Coders: the invisible content team

by Nigel Peters – May 11, 2020

In a creative content agency, the coding team are often the unsung heroes. OK, as senior developer at Wardour, I’m biased. But it is true that when we get our job right you should have no idea of all the complexities we’ve had to juggle to provide the ideal user experience.

I think of it as being a bit like cooking. The perfect souffle looks effortless and relies on a few ingredients which are invisible to the diner…

With that in mind here’s a list of five essentials for potential clients and agency colleagues to think about when starting your next web project (with plenty of links to bring my recipe to life).

Focus on the content

Really this is about ensuring that the developers understand the content structure of the website. Just about every website today is based around a content management system. But there are different ways to put a CMS together and the different routes offer different advantages. So, understanding the content structure helps developers choose a route which ensures the final CMS is a joy for the client to use and not cumbersome. Our starting point for a CMS tends to be the open source content management system called https://expressionengine.com/features. It’s highly flexible and so can be tailored to provide a very user-friendly experience.

Design with growth in mind

Good websites live and breathe. Like children they grow and change. They do this because the needs of the business change. Gone are the days when website design was based simply around a few web-page templates. Such templates by themselves are too big and too unwieldy for a world where subtle changes are needed. Now, good template design takes a component-based approach to each page: what we in the trade call a design system or, when we are getting really geeky, atomic design. The idea is simple: create a set of templates made up of individual smaller components. It’s then much easier to create new pages as requirements change.

Get things moving

Without doubt it’s easier to get a sense of someone’s personality from a video than it is from a photo. The movement creates life. The same is true with websites. If you want to create a site with personality you need to get things moving. That’s not just about the imagery, it’s about the interactivity of the user’s experience. The Trinity of web technologies, HTML, CSS and JavaScript provide tools that gives control over how elements can behave on a page. So instead of a page simply loading, a page can softly fade in. Hovering over or clicking a button needn’t be a blunt on/off affair, but can entertainingly transform into a unique form. It’s a fine line, because on the web great design is about function as much as form, but to keep users engaged form is important too.

Location, location, location

Just like the best homes are in the best locations, so too the best websites are housed on the best web servers. It’s surprising how often little thought is given by clients to web hosting. It truly is an invisible ingredient until something goes wrong. 24-hour access for most businesses is now just about a given. But beyond that, before selecting a hosting company it is important to have an actual discussion with potential providers to work out how flexible and supportive they sound. You may know exactly what your needs are for today, but it’s difficult to know what your needs might be further down the line, you want an ally, not a jobsworth in your camp. Using a cloud-based hosting provider can accommodate your needs quickly and easily. This will allow you to grow and contract your online services as and when you need.

Constant vigilance!

So often the job can be considered over when the website has launched. But it’s good not to think that way and to keep your web team close to hand with some budget for the weeks and months ahead. You will be surprised how your needs will change. And you will also be surprised how the creation of more and more content can impact performance. Small things such as uploading image files that are way too big or filling pages with lots of un-optimised widgets can eventually have a negative impact on a website’s performance. That’s important because research from search engine giants such as Google demonstrates that users will abandon a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

To help diagnose these problems there are analytical tools that can be added to your website which will monitor your website’s performance over time and tell you where the bottlenecks are. One popular tool is GT Metrix. I encourage you to enter your website’s URL into the service, if you get anything less than a grade A consider calling the Wardour team!

Published May 11, 2020

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