Do You Have Your Custom Web Development Risks Under Control?

Managing custom web development is managing a software project. More and more, average people in average businesses are managing software projects in the form of customized blogs, websites, and e-commerce shopping carts. Even more so, if they are trying to deploy a custom intranet application, for internal use by their company’s employees, or an extranet application, for use by their customers and corporate partners, they may find themselves faced with developing a fully custom software system.

For example, one project I recently worked on is a custom extranet application that a certain company’s clients use to submit jobs to the company. As each job request goes through the system, a number of people in the company need to add information and sign off on it. This automated system was thick with business rules for this particular company and as a result was almost completely custom, because no off-the-shelf software got even close to doing the job the way they needed it done. It was expensive for them to develop, but it allowed them to automate a process that previously had been manually intensive. (Before this, they would email Excel spreadsheets around. Now, the computer handles all the grunt work, and frequently, all a human has to do is click “Approve.”)

This is an extreme example, but more moderate examples also exist. For example, a Gilmore Girls fansite I put together years ago had custom database features in order to store memorable quotations from the show with fan commentary, linked to episode and topical guides. That’s something that has not to my knowledge been done before or since. It required custom programming and configuration to process user submissions, store the data, and display the data in the right format.

Unfortunately, if you’re facing this type of project, many of the consultants and service providers you talk to will not be aware of the software development issues involved and how to manage the software-development risk. They may try to shoehorn your problem into something off-the-shelf software can accomplish. Or they may just “hack together” custom programming, without managing the complexity of the underlying software design. Or they may want an up-front specification of everything your project needs to do and may want to spend months working out these details, under the guise of good planning. But how can you plan a project you have zero experience with? You can’t. And neither can they.

Now, this is not a problem if all you need is a stock installation of off-the-shelf software. For example, if all you need is a WordPress blog with off-the-shelf plugins and an off-the-shelf theme, the traditional approach is the right one. Figure out what you need, install it, make sure it works, and release it to the world. Even if all you need is a custom theme for a stock website, the traditional graphic design approach–3 mock-ups, choose one, then implement it in code–may be the best approach. Even if you have a semi-custom installation of a more complex web application, like a content management system or an e-commerce shopping cart, the traditional approach may be acceptable.

But the more customization your project requires, the more software engineering concerns will impact it, and the more ignoring these concerns will put your project at risk. This is especially important in a financial squeeze, where you need to maximize what you get for your software-development dollar and minimize the risk that the project will go off track or bust.

If you find yourself faced with this prospect, here are 13 “lucky” software development tips to planning and executing your next web development project, briefly:

  1. Resolve to take tiny steps. Don’t develop and deploy the system in one big leap. Rather, do it in small chunks so that you can monitor its progress and adjust its direction each step of the way.
  2. Find an expert you can trust, then trust him. Don’t just look for someone to bang out code for you, but for someone to advise you on technology and on the software development process.
  3. Don’t commit to which features you want until you need to develop them. Wait until the last responsible moment before committing. That gives you more time to gain the experience at each step to choose the most important features to add next.
  4. Make sure the contract allows for changes, and make changes before committing, but not after. Work with a development team who will allow you to make changes to the plan, up to the point at which they begin actually implementing your requests.
  5. Provide software requirements in the form of objective test procedures. Go step by step through a typical usage scenario so that the developers can understand what you envision, and so that your in-house testers can know that they implemented what you asked for.
  6. Set objective acceptance criteria for each feature. Be as flexible as you can without giving up your core requirements. Think through ahead of time what you really need and what you can get away with. Then talk to the developers about what they can do to give you the former.
  7. Ask the developers how long each feature will take to implement, and whatever they tell you, trust but verify. Many developers are over-optimistic in their estimates. So depend on their expertise in estimating time-to-completion, but verify it with your own measurements.
  8. Make an “expert user” available to advise the developers. Good developers will ask you questions about the system that you probably never thought of. Assign an “expert user” to answer these questions, someone in your company who can represent the users of the system to the developers.
  9. Get regular status updates. Have someone in-house look at each release. Meet with the development team leader every week to address issues. Stay in constant communication.
  10. Expect the possible, but not the impossible. If your developer says such-and-such a task will take a month, don’t argue him down to a week. Rather, talk about what parts of it you can leave out to reduce the time it will take.
  11. Be prepared to choose which features are more important, and which are not. If the developer asks you to choose which of two features is more important, don’t insist that both are critical and must be done next week. Make the hard choices. Pick one to do this week, and leave the other until next.
  12. Expect to fail in the short term, even if you’re optimistic in the long term. Microsoft didn’t get Windows right until version 3. You also may need to wait until the third monthly release before you see anything usable in your application.
  13. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug. At some point, you’ll find that all the most important features are already working and that the ones that are left aren’t actually worth what you’re paying for them. At that point, stop buying new features, and move onto the next project.

Not every development shop will be able to work within these bounds. These tips do come from many years of experience, failed projects, and successful ones. But there’s also a certain amount of faith involved, because despite the years of experience, we still have scanty scientific data to prove which software-development practices are most effective. That’s why some developers may not be used to working with the kind of process I’ve outlined here and may even refuse to. So you may need to shop around a little to find a developer who can. But at least now you know what questions to ask.

How To Select A Web Development Firm For Your Website

Get a website created is an easy job, but to get business out of it is a tough take. Not all websites are successful, and that exactly is the reason why people are still reluctant on investing in an Online business. Though projects and purpose play a major role in Online marketing, it is absolutely necessary to have an excellent website design which is planned and created by professionals in order to ensure that the business is moving smooth.

Website development is a wholesome term which collates all the essential features involved in the creation of a website. From designing to coding to website applications and content management every thing is involved in website development. In order to have a truly successful website it is important to catch hold of a good web development firm too, that will give your website a winning edge. Before you begin your hunt for a good web site development company it is important that you take care of a few things. And the most important one is the credibility of the company. Check how popular they are in the Internet marketing through the clients they have served.

Find out about the different websites that they have created along with the kind of services they have provided. Check these website designs and the different applications that they have developed for them. This will not only give you an idea about how technically sound the company is but will also help you select designs and applications for your own website. As you surf the Internet and browse through different websites, you are able to gather more ideas and applications that you can use in your website.

Before you deal with a web development consultancy for website design, it is necessary that you discuss quotes and process with them. A professional website development [http://www.rupizmedia.com/web-applications] firm will not hesitate to fix rates and prices before taking up the job. And moreover, it is extremely important to make sure that they have understood the nature of your website. Only if they have understood your website content, and are aware of your website’s purpose and business, can they build a website that is serving the purpose of your business.

Do a good research of the Internet market on various website development firms, before you pick up a development company for your website.

Web Developer Start Up Kit

With the rapid advancements in the field of computers and with the boom of the Internet, Web sites are flourishing and so is the business of a Web designer. The demand for a Web designer is increasing day by day. A web designers’ job in today’s times is challenging as well as thrilling. Each company wants its websites and contents to be the best in today’s world when there are so many marketing geniuses promoting their businesses. Thus, a very creative and extremely professional web designer is required. A few start up tips for web designer include:

– First of all, find a university that offers courses online for web development or any website that provides tutorials for learning the course step by step along with some exercises.

– Secondly, you must also keep in mind your budget as well as your learning capacity. Always go for courses that offer you course within your monetary limit, and then the course content should be appropriate and suitable for you.

– Try to read more and more on your topic of interest. There are many magazines available out there in the markets which help you to build a good base concerning web development and it will help you to enhance your creativity. If possible, become a subscriber of the magazine so that you don’t have to run to the market every week to purchase one. Further, take part in the contests organized by those magazines itself, so that you get to know your skill at the national and international level.

– As you do more and more work and practice, you will come to know about the various techniques and the situations in which they can be implemented. Always keep trying your hand at something new. If possible, complete your chapter a day before the teacher teaches you in the university, so that you can clear your doubts if you have any. Then try your hand at developing some web content for some starter company. Find out a company which is just forming, so that you can get a job there as an intern. A combination of a new web developer as well as new company usually works out great, since there is no clash of egos as both are starters.

Thus, summing it all up, a job of a start up web designer is not a tough one. It’s just that it requires a good research in the beginning for choosing the right college, and constant practice.