December 2010 Archives

Web Development: Before and After the Client

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First published: 17th of Dec 2010 for Orbit Media Studios

For someone looking for a web design firm, how a website is developed might seem meaningless. Who cares, so long as it works?

Yet how well a website works can be measured in part by the costs associated with it. The direct cost is the total price for the initial project. The indirect costs consist of secondary expenses related to ongoing marketing and support during the lifetime of the website.

At Orbit we have two development processes. Both are designed to reduce costs and improve quality. The first is an internal process that starts before the client ever arrives. The second process begins at the first client meeting as we discover the project's specific requirements.

Internal Development
First, what do we mean by develop? Development usually refers to the programming of the website, whereas design refers to the look and feel.

With development, we need to consider a few basic questions. What features are required to make an ecommerce website work, for example? Regardless of the item being sold or the company selling the item, the basic logic can be described in a few steps:

  1. A customer selects an item to purchase
  2. The selected item is placed into a shopping cart
  3. The customer decides to checkout, continue shopping or abandon their cart
  4. To checkout, the customer initiates the process of purchasing what is in their cart
  5. The store presents a total bill for the item(s) desired by the customer
  6. The customer presents a method of payment
  7. The payment is verified and the transaction is completed

To be sure, this purchasing feature isn't complete and plenty of questions can remain. However, this generalized logic provides a starting point.

This is where web development at Orbit begins, identifying basic features of a potential website.

Developer Day
Roughly once a month, all of Orbit's developers spend the day working on such questions, analyzing and programing with various sandboxes.

A sandbox is simply a generic website in which the development team can create, test and improve different features and find the best approach for virtually any type of website. It's a play area for programmers.

The focus is on breaking down the feature into workable steps and rapidly building them. In doing so we consider what has worked for clients in the past along with growing trends such as social media integration.

Each Developer Day represents the repeating of a cycle of planning, analyzing, coding and acceptance testing in order to get the feature built right.

But, as we mentioned, plenty of questions can remain. Not all features will work perfectly "out of the box" for all clients.

Developing with the Client
This brings us to the second process of web development at Orbit: developing with the client. Now the concern is on completion of a particular website. Thus the focus for the developer changes from generalized concepts to specific implementation.

But before a developer can customize the code for a client, a new process of discovery and planning must begin. The phases of this process break down into the following, with direct client involvement at each step:

  1. A Kick-Off Meeting where initial questions about goals and scope are answered
  2. Discovery of the layout and flow for the proposed website
  3. Designing the look of the website and expressing the client's brand
  4. Development, implementing and testing
  5. Deploing the website for public use

In this sequential development process each step follows from the last. There is a specific beginning and ending. One step cannot be started until the previous step is completed and approved.

The Big Payoff
Understanding the development process for a custom website is important. How many hours a developer works on a client's website and the dependability of the underlying code affects its ultimate cost.

Both direct and indirect costs impact the client's ability to market their website and can limit the overall return of the website.

Rather than starting from scratch, Orbit takes the pieces we have built and improved earlier and applies them to the client's project, customizing the features to the needs of the website. In doing so we execute different development processes in order to keep our client's costs manageable while adding value to their business.

College Humor: Five Sci-Fi Children's Books

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Not something I usually post here, but this was too good to pass up for the holidays...from College Humor (and via the Wife) Five Sci-Fi Children's Books

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About the Author

Paul is a technologist and all around nice guy for technology oriented organizations and parties. Besides maintaining this blog and website you can follow Paul's particular pontifications on the Life Universe and Everything on Twitter.

   
   


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