Web and app development

Whilst the term "web development" covers the whole process of planning, designing, and building your site or app, in this section we're going to look at the code and more technical side of things. Now you really don’t need to know too much about what goes on here, but you do need to know the importance of code.

Coding is programming, is web development, is building websites. It has lots of different names but sometimes people don’t realise it exists/is a phase. But it’s the bit that actually gives you a website!

All websites and apps are written in code - even if you use software or a website creation tool, they're generating code to tell computers how your website should look and behave. We recommend you use a web developer who can write this code themselves, by hand - rather than someone who has to rely on code creation tools. This is just so that when you request a change, your development team aren't restrained by what the tool they're using will let them do. There's also a lot of knowledge and experience which comes with coding by hand, and this understanding of how things work can help with all aspects of your site.

Front-end code is when developers / coders / web programmers write code which tells a browser how to interpret your page design, typically in HTML and CSS. So the code will in effect say “there’s a box, and it sits to the right, and it’s x wide and it’s got a blue background with a really thin grey border”. But they don’t just type that! They type the code – in various programming languages depending on what they prefer – that the browser understands.

Back-end code is the stuff that makes your website do clever things, like send messages, or let people log in, or let update your pages by communicating with your database and lots of other technical stuff behind the scenes on your site. If your website is “open source” this might be PHP, or if not it might be .Net – just a couple of the programming languages available.

And then – just in a nutshell to keep it simple – somewhere in the middle you can get code called JavaScript which does clever things, and can talk to the Back-end if it needs to whilst looking cool and giving nifty effects on the Front-end like pictures moving or letting you drag things around.

It’s particularly this stage where projects can come unstuck if the company you’ve found aren’t experienced enough / don’t know how to code. There are lots of companies who offer web design and can produce great simple brochure sites, but can’t build you a system that has to do whatever you want it to. 

Even if you use an online website builder, there's still code being written behind the scenes, but the online tool provider have made a clever website which can write that code itself. And that's great for a brochure site, but it's of course going to have it's limitations; no piece of software can be built (yet!) that can make a completely bespoke complex system. For that you need an experienced coder who can write the thousands of lines of dots and dashes you need!

WordPress and website software

A lot of website designers use software such as WordPress to make great looking websites. WordPress is extremely popular the world over because you don't need to know any code to just upload it to a server and install a theme. (Or, for those who can code, you can push it further.) However, we'd strongly recommend that if you're paying someone for a website, you check that they do know how to code should you need it. Yes, they might cost more but that's because you're buying experience and knowledge - and you might be surprised how even the most basic of jobs is done differently by someone who's been working on the web for a long time.

At the end of the day though, if you want to get your brother's mate's cousin to set you up a WordPress and you'll owe him a beer then that's great and who can blame you - but just remember you can't be disappointed with him if he has a techincal question you can't answer or you ask him to do something on the site which he doesn't know how to.

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