Web development is pretty hard work, but everything pays off in the end, when you create something you can be proud of and that is useful for other people. Here are 3 Web Development tips that are useful for beginners.
Every Web Developer and Web Designer has his own way of work, and most of the times the techniques and tools used to achieve the same result differ by a quite large degree.
It is impossible to tell a web developer how to do his job, and it’s best if an employer just discusses what he wants to achieve and have in the end and let the developer worry and choose the tools, code, programming language, techniques and other things that influence the process itself.
But there are a few guidelines that a developer can use to achieve the best result. These are best for novices who do not yet have an established way of doing things and are always looking for new tips and tricks that will help them improve their results and their work process.
Here are a few key things that any developer must do, regardless of how he does it:
1. Establish a Starting Point
Before starting work on a website or online application, you’ll definitely need something to compare your results with.
It can be the current version of the site (which happens most of the times), the site of the competitor, or even a desired plan (this happens mostly when the product is new and unique, when nobody else has done what you’re doing).
This starting point will help you demonstrate (to your employer and yourself) that you have indeed made things better, and not only recreated what was already done.
You will want to take screenshots of the site, the Search Engine rankings and the code itself so you can clearly demonstrate that you have really improved things.
You can also perform some usability testing by employing everyone you know; from your family and relatives to your work colleagues to test the site and tell you their opinions about it and its user experience level (you can record it, audio or even video).
If your work includes optimizing the site for SEO purposes and increasing the conversion and click through rates, you’ll definitely have to also perform some tests and record the data using some web analytics tool like Google Analytics.
You’ll need to see how the site is ranking and how the visitors are behaving (whether they like the content, ads or products, click through fast or stay for a long time, do they come back, etc.) and think up ways of how you can improve these things.
2. Familiarize Yourself & Get Organized
When you take on any project, you absolutely need to know what you’re dealing and working with.
You need to learn the number of pages, posts, comments and other statistics of the site itself, the number of visitors or users (if it’s a web application), how it’s monetized, how many pages are indexed in Search Engines, what other people say on other blogs and how many link back to the site, and other important things and little details.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Work
It is important for a developer to get familiarized with its working environment.
It is best recommended for you to make a note of everything you find unusual or good, so you can remove, improve or re-implement that later.
If the site has a newsletter system, subscribe to it and test it, as if you were a real user (also employ your family members or even people on sites like Ask500People.com, mTurk.com or Fiverr.com).
You must also know your employers – what do they want, how they want and like to do things, why they decided to go for certain design and coding decisions on the site/web application, and other details.
Find the most popular pages in the site and find ways to improve them and keep them active while you work on the other things, because traffic is valuable and you want to keep as much of the old one as possible when redesigning a site.
It would be best if you are organized from the start. You’ll do your work faster, manage your time better and be able to keep track of everything that’s going on, including smaller details that you could’ve missed without pre-planning.
If you’re not already doing it, start using a separate email address for all your web development and design work. Tell everyone to update their contact info with your new address.
Another important thing you must do is keep track of your accomplishments and task/project milestones.
You should do this not only for yourself, to know how the work is going and approximate when it can be finished, but also for your employers, to demonstrate to them that you did your work in time and well, and maybe get a premium.
3. Make Detailed Plan
Make a detailed plan of any improvements and work you’ll perform. Perform split testing for everything you can, from page design to SEO components to the type of content on the site.
This will help you find the real best solution for everything, which is much better than the usual process of guessing and approximating what will work best and implementing it without real world tests.
Often times, developers are wrong about what the users want, and split testing in the first stages of work is a more efficient way to find out what will really work best.
For traffic sources, you can use existing traffic from Search Engines, email invitations for the current members to check the site out and provide feedback (for free or in exchange for something), or even buying banners and PPC traffic.
Find the best way to improve the content layout. For example, one page articles work best for some sites, but others benefit more from articles spread over two or more separate pages (this often leads to more views, clicks and time spent on site, things which are important for any site owner).
Also, review and replace or improve (or leave unchanged if its good) all the smaller details, like greeting messages, contact form messages, automated email replies, sidebar quotes and anything else.
Remember that screen space is limited and anything important should stay above the fold, i.e. the user doesn’t need to scroll or click to see it (that applies to important messages, banners, ads, links, etc.).
There are many other useful tips, but as I said, every developer has their own way of working, and there is no universal one that would fit every person.
But the above guidelines are perfect for novice web developers and designers that want to know every possible way of doing things and haven’t yet found their own unique work process.