Recently we sat down and talked with one of our team members, web developer Natalie Rose, of NOVA Web Group, to see what first got her interested in web development, what’s currently happening in web programming, and what trends she sees on the horizon.
What’s your background and how did you get interested in web development, and how long have you been developing websites?
NR: “At my last ‘real’ job, I was hired to surf the Internet, looking for information that would be valuable to our client, and give that information to our webmaster to post online. He quit shortly after I started and I decided to take it up myself. I taught myself HTML, started my company in 1999, and have since taken many classes online to learn more. Otherwise, my background is in biology!”
You’re a “hand coder” – meaning you don’t use an external publisher to develop sites. What’s your take on using pre-programmed templates and external publishers vs. hand coding a site?
NR: “I like to have control over the functionality of my client’s sites. I find that with using pre-programmed templates, you are stuck in a box. I realize some of them do have the capability of adding functionality, but they are not very user-friendly. The point of having pre-programmed templates is so you can have a site up and running faster, and cheaper. But, you are stuck with what they include, and it’s harder to add custom functionality.”
Using a CMS (Content Management System) allows a client to easily make changes to their website, with restrictions. Which CMS is your preference – among WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace, or Joomla – and why?
NR: “I prefer WordPress and Drupal over Joomla (those are the three I have the most experience with). I find Joomla to be rather unintuitive as both a developer and as a user.”
How do you decide which CMS is best for which client?
NR: “It really depends on what their needs are and how ‘complex’ of a web site they will need. There are some things that are better for Drupal, such as having different sections of a web site be visible for a different permission level of user.”
Do you have a favorite programming language?
NR: “I prefer PHP programming since my concentration is with WordPress and Drupal Content Management Systems, and they require PHP.”
[PHP is an acronym that refers to itself – PHP stands for “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor”, an HTML-embedded scripting language.]
What are your favorite development tools?
NR: “Since I hand code, I don’t really use any development tools. But, I do like to use Dreamweaver since everything is neat and tidy with different colors for different types of code.”
What are the most common mistakes that clients make when planning a website or programming a website?
NR: “Clients don’t know what sort of functionality they want or need on their site. I don’t think they understand the word ‘functionality’, and they don’t want to spend the money to have each page drawn up with a wireframe that would show and describe the user experience (i.e., ‘functionality’). I’ve found over the years how important it is to define functionality for each page (or page type) on a site.
“The other big common mistake is not hiring a copywriter. So many web sites would benefit from having an external writer — someone who is a professional writer. It seems that a lot of clients who do their content in-house have poor content.”
Do you still see a lot of cross-browser compatibility problems?
NR: “IE (Internet Explorer) is still my nemesis! IE does not seem to follow the same rules of displaying content as the other browsers do. There are more things that need to be coded to be specific to IE than any other browser – there are even a lot of web sites offering ‘bug fixes’ for IE.
“Let me quote from a 2009 article! ‘Internet Explorer – the bane of most web developers’ existence. Up to 60% of your development can be wasted just trying to squash out IE specific bugs which isn’t really a productive use of your time.’ Nothing’s changed much since then; IE is still buggy.“
What are the biggest changes in website development that you’ve seen over the years?
NR: “The addition of Content Management Systems. That really changed the way web sites are created. And now, you also have responsive web, meaning that sites are being programmed to adjust to multiple devices and screen sizes, such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops.”
What trends do you see happening in website development?
NR: “Other than responsive web, which is huge, I think more and more web sites are trending to be video- and social media-driven. I also see a trend toward simplification in web design, driven by restrictions on mobile devices and smaller screens; everything’s more streamlined.
“And – who knows what new devices we’ll be programming for in the future? Web development is all about adaptation.”