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Web Development

Do you need pro­fes­sional web devel­opment ser­vices? Great! First, though — do you really need web devel­opment? Or web design?

That may seem a strange question for someone offering such ser­vices to ask. So let me explain.

What Is Professional Web Development?

Businesses some­times think they need web devel­opment ser­vices when they only need web design ser­vices. That’s under­standable — there’s a lot of cros­sover and some designers call them­selves developers regardless of what they actually do. Having been doing this since 1997 though, I stick to the ori­ginal distinction:

Web design is mostly about structure and visual layout. Web devel­opment involves pro­gramming website beha­viour.

Sometimes that beha­viour is mostly visual, hence the cros­sover. When it’s more in depth, we tend to talk about web­sites as web applic­a­tions, or “web apps”. Still, plenty of common web apps have fairly standard solu­tions, so deploying them can be more about design than actual custom programming.

Other web applic­a­tions need custom pro­gramming to enable complex beha­viour or to integrate with external systems.

For example, Festival Medical Services needed a secure field triage system and bespoke team man­agement software to handle variable rotas for hun­dreds of volun­teers in mul­tiple teams at major events across the UK. Existing plat­forms couldn’t do that. So I wrote it from scratch. That’s web development.

Similarly, DogLost needed highly optimised back-end systems to help them manage a large and extremely active com­munity and track down lost and stolen pets across the UK.

Other developers have struggled to meet our needs, but since Peter rebuilt our site and support systems we have gone from strength to strength, winning major awards… We couldn’t have done that without him. — Jayne H. Bespoke Web Development: (5/5)

Small Business Web Development

Why does all this matter to small businesses?

Because custom pro­gramming takes a lot longer than most non-coders expect. Modern pro­gramming frame­works have sim­plified this, but full web applic­ation builds still take months, not days.

Smaller firms tend to have tighter budget and timing con­straints than larger ones. So the first rule of responsible pro­fes­sional web devel­opment for small busi­nesses is to try to rule it out. How? By con­sid­ering altern­atives first.

The only way to do that is to discuss your goals in detail with someone who is familiar with a wide range of other options. That’s because some things you might expect to be simple are not, and others that really aren’t simple actually have standard solu­tions. You simply can’t guess at which is which. You need unbiased advice.

Unfortunately, gaining that exper­ience takes years. That means most web designers and web developers are spe­cialists who won’t give you unbiased advice. They will only try to sell you their solution.

I’ve been working in this field since 1997, and coding, designinig and running busi­nesses longer than that. So I used to be a spe­cialist, but I grew out of it.

That’s why, even though I’m a coder, I also offer simple website packages (cov­ering basic bro­chure, mar­keting and eco­m­merce sites) and WordPress devel­opment. Those cover the vast majority of small business website needs. I’ve used other pre-built systems that can help in certain niches and use cases, too.

Using the right systems can save months of devel­opment time and many thou­sands of pounds. So it’s gen­erally best to con­sider those first.

Let’s talk!

Can’t recommend him highly enough. He was extremely pro­fes­sional, laid out exactly what we needed to do and his role within that, setting expect­a­tions all round very clearly, and working within our budgetary con­straints to set clear bound­aries. He was extremely prompt and punctual in his responses and work. He was also extremely patient with his recom­mend­a­tions and explan­a­tions, which were clear and simple to follow. Excellent value for us as a charity. We’re very grateful to him — he was a real pleasure to work with. — Emma C. Bespoke Web Development: (5/5)

The Web Development Process

Still, if you have got the sort of spe­cific, uncommon require­ments that those systems can’t handle, what does custom web devel­opment involve?

Well, very broadly, there are six steps:

  1. Discovery — gath­ering require­ments and ana­lyzing them to outline a solution
  2. Design — to plan the solution in detail. This includes designing code struc­tures, as well as graphics, user inter­faces and overall user experiences.
  3. Development — actually building the solution
  4. Debugging (Testing) — code is complex. So are users. Mixing the two is always unpre­dictable, and reveals things that need fixing.
  5. Deployment (Launch) — some­times simple, but not always predictable.
  6. Review and Refinement — because lessons will be learned, and new fea­tures requested. That’s why whole process is called a devel­opment cycle.

Again, tools and frame­works exist to optimize design, devel­opment and testing. Still, these steps don’t always take place in sequence, or at the same speed in all parts of a complex project. So some fea­tures may get pri­or­itized for an early, “minimum viable product” test-launch whilst others are delayed for a later release.

Approaching Pete to set up a new website was the best move I have made. We wanted a system that was easy to nav­igate and look good when cus­tomers shop online. Pete made the whole process simple and dealing with him was a great pleasure. He can’t do enough to help and solve any problem that may arise. I would highly recommend Pete for his exper­ience and know­ledge and total ded­ic­ation to see the project through to final con­clusion. — Steve H. Web Design: (5/5)

Starting Projects Properly

The Discovery phase is critical. It’s impossible to provide a real­istic estimate and schedule for web devel­opment pro­jects without it. The more unusual and spe­cific your needs are, the more detail we’ll need to go into before we can work those out.

As such, the Discovery phase may reveal issues that lead you to recon­sider your plans. That’s still better than com­mitting to a five- or six-figure project before learning about those issues.

Still, Discovery takes time — and requires direct input from all decision makers on the project. Otherwise, trying to del­egate all dis­cus­sions on a large project without del­eg­ating adequate authority rarely works.

So first, I offer a free pre­lim­inary con­sultation to get to know you, under­stand your broad goals, and rule out simpler solu­tions. Then, Discovery is a sep­arate, paid project that pre­cedes the main one. That way, you aren’t com­mitted to the expense of the main project until you have an informed estimate.

If you then decide to go ahead with the main project, the cost of the Discovery phase reduces the overall estimate. You get reduced risk, and I get happier clients.

Does that sound like a win-win? Then let’s talk!

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