To keep myself busy these summer holidays, I found myself a job as the Web Consultant (and Project Head) with a premier educational institute in the city. In this kind of job, one has to offer consulting services regarding web hosting, web design and look after the development process such that it best suits the business you’re serving. The web project had already started long before I joined, as my company had already employed a seemingly confident web technology and development company to look after all the work. This project aimed at designing and developing a website that enabled people to know about this mathematics coaching institute and enabled online registration of students for coaching classes and online training programs that included posting online video tutorials, tests and solutions, question banks and self-assessment guides for the registered students.
At the time that I joined, only a few days ago that is, the web hosting had been already chosen, the design completed and all the functionality that we needed, implemented in PHP. But then why did they need me?
The design was good, and as I said above… all the functionality that we needed was implemented (in PHP). Where did the web development company lack?
- If you know that you’re going to offer PDF’s and videos for downloads would you want the site-design to be heavy? The web company did the most unnecessary things in Flash. Not just at a single page, but across the whole website. If one needed to add a new page and provide a link in the header navigation bar, it would be impossible to do because it was a flash object. Plus, all the textual data went into the embedded Flash thus making the website orthodox anti-SEO.
- The editor provided for this website (about Mathematics) does not support mathematical symbols! At last we had to make the content available in PDF format. Even though available to only premium users, it can be easily saved and then be shared with anyone which we do not want. But can we do anything now?
The navigation structure that this company designed and put up was such a mess that 8 out of 10 people that I contacted for feedback got confused while moving from page to page through the website. They just could not understand which part of what page related to the others in the order. Call this development?
- If they could not provide good navigation, they could have at least provided a sitemap. Rather than getting into hassles with the navigation buttons, one could have just used the
- There were two images in a sidebar – One, a 250 x 250 banner that linked to a mathematics contest and the other 250 x 50 button that linked to Tips and Tricks section. Only ZERO out of 10 people that I asked for feedback could make out that there were two distinct images because there was absolutely no space between the two images. The two images, together,looked like a single 250 x 300 banner talking about two things but linking to only one page (depending on where the user clicked).
Because of the cost of web development services in the region, it’s revisions are not feasible for small institutions. Nothing but extreme care can save you from trouble that you might later on face. The very basic point that I want to make here is that if you are into the web development business, or if you want to get a website developed for yourself – you should understand that Development means Development. You have to develop an idea of the website before developing it. The same law holds for blogs too.
If you’re thinking about making a new blog or a website, you need to plan everything. One should know already what kind of audience the blog or website is going to target, how do you want the pages to be and what path do you want a general visitor to take through these pages to convert. Development needs thought. The type of website or blog you intend to have also decides how the site is going to be like. If you’re going to have only a little content, you can compromise on the weight (use Flash, etc.) but if you stream videos, offer files for downloads or embed flash objects, then you will have to take care that the design doesn’t get to heavy without negatively affecting the look and feel . There are various other parameters that need to be worked out well in advance (adding Meta Tags to pages, creating sitemaps, SEO work like using robots.txt, etc.) before you can say that the development of a website is complete.
The intent of web development services is to increase the productivity and usability of any blog or website. The market is competitive. Would you like to sign a contract with a company like the one I described in association with my office? Definitely NO. If a web development firm doesn’t respect this aspect of their job, then it is quite likely that they will never make a mark in their field.