A Detailed Guide to Website Development For Small Business

Your business is growing. You realized that you need a customized website with great functionality because it puts you ahead of your competitors. Potential customers can learn about your products and services without the need to call you. Even better, if you have an ecommerce site, then your customers can check out seamlessly. 

If you are in such a situation, mastering web development comes in handy. While you may decide to hire a freelancer or web development agency to perform this task. Learning web development will save you in the long run. Instead of outsourcing talent, you will have complete control of the project from the planning phase to launching of the site or app. So it will turn out the way you wanted. 

In this article, you are going to learn more about website development including the process of creating a website for small business. 

Let’s dive in.    

What is website development? 

Website development refers to the entire process of building and maintaining websites and applications for the internet. This can mean creating a simple website for a mom and pop store in your local city to creating a complex social network such as Facebook used by billions of people across the world. 

Even though web development literally means coding and programming which powers the website’s functionality, there are lots of related tasks involved. They include things such as server-side scripting and client-side scripting, content management system development, server and network security configuration. 

Website development is divided into three basic layers: Front-end coding, back-end coding and database technology. 

Let’s discuss each of these layers in detail: 

Front-end development

This is also known as client-side scripting and refers to everything the end-user experiences directly. It refers to what people see when they visit your website, from the blog to the home page, and pricing page. Features such as contact forms, colors, menus, fonts and layouts are determined by Front-end coding.  

Back-end development

Back-end coding defines what goes on behind the scenes. It is the part of the website that the user doesn’t see. Back-end coding is responsible for storing and organizing data so that the client’s side occurs smoothly. 

This happens through constant communication between the front-end and the back-end. For example, when a visitor fills out a contact form, the web browser will send a signal to the back-end. The back-end responds by providing relevant information in the form of front-end code that the visitor can easily interpret and understand. 

Database technology

Database technology refers to all the files, and content necessary for a website to function properly. Web development involves storing this data in such a way that it can easily be retrieved, organized, edited and saved. The database runs on a server and most websites use a form of relational database management system (RDBMS). 

In summary, front-end coding, back-end coding and database technology work together to create and maintain a functional website. These three layers make up the foundation of web development. 

What is the difference between website design and website development?

You may have heard these two terms being used interchangeably from time to time, but they mean different things. 

Imagine a web developer as the one who comes up with the parts of a smartphone such as the application processor, cellular modem, the phone camera image sensor, etc. While the web designer would be responsible for the themes of the smartphone, the fonts and the types of ringtones available. 

A web designer’s job is to make the website feel and look user-friendly. They consider visual elements of a website, from colors and fonts, to the drop-down menus and scrollbars that will be included to enable easy navigation by users. Web design also determines the type of content to be uploaded on the website such as images, videos  and articles.

A web developer’s job, on the other hand, is to take this design and transform it into a live and fully functional website. A front-end developer will use the design provided by the web designer and use coding languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build a functional website. A back-end developer will use the coding languages to build more complex functionalities such as a checkout function for an ecommerce site. 

Why is website development important for a small business? 

As of 2019, there were 4.2 billion global internet users. And this is more than half of the world’s population and they visited the internet for various reasons. The thing is that if your business is not online, you are missing out on many potential customers. Many prospects spend most of their time online and by having a website, you increase your chances of getting their attention and converting them into customers. 

Here are some of the reasons why you should learn web development as a small business owner: 

1. Get full design control

As a business, you may adjust or change your landing page, pricing policies and products from time to time. Such things need to reflect on your website as soon as possible to make your potential customer aware of the available opportunities. If you have web development skills, you can make these updates without the need to outsource a freelancer and in the process, save on the costs. 

2. Confirm credibility

A website confirms that your business is legitimate and is not likely to disappear after a few days. So customers will trust you more and order your products compared to if you don’t have a responsive website. 

3. Save money on advertising

Let’s be honest, paid ads are a huge investment that you may not be able to afford as a small business. Enterprises, on the other hand, have big advertising budgets because they can afford the paid ads. 

But with a website, you can take advantage of Search Engine Optimization and rank high for competitive keywords in your industry. You end up saving money you would have used on paid ads and other forms of advertising because you land customers through inbound marketing. 

4. Customers find more information about your business

A website allows customers to learn more about your business including the features of your products and pricing plans without the need to call you. Even better, you can create a live chat feature so that customers can make an inquiry about your business and get the answers as quickly as possible. When potential customers know more about your business, they are inclined towards buying from you. 

Definition of Web Development Terms

Now that I’ve defined web development and showed you why it’s important for your business, let me review some of the basic terms to help you understand it better. 

Website

A website is a file stored on a server. This file is usually a collection of web pages that share a unique domain name and can be accessed by visiting the home page of the website using a browser such as Google Chrome. Servers are computers that store these websites and are connected to the internet. 

IP Address

The ‘IP’ part of IP Address stands for Internet Protocol. Internet Protocol is a set of standards that govern interactions in the internet. The ‘Address part’ refers to a unique number that is linked to all the online activities that you do. It is like a return address you would indicate on a letter you are sending to someone. 

To access any website, you need to know its IP Address. Also, each device has a unique IP address that distinguishes it from billions of other websites and devices connected to the internet. 

To find the IP Address of your website, visit Site 24×7  and key in your domain name.

find ip address site24x7

Screenshot showing Site 24×7

The IP Address for Uniclix App is  niclixapp.com./206.189.239.78    

What is your website’s IP Address? 

To find out your device’s IP address, just search the key terms “ what is my IP address” on Google Chrome. 

what is my ip address

Screenshot showing how to find your device’s IP Address

HTTP

HTTP is the acronym for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It is a set of standards that define how messages should be sent over the internet. It essentially connects your website’s request to the server that hosts all the website data so you can move one web page to another. 

HTTP is like a translator between two people speaking different languages. You are the client who requests to access a piece of information from a website while the server stores all the information available in the website. HTTP communicates with the server to ensure you get the right information.  

Coding 

Coding is the use of computer programming languages to give computers and machines instructions on what actions to perform. Simply put, coding is how humans communicate with computers. It is what allows people to create software like mobile apps, programs and operating systems. 

There are many programming languages used to create web pages and applications. Some of them include: 

  • Python, 
  • JavaScript, 
  • C++, 
  • C

Front-end 

Front-end is the side of the software or website that you see as an internet user. When the website information is transferred from the server to the browser, the front-end programming languages ensure that it is easy to understand by the visitor. For example, you can play videos, minimize and expand images, and even highlight texts. 

Front-end developers work primarily on providing better client interaction with your website or mobile application. 

Back-end 

Back-end is the side of a software or website that you don’t see when you use the internet. It is like the building blocks that keep the website functioning. To non-developers, the back-end side of a software or website appear as numbers, letters and symbols that are hard to understand. 

There are more programming languages used in back-end web development compared to front-end development. This is because browsers which are on the front-end side, only understand JavaScript, but the Server at the back-end can literally understand any programming language. 

CMS

CMS is the acronym for Content Management System. It is a software that helps users create and manage content in a website. Even though a CMS is not necessary while building a website, it makes things a lot easier especially if you have a blogging or ecommerce site. 

For example, WordPress CMS enables you to quickly upload a piece of content without the need of writing a static HTML file and uploading it to your server.

Wordpress CMS

Screenshot of the WordPress CMS

You can also upload and manage media such as images by browsing the media library without the need to interact directly with the server. 

Add Media CMS WordPress

Screenshot showing media browser of the WordPress CMS

The Content Management System is not just a back-end interface, it also helps your content to appear to the user exactly the way you intended. 

Cyber security

Cyber security is the protection of computer systems and networks from theft and destruction by hackers. There are these internet users who are always looking to find vulnerabilities in websites so as to steal data or expose private information without permission from the owners. 

The methods used by these hackers are constantly evolving and becoming more complex. Cyber security ensures that these bad guys don’t get a chance to enter your computer systems to steal your valuable information. So it’s necessary to understand cyber security while undertaking web development to keep your clients’ software secure. 

Website Development Process 

Creating a software or website is not a simple process where you just follow a few direct steps and boom! You got what you wanted! Instead, web development is an iterative process that involves many things including the needs of the client and the resources at your disposal. 

In this section, you are going to learn a brief overview of the web development process. Let’s jump in. 

1. Formulate a plan 

Begin by drafting a plan for the web development project. Outline the goals of creating the website or software and determine the time frame within which it should be completed. Let’s say you own a business dealing with motor vehicle spare parts. So you want a website where you can showcase your products and services to potential customers. You have also realized that most of your competitors don’t have websites, so getting a responsive one will make you stand out. 

In this first step, outline the goals you intend to accomplish and consult other members of your organization for more ideas. Determine the type of audience you are targeting and the amount of content you intend to publish every month on the website. The clearer you are about what you want, the easier it becomes to achieve. 

2. Create a sitemap

The next step is to come up with a blueprint for the web development project. Developers can call it a sitemap or wireframe. This sitemap basically gives the developer directions on where to start the project and the sequential steps to finishing the project. 

You can draw the blueprint on a whiteboard and place it where the developers can see as they work on the project. It is usually better to involve the developer in creating the blueprint instead of doing it on yourself. 

Using the example of a website for your motor vehicle spare parts business, determine the number of individual pages you want. Also, decide on the hierarchy of the pages on your site as well as the type of content that will be in those pages. Link structure is also critical at this stage. Consult your SEO team to guide you on the pages that should link and those that should be in one category. 

3. Write your website code 

The next step in the web development process is writing code. If you intended to create a website, then you would have to use these three programming languages: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. 

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the foundation of all websites and is needed as the bare minimum for creating any website. You can create a website with only HTML, however, it will not look visually appealing. 

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) adds design elements such as colors, typography and layouts to websites. CSS transforms your website to match the vision you had intended when formulating the plan in step one. 

JavaScript is the final programming language used by most developers. It adds functionality to your website or software. For example, you can automate tasks and features that enhance user experience.  

4. Build the back-end of your website 

After writing the code for your website, the next step is to build back-end site structures and design. The back-end of a website handles data that enables the functionality of the front-end. With the example of the motor vehicle spare parts website, the back-end side stores all the pictures of the spare parts you will upload. So when the site visitor clicks on a spare part they may be interested in, the image opens instantly. 

Your backend developers will determine the logic code of your website which is essentially how your website responds to requests by users and how objects of your site will interact. The developers also decide on how your website will store, organize and retrieve data by creating a database management system.

5. Build the front-end of your website

The front-end of your website is what your site visitors see and how they interact with your website. It comprises typography, fonts, responsiveness and navigation. 

The front-end programming is quickly becoming outdated because website builders are coming up with easier ways to do it even if you don’t have technical skills. For example, with Squarespace or Wix you can play around with the fonts and themes you would love on your website even if you don’t know any line of code.  

6. Get a domain name 

At this point, your site needs a domain name. Choose a domain name that is memorable so that customers will easily find your website. 

Ever heard of Google Domains or GoDaddy and Hover? These services  help you to acquire a domain name and register with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Website builders such as WordPress and Squarespace also allow you to buy domain names for your site. 

7. Launch your site

Your site is ready to go live when after acquiring the domain name and linking it to your host. However, before launching the site you should optimize for SEO and ensure that there are no errors. 

Conclusion

Website development is the process of building and maintaining websites and applications for the internet. This can mean creating a simple website for a small business to creating a complex social network such as Instagram used by billions of people across the world. 

The internet is becoming an important part of our lives. Every business is going online because most people hang out online. This means that understanding coding and programming puts you ahead of your competitors. As a business owner, you will serve your customers better by creating a responsive website that meets their needs.

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