This week we talk with Dan Sabados about web development for start up businesses. Dan is a specialist in Ruby on Rails, an open-source web development technology that helps developers create sites quickly and with less cost compared with other methods. Watch the video below or Download the audio interview.
1. The Difference between Web Design and Web Development
Web designers focus on information architecture, look and feeel and visual aesthetics. Web developers primarily work on building functionality that you cannot necessarily see when you visit a web page, but lives “under the hood”. Many web designers will have some basic coding or development skills and most developers can write HTML and CSS. Any online start up business will need skills from both camps.
2. Online entrepreneurs should look for strong development skills
Dan reckons that start ups should hire people with stronger development than visual design skills to begin with. Given a limited budget, a start up business may choose to have a web developer in-house, and contract in the services of a designer when necessary. This is in line with our thinking that early stage online businesses should first focus on building functional applications rather than “pretty” applications to prove the concept.
3. A full time commitment from your web developer helps
If you are serious about the success of your online startup, you are probably going to need the full time commitment of a web developer or designer. Building and maintaining a business grade application is not something that can easily or capably be done in someone’s spare time. Development should never finish at the launch of the website, but should continue throughout the life of your business as you constantly refine functionality to meet the changing demands of your customers.
Ruby on Rails is the development framework that Dan used to build the ServiceSeeking.com.au application with less resources than using other technologies like Java and PHP. By following the “Don’t Repeat Yourself” (DRY) and “Convention over Configuration” philosphies, Rails means developers write applications in fewer lines of code, which is easier and cheaper to write in the first place, and easier to maintain.
5. The Benefits of Open Source technologies like Rails
Ruby on Rails is also an open-source technology. This means that thousands of web developers worldwide are constantly contributing improvements to the software and sharing snippets of code with others to use as they see fit. For many pieces of common functionality, Rails developers have written “plugins” which are small pieces of code that can be easily integrated to almost any Rails application. If you need a mapping functionality, or some functionality to authenticate users, chances are a plugin has already been written which you can use.
6. Learn Ruby before Learning Rails
Learning the Ruby language is the best way for designers or developers to start with Ruby on Rails. Whilst a novice can start developing functional websites without specific knowledge of Ruby, a good understanding of the language is helpful in going beyond the basic level.
7. The Final Word
Even though design may be something you contract in from outside on occassions, it’s an essential part of any online startup. It’s easy to build a website that is hard to use, and very hard to build something functional. Spend some time and money on design – especially interaction design and basic information architecture. It will pay off!