Finding the Best Website Development Agency

As a business, finding the right web development company is not easy; as there are lots around offering state of the art services at record low prices.

Not to mention offshore companies based in Spain, India and the US – why not work with them. They are after all cheaper (mostly) and may be able to do a better job.

Using a local web development agency.

The main benefit with working with a local agency is that you can visit them and discuss the project face to face. Having an initial meeting with the agency will ensure they are competent and also help in communicating what the project is.

What about using an offshore web agency?

Quality – this would be hard to control if you cannot meet the agency. Skype and webenars are all well and good, but nothing beats a face to face for being able to communicate and discuss.

Remembering that only 10% of communication is verbal, talking on the phone or via e-mail means that the web agency misses 90%.

Which agency if you opt for a UK agency?

There is criteria that most companies look for when choosing a web agency

  • Do they understand the project?
  • Have they experience of your industry?
  • What will it cost?

These are the main things that come up when looking for a web company.

Meet with the agency (as mentioned) is the best way to a/ get a feel for the agency and if they are the sort of agency for you b/ they do understand your project. Many companies will say they understand when they really do not (as no one wants to tell a customer ‘we do not understand’ – could loose the client) understand.

If the agency has worked in your sector previously then they are much better equipped to tackle your project, contribute to is and also second guess to problem solve.

Comparing quotes from local web development companies is really the best way of finding out what the market price is. All companies charge differently and some are quite expensive – to avoid paying over the odds it is advised to get a few quotes.

Web Development Lifecycle (WDL)

The web development lifecycle (WDL) is a more specific variation on the general framework for developing any application development project. Unlike general application development, all web design and development projects follow a similar structure, so the web development lifecycle / process can be drawn upon as a point of reference for both the web development team and the client to determine the status of any given project and the area of activity to address next.

The Web Development Lifecycle is made up of eight identifiable stages described as follows:

1. Initial Consultation

The Initial Consultation seeks to understand the high level business requirements, the scale of the web development, required delivery schedule, and the overall feasibility, web design and cost of the project.

2. Project Specification

The business requirements of the proposed website are iteratively established between the Client and the web design team, and documented in the form of a High Level Requirements Specification. Focus here is on the relevant business rules and outputs. Implementation of the system, how the requirements are actually delivered, is reserved for later. Once agreed, this document will form the basis of the subsequent stages of the Web Development Lifecycle.

3. Web Site Architecture

Here the software and hardware requirements for delivery of the web application are established, such as the most appropriate web and application development language, operating system, database management system (DBMS), and hardware / hosting environment that are most appropriate to support the final website in a robust and reliable manner; taking account of the likely growth of data volumes, visitor numbers web traffic, and functionality.

4. Web Site Design Cycle

Deliverables out of this phase have a particular focus on the web design of the system, include mock-ups or prototypes of the screens that make up the system, combined with system walkthroughs which will enable both the Client and the software developers, designers and project management team to clearly understand how the website will work from the user and administrators perspective. The design of the CRM would also be full considered here also. This web application functionality is considered in the context of the defined outputs and business rules, and may result in the High Level Requirement Specification being updated or changed. Following this, a key deliverable here is a Low Level Website Design Specification / Document precisely defining the required implementation of the web design and forming a blue print of the project for the software developers.

5. Content Collation

Any required textual and graphical content for the web application is developed or acquired by the Client (or the software development company, depending on the relevant situation). Admin functionality which enables the Client to amend the full content of the site from system launch, and on an ongoing basis, is assumed to have been included and defined within the High Level Requirements Specification, as mentioned.

6. Web Site Project development

At this stage a detailed project plan will have been established for the implementation of the web design, resources identified, time scales defined, and project dependencies clearly understood – especially with respect to which parts of the web development can be done in serial or parallel. This stage actually overlaps with the next stage of the Web Development Lifecycle since all web developed modules are unit tested to destruction by the corresponding web development team members. Further, it is very important that all code produced by the software developers is quality checked to ensure adherence to project development standards.

7. Testing & Quality Assurance

Many forms of testing are carried out during this phase, from system and volume testing – in order to ensure that all components work together within the web application and can easily cope with both the initial and anticipated future demands on the system – all the way to User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and sign-off. There are many forms of testing required during this phase that are beyond the scope of this introduction, such as cross-browser and security testing – all contributing towards the delivery of a high-quality website and service to the client.

8. Web Site Deployment (Launch)

Once the website implementation is tested and released by both the client and software development company as being fully operational, the website is deployed to the production environment and open to the relevant user base. Following this there is generally a pre-agreed period of warranty and an ongoing support agreement can be established at the discretion of the client.

The process can vary but, generally speaking, the dependencies and features of a successful process of delivering webs applications to the client does not. I hope this has been a useful introduction to the process of delivering quality web applications to any business.

Guidelines to Choose the Best Web Designer

It takes immense talent and skills to design a web page which is creatively designed, neatly coded, easily downloadable, displays properly on different browsers and above all, can be indexed easily by search engines as well. This is why it becomes more important to choose a company which has a team of talented web and graphic designers, equipped to give you a high quality web solution.

Here are some useful tips to help you choose an efficient web designer.

Check out the previous works

Ask the company to show you the portfolio of their web designs. Most good web and graphic design companies will have a neatly done portfolio in their website itself.

The prior works of the designers highlight not only their talent but also what you can expect from them. Analyze whether all the pages are easy to navigate, whether the designs are impressive and professional, is the layout effective etc. Only after you are satisfied with the previous works, you should move further.

Give importance to HTML knowledge

Make sure that the web designer uses HTML to build a site along with cascading style sheets i.e. CSS. The knowledge of CSS is important for a designer as CSS allows the designer to easily and quickly make system-wide changes to the site.

This helps in saving time and energy and of course, cost. A good designer must be in the know of these things. If your designer is not familiar with CSS, then you’d better leave the task for some other designer.

Know about the features

Inquire what kind of features your web designer can provide you in your website. There are plenty of features available in web solutions today but you must know what exactly you would need. Your web designer must be able to suggest you the features that would make your site attractive and user-friendly.
For example, if you are building a product-selling site, you can have some flash components to enhance the appeal of your home page, a good admin panel to manage visitors and sales, security features to ensure secure payment gateways and so on.

Updating criteria

It is essential to know beforehand, how the web and graphic designer plan to have the site updated. It is better to have the ability to update the website on your own with the help of Content Management System (CMS), or user-friendly admin panel type interface which allow one to make changes to static content. Paying the designer every time you need to update your site is an expensive proposition and quite unnecessary in today’s hi-tech web world.

Performance of your website

To make sure your website performs well, ask your designer beforehand about the time required for loading a page and search engine indexing. If your site takes more time to load than the average website does, take it as a warning signal. It might be due to bad HTML coding. A good web designer will code the page in a way in which it loads within seconds and is easily indexed by search engines.

Get in touch with previous clients

Apart from just going through the testimonials online, it is worthwhile to get in touch with the previous clients and ask them about their experience with the web design company and the web designers. You can contact them either through phone or e-mail them seeking their opinion whether they were happy and satisfied with the kind of quality and service they have got.

These are just few guidelines that can be taken into consideration while looking for a good professional web designer. These are by no means the only criteria but it will surely help to find the good ones who can be trusted with your dream project.

Choosing the Best Brand Agency Can Spare You From Negative Consequences

Finding the most dependable brand agency is no longer that difficult today. It is because the internet is so rich with information on how to get to one of those agencies. Guidelines on how to choose one are widespread and you can always find them on the web. Qualifications of those potential firms can also be read on their websites. Plus, you can always connect to other companies who already have employed several agencies in the past and get their feedbacks concerning a particular agency or agencies so you can weigh the options and narrow down your choices.

As business entrepreneurs it has always been our desire to see our brand, product , or services become closer to the hearts of our clients and target audience. So as much as possible we try to apply every marketing principle and every tool that our hands can find so that what we offer to people can go straight to their hearts and settle there. There are so many tools that are available today and a reputable brand agency is an institution that is well equipped to help you utilize those tools and put them to work for your best interest. They can provide timely solutions to your branding needs.

When looking for the best branding firm to work with you on your branding tasks, it is good to have in mind the list of things that you are expecting from them. It is a must that you have this list because this will serve as your guide during your inquiries with different agencies. This will also help you evaluate a particular agency and see whether or not it has the qualifications that you are looking for. You will also have a guide in formulating your questions and save time from asking questions that can be irrelevant. When you do this you will appear so much prepared to discuss some important business matters with them. And the agency you go to will realize that you are into serious business and so respond to you in an appropriate manner.

As you go to a brand agency and inquire about their services, it is also a brilliant idea to bring with you a previously gathered information and feedbacks of those companies that have availed the services of your potential branding partner. This will help you in situations like when you need to refer to them for verification of the agency’s claims and assurances. Having this tool with you will help you trace the agency’s performance background and aid you in either choosing or turning down a certain agency. So your decision can be so reasonable because it is based on facts, actual evidences, and testimonials of reliable source.

Getting into business is a serious matter. You always have to operate according to some established principles that have been tested and proven beneficial not just for you, but for your clients, and for those who are working with you. So, choosing the best brand agency to work with you should never be rushed or haphazard for it will always bear some consequences.

What Makes a Good Web Development Company

The world of web development is still very much misunderstood. We’ve even heard people call it a “dark art”. So when you need help turning your ideas and designs into a high quality website or web application, how do you know who you can trust to get this done?

The purpose of this post is to provide some key points on what makes a good web development company, and will help you understand the kind of questions you should be asking development companies.

This is going to be a very opinionated post and we make no apologies for it. If you disagree with anything we are certainly open to discussing it further.

Now to get on with the post. Below are the key areas we are going to be looking at, and what you should be looking for in a web development company.

  • Able to do both front-end and back-end development
  • Don’t specialise in one back-end technology
  • Should follow best practices
  • Understanding of marketing strategies surrounding the projects
  • Invests time in research and development
  • Has a rigorous testing process, including automated tests
  • Flexible to change
  • Use source control

Able to do both front-end and back-end development
We don’t subscribe to idea of developers that do front-end development and developers that do back-end development. That’s the equivalent of having a plumber who only fits pipes and leaves the fitting of the baths, showers, sinks and toilets to someone else.

We agree there is a separation between web developers and web designers, there’s a completely different thought process going on there, but the separation between front-end and back-end is just wrong. To be a good web developer you need to understand the full development cycle and to be able to get involved in the project from start to finish. There is also much to be learnt from the working with the varying technologies, but we’ll come on to that.

Don’t specialise in one back-end technology
There are a number of good back-end technologies that are appropriate for web development including Ruby on Rails, ASP.Net and PHP (and others). They all have their strengths and weaknesses and not one is perfect. A good web development company should be flexible in which technologies they use, so that they use the most appropriate one for their clients’ needs.

The key reason we have spent time learning a number of technologies is to able to pick and choose the bits we like. Over the years the developers involved in The League have been able to take the good parts of each technology and formulate a number of best practices and use them across all platforms.

Should follow best practices
The key to being a good web developer is not the technologies that you use, but the best practices that you follow. As technologies come and go in our very fast moving industry those best practices will remain, or at least evolve. As a developer if you have a good grounding then you can move with the times and technologies fairly easily.

So what are these best practices that we are talking about. Below are some of the key ones we follow.

  • Writing semantic HTML
  • Follow web standards for all front end coding
  • Automated testing of both front-end and back-end code
  • Use of a MVC framework

Understanding of marketing strategies surrounding the projects
We’ve heard this complaint many times that web developers don’t think about the marketing strategy of a project. This is generally because developers don’t care. Well they should. How can they advise clients and think about helping clients produce the right solution, if they aren’t thinking about the “bigger picture” (sorry, we know it’s a horrid phrase, we’ll go wash our mouths out now). If a developer blindly does the work, they are not offering the client a service, they are just being a meat puppet.

The most important question a developer can ask is “Why?”. Take time to understand the client’s requirements fully, and advise them, after all the client doesn’t understand the ins and outs of web development, you do. Make the development cycle a two way conversation.

Invests time in research and development
As everyone knows the web industry is a very fast moving industry. Things come and go in the blink of an eye. A good web development company gives it’s developers allocated time each week to look at new trends and technologies. Admittedly some of these trends and technologies are dead ends, but you won’t know unless you look into them.

If you want to know if a web development company knows there stuff, simply ask them what their developers have been looking into recently. You don’t have to understand everything you are told, note them down though and look them up on the internet to understand if the company are looking at new trends or not.

R&D is probably the most important time each week for a developer. If developers don’t evolve, the solutions they build will become stagnate and dated very quickly. As a client do you want an out of date solution before you even start?

Has a rigorous testing process, including automated tests
Too often we have seen the client is the tester for a project. If this is happening, then, to put it bluntly, the development company don’t understand your project well enough, they are just “banging out” code.

A good web development company should be writing automated tests (integration tests, unit-tests etc) for all their code, both front-end and back-end. On a simple level, tests help developers to concentrate on the code they are writing at that given time, they also help developers to write more concise code. More concise code means the code base is easier to understand and cheaper to maintain.

The major benefit of a test suite to a client is that when changes are made to the code in the project there can be a lot more confidence in the fact that the change, or new code, hasn’t broken anything else.

We are not saying automated testing is the silver bullet of web development, and tests are only effective if they are written well, but they certainly should be part of any web developers toolset.

Automated tests aren’t the only important aspect of testing. The web development company should also have a level of human testing as well, and this is certainly something clients should be involved in. User stories are key to this process. As part of the development process, clients should work with the web development company to put together User stories, so that all parties involved understand how users will interact with the site or application and the results of those interactions.

Flexible to change
We’ve all heard developers complaining how their clients’ change the requirements of a project midway thought a project. Developers need to stop complaining about this, it happens to us all and it’s never going to change. A good web development company should have processes in place to cope with change. If you are a client, ask how change requests will be handled.

Web developers should work to short release cycles, preferably 1 – 2 weeks. The worst thing that can happen to a project is that the developers get the brief, start the work and then 2 months later they announce it’s finished, only for the client to say “This isn’t what I asked for!”. By working to short release cycles, clients can be involved at all stages. At the end of each release the client should review the project so far and submit any change requests.

Use source control
Our final recommendation is a pretty obvious and simple one, to most people, but we still speak to developers who don’t use any form of source control. This seems more prevalent with freelancers as they don’t see the need as they are the only ones working on the code. If that’s how they see it, then they are missing the point.

There are lots of reasons why all code should be source controlled. We’re are only going to mention a couple of key points here. Firstly it’s a great way of keeping a log of changes made to code. (As long as developers put a comment into the commit). Secondly and most importantly is allows developers to change code without the fear of losing already work already done. This is especially useful when trying out other possible coding solutions to a problem.