Unravelling and Conquering the Mysteries and Misconceptions of Web Development.

“Worldwide, consumers use an average of 5 different devices per person, with different screen sizes and device types. Moreover, they also use 2.23 devices simultaneously on an average” – Adobe

Web development has undergone a tremendous shift in techniques and implementation over the years.

Begin by understanding what web development is, in detail.

What is Web Development?

web develpoment

Technically speaking, web development is a murky term that is used to define the building of websites on the internet. As you shall see later, there is a difference between web development and web design.

But let’s get back on track

The term “murky” or “vague” is used because there are so many programming tools and languages that are implemented in the development of a website.

It ultimately depends on the type of website that is being developed.

To illustrate this, consider this scenario

A single web page created using HTML and CSS will probably have 200 to 300 lines of code. Looking on the far end of the line, a website such as Instagram or Facebook will have more than 60 million lines of code, created using a plethora of programming languages.

This is why having a static description of web development is very difficult; the best way to understand it is to look at some of the basics, form where you can build upon depending on the requirements of a particular website.

Introduction

Even the most prolific web developers are not really enthusiastic about web development.

Get it right! These developers have probably developed hundreds of website in their career, but web development is much more challenging than developing other types of tools such as desktop or mobile device apps.

But whether they like it or not, it is something that they have to understand, ingest, assimilate and know all there is to know in order to be effective and efficient.

Web development has taken the world by storm. Fantastic apps are being created for use on websites, which would not have been thought about a few years ago.

There was a time when web development for the desktop was the rave, but today, we see more of web development for mobile devices.

As cell phones and tablets get more powerful, web development is still crucial in creating cross-platform applications that can easily run on any browser, whether desktop or mobile.

A web developer, therefore, has to be familiar with how the web works and the main techniques used for both desktop and mobile browsing.

Fleshing out the basics of web development

Technology is a vibrant and forward-moving entity.

Over the years, the practice of web development and how it is implemented has changed drastically. However, one thing has remained constant; web development is primarily concerned with the development of applications that run on web browsers – this means on the desktop and mobile browsers.

Here is a mind-bending example:

Some web applications operate with most of their logic being native on a web server, with the capability to render HTML, CSS and JavaScript to enable the application to work properly.

You shall lean more about rendering on client and server side later on in this post.

Other applications will only use the server to launch the initial phase, proceed to download the logic that launches the application and then simply use the server to recall and store data.

It does not matter what approach is taken in the development of a website, the basics do not change at all – HTML, CSS, JavaScript – And a large serving of true patience.

As mentioned earlier, web development uses a wide range of programming languages in order to create those web applications that your target audience really loves.

Here is a list of programming languages that are used in web development – at least on all the most popular websites:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Java
  • .NET
  • C
  • C++
  • Ruby on rails
  • Scala
  • Python – including Django, which is the Python web development structure.

Note that the user interface of any website or application will basically be built using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. These are easily generated using any software that can generate text, such as Notepad of Word, amongst many others.

The primary purpose of JavaScript is to manipulate the Document Object Model (DOM), which is basically the representation of the website on the browser. It changes the displayed interface that is seen on the browser without changing the skeleton of the website, which is the HTML and CSS coding.

Primary web development languages

web development

You now have a general understanding of how the Internet works, how it evolved over time, and how these two factors have influenced web development as it is today.

Now it is time that you got an understanding of the technologies or languages that you will commonly find when it comes to web development.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

This is the basic building block of web development. All web development tasks have to include some HTML coding.

It is quite possible to create a full web application simply through the use of HTML, although it would not be as functional as it would be – his would simply be a web page and not a web application.

HTML is the one that defines the format and layout of any web page on the Internet. It is made of a number of tags which control the components and parts of the web page.

If you want to add an image to a web page, you use the tag .

Today, a browser parses the HTML and incorporates the CSS and JavaScript to render the page.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

Before the advent of CSS, HTML was uniquely used to define the organization of a web page and also define the style and display.

This presented a major challenge to web developers since every time that there was a need to change something on the website, the HTML would have to be changed on all pages of the site – a very laborious process especially for large websites.

This was the reason that CSS was developed. Although HTML and CSS sometimes overlap, CSS is primarily the one that determines the styling of a web page or application.

The CSS is linked to the web page and determines the styling, so if you want to change the style of a feature on the site, you simply have to change a few values on the CSS and the value is transmitted to all pages – as simple as that!

This is a useful piece of web tech

In order to change the style or color of a button for the whole site, you simply change the color code on the CSS and all buttons on the site change to the new color.

A developer who has a great understanding of CSS can do wonders with a website, including making features appear and disappear, change locations of elements, change and resize fonts and much more.

JavaScript

At the advent of JavaScript, it was a nondescript feature that was simply used to change basic elements on a web page. Today, it has evolved into a language that has taken a core position in the development of websites.

The unique nature of JavaScript is that it is a dynamic language that is executed directly within the web browser without having to send requests to the server.

JavaScript is used to enhance the interactivity of web pages and allows for the programmatic influencing of content and the web pages as a whole.

JavaScript has the capability of interacting with the underlying structure, or DOM, of a web page.

When JavaScript is used to influence the DOM, the style and structure of a page can be programmatically altered.

All his happens within the browser, except when you use Node.js which in turn runs the JavaScript on the server instead of the browser.

Rendering of web pages

There are two types of rendering that occur when a request is sent to the server. Before you can fully understand the basics of web development, you have to understand the difference between Server-side rendering and client-side rendering.

These two are quite confusing to most web developers.

Server-Side Rendering

In the basic and simplest aspect of web development, web pages are rendered on the server, the HTML, CSS and JavaScript are sent to the web browser so they can be deconstructed and presented to the user.

When we talk about server-side rendering, we are basically saying that the pages are fully created by the logic found on the server.

To illustrate further, it means that the logic for a web application, in the case of server-side rendering, is native to the server alone.

Looking at the evolution of the web, server-side rendering was the only way web pages could be displayed at the beginning.

To this day, ASP.NET and PHP still use server-side rendering. With the use of some types of JavaScript structures, server-side rendering can be altered to function like client-side rendering.

Client-side rendering

The increased power of modern browsers and the JavaScript engines in these browsers has brought a revolution that is pushing more for client-side rendering.

When talking about client-side rendering, we mean that all the content of the web page is rendered on the browser, through the use of JavaScript, instead of the server.

To visualize what client-side rendering is, imagine that the server is sending an “app” to the browser, which enables it to render web pages, produce navigations and request more information from the server.

Looking at the nuts and bolts of client-side rendering, JavaScript is used to create and change DOM elements, produce HTML and CSS in order to display the web page.

Client-side rendering is preferable and more efficient since it does not need to keep sending requests to the server. New web pages are rendered seamlessly, and new requests are then plugged into the web page dynamically.

What happens is that one page is loaded and then the contents of the age are manipulated dynamically.

Client-side and Server-side rendering can be combined in some instances, with some elements being rendered on the browser and others on the server.

Related Article: 11 Secrets about Web Design That Only the Smart Know

The difference between front-end development and back-end development

frontend-backend

These two terms are used frequently in web development circles and the difference between them is quite subtle.

Loosely put, front-end refers to what is viewed from the browser and is mainly concerned with the creation of a wonderful user experience. The back-end is what happens at the back of the website, and this includes the coding and programming of the site.

These two work hand-in-hand and can be viewed as two sides of the same coin.

Take a closer look at each of the two:

What is Front-end development?

Front-end development is about developing what a user can see and interact with on a website. The front end is used to order information from the back-end.

The front-end developer, also called the web designer, has to think about the bells and whistles that attract users to a website and encourages interaction and engagement. Front-end development is also termed as client-side development at times.

What is Back-end development?

Back-end development is about what the user cannot see, but makes the website function in the proper manner. Back-end development is about creating an indirect service provider for the front-end.

The back-end developer, also called a web developer or web programmer, has to think about the coding of the website so that it renders in the proper manner in all types of browsers. Back-end development is also termed as server-side development at times.

Both front-end development and back-end development work together so as to create a fully functional and aesthetically pleasing website that provides a wonderful user experience.

They are both crucial in web design and development, but their roles, environments and responsibilities are completely different.

The difference between web development and web design

design-and-development

According to data from Google Analytics, most businesses are searching for Web Design and Web Development with the thought that both mean that same thing. Even the experts use these terms interchangeably when they are describing the services that they offer.

However, the truth is that these two terms mean very different things.

They also require two very unique skills to be implemented.

Web design

This refers to the designing of the aesthetic parts of the website and also the usability or user experience.

A web designer will use tools such as Adobe Photoshop in order to create the visual elements and layout of the website.

A web designer has to carefully examine the objectives of the client with respect to the design of the site. They then move on and create an Information architecture (IA) which helps them see the hierarchy of the content and helps them come up with a design layout to fit said content.

The next step is the creation of mockups and wireframes, before moving on to the design and coding phase.

Web designers use several desktop design techniques and principles in order to come up with an aesthetically pleasing layout that also gives the optimum user experience.

The design principles

1. Balance – Web designers must create a balanced layout – these is what is referred to as heavy (with large, dark colors) or light (with small, lighter colors) elements. It is important that the correct proportion of these is used in order to have a well-balanced website.

 “Fun Fact: Using dark color in a website can be more beneficial as compared to light colors, as it increases traffic (2% vs. 1.31%), page views (2.98% vs. 2.91%), bounce rate (44.4% vs. 46.2%), and average time on the site (3.18 seconds vs. 3.15 seconds).” – Visually

2. Emphasis – This is a design technique that intentionally highlights certain crucial elements of a website layout. A web designer knows that emphasizing everything on a website means there is absolutely nothing that will stand out.

If a webpage has 90% of the content highlighted in blue, will anything really stand out? The Information architecture directs which parts should be highlighted.

3. Consistency – This is also called the rhythm or repetition, and is a crucial principle in web design. Creating a clean and consistent web navigation feature will enhance the user experience and cement engagement with a website.

4, Unity – This is the way in which different parts of the website and the full composition relate to one another. According to the Gestalt Theory, unity addresses the way in which the human brain organizes information visually, by grouping elements into categories.

“Fun Fact: After getting redirected to a company’s website via a referral site, 50% of visitors use the navigation menu to orient themselves” – KoMarketing

Web Development

On the other hand, web developers will pick up a design and then make a functional website from it. Web developers are more concerned with the coding of the website, whether HTML, CSS, PHP or other programming languages

Web developers bring web designs to life!

Web developers are also called programmers and are the ones that bring interactivity into the website. The design can be likened to a non-interactive “representation” of a website.

The developers take the design, break it down into components and then use a programming language to develop the web pages and bring them to life.

Advanced web developers will use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla, to streamline the development and give their clients a channel to maintain the website without any further input from the developer.

To wind up the differences between Web Design and Web Development, many businesses, big and small, looking for a website or a redesign of an existing site may be confused by the blurred distinction between these two disciplines.

There are people who are able to perform both, but sometimes, some companies clearly let the designers come up with the optics of the website and the hand them on to developers who then do the coding.

Now that you know the difference between web design and web development, it is time to learn more about Content Management Systems.

Related Article: 12 Steps for a Kickass Web Design Strategy

A Look at the Content Management System (CMS)

CMS

What is a CMS?

A Content Management System (CMS) is a web application that is used to create and manage web content. They are mostly used for:

  • Web content management (WCM) – the management of any content that is placed on a website that requires sequential publication, such as a blog
  • Enterprise content management (ECM) – this is used for workplace management of record, documents, digital assets and roles of personnel in the company.

WCM is publicly viewed and published on the open internet, but ECM remains behind the firewall of an organization since it is for internal use only.

Both ECM and WCM have two major components that enable them to function properly.

  • Content Management Application (CMA) – This is a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which plays the role of allowing the user to have control over the creation, removal and modification of content from the website, even he or she does not have any experience in website coding.
  • Content Delivery Application (CDA) – This is the application that delivers back-end services, which manage and support the delivery of content after it has been created in the above CMA.

The core features of CMS

The overall features of CMS offerings may differ, but they all do share some common core functions, which are playing the roles of indexing, format management, search & retrieval, publishing, and revision control.

  • Indexing, search & retrieval – These indexes all data enabling easy access by simply going through the search function. They work to enable access to content by author, keywords and date of publication.
  • Format Management – This enables the CMS to turn legacy electronic documents and scanned paper documents into PDF or HTML.
  • Revision – this allows a user to update and edit any content after it has been published. Tracking any changes made is managed by the revision control feature.
  • Publishing – Users can use a template or several templates that are approved by the CMS provider, together with third-party plugins, wizards and other tools in order to create, modify and publish content.

NOTE: A CMS can also be used for direct marketing on a one-on-one basis. One-on-one marketing refers to the ability of a website to tailor advertising and content depending on user habits.

For example, if a user went and searched for a fashion accessory, the advertisements displayed will feature fashion accessories and not cookbooks and recipes.

Some other features of CMS

  • Internal and online help functionality
  • SEO-friendly URLs
  • Customizable templates and full template support
  • Group-based permissions
  • Easy installation and versioning
  • Multi-language Admin panels
  • Minimal server demands
  • Unlimited Content hierarchy in terms of size and depth
  • Internal audit logs
  • Internal file managers

In order to be competitive on the Internet today, you must have a website that easily updates content and creates a wonderful user experience for your target audience

Enter Content Management Systems

It does not matter whether you are looking to create a simple blog, e-commerce website, a portal or any other form of web presence, there is always a CMS to fit your particular needs.

Below we look at two of the most popular CMS; one for blogging, and the other for e-commerce websites.

1. WordPress

WordPress is an open source web development and management tool, which is built on PHP. It is the top ranking CMS platform and worth mentioning. It is the most powerful blogging and website content management system – it commands 59% of the CMS market.

Features of WordPress

  • Custom logos, formatting shortcuts, internal linking
  • Embedded templates, selective refresh, smart image resizing
  • Updates to the JavaScript library

When looking for an e-commerce site, product showcase or a blog, having great quality, top-notch support and superior security, then Word Press is the perfect way to go.

2. Magento

Magento is the most popular platform for people who want to build an e-commerce site. It is also an open source platform with technology that gives users a flexible shopping cart system.

When it comes to e-commerce, Magento is considered to be the best CMS in the industry.

It has powerful catalog management systems, search engine optimization capability and marketing tools.

As far as e-commerce stores are concerned, Magento commands 9.69% of the market.

Features of Magento

As mentioned above, Magento is the one CMS tools that is more inclined towards the building of e-commerce sites. Here you can see some of the features that set it apart as an e-commerce CMS platform.

  • PayPal integration and enhancement – Saves credit and debit card records, and has PayPal in-context checkout.
  • Merchants easily quality for PCI compliance thanks to the Braintree enhancements
  • Enhanced management interface – Makes it faster and easier to search for data.

When looking for an e-store that has advanced payment systems and loads much faster than others, then you should definitely choose Magento.

A look at features and functions of a web database

What Is a Web Database?

This is a database application that is created to be accessed and managed through a web-based interface. Users can manage the collation of data and the subsequent presentation of its analysis, all within a web database application.

database

Web databases were first developed in the 1990s and have developed to be a great asset for most businesses, since they allow for the collection of an unlimited amount of data, from an infinite base of customers.

A web database will keep on expanding as long as there is enough space in the server to maintain it.

People use web databases to organize both business and personal data.

Data Organization

Web-based databases facilitate the proper organization of gathered data and the data can be cataloged into hundreds of categories and parameters.

Most web databases do not require you to be a computer geek; most of them have simple click-to-create functionality and no need for complicated coding. You simply fill in the fields and then save the record.

They also allow you to organize data in any manner that you see fit – by date, alphabetically or by some set of rules that you create.

Web Database Tools

Mist desktop publishing platforms have also created databases specifically targeted at web applications. Microsoft Office Access, OpenOffice Base, Webex WebOffice, and FormLogix are some databases that have been developed for the web by desktop software vendors.

Some of the leading web database tools are able to set up data collection forms, feedback forms, polls, etc., and present the results of the data analysis in real time.

Applicable Uses of Web Databases

Both large and small-scale businesses are able to use web databases to create feedback forms, online polls, inventory lists, customer or client lists and a lot more.

Personal web database application includes storing personal email accounts, a home inventory, personal website analytics and a lot more.

You can customize a web database to fit any form, or need, whether personal or for business.

MySQL

This is the most popular web database application and is used by many providers including WordPress, and is therefore worthy of some mention. MySQL (My Structured Query Language) is actually a relational database management system giving you the ability to manage several different databases.

It is an open source project and works as a server.

Web hosting companies bundle MySQL in their services to allow for the management of personal or business website databases.

MySQL operates much like a programming language and is, therefore, a little more challenging to understand when compared to other database software applications.

Takeaway

Web development is a very complex discipline, but also crucial in the design and development of a website that will engage customers and provide a wonderful user experience.

It goes without saying that having a well-laid out website, that has engaging content and is developed to be fast and efficient is one way of getting customers to engage and trust your business.

You now know the difference between web design and web development, so you will not go asking for a designer when you actually wan a developer.

Databases and CMS platforms help in the management of both data and content so you provide a sequential and enticing flow of content to your targeted audience.

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