Developing a website in 2015 - the absolute bare minimum

What welcomed me on my first attempt to sign into the Irish Revenue website........

What welcomed me on my first attempt to sign into the Irish Revenue website........

Last week I had to support someone in doing what would have appeared to have been a trivial action to a website. It was a case of re-ordering the list of team members that were listed on a page. As it turned out, it involved a trick that was used by the website hosting service, Wordpress: one of the go-to platforms used for countless websites across the Internet.

The trick? The team members were sorted based on the date/time their details were added/published to the website. Obvious in hindsight but it was highly unintuitive and took a bit of searching online to resolve. For the person who contacted me, completely non-technical, they may as well have been asked to solve the meaning of life.

Then, personally this weekend, I had to go and sign in to the new (to me, at least) Irish revenue self-service website and was greeted by the screen displayed above. As someone on a Macbook, I haven't installed Flash and was thus left with a conundrum, until I realised that Google Chrome has a copy of Flash built in and thus was a straight-forward work-around.

 

Sarah O’Neill, Google Sales and Events manager has mc’d these events, and also delivered the final talk too. She explained why Google chose to run these events in Dublin.
1. Ireland is in the top 10 countries in the world for the amount of time it spends on line.
2. Ireland spends between 4.6 billion and 6 billion euros online every year.
However over 3/4’s of this money goes out of the country to overseas companies. The reason for this is that only 23% of Irish SME’s (small and medium enterprises) trade online,

From IrishTechNews

It's 2015 - look around you and notice the number of people using internet-connected devices. There is no excuse anymore to be avoiding this opportunity. However, there is also no excuse for a poor experience on your website when it comes to accessing content, shopping, etc. Is your website ready for 2015, or still stuck in 2005?

 

 

So, based off these real-life user experiences, I started thinking about what I regard as the absolute minimum, future-proofing, smart notes to take when working with websites:

In short, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your website easy to use?
  • Would you be happy to purchase from it?
  • How many clicks does it require to go from starting on the homepage to finding content, or making a purchase.Don't even consider using Flash going forward and start looking at ways to move old, legacy, items off the service.
  • Does the website look good on all screens (i.e. is it responsive?)
  • When you want to go and make changes to the website, does it require you making a call to the website developer to do it, or are you able to do it yourself (the latter is obviously preferable!)

 

 

 

1. Get Rid of Flash

Probably one of the greatest things the iPhone pushed through was the beginning of the end for Adobe Flash. In principle, it's a great concept giving a method to develop interactive applications across all types of systems easily. In practise, it's very poor at using resources (imagine driving with your air conditioning system on all the time - windows open, closed, hot, cold - and it's similar in that, it's continuously wasting energy that could be used for either more power or more efficiency for your car) and especially in recent years become a hugely popular venue for hackers to try and break into your system.

With respect to arguments that it's required for video, etc. - as of last week, Youtube is now stopped using Flash by default.

 

2. Make your website work on any size screen

I can't find the original post but something similar came from this web designer @lukew. Your website is not being looked at on just a laptop of desktop computer screen anymore so accounting for devices from 2 inches up to 80 inches is now required!

I can't find the original post but something similar came from this web designer @lukew. Your website is not being looked at on just a laptop of desktop computer screen anymore so accounting for devices from 2 inches up to 80 inches is now required!

And by this, I don't mean having people tapping tiny icons on a page, pinching to zoom in on a section of screen, etc. A good example is the software this website runs on, Squarespace, and it's an easy demo:

  • Make your internet browser not full-screen
  • Take one of the sides and drag it in to make the width of the screen narrower (you may have to stop briefly to let it happen) and watch how everything gets re-organized to fit into the width
The full-screen, computer version of the website.....

The full-screen, computer version of the website.....

. ....and the the mobile, narrow-width, small-screen version. I didn't have to do anything to create either of these versions as it's automatically built into the capabilities of my website service, Squarespace.

.

....and the the mobile, narrow-width, small-screen version. I didn't have to do anything to create either of these versions as it's automatically built into the capabilities of my website service, Squarespace.

 

3. Pick a website management tool that is user-friendly and not requiring going back to the web developer

It's 2015 - websites are dime a dozen, so you shouldn't have to make a call out just to add a new page, post, or do basic re-formatting. If you log into the site and genuinely don't know how to modify it easily, you have an issue. Again, look at loads of the potential options available out there - I'll refer to Squarespace as I use them personally (and if you're Irish, their European Headquarters are in Dublin so you're supporting Irish jobs) but there' numerous other options out there if you're willing to look.

If you do have specific requests that do involve dedicated web developers (such as integration into databases, other websites, etc.), ensure that going forward you're not paying out unnecessary expense just to change a slight design on the site.

Neal McQuaid