Web Application Development
Web Applications are much more than just a website. Website technologies are generally powered by open source Content Management Systems such as WordPress and Magento. Web Applications start working at the foundation level to build completely custom functionality which is bespoke for your individual needs. Many Software-as-a-Service type platforms and technology companies are web applications in the background. If you are looking for a bespoke web application for your company for a specific need and you cannot find any off the shelf solution to your needs, then we can develop a custom web application for your individual needs.
Basically anything you can imagine can be built, given the right amount of time and budget. As you can imagine, when building web applications from the ground level, you need solid foundations and the work involved is significant, even for the most basic of projects. We build web applications primarily using Java and PHP, where we have built solutions including technology marketplaces, payments and subscription integrations with full invoicing systems, full content management systems, email marketing systems and more. Whatever the requirements for your web application, it is highly likey we can work with you to develop a solution for the needs of your company.
Building scalable, high quality, secure and well optimised web applications that are designed to perform and work for your company requires a carefully considered approach that is strategically aligned to the goals of your organisation. As your strategic digital partner we work closely with you throughout the entire web application development process to ensure every aspect has been covered from start to finish. Below outlines an average process behind our web application development projects along which explains why following a structured Agile process as outlined below is extremely important to ensure the delivered aplication is suitable for your needs.
We understand that a web application is much more than a basic brochure or ecommerce website. A high performance web application is a core part of your business and an asset to help you grow. Successful web application development projects are an on-going process where features are continually added, content changed and further integrations to enhance the platform. Which is why we seek to truly understand your business goals at the very start to ensure the right foundations are being put in place for growth.
While you will no doubt have a clear idea what you are looking for from a web application, there are many aspects which are often overlooked when planning projects. Considerations need to be made for how your entire organisation, key members of staff and customers plan to use the application along with what this means from a marketing and promotional aspect too.
At this early stage we ask questions around Search Engine Optimisation, Pay per Click Advertising, Email Marketing, Social Media, Mobile Applications, Integrations and more. This is so we can truly uncover the requirements for your new web application to ensure that all key aspects are considered throughout. As web applications require a significant investment, it is essential that adequate planning and requirements gathering is undertaken at the start to uncover the as much as possible.
Once we understand your business goals we can start to translate this into how customers are going to navigate their way around your web application in the form of a user journey sitemap. By planning this we can identify improvements throughout the user journey to ensure users are being directed towards the key areas that are aligned with your business goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). To map out this process we analyse historical data from your Analytics platforms that are currently in use on your old web application, if you have one, to see how current users are behaving, what is working, what isn’t working and where improvements are needed.
Once we understand how users are likely move around the web application we start to look at the user experience as a whole. This is a blended approach between what your business goals are and what your customers are trying to achieve on your web application. Your customers want your web application to be usable, useful, desirable, valuable, findable, credible and accessible. Which is why we take all of these factors into account to create relevant User Stories which link Agile development methodologies directly to users instead of focusing on the technology. For example, “As a tennant of a housing association, I want to be able to review the progress of a problem I reported with my house so that I can keep up to date with the progress of the work”. This is a User Story in a nutshell which is part of an Agile development methodology and is how we tie everything back to the end user to ensure that what is being built is valuable.
As part of this process we then take into account the rough wireframes for how each of the core screens on the web application are going to look and feel. Think of this like a pencil sketch of a page, which helps to discuss the general layout, the key Calls to Action and how they link in with the overall user experience. You’ll notice that we haven’t even started talking about the design or technology yet as at this point we’re working closely with you to ensure that we’re on the same page and clear about what is going to be built before we start with the build process.
Once we understand what we’re about to build, the first thing we think about it security. To keep your business data and customer’s data secure, it is essential to plan cyber security into projects at the earliest stage possible. All our specialist web application developers have security embedded in everything they do which is essential for delivering a secure web application for your company. Many inexperienced web application developers openly add in backdoors and security issues to the applications they build without even realising, which is why we take security seriously as web application development isn’t simply about writing a bit of code, it is about developing software the right way.
To keep your business data and customer’s data secure we encrypt by default, meaning that all connections between your customers accessing the web application and yourself are secured using SSL certificates running over HTTPS. We also consider the implications for encryption at the database level when required for additional levels of security along with a wide range of security considerations which cover all aspects of the technology stack.
Once we understand what we’re building, for whom, how we’re securing the build we then start to move onto the more practical steps. Next we look at your current web server infrastructure to determine the suitability for your new web application both now and in the near future. Web servers are complex and can be a complete black box to non-technical people. In essence, we’ll recommend the right technology for you.
Think about web servers like cars, they aren’t all the same. So if you are looking to win in business, then you need the right powerful motor to get you there. We’ll talk you through the finer details about the options available so it is clear in your mind. Particularly important for web applications is the scalability aspect. We’ll assess what type of web server infrastructure and technology is best suited to your application based on how you anticipate the growth over a period of time.
Content Management Systems
The next step is to decide on what pieces of content within your web application needs to be controlled via a custom built Content Mangement System (CMS). With custom built web applications, you cannot expect to have everything controlled from day 1 like what you may be used to with open source technologies like WordPress and Magento. These open source technologies have had decades and hundreds of thousands of people-hours behind the projects to get them to where they are today.
As such we’ll work closely with you to build in Content Management System functionality for the core aspects of your web application. This simply means that anyone within your company can login to your web application and make ammends as you need, without keep paying an external agency to make basic changes to your application which you should be able to do yourself. Depending on the full requirements for your web application development project, generally speaking we’ll choose between Java and PHP as the server side languages which are capable of scaling with your needs.
Mobile First Approach
All our web application development projects operate on a mobile first approach, which simply means that your web application is designed to work responsively across all devices including mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Your customers live in a multi-touch world and want the same experience using your web application regardless of what device they are accessing from.
The modern customer journey path to purchase is highly complex, with your customers viewing your web application across multiple different devices before deciding to make a purchase or enquire for further information. As such, it is essential that a mobile first approach is taken to make your customers happy.
Back End Technologies
The next step we look at is the finer technical details about how we are going to build your new web application. Unless you have a specific preference for commercial reasons, we’ll recommnend the best solution for your needs. Beyond the core languages we use includnig PHP and Java, we’ll take into account the early requirements from key stakeholders throughout your organisation to understand what additional features and functionality need to be built and how we are going to do this.
This is likely to include various technology stacks specific to your organisation along with APIs and other integration with 3rd party systems. We’re happy to explain to you the finer details if you so wish, although you can be confident in the high quality work we do that we’ll only be working with industry leading technologies which keeps your web application safe, secure, maintainable and scalable for your needs.
Front End Technologies
In the same way we selected the right back end technologies, we’ll also align the right technologies based on your requirements for the project. We know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to selecting technology stacks. Interestingly, this is the part of the project that most people are interested in as this is when you can start to see the website taking shape and what it looks like. Many times companies and other agencies want to start with this process at the very beginning which is highly risky as a pretty web application that hasn’t taken into account all of the prior steps that are outlined above is likely to fail in the short to medium term which can cost a lot of money to rectify.
Web Application Content
While we’re working through the design and build part of your web application development project, you’ll be working on the actual content. Ultimately you know your customers best which is why we recommend that you create the actual content so you can communicate your key messages to your customers. We’ll guide you through this process about the type of content and style of content that is needed throughout the web application as we work collaborative throughout all projects.
Tracking and Analytics
To ensure the new web application delivers on your requirements we track absolutely everything you can imagine and even more that you likely haven’t even heard of before. Having staff who are qualified Analytics experts, we implement the tracking that you’ll need to determine the success of the project. This links in with the wider requirements from key stakeholders throughout your company who will also feed into this process to ensure the data that is important to them is also tracked correctly from start to finish.
Development Process and Delivery
In practice the above is very much an iterative process throughout every stage of the project which enables us to deliver work in stages which you sign off accordingly. Doing this ensures that your internal team are an integral part of the web application development project and that requirements are being met. Prior to any delivery phases the entire technolgy stack goes through rigorous User Acceptance Testing, Unit Testing and Functional Testing to make sure that what we have built actually works and is fit for purpose.
The general development process we follow is to first build the general framework of the technology stack which is flexbile for your needs, we then move onto the actual design stages which allows us to chop and change design elements as needed which is much easier with the right framework in place. All of our web application development projects are strategically segmented which means we have a Development Server that our developers work on your new web application on, which then moves over to a Staging Server which you have access to view how the new web application will look, before eventually the web application is pushed to the Live Server that your customers can see.
Naturally for many web application development projects as we iterate through this process in an Agile way, it is possible to deliver new features and functionality to your customers much faster so you can start to see business value generated as a direct result of this quick iterative process.