Every business needs a website today, according to Bill Gates. In fact, his exact quote goes even further than recommending you build a website by saying: “If your business is not on the internet, then your business is out of business” Yet, many businesses (nearly 33%), especially small businesses, don’t have a website, according to the US Small Business Administration. If you’re one of them, this post on website development is for YOU. Many of those small businesses with a website aren’t getting any value due to poor design, not providing a good user experience, or not taking advantage of SEO (search engine optimization) tactics that allow them to rank well in related searches. Understanding the principles of website development and using them to build a custom website helps achieve your marketing performance goals that are nearly impossible without a website.
Getting started with website development
I’ve worked with small businesses on developing their websites for decades, both as a service provided by Hausman & Associates and as clients for my digital marketing students over the last decade or so. Here are some of the most egregious mistakes I see in working with small businesses:
- Creating a cookie-cutter website filled with stock images so you don’t stand out when potential customers visit your website. Using plug-and-play website builders like Wix and Squarespace almost guarantees you’ll end up with something that looks like many other small businesses in your niche since you all use variations of the same template. Instead, build your website to show your branding, values, and offerings that set you apart from the competition. These website builders also don’t offer advanced SEO options, so they don’t show up near the top when users search for products like yours.
- Not investing in content marketing. While other factors contribute to your search rank, nothing is as important as creating valuable content on a consistent basis across both your website and social media, as these factors have a big impact on your rank.
- The site doesn’t look good across devices. Increasingly, consumers use smartphones as the first stop in the buying process (58% of global traffic comes from mobile devices). If your website doesn’t look good across these small screens, your prospects won’t trust your brand and won’t buy from you. Responsive design is a process in website development that ensures your website looks great regardless of screen size.
- Poor navigation makes it hard for users to find what they’re looking for once they land on your website. Ensure your navigation menus are clear and intuitive.
- Pages that are filled with text, aren’t aesthetically pleasing to look at, don’t include a call to action button, or lead to a deleted page (called a 404 error) generate a poor image of your brand and can cause visitors to bounce to an alternative website.
- Provide accessibility to visitors who need a little help. For instance, always use alt tags on images for those with low vision as the tag describes the image for them. Use contrasting colors and larger fonts to ensure readability for these users. If your target market is older, don’t use white text on black or darkly colored backgrounds as these make it harder for this group of consumers to read.
- Use headings and subheadings to make it easier for visitors to skim your content to find what they’re looking for.
Building a website
A website consists of a front end, the portion of the website visitors see, and a back end, which defines the look and feel of the website for visitors that’s only accessible to authorized users via password. Understanding the distinction between front-end and back-end development is crucial. Both realms play pivotal roles in the functionality of websites, but their focus areas and skill sets vary significantly. This guide will explore these differences, offering insights into each domain and illustrating how a software development company or a backend web development services provider like Sombra fits into this landscape.
Front-end website development: the user interface side
- HTML: Structures the website’s content.
- CSS: Styles the website, including layout and design elements.
Beyond these core languages, front-end developers also utilize frameworks (e.g., AngularJS, Bootstrap) and libraries (e.g., jQuery, React) to enhance development efficiency. Skills in graphic design and tools like Photoshop, alongside proficiency in code editing software, are integral to front-end development. Creativity and technical expertise are crucial in ensuring user interfaces are both visually appealing and functionally robust.
Front-end developers often hold degrees in web design, computer science, or related fields. They work closely with back-end developers, designers, and user experience specialists to ensure a cohesive and engaging user experience.
Back-end website development: the engine room
Back-end development, on the other hand, focuses on the server side of websites – the unseen yet essential infrastructure that supports the website’s functionality. Back-end developers are responsible for the site’s structure, databases, and application logic, ensuring that the front-end elements function as planned.
Back-end development requires expertise in server-side programming languages like Python, Java, and Ruby, as well as tools and databases such as SQL Server, Oracle, and MySQL. Back-end frameworks such as Django, Laravel, and Ruby on Rails are also crucial for efficient development. Back-end developers play a pivotal role in building the logic of websites, often collaborating with front-end developers to ensure seamless functionality. They possess strong problem-solving skills and the ability to communicate complex technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders.
The synergy of front-end and back-end website development
While front-end and back-end development have distinct roles and involve different skill sets, they are interconnected. Front-end development focuses on the visual and interactive aspects of a website, ensuring user engagement and accessibility to deliver a great user experience. In contrast, back-end development ensures that the website operates smoothly, managing data and server interactions. Both impact your rank in search engine results and part of the reason website builders perform poorly in SEO is that the back-end is not well coded.
Together, these two elements create a fully functional and visually appealing website. Hence, developers in charge of the front-end and back-end development must communication and collaborate seamlessly.
Choosing a career path in website development
Individuals interested in web development must consider whether to specialize in front-end, back-end, or both areas. Front-end development appeals to those with a flair for design and user interaction, while back-end development suits those who enjoy working on complex systems and data management. Full-stack development, which encompasses both front-end and back-end skills, is another viable path.
The role of software development companies
Software development companies, including backend web development services providers like Sombra, play a crucial role in bridging the gap between front-end aesthetics and back-end functionality. These companies offer comprehensive services that cover the entire spectrum of web development, ensuring that businesses have robust, efficient, and user-friendly websites.
It’s possible to develop your own website without these software companies if you’re willing to learn (there’s a pretty steep learning curve), have a flair for the creative, and don’t mind a little frustration along the way.
Having a well-crafted, functional, SEO-friendly website is no longer an option regardless of your market or resources. You need to create your own website or hire a firm versed and experienced in front and back-end development. Understanding the difference between front-end and back-end development is key for anyone venturing into the world of web development. Whether working with a software development company or specializing in one area of development, the blend of front-end and back-end expertise is essential for creating successful web applications. Both areas offer rewarding career paths and are critical for the development of modern, dynamic websites.
Also, remember that consumer needs and website design standards change over time (as does the algorithm that determines search rank). Thus, website development isn’t a one-time task but something you should revisit on a regular basis.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.