6 Things Every Website Developer Should Know

With all of the tools out there to help you build websites these days, it seems that anyone can call themselves a “web developer”. However there is a lot more that goes into making a website than adding some links and images. Websites today usually require thorough planning, development and testing processes to ensure functionality when the site goes live.

Before venturing into the world of professional website development, a developer should have an understanding of the following.

Design of the website: You want the design of the website to positively portray the business. In a global economy most people will never meet you at your office, so having a professional looking website will greatly improve sales. Having a website designed by an amateur shines a poor light on the business making it appear untrustworthy or amateurish. A website should be pleasing to the eye. Using obnoxious colors, extremely tiny or extremely large text (not for design purposes) will make users go elsewhere to fulfill their needs. Take a look at websites in your industry and if your website doesn’t compete with them, you should seriously consider revising your design.

Website Structure and Coding: If you’re still building with table based layouts…stop! Tables are an extremely antiquated way of building sites; they are code heavy and do not allow for design nuances today’s visitors are expecting to see. Using Cascading Style Sheet (CSS)-based layouts will allow you to design and build more complex sites that allow for greater functionality and visual imagery. Your code should also validate to XHTML standards. For example, when you have an opening tag there should also be a closing tag related to it. Tags should not be closed out of order. If you are bolding, italicizing, and underlining you should close with underlining, italicizing and then bolding. This ensures browser and platform compatibility.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): All website developers should have a basic understanding of search engine optimization. All Flash sites are cool and fun to look at but they rarely rank well in search engines. Unless your customer is a household name chances are they need people to find their services and a Flash site will hinder that. You don’t need to be an SEO expert to build a site that is SEO friendly. Be sure to use well formed code (as stated above), adhere to the rules of H tags (using only one H1 tag per page), use H2-H6 tags for headlines not to change font size, and make sure that you leave room for at least a paragraph (50-100) words of text on each page.

Programming Languages: Although this is not mandatory for web designers (people who create the graphics) and the casual website builder, a website developer should know at least one programming language. Knowing one or more languages allows you to create interactive features for users. Think about the sites that you may frequently visit such as Facebook and YouTube. There is considerable programming involved to create the functionality, however it is that functionality which keeps the users coming back. Keep in mind you can always contract out with a more experienced programmer for those jobs that may be above your skill level.

Server Configuration & DNS: If you plan on developing websites for a variety of customers you’ll eventually need to put those websites onto a server. Your client will most likely expect you to know how to get their website onto the web. If you’re not sure how to load the site to a server and where to point the domain name to you really should not be on your own developing websites for customers. Generally when you purchase a hosting package from a hosting provider they will supply you with the domain name, ftp username and password and other related information. However if you have a client who purchased their own domain at some earlier time you’ll have to change the name servers in their domain registrar to the hosting companies server that you are using. This is all fine and dandy with basic hosting, but with more and more spam problems arising the email and website may be split onto multiple servers. This can cause major headaches with your clients if you are not making the correct entries where they are needed.

Customer Service: This should go without saying; treat your customers like you want to be treated. Web developers and programmers sometimes get a bad rap from the multitude of programmers who have a “programmer personality”. If you have ever needed more advanced technical support chances are you have met this type of personality. Being friendly and helpful will go much further toward getting additional business and being respected in your field.

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