We're often asked to work in a whole range of different ways. Sometimes projects follow the traditional waterfall model, sometimes we use more of an agile approach. Every project, and every client is different, but the following aims to provide a little background into how our web development process typically works.
The Web Development Process
1. Let's Chat - It all starts with either a phone call or a contact form via our website. Often people won't know exactly what they need, so it's our job to ask questions to help work this out.
The sort of questions we ask very depending on the type of website required. We can build any kind of online website, tool or system, but the most common types of requests are:
- Company brochure website - Typically these might contain basic information about the company; who they are, what they do, a portfolio of work, the services they offer, and a contact form. You can read more about our SME websites via our services page.
- An online shop - We all know how online shopping works, but getting the right shopping cart solution for your needs can be more complicated than you might think. There are a lot of different shopping cart solutions out there, all with pro's and con's. We can help advise on the best shopping cart solution for your business needs.
- A niche social network - Whilst most of us have a Facebook account, niche social networks are also incredibly popular, and we've helped numerous clients break into this exciting market.
Once we've had a good chat on the phone about the project we'll go away and produce an initial written proposal. This proposal will include as much detail as possible about the deliverables and costs involved.
2. Sign Up - If you like what you've read and want to proceed, then we'll ask you to signup to our Terms of Service. Once this is done we'll raise a deposit invoice. We typically ask for 50% upfront and then 50% on handover, but this varies depending on the nature of the work, and we're always happy to be as flexible as possible.
What happens next really does depend on the project. On larger projects we would typically have a kick off meeting where we all get around a table at our offices, and with the aid of chocolate biscuits and bottomless coffee (yes real coffee), we'll discuss the project.
So much communication is non-verbal, so we always like to meet you in person if possible, (especially small businesses and startups), before starting a project. It really helps us understand the people behind the project, what you're hoping to achieve, and deliver something you'll be truly happy with - which is very important to us, both on a professional but also a personal level.
3. Planning and Wireframing - Depending on the scale of the project we might suggest we now produce website wireframes of the system. Wireframing is a form of prototyping, enabling us to visually demonstrate how a system will work before spending time writing code. This typically cuts down change requests, helps iron out navigational kinks and brings to light all the little details that can be the key to a projects success.
The wireframing process is an iterative one between us and you. After various rounds of feedback and amends we'll ask for the wireframes to be signed off. It's very important that any features or development required is included in the frames as this forms part of the functional specification for the project and basically outline what we've quoted on and what's included in the build. Anything not listed, or any changes to the spec at a later date, may incur additional costs.
4. Design - If it hasn't started already, we'll now start working on the visual design for your site. If you have branding (i.e. a logo and corporate identify), we'll use these as the inspiration and basis for the site design. If you don't have branding yet, then we often work with a number of branding companies so can suggest someone we'd recommend. Alternatively if you just need very basic branding, our in house design team can come up with a few ideas.
It's also really helpful if you can provide us with links to other webistes you like to help us understand the sort of look you're hoping to achieve. At this stage we'd expect to have a fairly clear understanding of your company and brand, but tastes vary hugely and can sometimes be quite surprising! One persons idea of a 'radical' design, might be far more conservative than they think in the grand scheme of things.
Depending on the site and what's been agreed in the brief, we'll design various page templates for the site. These might include a homepage, product details page, about page, contact page etc. Obviously the exact pages designs required vary hughly depending on the project.
After various rounds of feedback and amends, we'll again ask you to sign off the designs. Changes to the designs after the site has been built will incur additional work and therefore may incur additional charges. So it's important that you are 100% happy with the design before you sign it off.
5. The Build - Now we know exactly what you want (the wireframes) and exactly how it should look (the designs), it's over to our dev team to build your website using the latest available technologies and make it work on all the agreed platforms. Every site we produce these days is responsive (mobile optimised), built with SEO in mind, and works as fast as possible for the user.
6. Content Population and Handover - With the site built, we'll now proudly show you your new site in a staging environment, eg. yoursite.18a.co. This enables you to take a good look through and get familiar with how everything works before we actually 'go live'.
You'll typically need to supply the content for the site (the words for every page). If your site has a CMS (and most of the site we create do) can you often populate this yourself. If not, and it was agreed in the proposal, we can always lend a hand. All our sites are designed to be really easy to update, with intuitive user interfaces, but we'll also provide a userguide, (again if included in the proposal) that explains how everything works.
8. Ongoing Support - Now the fun really starts and for a lot of clients, when the work really starts. Launching a website isn't just a one-time thing, it involves constant updates and improvements with us as your technical partner, helping you every step of the way. Ongoing support, updates and future development can either be charged at our hourly rate or on a fixed cost based on agreed milestones.
Having our expertise inhouse is very important to us and means our clients can speak directly to the technical people building their site. There are none of the delays or potential miss-understandings that can occur when messages are relayed to non-english speaking developers, based in different timezones scattered across the globe. It's this stability and longevity that has resulted in us working for some of our clients ever since the business was founded, way back in 2007.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Bespoke Build?
A bespoke build means your site is made exactly to your requirements. Once we've had a detailed discussion with you, the process begins with wireframing each interface so everyone is clear on how the site will flow and work.
What is a Framework?
Most of our bespoke builds are based on the MVC framework CodeIgniter - which just basically means they're based on strong, maintainable foundations and can grow as required. We can (and have) used different frameworks such as CakePHP, but overall we find CodeIgniter has the right balance of freedom and control. Ensuring code is kept organised, but at the same time the framework doesn't get in the way of what we are trying to achieve. We also find CodeIgniter is light and speedy, so great for fast loading websites.
Whichever framework you choose, using a framework also means, should another developer ever come to work on the project, there's a road map already in place as to how the code is written.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the address your website runs under, for example 18aproductions.co.uk is our domain name. There are an increasing number of top level domain extensions now available, such as .london, .ninja, .xyz, .holiday, .futbol and loads more. We can either help purchase your domain name for you, and recharge the expense, or you can register your own domain with a domain name registry such as 123-reg.co.uk and then let us know the details.
What is Hosting and do I need it?
The short answer is probably yes. A hosting account is basically space on a computer somewhere in a huge data center where you can host your websites files. Hosting varies hugely, but we host all our websites on Linux based hosting accounts. We can either host your website for you and charge you monthly/annually, or if you'd prefer to arrange your own hosting, then as long as it's suitable for your websites' requirements, we'll be happy to set it up on there for you. However we generally find it's much quicker and easier for all involved if we host your website, and we reserve the right to charge at our hourly rate for any time spent configuring third party hosting solutions.
Glossary of Terms
- PHP - Our development language of choice, we find PHP to be a versatile and very powerful choice for pretty much any web project.
- MySQL - Behind most dynamic websites lies a database of information. We love using the MySQL relational database as it's quick, easy, powerful and can scale to vast dimensions.
- jQuery - If you want to spice up your site and add interactivity for your vistors, then the jQuery library is our personal favourite, and the most commonly used throughout the web today. We can build upon this incredibly useful framework to make something bespoke to your websites needs.
- XHTML / HTML / HTML5 - Whatever flavour of HTML floats your boat, we code all our work to meet w3 standards wherever possible. The code behind your site is vital to your websites longevity, scalability, maintainabiliy and speed. All our sites are expertly hand crafted to pixel perfection. HTML 5 just adds a whole world of new HTML tags for the developer to play around with, and now that browsers on the whole support HTML5 it's full steam ahead!
- CSS/CSS3 - Cascading style sheets are used to transform otherwise dull HTML code into stunning website designs. We love CSS especially all the cool new tricks on offer with CSS3!
- JSON - JSON is useful when building more complex online applications as it's a standard text based format useful by it's inter-operability between client and server side programming languages.
- AJAX - Reload bits of your page without loading the whole page. Ajax is the technology rediscovered and made popular by the web 2 movement, but in existence long before then. Sites can be made slick, user-friendly and fast with the good use of Ajax.
- CodeIgniter - Our MVC framework of choice, CodeIgniter provides an excellent framework upon which medium to large web based applications can be developed. Building on the combined knowledge and experience of the thousands of web folks across the globe.
- Perl - A slightly older choice for those in the know, Perl is great for backend processing, although has had it's toes well and truly stamped on in recent years by the increasing popularity of the PHP programming language.
- XML - eXtensible Markup Language is a format for marking up information that is designed to be both human and machine readable. In reality when a client is presented with XML they think their computer is broken :) But it is a great, standardised way of representing information, particularly nested information, and is widely used in web services.
- SASS - We often build sites (such as the one you're reading), by writing SCSS code first, then running it through the SASS preprocessor to create beautifully tidy CSS. There are lots of good reasons to consider using SASS for your projects such as code maintainability and organisation with the use of nesting and variables so you only have to update commonly used values in a single place - very handy.
- Git - On larger developments we manage our code in private Git Repositories. Git is a widely-used source code management system for software development. It's revision control system has an emphasis on speed and data integrity and most importantly it allows groups of developers to work seemlessly on the same codebase without overwriting each others work.
- REST - A software architecture style often used by web services and our preferred approach due to it's simplicity and ease of use.
If acronyms aren't your thing, and reading the list above makes you want to go for a nap, don't worry we've got it covered, and although it might be hard to understand - We love it!
Real World Examples
Below are a few examples of how we've put Web Development into practise in the real world. Click on any project to read more about it in our portfolio section.