Can You Tell Good Code When You See It?
You’re looking for a web design and development team to build a new website for your company, or to add some functionality to your current website. How hard can that be?
Plenty hard. When you look for a brochure designer, you can look at the candidates’ brochures and see whether they’re attractive. If you like them, you’re set. The designs are just pictures. With web pages, it’s not like that. The picture you see isn’t just stuck up onto the computer. The site has to be built with computer language that tells your browser (that is, Internet Explorer or Firefox or a similar program) what pictures to get and where to put them.
A really attractive website may perform badly for your users or for search — and that means it’s performing badly for your company.
Here are some of the issues:
- Speed Last week, we discussed the importance of load time for your site’s SEO. A poorly built website will generally be slower to respond than one that is optimized correctly.
- Accessibility Your customers are looking at your site with smart phones, iPads, and gaming consoles — or maybe with special reading devices for people with limited vision. A site with outdated code may not behave well on all the devices your visitors use.
- Performance Your web site isn’t really a picture at all. Your visitors interact with it: they click on things and expect things to happen in certain ways. If your site isn’t built correctly, they may be disappointed.
- Maintenance All websites require updating and maintenance. A well-built site will be designed to make that maintenance faster and easier. A poorly built site may be impossible to update; often, it will have to be rebuilt completely in order to meet your company’s changing needs.
It makes sense to have your site built correctly from the outset. Unfortunately, you can’t always tell from the screenshot on a company’s website how their sites have been built. Here are some ways you can check:
You can look at the company’s code, on their own site or on sites they’ve built. Depending on the browser and operating system you use, you’ll look at the code with a menu item like “Page>source” or “View>source,” and you can usually see it by hitting CTRL+U or Command+U. You can see part of our code at the beginning of this post. You don’t have to be an expert to distinguish between good and bad code. For example, our code says, “DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd” at the top. That may not mean much to you, but we can tell you that “strict” means that we strictly follow the rules and “w3.org” means that we validate our code — that is, check it and make sure it doesn’t contains errors. A website that just says “html” is not a professionally coded site. You can also see that our code is clean and organized; someone coming to update this code will be able to find things easily, for fast and cost effective maintenance. If you look closely, you can see that we have meta tags; you might not be able to tell that they’re correct, but some sites don’t have them at all, and all sites should. You can also see in our example that we’re using CSS, and that we have links to external stylesheets. If you don’t see these things in the code of a company you’re considering, you should stop considering them.
You can ask your candidate whether they use standards compliant code or not. If they don’t understand the question, or if they tell you that it doesn’t matter, they probably aren’t as skillful as you’d like them to be. Standards compliant sites are easier for search engines to access and also offer accessibility to people with disabilities. All good training programs teach standards compliant code as a matter of course. Since many good web developers are self-trained, though, asking this question lets you make sure that the web development firm you’re talking with has the skills you need, without limiting you to companies with formally trained designers.
You can find out what technology your candidate uses. At Oyova, we’re comfortable with a lot of languages, platforms, and technologies:
- standards-compliant HTML and CSS
- Adobe ColdFusion, Flex, and Adobe Air
- ASP Classic and .NET
- iPhone and Android Mobile Application
- WordPress, Mango Blog, Farcry CMS, Drupal, and a broad range of other content management systems
- live media streaming capabilities, mobile application development, and social network platform development
A list like this doesn’t tell you how good the company you’re considering is with each of the platforms they use, but it gives you an idea of their experience and training — something that can be hard to judge if you’re not in the field yourself. Your site may not need all these technologies, but a team with a broad range of tech skill will offer you more options than a firm that only uses HTML.
By the way, we hope that you’re considering Oyova for your design and development needs. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions: contact us now to discuss your options.
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