5 Core Principles to Follow for Effective Web Development
Posted by Brendon McLeod • 04.11.2019
The web industry is a largely unregulated space, meaning that any two developers likely have very different ways of building websites. Unlike other skilled trades, there are no industry-standard certifications that a developer can obtain. This makes it very difficult for clients to understand exactly what they’re going to get when they’re working with a service provider.
At Yardstick, we’ve experienced this many times over the 10-plus years that we’ve been in this industry, and as a result have developed a set of internal principles that we always try to follow when developing a new site. This helps us to ensure that what we build is reliable, secure, and performs well. The following are the five principles that we believe help us to deliver great work and be a positive influence on others in our industry.
Create great user experiences
Always try to make the site as user friendly as possible. This results in more positive experiences for users and empowers our clients to manage their own content. Making accessibility a priority informs the decisions we make as developers about the user experience in both the backend and frontend of the site. Some examples of this include:
- Ensuring that the WordPress admin is as intuitive as possible so that our clients can manage their own sites without needing extensive training or support. This includes putting a lot of thought into things like content structure, custom field setup, theme and plugin selection, etc.
- Ensuring that the client is exposed to as little code as possible when managing content in the WordPress admin, and that a majority of the content can be managed using page builders and visual editors.
- Ensuring that web accessibility standards are followed as much as possible so that frontend users have an intuitive and predictable experience while viewing content, regardless of the device they’re using to access the site.
Rely on industry standards
Always try to use consistent and replicable solutions, and adhere to modern web practices. This ensures that the site is easy to continue working on going forward and that any developer is capable of making changes. Some examples of this include:
- Ensuring that any code we write (e.g. HTML, CSS, PHP, etc.) is error-free and written to meet semantic guidelines. We’re long past the days of using tables to create layouts, so our code should always reflect the way modern browsers expect content to be structured.
- Ensuring that we follow the WordPress recommended guidelines for developing websites. WordPress actually has an entire developers guide that the creators have provided to the community so that everyone follows the same rules.
- Ensuring that we document all of our standards and processes internally so that we’re completing work consistently, regardless of the team member responsible for it. Our launch process alone has over 100 steps that we work through each and every time we launch a new site.
Leverage the experience of others
Always try to learn from other experts, as someone has likely already solved any development problem that we’re presented with. This ensures that we’re never trying to re-invent a solution to a problem. Some examples of this include:
- Ensuring that team members are empowered to collaborate with one another to solve difficult development challenges as they come up over the course of a project.
- Ensuring that team members have time to meet regularly to share knowledge. Our team convenes weekly to discuss development challenges and strategize great solutions that become new Yardstick standards.
- Ensuring that we’re researching the best solutions if we don’t already have one for a particular problem. In a lot of cases, this involves reaching out to other development communities to ask questions and get feedback directly from the experts who help shape the web.
Find simple solutions
Always try to find the lightest and simplest solutions possible. This ensures the least amount of disruption and less time needed to adjust if a technology does change at some point in the future. Some examples of this include:
- Ensuring that plugins are not relied on to solve development challenges. Plugins require upkeep and can potentially become liabilities in the future if their developer doesn’t maintain them properly. More often than not, there’s a simpler and better way to solve a development challenge.
- Ensuring that theme and/or plugin files are never directly edited. Too often we come across developers who have made a change to a theme or plugin file that will then break the site if updated. We should never opt for a solution that will make developing and managing a site more difficult down the road.
- Ensuring that the WordPress and theme functionality is leveraged as much as possible before resorting to employing any kind of custom code. WordPress and WordPress themes are pretty robust these days, and allow us to build a majority of a site without overly relying on custom code.
Take pride in your work
Always try to build something that we’re proud to deliver to our clients. This ensures that Yardstick delivers the best possible visual and strategic web presence we can for our clients. Some examples of this include:
- Ensuring that we’re using the best technology available. The web industry moves quickly and a site can start to look and feel dated quickly if it’s not built on a solid, modern foundation.
- Ensuring that we always deliver the requested functionality if a reasonable solution exists and the client’s budget allows for it.
- Ensuring that we conduct a thorough quality assurance process and review the site from top to bottom prior to launch. Multiple members of the Yardstick team test a site against numerous standards before we approve it to go live.