When you visit a website or use an app, what you are seeing and interacting with is a finished product. However, don’t let the final look fool you; beneath the polished exterior is an intricate, meticulously crafted amalgamation of inputs and outputs that are needed to produce the desired end result. When combined, these aspects ensure that a website or app is not only functional but inviting and appealing as well. Every element must blend seamlessly and run efficiently in order to provide the optimal user experience (UX). In order for this to happen, web developers must apply a series of tried and tested guidelines, also known as web development best practices.
In this post, we take a look at some of the top web development best practices and the vital role each plays in the creation of a successful website or application. First, it’s important to address the difference between web design and web development, as the two concepts are often used interchangeably.
Web Development vs Web Design Standards
Often, web development and web design are used in the same context. Although there are some similarities between these two concepts, there are several key differences. Web design refers to the look of a site or application, including font styles, color schemes, and image placement, while web development is the process of bringing the site or app to life using various codes and control elements to ensure the app or website functions properly on both the backend (the server side) and frontend (consumer side). Naturally then, the standards that govern web development are not the same as those for web design.
Web design standards are more focused on producing a favorable sensory experience for the user. Designers choose visual elements that will come together harmoniously and appeal to users. An example of a web design standard would be using a uniform font or set of fonts to ensure consistency throughout a website or application.
On the other hand, website development standards are focused on making sure the app or site actually works—and keeps working. Developers are also responsible for the user interface (UI) aspect of a site or application, meaning the communication methods between users and devices. That being said, web design is intrinsically tied into the web development process not only because UI is also a design concern, but because the developer has to incorporate the designer’s style sheets into the web or app’s framework. This is one of the reasons why people often confuse the two terms.
The Top Web Development Practices to Abide By
Now that we’ve addressed the differences between web design and development, let’s delve deeper into the guidelines that web developers should follow to ensure a site or application runs smoothly and promotes greater user engagement. Below are some of the top high-value areas to concentrate on when developing an application or website.
Easy App and Website Navigation
Navigation refers to the path that users can take in order to access information on an app or website. Navigation bars and menus are one of the most important web development best practices because they are crucial to user experience. If users can’t find the information they are looking for quickly or return to previous screens or pages with ease, bounce rates will likely be high and conversion rates will likely be subpar.
To prevent poor UX, web developers should create a clear, consistent hierarchical navigation that allows users to make their way through a site or application smoothly. Main pages or screens should be on the top level, followed by child pages or secondary screens. The navigation menu should also be accessible at all times so users can always return to previous pages or screens without having to keep pressing the back button or use the search query.
In addition, keep the app or website navigation menu short and sweet to avoid information overload. When a website or app has too many pages or screens, users tend to get lost and/or lose focus. According to Crazy Egg, a good rule of thumb is to keep the navigation tight so that users can obtain the information they need in three clicks or less.
Finally, make sure important links like contact information are easily visible and accessible on all pages and screens. Hyperlinks should be bolded or in a different color than the surrounding text so they can stand out.
Compatibility With Different Screen Resolutions
Users access websites and apps in a variety of ways, such as through desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Because of this, web developers must ensure a website or app is adaptive and responsive so content and graphics can be displayed accurately across multiple devices without being distorted or lost.
Each device has its own unique screen resolution, especially smartphones. The web development process must account for these differences, particularly because it is highly likely that users will be using a mobile device to access a site or app.
Be sure to account for different mobile screen resolutions along with other devices to appeal to a wider audience. Keep the range between 360×640 through 1920×1080 so you can account for all types of devices.
Also, be sure to test the display before publishing a webpage or app. Rigorous testing is a vital component of web development best practices when it comes to screen resolutions because page layouts can often morph depending on the device. Responsive elements will conform to the user’s device and display both quickly and beautifully, even when the user zooms in. Take it one step further by tracking user data and the devices from which the greatest amount of traffic is coming. Then, concentrate on optimizing pages for those screen resolutions to boost user experience.
Fast Load Times
Load time is the amount of time it takes between the moment a user clicks on a webpage or opens an app to the point at which the contents on the page or app are fully available to view and explore. Several consequences may ensue if an app or website takes too long to load. Users will be much more likely to bounce and the site or application may end up receiving a poor Google ranking score.
Web development best practices urge developers to make sure website pages and applications load in less than three seconds (the faster the better). Depending on the type of page or app, just a second or two can make all the difference in retaining customers vs losing them. For example, in a Google Webmaster video, Maile Ohye actually recommends load times of two seconds or less for eCommerce sites and apps.
So how do you improve load times? Here are a few suggestions:
- Reduce HTTP requests by combining files – The more files you have, the longer it will take for your site or app to load. Combine files if possible or limit them to the essentials.
- Compress images – Similar to having too many files, larger files like images take longer to load. Fortunately, you can decrease load times by reducing the size of your images using a compression tool like TinyJPG (which is free to use).
- Stick to one programming language – Mixing different languages creates compatibility issues and can reduce loading speed as a result. Pick one language or at least minimize the languages you use and make sure they are compatible to avoid rendering downtime.
- Choose better hosting options – Choose VSP over shared servers and when possible, opt for a dedicated server so you won’t have to share resources.
Before a website or application goes live, you need to ensure that all the features are functioning and displaying properly. In order to do so, it is imperative to create a test platform through which you can make changes and manipulate elements before actually publishing.
Testing environments essentially generate a preview of the site or app you are creating and allow developers to see how components interact with one another, the way elements are being displayed on various devices, and if there are any issues that need to be addressed. When it comes to web development best practices, testing environments are crucial. The reason being that once a site or app is published, additional steps must be taken to correct any issues and they aren’t as simple as fixing them prior to launch.
Correcting Website Issues Post-Launch
When a site is published, Google soon begins to crawl it. Although updates can be made at any time and will be visible on-page immediately, if a developer notices an issue after publishing, it may take some time for Google to recrawl the site and for those changes to reflect on Search, even when submitting the site for reindexing via Google Console. This can lead to a negative impact on site rankings.
Correcting App Issues Post-Launch
While websites can be updated instantly with the push of a button (despite the additional time it will take to recrawl them), if there is a problem with an app, developers need to create an updated version for users to download. This can be inconvenient because app downloads (even updates) take up a significant percentage of the user’s internet data. This isn’t a problem if the user is connected to a WiFi network. However, if the app is essential to the user, meaning they need the latest version right away, the user will have to spend a considerable amount of their monthly data plan allotment to download the updated version of the application.
Questions About Web Development Best Practices? Koombea Is Here for You
Launching a website or application is no small feat. There are numerous details involved in the web development process and just one wrong decision can mean the difference between success and failure. To avoid any missteps, it is vital to consult with an experienced team of web developers.
At Koombea, we implement web development best practices so your site or app is optimized for any device. We also take the time to evaluate your business objectives to ensure that the message your website or application conveys is fully aligned with your brand’s voice and will appeal to your target audience.
To build a new app or website or revamp an existing one so it meets current software development standards, contact us today to schedule a FREE consultation with one of our team members.