To achieve successful Web Development, you need:
- An understanding of the nature and significance of different major
directions that lie before you
- A strategy for development (tool selection, customization plan, team
- A skilled developer or, more likely, team of developers
When I refer to “Web Development”, I am referring to the process of transforming a strategic design into a functioning system or tool to be hosted online as your “website”. A designer will show you what your website will look like, a strategy consultant can explain why it looks like it does, but the developers make it a functioning system to be hosted on the Internet.
Often in the world of Web service providers, those who position themselves as “Web Designers” tend to focus their energy and talents into the creation of a design, then often use semi-professional software to “slice images” and “generate the code”.
Inversely, those who position themselves as “Web Developers” may focus passion and innovation on code creation and systems/tools integration. Yet, they may be restricted to the most basic conventions in terms of the aesthetic impression and the organization of visual information (in other words… the strategic design and architecture).
Success in the Web for a business or professional hoping to capitalize on its power comes in the coordinated strategic effort of a group of skills – design and development are two of these.
A New Day in Development
Web development technologies are changing all of the time. But if you look back over the short history of the endeavor, you will likely notice major shifts that stand out from the slower evolution of constancy. This seems to be the case with any evolution – steady change with intermittent bursts of movement.
A recent shift that for those in the industry has been a radical and comprehensive one has been driven by two movements or ideas:
- Web 2.0
- Open Source
The term “Web 2.0” is often used to describe the shift in perspective of the usability of a website. You may have heard or read YouTube.com described as “Web 2.0”. The core of this concept is usability. As the YouTube visitor, you control the content on the screen. You can search through it, arrange it by category – it is an interactive, user controlled experience, to a degree. Often, you can even add content to the site and see it displayed there on the screen.
The term Web 2.0 is also used to describe a certain visual aesthetic or design style. This seems inevitable because form often follows function, and styles evolve as forms change.
It is the work of talented designers to bridge the visual gap of the hyper-aesthetic and the conventions of the world of the client community. For example, you can imagine how the same deign elements may not be appropriate for a lawyer site and a Hip-Hop artist site and a Web developer community site and a book club site, etc. The conventions of each community will weigh in on appropriateness and effectiveness in terms of design.
But keep in mind the usability aspect of Web 2.0. The members of your prospect community are increasingly experiencing the world of Web 2.0 in their current Web experience. Do they use Search? Do they use the search tools on the websites they visit? Do they download? Do they upload? Do they rearrange data on their screens by category?
The nature of what the Web is, of what a “website” is, is changing in the general perception of your community. If you are part of that community, then how does the experience you provide, the experience that is you in the perspective of the visitor, how does it jibe with what is subconsciously and consciously felt by that visitor to be the standards of professionalism? That a website works a certain way is defined by the websites they experience. Is yours different from the websites they use frequently? Is yours lesser somehow?
Service businesses and professionals are tapping into the world of Web 2.0 because the Web 2.0 experience is becoming the standard.
Open Source is a movement (predominantly online) towards the free access to knowledge and tools – a community of contributors adding to the development of a tool or system, free for any interested party to access, alter, and contribute to. The most prevalent community of open source practitioners is in the world of software and web application development.
Think about Microsoft Office for a minute. Think of what a wonderful and powerful software application it is and how many businesses have it integrated into their models. Think of QuickBooks and the amount of good it has done the small business. These are wonderful applications. But imagine if the general community of developers and entrepreneurs around the world was given access to the core code of these applications, and each encouraged to innovate, to download them for free and change them in whatever creative way they can, to introduce plug-ins and add-ons to solve real problems. This is open source. Obviously one cannot do these things with MS Office and QuickBooks. But one can do them with WordPress and Drupal and myriad others.
There is much argument and speculation on the world of open source and it’s role in the marketplace. But for the service professional and small business, there is a world of opportunity to gain access to incredibly powerful and customizable tools for little to no cost. Your costs of course come with customization and implementation. And though I am a big proponent of open source, one must measure costs and benefit in each situation.