Our last post in this series featured Josh’s insights into the design and content process of the web project journey. In this post, I’ll be moving on to talk about the nitty gritty of the ‘big build’ i.e. the web build process.
Once the full website designs have been signed off, we’re then ready to move into development. When the developers are allocated a new project, they’ll spend a certain amount of time familiarising themselves with the technical specification and project scope to ensure they have a clear idea of what has been agreed with the client.
Website builds require a checklist of many different tasks all with varying degrees of complexity. The project can be broken down into ‘sprints’, which can last as long as the project team decides. Usually they’re completed on a weekly basis and are designed to break down a project into more manageable timeframes. Kanban software is a great tool for developers to log their tasks and breakdown each separate bit of functionality into workable chunks.
Website designs play a huge role in the process with certain elements of the designs may demonstrate that blocks of code can be recycled and therefore built the same to ensure consistency. The website’s front user interface will help give the developer an idea of any back-end logic that needs to be incorporated behind the scenes. Development in this way often goes from front to back rather than the reverse.
As with all our projects, planning and preparation is key to a successful website build. To ensure our developers get off to a good start, they’ll usually focus on preparing the reusable blocks of code so that they can be easily accessed further down the line, this helps streamline the whole process.
Building the site
More often than not, we begin with the build of the home page. The home page is like a large tree with many branches (pages). It’s the place where users will go to when they click on your URL, so it makes sense for our developers to start their build with the one of the most important pages of your website.
All of our developers champion the importance of practising version control during the web build process. At Fifteen we use a variety of tools which essentially keeps a historical record of every change that’s been made to the website. It’s a great way to track all of the work completed during the web build process as well as revert back to an earlier version if a stumbling block is hit or a developer wants to cross reference some earlier code.
Version control also means we can integrate new website features at different stages in the process more easily. If the development team is working on a particularly large project, then using these tools allow multiple developers to work simultaneously. Developers can contribute their code and ‘push’ their changes up to the repository (a central location where all code is stored). The version control repository must be kept in sync and updated regularly to avoid merging conflicts and to help maintain the upkeep of an organised central hub for developers to share code.
Testing is a continual process for web developers during the web build process and they’ll test their work as they go to check that their code is correct. Once the first round of development has been completed, more thorough testing time will be scheduled and our testers will try to break the site as much as possible so that any major bugs can be identified and fixed.
A ‘bug’ to your everyday person is an annoying little insect, but in development, a bug refers to software issues that may be defined as a coding error that causes an unexpected defect, fault, or imperfection in a computer program. In other words, if a program does not perform as intended, it is most likely a bug. The term ‘software bug’ actually refers to the ‘insect bug’ when computer pioneer Grace Hopper, found the cause of a malfunction in an early electromechanical computer.
The final test
Full testing on numerous devices and browsers should be one of the final stages of web build and development before launch. Once the website has got all of its features and functionality in place, it’s really important to test the hell out of it all, including visuals and data entry such as contact forms and payment processes; basically, everything about the site needs to be rigorously tested to ensure it is working at its optimum capacity and of course looking great before the big launch day.
The website development process can sometimes be underestimated by those who know little about it. Perceptions are that sometimes it’s a copy and paste job of various pieces of code but web development is a complex skill so it’s important to understand as much about the development process as you can to gain a deeper level of knowledge about what cracks off with coding. Or as some of us might say, you’re better off in the ‘ignorance is bliss’ camp and leaving it to the professionals at Fifteen.
In the next project series instalment, Josh will be honing your knowledge of website population and SEO during the web project process.