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:
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.
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:
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:
- Discovery — gathering requirements and analyzing them to outline a solution
- Design — to plan the solution in detail. This includes designing code structures, as well as graphics, user interfaces and overall user experiences.
- Development — actually building the solution
- Debugging (Testing) — code is complex. So are users. Mixing the two is always unpredictable, and reveals things that need fixing.
- Deployment (Launch) — sometimes simple, but not always predictable.
- 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:
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!