What Makes a Good Web Development Company

The world of web development is still very much misunderstood. We’ve even heard people call it a “dark art”. So when you need help turning your ideas and designs into a high quality website or web application, how do you know who you can trust to get this done?

The purpose of this post is to provide some key points on what makes a good web development company, and will help you understand the kind of questions you should be asking development companies.

This is going to be a very opinionated post and we make no apologies for it. If you disagree with anything we are certainly open to discussing it further.

Now to get on with the post. Below are the key areas we are going to be looking at, and what you should be looking for in a web development company.

  • Able to do both front-end and back-end development
  • Don’t specialise in one back-end technology
  • Should follow best practices
  • Understanding of marketing strategies surrounding the projects
  • Invests time in research and development
  • Has a rigorous testing process, including automated tests
  • Flexible to change
  • Use source control

Able to do both front-end and back-end development
We don’t subscribe to idea of developers that do front-end development and developers that do back-end development. That’s the equivalent of having a plumber who only fits pipes and leaves the fitting of the baths, showers, sinks and toilets to someone else.

We agree there is a separation between web developers and web designers, there’s a completely different thought process going on there, but the separation between front-end and back-end is just wrong. To be a good web developer you need to understand the full development cycle and to be able to get involved in the project from start to finish. There is also much to be learnt from the working with the varying technologies, but we’ll come on to that.

Don’t specialise in one back-end technology
There are a number of good back-end technologies that are appropriate for web development including Ruby on Rails, ASP.Net and PHP (and others). They all have their strengths and weaknesses and not one is perfect. A good web development company should be flexible in which technologies they use, so that they use the most appropriate one for their clients’ needs.

The key reason we have spent time learning a number of technologies is to able to pick and choose the bits we like. Over the years the developers involved in The League have been able to take the good parts of each technology and formulate a number of best practices and use them across all platforms.

Should follow best practices
The key to being a good web developer is not the technologies that you use, but the best practices that you follow. As technologies come and go in our very fast moving industry those best practices will remain, or at least evolve. As a developer if you have a good grounding then you can move with the times and technologies fairly easily.

So what are these best practices that we are talking about. Below are some of the key ones we follow.

  • Writing semantic HTML
  • Follow web standards for all front end coding
  • Automated testing of both front-end and back-end code
  • Use of a MVC framework

Understanding of marketing strategies surrounding the projects
We’ve heard this complaint many times that web developers don’t think about the marketing strategy of a project. This is generally because developers don’t care. Well they should. How can they advise clients and think about helping clients produce the right solution, if they aren’t thinking about the “bigger picture” (sorry, we know it’s a horrid phrase, we’ll go wash our mouths out now). If a developer blindly does the work, they are not offering the client a service, they are just being a meat puppet.

The most important question a developer can ask is “Why?”. Take time to understand the client’s requirements fully, and advise them, after all the client doesn’t understand the ins and outs of web development, you do. Make the development cycle a two way conversation.

Invests time in research and development
As everyone knows the web industry is a very fast moving industry. Things come and go in the blink of an eye. A good web development company gives it’s developers allocated time each week to look at new trends and technologies. Admittedly some of these trends and technologies are dead ends, but you won’t know unless you look into them.

If you want to know if a web development company knows there stuff, simply ask them what their developers have been looking into recently. You don’t have to understand everything you are told, note them down though and look them up on the internet to understand if the company are looking at new trends or not.

R&D is probably the most important time each week for a developer. If developers don’t evolve, the solutions they build will become stagnate and dated very quickly. As a client do you want an out of date solution before you even start?

Has a rigorous testing process, including automated tests
Too often we have seen the client is the tester for a project. If this is happening, then, to put it bluntly, the development company don’t understand your project well enough, they are just “banging out” code.

A good web development company should be writing automated tests (integration tests, unit-tests etc) for all their code, both front-end and back-end. On a simple level, tests help developers to concentrate on the code they are writing at that given time, they also help developers to write more concise code. More concise code means the code base is easier to understand and cheaper to maintain.

The major benefit of a test suite to a client is that when changes are made to the code in the project there can be a lot more confidence in the fact that the change, or new code, hasn’t broken anything else.

We are not saying automated testing is the silver bullet of web development, and tests are only effective if they are written well, but they certainly should be part of any web developers toolset.

Automated tests aren’t the only important aspect of testing. The web development company should also have a level of human testing as well, and this is certainly something clients should be involved in. User stories are key to this process. As part of the development process, clients should work with the web development company to put together User stories, so that all parties involved understand how users will interact with the site or application and the results of those interactions.

Flexible to change
We’ve all heard developers complaining how their clients’ change the requirements of a project midway thought a project. Developers need to stop complaining about this, it happens to us all and it’s never going to change. A good web development company should have processes in place to cope with change. If you are a client, ask how change requests will be handled.

Web developers should work to short release cycles, preferably 1 – 2 weeks. The worst thing that can happen to a project is that the developers get the brief, start the work and then 2 months later they announce it’s finished, only for the client to say “This isn’t what I asked for!”. By working to short release cycles, clients can be involved at all stages. At the end of each release the client should review the project so far and submit any change requests.

Use source control
Our final recommendation is a pretty obvious and simple one, to most people, but we still speak to developers who don’t use any form of source control. This seems more prevalent with freelancers as they don’t see the need as they are the only ones working on the code. If that’s how they see it, then they are missing the point.

There are lots of reasons why all code should be source controlled. We’re are only going to mention a couple of key points here. Firstly it’s a great way of keeping a log of changes made to code. (As long as developers put a comment into the commit). Secondly and most importantly is allows developers to change code without the fear of losing already work already done. This is especially useful when trying out other possible coding solutions to a problem.

Ruby on Rails – A Competent Web Development Application

Written in Ruby programming language, Ruby on Rails is one of the most frequently used web application development framework. Often termed as RoR or Rails, it is an open source web development framework which is basically an object oriented programming language encouraging simple development, complete and potent web applications encompassing rich interactivity and functionality. Since Ruby on Rails works effortlessly with an array of web servers, deploying web solutions by using it is an effortless job. This is why; Ruby on Rails is part of every competent web development services set.

Ruby on Rails encourages the rails developers to boom in building powerful and elegant applications in an efficient and effortless way. Ruby on Rails segregates into four packages, Active Record which best suited for database interactivity, Action Pack which is on rails from request to response, Active Support encompassing utility classes and regular library extensions, and Action Web Service, where the server side support for the SOAP and XML-RPC web service protocols.

Ruby on Rails web development facilitates the rails developers to successfully build powerful and elegant applications in a relatively efficient and effortless way. It is believed that the coming of Ruby on Rails, an open source web development framework brought with itself a revolution in the way web applications are created. Some of the most popular websites that use Ruby on Rails web development framework in production environments are Scribed, Twitter, Urban dictionary, Base camp, Xing, Shopify, holu and Github. It is believed that any set of web development services is incomplete without Ruby.

Developed with the use of Model-View-Controller Design Pattern, ruby on rail is the favorite pick of many developers on the grounds of its powerful philosophy of CoC, which is Convention over Configuration, and DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), and close connection with the supple development methodology. In addition the utmost convenience of using Ruby on Rails is the supple nature of development. Due to this flexibility, developing a thing on Ruby on Rails takes a much shorter duration than other platforms. Practically, Ruby on Rails has encompasses the potential of supporting rapid application development.

Features that drove humongous popularity to Ruby on Rails framework:

• Applications can be easily developed using simple methods and less code.
• Suits best for developing database-backed web applications.
• Facilitates quick and easy deployment of web solutions using Rails as it is adaptable with a variety of web servers and databases implementing CGI or Fast SGI.
• Shows smooth compliance with databases like MySQL, SQL, SQL Server, DB2 and Oracle and allow Ruby on Rails programmers to create user-friendly, enhanced applications.
• Absence of any requirement of compilation phase.

10 Web Development Tips to Better Your Website Success

The most common mistake any company or individual can make when venturing out on a new website project is to assume that design is everything. I can assure you that your website’s design on its own is not what will make you successful.

A quality and professional web development service is what will affect the success of your site and its online objectives. High standards (above industry) are developed for a reason, and that is to ensure the product and service you receive is of paramount quality and to a professional level, so that your website will function as intended and provide the right return on investment.

Too many businesses that are relying on the success of their website to help drive their business will bypass the crucial step of dealing with a professional development company based on price.

In this article I will reveal 10 tips to choose the right development company and how it will better your project’s success.

10 Tips to Choose the Right Web Development Company

  1. Track Record – Choose a company that has an established track record. Generally a web company that has more than 15+ websites that they have designed or developed in-house with case studies to show their achievements. Any qualifications or awards won will also help establish this.
  2. Methodology – Ensure your chosen company has a strong web development methodology or process. This means that when your chosen company develops your website you can track the progress of your project and ensure all key quality standards are covered.
  3. Usability – Design does play a heavy role in the development of your web project. Ensure the company you choose has strong visitor usability and user-friendly interaction knowledge. Usability is how visitors will interact with your website and how effectively they reach your end goal.
  4. Development Team – The company you choose should have an in-house development team. Don’t use a company that is going to send your project work off to another country or other out-sourced web companies. You don’t want to be chasing an invisible rabbit down a hole should things be affected by an unforeseen event.
  5. Design Team – Your web company ideally should have an in-house design team, unless you are dealing with another individual or company for design. This tip relates to tip 3, if your web company has a designer in-house this will better the success of the project as the development will mirror the design better and its objectives.
  6. SEO – Choose a web development company that has an understanding of search engine optimization. Another important factor to any web projects success is making sure the company you deal with knows about SEO and how it will affect your website.
  7. Social Media – Social media is a new form of marketing and can drive great results. Dealing with a web developer that understands this can help you drive better traffic and alternative forms of login.This tip applies to socially active websites and e-commerce based projects.
  8. Content – Content is the biggest thing that pushes your website and draws in your visitors. Content will be the main thing that will sell your services or product, the company you deal with should have good development techniques to structure content effectively.
  9. E-commerce – Choose a web development company that has e-commerce experience. E-commerce is fast becoming the biggest way to make money online, how your customers make payments is very important. Make sure you deal with a development company that can recommend and implement the best payment methods available.
  10. Support – The most important tip to date, your development company must be able to support you as a customer and provide ongoing maintenance and service. Work with a company that is going to be around a year from the time you employ them, too many customers I have met have been left in limbo because the company or individual they were dealing with has gone bust or skipped the country to leave you in the middle of nowhere.

In summary there are a number of aspects to take into consideration before making your web developer choice. I am confident this article with the above 10 tips will help you qualify the best company to deal with for your new web project.

The majority of the 10 tips should already be covered by your chosen development company, but it does not hurt you to double-check. I highly recommend you ask your chosen company questions based on my 10 tips above, this will help establish them as the right business to deal with.

All successful web projects are a result of planning and evaluating, failing to plan and evaluate your development choices could mean failure of your website.

Choose wisely and approach everything smartly, remember if you put in the leg/foot work to start with, you will reap the benefits later.