How to Become Efficient With a 5 Step Web Development Life Cycle

web-designer-know-the-power-of-good-website-designAre you an aspiring web developer or an experienced programmer?

Efficiency and improving productivity are two goals that every professional web & software developer should aim to achieve.

But how exactly do you transform from a newbie engineer to an experienced and efficient web developer in this fast changing and dynamic profession like web development?

Before I jump right in and outline a 5 step web development lifecycle that has helped me boost my productivity over the years…

…here are three reasons why you should aim to maximize your efficiency as an enterprise software developer with a proven website development lifecycle.

  1. Shorter Development Time

A proper web development lifecycle would ensure there is enough planning that goes into an application development.

This will ensure that a lot of time is saved upfront because all the aspects of the application will already be put into consideration before any coding begins.

That is to say you remove surprises along the way, which are the biggest time wasters.

  1. Highly Scalable Software

Business needs, and therefore software requirements, change with the ever evolving dynamics of the business environment.

If you build your web application with a proper development lifecycle you will be able to allow ample room for growth to accommodate future client needs… this will make you a more efficient software developer.

  1. Better Client Satisfaction

Your web development client might not be technical enough to understand the nittygritties that go into a web development lifecycle…

…but following a proper and efficient development procedure will ensure that you deliver on your deadlines.

Besides, knowing what exactly you will have to deal with and what you will require enables you to manage client expectations in a more efficient way which directly leads to better client satisfaction with your development services.

Now that that is out of the way and you are stoked, ready to jump onto the bandwagon of efficient software developers…

Here is a 5 step software development lifecycle that every enterprise, as well as individual web developer, should embrace in order to achieve more productivity and efficiency in software development.

Although technical knowledge in skills like HTML, CSS and JavaScript, which you could learn by taking a few web development courses on Udemy, are key to designing and laying out a web site, there is always much more that goes into website development that we miss picture of on front end.

Most of the time and resources that go into website development are usually spent into aspects like gathering and collection information, planning, usability testing, launch, post-launch maintenance among others…

Depending on whom you ask, web development life cycle can span different stages ranging from 3 up to 9 stages… but for this case I will condense them into 5 steps that work for me.

STEP 1: Information Gathering

This is the first and most important stage because it determines how subsequent steps that follow will look like.

This is the point where you determine the main purpose and goals of the website that you are building, the future plans as well as the target audience that you intend to attract.

With regards to audience you will have to curtail your website to match the age group and interest groups you will be targeting.

For example, an education resource for teenage kids will have a different design approach to those targeting adults…

This will affect your design pattern as well as the technologies that you’ll choose.

A well described and detailed website development plan, based on the information gathered here, will protect you from resources wasted in the future caused by unexpected issues such as design changes, as well as adding new features and functionality that did not exist before.

STEP 2: Planning the Sitemap and Creating a Wireframe

At this stage of the web development life cycle you will create data that you then present to your client in order to give them a general idea of what the entire website will look like.

Having gathered enough information at stage one, you will now use that information here to develop a sitemap for the entire site.

When you design a sitemap for your website, your goal is to ensure it gives a general overview and shows how the different parts of your site relate.

Still not convinced that you need a sitemap beforehand?

Here are three fundamental reasons why you need a sitemap:

  1. i) A proper sitemap will enable you to build a user friendly website which is easy to navigate.
  2. ii) A sitemap will enable you understand how the inner structure of a site will look like even before you do the user interface.

iii) A sitemap will also give you an insight into the usability of your website once it’s done. For example, with a sitemap you’ll get to know how many steps or clicks an end-user would have to make in order to find particular information they might be looking for from the homepage.

Akin to the sitemap is a wireframe.

Usually before you begin any coding or design of the user interface, you’ll need to get some approval from your client or customer that everything looks fine before you can start the next phase of website development.

This is where a wireframe comes in…

A wireframe will be a visual representation of the user interface that you are going to create… but without any design elements like fancy coloring or logos.

It just describes the elements that you will add to the page and their specific locations. Or simply put, a wireframe is a sketch of your user interface.

One last important decision I make at this stage is to choose the technology stack that I will use for the projects.

This is where I choose the particular programming language or languages to use, the framework or CMS depending on the nature of the website or application my client needs.

STEP 3: Page Layout Design

It is during this design phase that your website begins to take shape.

At this stage you will use the information collected during the first stage to aid you in developing the visual aspect of your website i.e. the images, photos, logos, videos, pagesetc.

You will also have to take the target audience into consideration when designing the visual layout in order to ensure you or your client’s target audience will be able to make the most of the visual elements on the site.

Your primary goal of designing a website layout is to represent the information structure, visualize the website content and demonstrate the basic functionality.

Once I have the layout ready I will send it to my client for his feedback. If the client is not satisfied with the layout design and would like a couple changes, I will then effect the changes and send back the design to him.

Usually you will have to repeat this process a couple times until you and your customer are satisfied and in agreement on the desired layout of the site.

STEP 4: Coding

At this stage all the graphics elements and web content are ready from the previous stages.

This is where to you sit and get your hands dirty writing some code… you finally start to create the actual website.

You will begin by creating the homepage after which you add other subsequent pages in accordance with the website hierarchy you developed in the sitemap previously.

It is also at this point that you will run your CMS or framework installation, depending on the technology stack you chose previously, to ensure that everything runs smoothly and the server is able to render pages.

At the coding stage a deep technical understanding of the technology stack you chose previously comes in handy.

With your tech skills as a software developer, you’ll put together and test the static page elements that you designed during the mock-up and layout stage.

At the coding stage your skills in SEO(Search Engine Optimization) will be useful in helping you optimize website elements like page title, description and keywords in order to achieve higher rankings in the search engines.

After I’ve put together all the page elements I will run usability tests to ensure that everything is working as expected.

Here are 4 things to look out for when running tests on your website

  • Click through every page to ensure there are no broken links
  • Check every form on your site to ensure they submit properly
  • Run a spell-check software or plugin to ensure there are no typos on your webpages and text
  • You could as well run code validators to ensure your code follows current coding patterns and standards. This is important in ensuring you write code that is secure and for purposes of cross-browser compatibility

STEP 5: Website Launch and Maintenance

At this point all the grunt work is done… you’ve written all the code for the website, you’ve run and rerun tests and everything seems fine.

So what are you waiting for?

Deploy your website.

In order to deploy your website, you’ll have to upload the files and folders to a web server, one that you chose in the previous stages, using an FTP(File Transfer Protocol) software.

When your code is live, we say you’ve finally launched your website.

But just to be sure everything is still intact,I run another test on the live code/website to ascertain all features and functionality work as they did on my local computer.

This is usually the point most developers are like ghrrr…

Often your website will break down when you move to a live server because of varying settings and configurations from server to server that requires some element of customization.

As a professional web developer it is also important to note that a website is more of a service than a product.

Just delivering the website code to your customer is not enough…

…you will have to make sure that everything continues to work and that everybody is happy and satisfied post-launch.

This is what we call website maintenance.

Because often your client or customer will require you to make changes to the website or add new features even after the website is long live.

Besides, the best way to test a software or website is to give it to the end users… it is only after they use it that you will be able to know from their feedback that the website actually does what it is supposed to do.

Through the feedback forms you installed on your website, users will be able to report any malfunction that they encounter with your website or application and you’ll have to be there to fix these problems as soon as they arrive in your inbox.

Remember that if your client’s broken website stays unfixed for a prolonged period of time, the website visitors or users will opt to start using hiscompetitor’s site.

And this will have a direct impact on his conversions and therefore sales…

…and who wants that?

If you opted to use a CMS or framework you will have to keep updating it to ensure you have the latest bug fixes and security upgrades in place to protect your customer’s website from petty hackers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, just like we discovered in the previous stage, website development doesn’t start with coding and doesn’t end the day you launch your client’s website on their server…

…and it is important to always keep that in mind!

The stage that has to do with website planning, especially the information gathering stage, is very useful because it affects what subsequent stages will be about.

Proper planning, using a proven web development life cycle, will always ensure that your website development process is very productive and efficient.

It is also important to always have in mind the nature of the target audience your client aims to attract to his website.

Being armed with information on their ages, interests and sex will be really important in making user interface design decisions for maximum website usability, and therefore the success of your website.

Choosing the right technology stack will ensure your website or application gives room for future expansion, adding new features and securing your site…

…saving your unexpected troubles and boosting your confidence in your sleep that everything will be fine with your website.

I personally usually spend more time in the planning stage than in the other stages.

And you, what has been your experience so far while developing websites?

Which stages of the website development life cycle do you find most challenging as a beginner?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Geoffrey Barnes is a web developer and blogger at LoudProgrammer.net. He writes about mobile app development, web development tips and software developer productivity hacks. He is also a contributor to and champions for open source software.

Top Digital Skills to Learn in 2018

digital marketing training in bangaloreThe digital world is getting freed of virtuality chains. It’s becoming the life source of many people and a mainstream of most companies’ success. In fact, it’s really hard to imagine any business whatsoever, that doesn’t participate in the digital market. Hence, there’s no need to stress the importance of digital skills in our current days. Yet, the technology might seem really frightening to grasp at times. There are tons and tons of skills, literally, that you could learn. If you open a website like Lynda, the sheer amount of courses and skills that you could learn could be frustrating. So how could you pick the most valuable digital skills to learn? Well, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of the top digital skills that you ought to learn in order to gain an edge over your peers.

1. Analytics

No one could argue against the importance of analytics in any business, and the same goes for digital businesses. With tools like Google Analytics, you take full control of your business and you can base your decision upon that. For instance, you get an overview of all traffic channels. You can determine how much traffic you get from SEO and how much from backlinks etc. You can also determine the bounce rate and the customer’s engagement on your website. This provides a more profound understanding of your business’s status and allows you to take an appropriate action, one that’s based on actual data and a simple hunch of hand analysis.

This means you can provide a better UX or tweaks to your products and services to meet the customer’s need and reach his full satisfaction. If you’re still unsure about the power of digital analytics, read about the 300 million dollars study case that wouldn’t have been possible without analytics.

2. Content Strategy

If you can drive a massive amount of traffic to your website, it would still be useless if you can’t deliver the right message. Content strategy is a process that starts with the development of the content up until the delivery of the content and the message. It’s how you attract your customers in, and how you keep them hooked and even how you transform them into your loyal customer base. It answers the fundamental questions of marketing of how and when you want to reach this customer. What’s your strategy to do so, how to leverage your content’s power for maximum impact and so on. It’s at the core of any successful business and the current heart of SEO.

3. Search Engine Optimization

One of the biggest buzz words in the digital world is SEO. It’s one of the crucial things for any business, the master of all traffic there is. About 40% of any traffic is made through searching, and around 90% of that traffic goes into the first page of any search engine. The thing about this type of traffic is that it delivers targeted customers, not just random people with ads, but rather people who are genuinely interested in your products. The conversion rate of these people is pretty high which means a lot of revenue for your business. As search engines always try to deliver the most suitable and related content to your search, the field of SEO keeps on changing continuously, and there are a lot of points to cover as well. It’s not just about who is talking more about a certain keyword. It’s also about who’s got a more authoritative opinion on the matter, who is likely to be the one you’re searching for, who is likely to satisfy your demand. Even the way you apply SEO differs, from in-site content to code optimization and there are a lot of other things that SEO covers as well. It’s a fierce battle for sure, but it could be broken down into a somewhat systematic strategy that you can apply to your business.

4. Basic HTML/CSS

You might think that HTML and CSS are just coding stuff, but they’re not. Basic HTML/CSS are a basic skill for understanding the web. It’s crucial for marketers, designers, and developers. Without these skills, for example, marketers wouldn’t be able to optimize their pages and draw out the full potential of SEO. It would just be impossible. You’ve got to deepen your understanding of the web because that’s just the base of everything.

Now if you’re ready to up your game a little bit and push it a little, then you can learn Angular. Angular is a JavaScript framework that is just ideal for single page applications and creating dynamic content. Angular is at the heart of many famous websites that we visit and there are a lot of cool things that you can bring to your business with it.

5. Design

We’re not just talking about web design here. We are talking about writers, photographers, and designer alike. These skills are all in high demand now, and the coherence of those skills is what makes the content alive. The ability to design the full experience, from the smallest to the biggest detail is of the essence for a digital business.

Honorable Mentions

6. WordPress

CMS in general and WordPress specifically are a valuable asset to add to your skills. They change the game when it comes to content creation and SEO. If you’re not using CMS, you’d waste 50% of the time creating the content in actually laying it out, which is totally inefficient. CMS offers quick and better solutions for getting your content up and running in no time at all. There are many tools out there, but the most used is WordPress. Note that there are a lot of plugins for WordPress that boosts its performance even more, and offer a wide range of solutions like SEO. By mastering a CMS you’d boost your skills and widen the range of the services you can offer, or you can use it for your own pleasure and create a blog or a personal page, that would work too.

7. Social Media Management

There’s a lot of things that we don’t know about social media management and a lot of potential in social media for digital businesses. Social Media Management isn’t about “managing a Facebook page.” There’s a lot of aspects for this job, like managing social media campaigns, engaging with the audience, using content strategy to deliver the message. A lot of traffic is actually generated by social media, and it’s not to be underestimated.

Summary

There are a lot of digital skills that you can learn and a lot of them will be beneficial. You need to identify your goal first, and what you want to do, then dive deep into those skills. At the end of the day, if you master any of them, it will be rewarding and totally worth it. Moreover, one skill will lead you to another, as you can’t be static in the digital world. Don’t stop at one place. Keep on learning something new, the world is always changing and so should you.

 

Author

Saurabh Hooda, Co-founder of Hackr, based in India

Integrating Cryptocurrency Into Your E-Commerce Website

CryptoAs the internet continues to evolve, e-commerce websites need to adapt to changes to the digital landscape in order to remain relevant and competitive. One of the biggest growing developments is the emergence of cryptocurrency – a new all-digital asset – that has been increasing in popularity; many crypto enthusiasts naturally want to use this digital currency to make purchases online, and this has created a demand for more online marketplaces to accept crypto as an accepted payment.

However, that’s often easier said than done. While anyone running a successful e-commerce site is obviously well aware of how traditional payment processors like Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal operate, these payment methods still use traditional currencies. Here’s what you need to know about cryptocurrencies, which ones are the most appropriate for integrating into an e-commerce website, and how to go about doing so.

Narrowing the Playing – and Paying – Field

It’s simply not practical to set your e-commerce site up to accept more than one or two cryptocurrencies. This is to be expected – there are more than 1000 of these digital coins being traded actively around the globe – so it behooves you to make an important choice: which cryptocurrency do you want to support?

First and foremost, you should put Bitcoin in the running as your first choice. The oldest and most well-known digital coin, Bitcoin is also the runaway favorite for many cryptocurrency enthusiasts. It’s also the most highly-valued, as even after the massive price corrections the coin underwent in late 2017 and early 2018, a single Bitcoin is still worth more than $10,000.

Choosing just one cryptocurrency is usually more than enough for a typical e-commerce site. There are other contenders out there as far as popular coins – Ethereum being the first runner-up in this instance – but because of Bitcoin’s market penetration, choosing the great grandaddy of them all as your target cryptocurrency is likely your best choice.

Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty

There are many ways to integrate a cryptocurrency payment option, and they range from third-party providers that handle every aspect for you, website plugins designed to work with specific e-commerce platforms, or setting up an independent do-it-yourself option. There are benefits and drawbacks for every method, listed below:

1. The Do-It-Yourself Method

This method provides you the most control but is not for the faint of heart. It involves downloading a piece of software called a “digital wallet” for the cryptocurrency of your choice. This will be, ultimately, where any cryptocurrency paid to you will end up; as this will most likely be Bitcoin, you have a large selection of wallets to choose from.

Next, you’ll need to set up an account on a cryptocurrency exchange site, as this will allow you to trade the Bitcoin you accumulate into a different currency – such as US dollars – that you can then transfer elsewhere. There are literally dozens of exchanges, and some even support automated trading, which means you could ostensibly take your Bitcoin earnings and attempt to maximize them; if this is of interest to you, this list of top cryptocurrency trading robots may be of use. However, this is a rather advanced technique.

Finally, you will need to generate several “addresses” from your Bitcoin wallet to provide to customers who want to use Bitcoin to purchase your products and services. The customer sends the Bitcoin to your wallet address, you send that Bitcoin to an exchange, and then you trade it for USD and transfer it to a traditional bank account. It’s cumbersome, but again, this affords you the highest levels of control.

2. The Plugin Method

If you don’t want to fiddle with fine-tuning your website to accept Bitcoin, you can often use a custom-made plugin to handle the more esoteric functions. There are plugins for many web platforms like WordPress, Shopify, WooCommerce, or Magento, so odds are that you’ll be able to find one that accommodates your needs.

However, be aware that even with a plugin doing the dirty work, you’ll still need to have both a wallet to collect the cryptocurrency customers pay you. Also, you’ll need to transfer these digital coins to an exchange to turn them into a more easily used “real world” currency if needed.

3. The Third-Party Method

While this method does relieve you of many of the burdens of the ones detailed above, it also means that you’re at the mercy of one of these third-party providers when it comes to the types of services they provide and what types of fees they may charge for the privilege.

Third-party providers do almost all the work for you. They offer payment processing integration with your website, house your Bitcoin in their own mobile wallet, and also act as an exchange, allowing you to transfer that Bitcoin into a bank account of your choosing. The two biggest and most well-known of these providers, BitPay and Coinbase, are both excellent choices as one-stop solutions; BitPay is exclusively for Bitcoin, while Coinbase supports a handful of additional cryptocurrencies like Ethereum.

A Few Caveats

Before you jump in with both feet, there are a few things to think about. While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies offer benefits such as high security, transparency, and speed, they do exist in a legal grey area because they’re not regulated by any central authority. This has led to attempts to regulate them for businesses that are based within specific countries; in some regions, such as Bolivia, Ecuador, and Algeria for example, using Bitcoin is banned. It’s best to check your country for any legal issues before integrating.

Additionally, while Bitcoin is becoming increasingly adopted, its popularity has led to some additional mechanical issues. The blockchain network that acts as Bitcoin’s backbone can sometimes get overwhelmed when demand spikes, and this has resulted in some instances of slower-than-normal transfers – as well as temporarily inflated processing fees. While work is being done to rectify these issues, it is something to be aware of; other, less popular cryptocurrencies might not be as widely adopted, but they are also less likely to suffer from these periodic issues.

The Currency of the Future

Despite the issues that cryptocurrencies currently face, these problems are not likely to persist for any length of time. Once these challenges are overcome, it’s likely that integrating cryptocurrencies will become a popular option to pursue for e-commerce sites that want to remain competitive. Adopting these digital currencies today – or at least designing a strategy for your own e-commerce site – is an excellent way to future-proof your business.

 

Author:

Catherine Tims is the owner of  Ivy League Content . After receiving her Master’s degree in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Arizona, she taught writing to graduate students at the University of Illinois/Champaign-Urbana. She has her own writing business, Ivy League Content, and freelances full time for business clients who need highly-researched articles.

How to Retain Your Best Talent

retentionRetaining your best talent has to be one of the most important mandates you give your HR teams. Your employees are perhaps your biggest assets, and as such, need to be retained over time to ensure growth and success continuously. Retaining talent is part art and part science, and in this post, we will see some steps you can take to help retain your best talent:

1. Show them that you value them

One of the best ways to retain your talent is to show them that you value their efforts and that they are one of the most important components of the organization. When they know that their efforts are being recognized and valued, employees are more likely to continue and work harder.

2. Offer them scope for career growth and advancement

Employees are not in it just for the money – of course money is one of the biggest motivators, but perhaps equally is the scope for advancement. It is human nature to want more and better, and if employees think that they can get the same at the workplace, they are more likely to stay. If a team leader knows that his or her career path is laid out, and that he or she will move on to assistant managerial and managerial roles in time, they will be happy to give their best for the organization.

3. Equip them with skills

Employees need to constantly upgrade their skills to be relevant in today’s ever-changing market. Instead of making them turn to outside sources for training and skill development, organizations must offer the same along with any other technical training needed. If employees think that they are more likely to gain something by staying, they will. These skills and other technical training programs should be designed keeping in mind the needs of the employee, and should be decided with inputs from the employee.

4. Hire right

How do you ensure that your employees will stay with you for a long term? Simply by posing the same question to the candidates who walk in for an interview, and hiring those who gave the right responses. If hiring is done right, more than half the issues in HRM can be sorted. Same is it with retention. By getting in people who very badly wanted to be there in the first place, and by eliminating those who do not fit the organizational culture, hiring can be done right. Hiring is too important a job to take lightly.

5. Offer adequate compensation

One of the biggest culprits of lack of retention is the lack of adequate compensation for employees. When employees feel that they are not getting paid what they are worth, they will be looking for newer workplaces. Therefore, organizations must ensure that they have an effective payroll structure that rewards performers and gets rid of laggards. Compensation need not be monetary always – some perks will also act as drivers of retention.

Ultimately, retention is about trusting your employees and equipping them with what they need to perform the job so that they can be good at it and take pride in it.

 

James Maron is an author at SutiHR. He shares his views on SaaS and Cloud-based business management solutions.

Making the Most of Corporate Travel with Expense Report Software

corporate-transportationCorporate travel policies are outlined to provide clear guidelines for travelers, saving organization’s money by cutting down excessive spend. Organizations should make the policies easy to adhere in order to achieve compliance. Creating an easy-to-use travel and entertainment expense policy can enable organizations to have a clear picture of what’s happening with employee expenses. It is difficult for employees to remember company policies when making purchases. In addition, lengthy policies are overly restrictive, making it more difficult for employees to comply with Travel and Expense (T & E) policies.

Although the policy is clear and understandable, enforcement is still required. Certain protocols and measures need to be in place to make it easy for companies to prevent expenses being submitted and approved. Companies with an automated solution can reduce their reimbursement cycle time and improve compliance while making the auditing process easy. Additional measures should be enforced to prevent out-of-policy expense claims from being submitted.

The following are three biggest reasons for why manual expense reporting does not work for achieving compliance:

1. Pre-approvals

A pre-approval process ensures compliance with the defined corporate travel and expense policies. Organizations that rely on manual travel and booking process can easily bypass out-of-policy expense claims as no prior approval is required. Expense software complemented with corporate cards and travel booking tools can mandate pre-approval process for any expenses being claimed by the employee. Travel policies are defined in both booking tool and the expense solution, making sure that approvers receive pre-trip approval request. This approach would make sure that employee expense claims are always in compliance with T & E policy.

2. Expense Entry

When expenses are entered manually, users can enter any amount on a purchase. This may be a legitimate purchase or an out-of-policy expense claim. Automated solutions can incorporate corporate travel policy into the expense tool and set business rules. The rules can automatically enforce parameters for expense claims and define whether to avoid expenses from being submitted or flag as out-of-policy. Therefore, when an employee enters an out-of-policy expense, the system can automatically flag or allow travelers to give reasons behind it. This would improve policy compliance and continuously remind employees about the policy parameters.

3. Expense Approval

The entire process should come through the approver who is responsible for verifying and validating expenses that employees submit. Approvers may have to verify hundreds of reports that require expense approval, and the reports will come from various countries, roles, and departments, which impacts the way expense policy applies to them. It is practically impossible to expect employees to understand and remember every facet of the corporate travel policy and it is highly unlikely to recall the nuances of the policy as it applies at the global level. Also, approvers don’t find time to refer back to the corporate travel and expense policy to verify and validate each expense claim. As a result, chances are there that many expenses slip through the cracks, which would inadvertently pass through the approval process.

While automated online expense report solution helps enforce compliance at the point of expense entry. This would also make an approver’s job much easier and prevent out-of-policy expense claims from being submitted. Secondly, the automated solution would flag suspicious expense claims so approvers can make decisions. In this way, expense report software makes approver job easy.

While 100% policy compliance isn’t possible in organizations, relying on manual expense submission and approval processes would result in major challenges for companies. Implementing an online expense report solution can pay you more by eliminating out-of-policy expense claims.

 

James Maron is an author at SutiSoft, Inc. He shares his views on SaaS and Cloud-based business management solutions.