Take a look at any digital marketing company’s website, and you’re likely to see website development listed as one of their services.
What does that mean? Like web design?
Well, kind of …
What Is Website Development?
Web development is a term that encompasses all of the work that goes into building and publishing a website:
- Site design: Composing the site’s appearance
- User experience design: Making the site easy and pleasant to use
- Coding: Turning plans into a functional website experience
- Functionality mapping: Adding dynamic and responsive elements to the site
- Search engine optimization: Helping search engines to find and understand the site (in most companies, this role will be shared by the web and marketing teams)
- Management/maintenance: Ensuring the site continues to function with optimal performance
If there’s a task that needs to be completed in order for you to build, launch, or keep your website running, it falls under the website development umbrella.
As a category, web development also includes web application development. So any apps you use that somehow involve the internet — Facebook, Netflix, the Starbucks mobile app, etc. — all of that stuff is built by professional web developers.
So Website Development Is Different Than Website Design?
Yes, web design is one subcategory of web development.
The designer’s job is to ensure that the site looks good and reflects their client’s brand. Once they have a series of approved sketches, they pass it onto the coders who bring their sketches to life.
What About Front-End Development vs. Back-End Development?
Front-end developers build the parts of the website that users interact with. These are the programmers who develop the elements that visitors see and use.
Back-end developers handle the parts of the website that customers don’t see but are crucial to the site’s functionality. For instance, they’re responsible for retrieving the data requested by the visitor from the website database and making it available to the browser or front-end developer. They also keep the site safe, ensuring that the correct data is accessible and sensitive data is protected.
Dylan, our Web Development Director, uses the analogy of a car:
The website visitor is a driver, the back-end developer is an auto mechanic, and the front-end developer is a detailer.
Why Is Website Development a Good Investment?
Every company needs a website.
Type your top five competitors into Google, and theirs will surely come up.
These days, a lot of small businesses use Facebook or Instagram in place of a website, but a traditional, domain-style website is still valuable.
Because it’s another channel for generating leads, communicating with customers, and teaching the world about your company and products.
Here are some of the things you can do with a powerful, professionally developed website:
- Blog to build your audience and attract prospective customers
- Collect subscriber addresses for your email marketing campaigns
- Establish yourself as an industry expert by offering downloadable content (eBooks, etc.)
- Use SEO tactics to help your site appear in relevant Google searches
- Expand your brick-and-mortar business’s customer base by selling products online
- Ensure your customers’ satisfaction by giving them a place to contact you
Social media is an amazing tool for business, but a website is essential to any solid digital marketing strategy.
What Does a Well-Developed Website Look Like?
Your website needs to make a good first impression. It’s the first interaction a lot of people will have with your brand, so it should be easy on the eyes and even easier to use.
A well-designed website can:
Help You Build Authority and Trust With Your Audience
You put a lot of hard work into your business. A great website shows potential customers that you take pride in your business and care about the public perception of your brand.
Improve Your Search Engine Rankings
A fast-loading, easy-to-navigate website will keep visitors engaged and encourage them to share your content with others. Search engines tend to reward sites with high engagement by pushing them up in the search results.
Generate Revenue for Your Business
Whether you sell directly through your site or use it more for lead generation, your website can drive sales. A professionally designed website is particularly important if you’re working in the e-commerce or affiliate marketing industries, as your website is your business.
Elements of a Good Website
Here are a few things every website should include:
When our web developers sit down to work, they don’t just open up WordPress and start dropping elements wherever things look good.
They think deeply about the site’s audience, analyzing dozens of metrics to determine how the site needs to function in order to provide value to that audience.
An intuitive design encourages users to browse and engage with the site’s content.
Pages should be categorized (Products, Services, Pricing, Blog, etc.) and easy to find.
Visitors should have an easy time accessing and navigating the site across all devices.
54.8% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, so a mobile-responsive user interface is essential.
Readable and Informative Content
Typefaces, font sizes, and margins are all crucial factors to consider. Strong websites are rich with images and design elements that keep the eye moving and the hand scrolling.
An attractive layout and user-friendly formatting will make your site more welcoming and invite visitors to engage with your content.
An effective website includes a number of strategically placed CTAs — click-to-purchase buttons, contact forms, newsletter signup boxes, links to follow on social media, etc. — to encourage conversions or to move prospects into the sales funnel.
What’s the Best Language for Web Development?
We get this question a lot, but the answer is that there’s no best language.
Most developers use a combination of the same few programming/scripting languages, and each language has a designated purpose.
So the “best” language is whichever one is going to do the job you need it to do.
Web development languages are kind of like tools in a toolbox — a hammer is only “better” than a socket wrench if you’re driving a nail.
Here are the ones that our team uses on a regular basis:
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the foundational language of every website that exists. It’s the standard language in web development.
Developers use HTML to place elements (images, text, etc.) on a webpage. It’s a client-side language, which means that it’s used to code the elements that users see and interact with.
As the name suggests, HTML is also responsible for hypertext, more commonly known as links. Developers use this language to link pages to one another, enabling users to navigate a site.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is another client-side language. It’s used to set fonts, colors, margin sizes, and other visual characteristics on a website. CSS tells the database how to display the site’s text, images, and other elements.
Estel, our web strategist (and author of this killer article about how to tell when it’s time for a website update), broke it down like this:
“If HTML is the wood and foundation of a house (the basic structure), CSS would be the walls, paint, windows, and all the visual aspects.”
CSS also makes it easy to apply a theme with consistent styling across every page. Without it, you’d have to apply the visual settings to each page on your website, which could take a very long time on a big site.
It’s used for responsive design optimization, too, which ensures that your website adapts to different devices.
PHP, named after the company that originally developed it, is a scripting language that connects a website’s front-end with its database. As a server-side language, it communicates directly with the server the site’s information is stored on and retrieves the information necessary to display the page as intended.
Estel compares PHP to a plumbing system:
“PHP searches the database for what you need and displays it on the website, like the way plumbing guides water from the city to your sink.”
Other Web Development Languages
If you count all of the outdated languages and the obscure ones that only hobbyists tinker around with, there are at least a few hundred programming languages out there.
As I said, the languages listed above are the ones our dev team uses most often, but there’s a handful of others that are very popular in the development and programming worlds:
What’s the Best CMS for Web Development?
Just as there’s no “best” programming language, there’s not one content management system (CMS) that’s the go-to for every website. It really depends on what you’re using it for.
Some of the most popular content management systems include:
Let’s talk a little bit about when and why you might choose one of these over the other:
WordPress is the most popular CMS on the internet. According to Search Engine Journal, it powers nearly 40% of all websites.
Its popularity isn’t surprising, either — this is a powerful and highly flexible application. With more than 50,000+ WordPress plugins and integrations available, you can make your site do anything. From affiliate marketing to ecommerce, WP will help you do it all.
Of course, the power of WordPress.org does come with a learning curve, and you’ll need some coding skills to build a website on this platform. If you don’t have someone on your team who knows HTML or CSS, you may need to hire a web dev.
Once your site is complete, everyone on your team will be able to use your site. WP’s Visual Editor interface functions similar to Microsoft Word, so your clients, marketing team, and any other non-coders can log on to publish or manage web content.
This is one of the reasons why our developers use WordPress. It’s particularly helpful for our clients who resell WordPress web services, as their clients can log right in and start uploading their own content.
You can learn more about our white label website services at Inter-dev.co.
Shopify is designed specifically for ecommerce, with each site featuring a built-in point-of-sale gateway and inventory management software.
A lot of people would argue that Shopify is easier to use than WordPress, as it’s a drag-and-drop platform that requires little-to-no coding knowledge. While you can hop into the back-end and tweak the code to customize your site, you don’t have to be a full-stack developer to build a decent Shopify site.
However, if you don’t sell products online and don’t need their e-commerce features, Shopify might not be the best development tool for you.
You can do a lot more with WordPress, as well. There’s even a Shopify plugin that you can integrate into your WP site to get access to its POS and other features.
But, like all good content management systems, Webflow allows you to code if you want to. Using the platform’s Designer feature, you can build web elements, export them in HTML5 and CSS3, and implement the code on your site. Then, like WordPress, you can grant access to all of the non-coders on your team, and they can edit the site on the drag-and-drop side. In this sense, its usability is nearly unmatched.
With all of the tutorials on the Webflow University website, learning the ins and outs of this tool is easy. However, you’ll find a serious lack of plugins and integrations, which means you have limited options in terms of customizing your site.
There’s more information about Webflow’s limitations in our Webflow vs. WordPress article.
Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly
These three tools are probably the easiest website builders to use, and they’re very popular for that reason. To build a website on these platforms, all you have to do is make an account, choose a template, and drop some text and photos in.
Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly all have user-friendly interfaces that lend themselves to a smooth workflow, and you don’t need any coding knowledge to use them. They’re perfect if all you want is a simple site to promote your business.
In comparison to WordPress, Webflow, and Shopify, however, these platforms aren’t built for customization, so there aren’t as many plugins or integration options as you’d find on other sites. This means your site may not be as dynamic as you need.
Should You Hire a Web Development Agency Instead of Doing It Yourself?
You may not need a professional agency’s help. We’ve already discussed tools that make it possible to build a website and have it online within a matter of hours.
So even though we’re a web development agency and we love building websites for clients, we know that you can do it yourself if you want to.
However, there are cases in which you should consider hiring pros, like if:
- You need dynamic website features but don’t know how to build them.
- You want a customized template that reflects the unique quality of your business.
- You’re too busy running your company to focus on your website.
Here are some of the benefits of hiring an agency instead of doing it yourself:
A professional agency can build/migrate, optimize, and manage your site for you, giving you time to focus on growing your business and keeping your customers happy.
With expert web developers running your website, you can be sure that it’s always up and available for your customers to access.
Speed and Functionality
Slow loading times and other hiccups can drive potential customers away from your website. A web development agency can help you make the best first impression.
Search Engine Optimization
With an agency in your corner, your site will have all of the meta tags and sitemaps in place that help search engines index your site properly. Read more about the importance of this in our SEO FAQs article.
Need a Web Developer to Build Your Site? Let’s Talk!
Our expert team takes a data-driven approach to development, analyzing each client’s business, customers, and market to create a customized site for each one.
If you’re looking for a website to help you expand your business and grow your online presence, we may be able to help. Let’s schedule a call and see what we can do!