Let me throw some buzzwords at you …

Hypertext markup language, cascading style sheets, agile development, server-side includes, information architecture, php, javascript, wysiwyg, UI/UX … and the list has many, many hundreds more. My guess is, however, that with just this short list you either completely nodded off or your eyes glazed over like a jelly doughnut.

Here’s a promise from me to you. We won’t dive into your world of products and services if you promise not to try and become seasoned web developers. Deal? Deal! But, like you’ve probably guessed, the process of creating a killer web presence is much more than spouting off buzzwords and jargon.  Also, the best web sites on the planet are rarely made by a single individual.  They’re created by tightly coordinated teams of experienced professionals with years of highly specialized skills.

If you’re shopping for a web developer, be sure to ask how they will address these specific needs:

Aesthetic/Graphic Design

A skilled web designer doesn’t just create pretty pictures (although the best designers are proud of the awards they’ve received.)  Another common misconception is to assume that a print designer can easily make the leap to web design — good design is good design, is it not?  Well, yes, a skilled web designer is fluent in the use of graphic tools like Photoshop and Illustrator, for sure, BUT they’re also equally adept with understanding the design limitations of monitor size fluctuations, HTML/CSS code, javascript, CMS theme creation, fundamentals of UI/UX, and browser compatibility issues.  Unlike ink being pressed onto a static piece of paper (a 570 year old tradition), the process of designing for the web changes almost daily — really.  To stay abreast of this one aspect of web development is truly a full time job.

User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX)

While the designer is pumping out polished pieces and the coder cranks out caches of code, the UI/UX professional creates seamless, intuitive interfaces.  This individual taps into their strength by understanding the psychology and actions of the typical web surfer.  The beset results are seen from experienced professionals who understand the limits of web functionality and the challenges faced by designers.  Without the testing and ongoing attention of a UI/UX strategist, a web site will most surely suffer one of just a few fates (and you’ve seen hundreds of these sites); 1–Pretty pictures, slow to load, no functionality … or 2–Uggggly, functional but impossible to find anything.

Information Architecture (IA)

Most small business sites don’t require a lot of heavy lifting in the world of data organization and data management.  If, however, your site is even remotely dependent on the collection and management of; client data, product data, market data, service data or data related to specific functionality, then a well thought out plan from an information architect is mandatory.  Poorly planned IA will result in bad UI/UX, poorly functioning (or completely broken) code and enormous losses of time and money fixing what should have been planned well from the beginning of the project.  Remember the seven Ps; “Proper prior planning prevents p*ss poor performance.”  OK, it’s a cheesy blurb an old boss of mine used to say (a LOT), but it is soooo true.

HTML/CSS Production

Once a designer completes the creation of all the design files, somebody then needs to slice-n-dice those images into a myriad number of parts so they can be reassembled into W3C, standards-based, compliant code.  This isn’t the code created by the programmers to make the site functional (more on that in a bit), this is the code that makes the site display properly in all browsers.  The qualified Production Professional will have stayed abreast of ALL the insane number of changes the web development world has seen over the course of just a few years.  If you’ve ever seen a site that looks fine on a Mac in Safari but is completely butchered in Internet Explorer on a PC, then you know what we’re talking about.  Don’t let this happen to your site.

Back-end Programming

Now we get down to actual programming … what most people think is done to create a web site.  I hope I’ve demonstrated to you that it’s not just a programming task.  That being said, the use of efficient, flexible, secure code is mandatory for fast, efficient web development project.  Unskilled programmers can cost a business owner dearly in re-writes, scope-creep, cost over-runs, server hacks, downtime, broken links/functionality/images/etc., and any number of technical glitches that will destroy the user experience of a site.  Again, how many times have you been to a site that is completely broken beyond all possible consideration?

Other Odds and Ends

The five categories above are just the big buckets that constitute the creation of a web site.  There are MANY more skills that might be necessary for your project.  These would be, but not limited to; copy writing, intellectual property and trademark issues, branding, animation, illustration, specialty scripting and coding, research, beta-testing, marketing strategy development, search engine optimization, pay per click campaign creation, social media integration … again, the list goes on and on.

The Bottom Line

If your prospective developer doesn’t thoroughly understand the differences between each of these web development sub-skills or, worse yet, they claim that they have mad skills in all of these areas, please RUN. Run as fast as you can.

This is not to say that the web development agency you hire needs to have all of these people under one roof.  In fact, I would suggest that the best programmers don’t live anywhere near the best UI pros who don’t live near the best designers.

Since 1994 (just one year after the advent of modern web browsers) Flock Marketing’s ever-evolving team of professionals – mostly subcontractors – has been applying their respective skills to the creation of some pretty amazing sites.

Why do we work this way? Easy; Every project is different.  Every project has different needs. By keeping our team to one tight-knit group of developers and farming out the less frequently needed tasks, we save on overhead (read; cost savings for you) and you only pay for the talent required for your project. It’s like hiring a highly customized team of professionals assembled exclusively for your project. No, it’s not “like” that … it IS that!

Yowza, a lot just got dumped on you.  Surely you have a question or two!  Give me a call and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Kevin Skarritt
Chief Peep, Flock Marketing

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