biggest time wasters.
2. Highly Scalable Software
Business needs, and therefore software requirements, change with the ever evolving dynamics of the business environment.
If you build your web application with a proper development lifecycle you will be able to allow ample room for growth to accommodate future client needs… this will make you a more efficient software developer.
3. Higher Client Satisfaction
Your web development client might not be technical enough to understand the nitty gritties that go into a web development lifecycle…
…but following a proper and efficient development procedure will ensure that you deliver on your deadlines.
Besides, knowing what exactly you will have to deal with and what you will require enables you to manage client expectations in a more efficient way which directly leads to better client satisfaction with your development services.
Now that that is out of the way and you are stoked, ready to jump onto the bandwagon of efficient software developers…
Here is a 5 step software development lifecycle that every enterprise, as well as individual web developer, should embrace in order to achieve more productivity and efficiency in web development.
Most of the time and resources that go into website development are usually spent into aspects like gathering and collection information, planning, usability testing, launch, post-launch maintenance among others…
Depending on whom you ask, web development life cycle can span different stages ranging from 3 up to 9 stages… but for this case I will condense them into 5 steps that work for me.
STEP 1: Information Gathering
This is the first and most important stage because it determines how subsequent steps that follow will look like.
This is the point where you determine the main purpose and goals of the website that you are building, the future plans as well as the target audience that you intend to attract.
With regards to audience you will have to curtail your website to match the age group and interest groups you will be targeting.
For example, an education resource for teenage kids will have a different design approach to those targeting adults…
This will affect your design pattern as well as the web development technologies that you’ll choose.
A well described and detailed website development plan, based on the information gathered here, will protect you from resources wasted in the future caused by unexpected issues such as design changes, as well as adding new features and functionality that did not exist before.
Step 2: Planning the Sitemap and Creating a Wireframe
At this stage of the web development life cycle you will create data that you then present to your client in order to give them a general idea of what the entire website will look like.
Having gathered enough information at stage one, you will now use that information here to develop a sitemap for the entire site.
When you design a sitemap for your website, your goal is to ensure it gives a general overview and shows how the different parts of your site relate.
Still not convinced that you need a sitemap beforehand?
Here are three fundamental reasons why you need a sitemap:
- A proper sitemap will enable you to build a user friendly website which is easy to navigate.
- A sitemap will enable you understand how the inner structure of a site will look like even before you do the user interface.
- A sitemap will also give you an insight into the usability of your website once it’s done. For example, with a sitemap you’ll get to know how many steps or clicks an end-user would have to make in order to find particular information they might be looking for from the homepage.
Akin to the sitemap is a wireframe.
Usually before you begin any coding or design of the user interface, you’ll need to get some approval from your client or customer that everything looks fine before you can start the next phase of website or application development.
This is where a wireframe comes in…
A wireframe will be a visual representation of the user interface that you are going to create… but without any design elements like fancy coloring or logos.
It just describes the elements that you will add to the page and their specific locations. Or simply put, a wireframe is a sketch of your user interface.
One last important decision I make at this stage is to choose the technology stack that I will use for the projects.
This is where I choose the particular programming language or languages to use, the framework or CMS depending on the nature of the website or application my client needs.
STEP 3: Page Layout Design
It is during this design phase that your website begins to take shape.
At this stage you will use the information collected during the first stage to aid you in developing the visual aspect of your website i.e. the images, photos, logos, videos, pages etc.
You will also have to take the target audience into consideration when designing the visual layout in order to ensure you or your client’s target audience will be able to make the most of the visual elements on the site.
Your primary goal of designing a website layout is to represent the information structure, visualize the website content and demonstrate the basic functionality.
Once I have the layout ready I will send it to my client for his feedback. If the client is not satisfied with the layout design and would like a couple changes, I will then effect the changes and send back the design to him.
Usually you will have to repeat this process a couple times until you and your customer are satisfied and in agreement on the desired layout of the site.
STEP 4: Coding
At this stage all the graphics elements and web content are ready from the previous stages.
This is where to you sit and get your hands dirty writing some code… you finally start to create the actual website.
You will begin by creating the homepage after which you add other subsequent pages in accordance with the website hierarchy you developed in the sitemap previously.
It is also at this point that you will run your CMS or framework installation, depending on the technology stack you chose previously, to ensure that everything runs smoothly and the server is able to render pages.
At the coding stage a deep technical understanding of the technology stack you chose previously comes in handy.
With your tech skills as a web developer, you’ll put together and test the static page elements that you designed during the mock-up and layout stage.
At the coding stage your skills in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will be useful in helping you optimize website elements like page title, description and keywords in order to achieve higher rankings in the search engines.
After I’ve put together all the page elements I will run usability tests to ensure that everything is working as expected.
Here are 4 things to look out for when running tests on your website
- Click through every page to ensure there are no broken links
- Check every form on your site to ensure they submit properly
- Run a spell-check software or plugin to ensure there are no typos on your webpages and text
- You could as well run code validators to ensure your code follows current coding patterns and standards. This is important in ensuring you write code that is secure and for purposes of cross-browser compatibility
STEP 5: Website Launch and Maintenance
At this point all the grunt work is done… you’ve written all the code for the website, you’ve run and rerun tests and everything seems fine.
So what are you waiting for?
Deploy your website.
In order to deploy your website, you’ll have to upload the files and folders to a web server, one that you chose in the previous stages, using an FTP(File Transfer Protocol) software.
When your code is live, we say you’ve finally launched your website.
But just to be sure everything is still intact, I run another test on the live code/website to ascertain all features and functionality work as they did on my local computer.
This is usually the point most developers are like ghrrr…
Often your website will break down when you move to a live server because of varying settings and configurations from server to server that requires some element of customization.
As a professional web developer it is also important to note that a website is more of a service than a product.
Just delivering the website code to your customer is not enough…
…you will have to make sure that everything continues to work and that everybody is happy and satisfied post-launch.
This is what we call website maintenance.
Because often your client or customer will require you to make changes to the website or add new features even after the website is long live.
Besides, the best way to test a software or website is to give it to the end users… it is only after they use it that you will be able to know from their feedback that the website actually does what it is supposed to do.
Through the feedback forms you installed on your website, users will be able to report any malfunction that they encounter with your website or application and you’ll have to be there to fix these problems as soon as they arrive in your inbox.
Remember that if your client’s broken website stays unfixed for a prolonged period of time, the website visitors or users will opt to start using his competitor’s site.
And this will have a direct impact on his conversions and therefore sales…
…and who wants that?
If you opted to use a CMS or framework you will have to keep updating it to ensure you have the latest bug fixes and security upgrades in place to protect your customer’s website from petty hackers.
In conclusion, just like we discovered in the previous stage, website development doesn’t start with coding and doesn’t end the day you launch your client’s website on their server…
…and it is important to always keep that in mind!
The stage that has to do with website planning, especially the information gathering stage, is very useful because it affects what subsequent stages will be about.
Proper planning, using a proven development life cycle, will always ensure that your website development process is very productive and efficient.
It is also important to always have in mind the nature of the target audience your client aims to attract to his website.
Being armed with information on their ages, interests and sex will be really important in making user interface design decisions for maximum website usability, and therefore the success of your website.
Choosing the right technology stack will ensure your website or application gives room for future expansion, adding new features and securing your site…
…saving your unexpected troubles and boosting your confidence in your sleep that everything will be fine with your website.
I personally usually spend more time in the planning stage than in the other stages.
And you, what has been your experience so far while developing websites?
Which stages of the website development life cycle do you find most challenging as a beginner?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.