Everyone, and I mean everyone: companies, individuals, families, even dogs, have websites. The challenge of the web developer: to create a dynamic, responsive and stellar website that functions seamlessly when launched out into the digital universe. From platform choice, to which tools to use, and what frameworks to incorporate, the options and decisions can certainly leave even the most capable web developer scrambling for answers.
And then after the major development choices are made, there remains that question of usability and the overall web experience — are users going to be pleased with the results, or will frustration compel them to simply click away. The web developer’s task is seemingly a monumental one, and as such, they are bound to make mistakes now and again. Can these mistakes be avoided — certainly. Below is a list of the twelve most common mistakes we’ve discovered and potential ways in which you as the budding web development specialist might be able to avoid such traps.
1) Overblown Pages
What happens when the page is chock full of super high-quality graphics, codes, and linked files that are too bloated--basically load times are going to become exceedingly slow and thus frustrating for the poor user, who is now ready to click off. In fact, if the page processing is going on for too long, error messages may occur therefore upsetting your now disgruntled user even further.
2) Clinging to Outdated HTML
Welcome to the 21st century. The good old days of HTML are past us now; time to step it up and graduate into tags that are supported by current HTML standards. Is using <table> elements for layout really worth it? You want your content to be displayed correctly, to be optimized for a wide range of browsers. And most importantly, you want it to appear consistent. More recent browsers like Microsoft Edge, for example, have made overly complicated HTML unnecessary.
Avoid the trap: Get rid of the <table> elements as far as content layout is concerned. To display content the right way, utilize cascading style sheets (CSS). And familiarize yourself with all of the current markup options.
3) Check Your Forms
Probably 90% of all websites depend upon a fillable form to gather information from users. However, do you as the web developer know precisely how data will be received? What happens if it fails to come through as you need it to? It is very possible that something will go wrong when a user enters their data into a text field. If all requisite information isn’t provided an error can certainly occur. Or, if the data received doesn’t properly match the allotted schemes, problems can arise. Do you know how your forms are working?
Avoid the trap: One way to fix this issue: be as specific as possible. Don’t just ask for an address; specify whether email or home or business address. Also, you want to make sure you are utilizing the latest validation techniques, and not just for the browser side, but also on the server side.
4) Code that Forks in Multiple Directions
Of course you want to try and accommodate a wide range of browsers, to this end, you develop code that responds to a multitude of scenarios—too many in fact. The code is forking in all kinds of directions, thus making the site exceedingly slow and hard to manage. Is this all really necessary?
Avoid the trap: This is where feature detection comes into play. Such techniques make your site easier to read, manage and navigate Also, you may want to look into using a library which can additionally help with fallback support as far as older browsers are concerned.
5) Assuming the Code Works as Expected
Avoid the trap: Yes we all make mistakes, the trick is to catch them before they have more significant consequences. Integrate the latest and best techniques. Employ unit testing. And if errors are going to occur, make sure you have user-friendly error messages in place.
6) Failing to Scale
If your code is inflexible the problem is going to come with scalability. Does your platform support future scaling? Is it agile enough to accommodate growth and expansion? And if you have to go back in and modify the code at a later date—will this be a nuisance to the client?
Avoid the trap: By educating yourself on the latest in code standards and practices, you can get a jump on creating the type of site that is indeed scalable and that won’t require you to go back in and disrupt the customer’s entire operation.
7) Screen/Size Adjustments
When you’re developing obviously you’re using one size, one monitor. So what happens when someone views the site through a different monitor, one that is perhaps larger or significantly smaller than that of the developer…The user, in this case, may not see all of the elements, or things could get distorted and/or cut off, navigation options may be inadvertently hidden.
Avoid the trap: This is where you need to use responsive design practices. There are a number of popular libraries available to help with such design basics.
8) Premature Launching
Certainly, the client is raring to go! They want their site up and running—visible for the world to see. And you yourself, having spent a ton of time and energy on it, are also eager to get it out there and of course to please the client, but are you deploying too soon? Too early a launch and it could spell disaster as far as the user experience goes.
Avoid the trap: Make sure the kinks are worked out. The last thing you want to see are holes or worse, bugs in a newly deployed site. This won’t make anyone happy. You need to be upfront and honest with the client. Explain that you only want the best for their site and thus you don’t want to launch too early and risk a less than stellar end result.
9) Pages With Little to No SEO Value
A page is only meaningful if it can be found. If your public pages fail to offer valuable hints to search engines and consequently do not get found, they are therefore meaningless pages. And your site definitely does not need to be populated with a host of such pages.
Avoid the trap: Know your SEO practice. Use tags accordingly, insert the needed keywords and descriptions. Provide alt tags when applicable. You need to do whatever it takes to ensure that all pages of your site are relevant as far as the Google gods are concerned.
10) Slow Page Loading Time / Too Much Refreshing
If your site requires a refreshing of each page every time, this is inevitably going to become frustrating for some users. You want your pages to load quickly, the experience to be fast and fluid. Too much congestion by way of refreshing and you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose users.
Avoid the trap: Is posting back to the server absolutely necessary? Perhaps client-side created script will give you better, more immediate results. Also, you may want to look into AJAX techniques.
11) But My Browser is Better…
Okay, we all have our preferred browser. Web developers are no exception—they too tend to be partial to one over another, and thus work within the parameters of their go-to browser. Of course, as a web developer, you need to work with what’s comfortable, however, failing to understand how your site will perform on multiple browsers could potentially be a tragic mistake. Remember, some browsers may have their own set of default values which means the styles and fonts come across quite differently.
Avoid the trap: Perhaps it’s not feasible for you to test the site on every single browser out there, but doesn’t mean you can’t periodically do an interval check of how yours looks on a range of browsers. In fact, there are a host of tools out there that enable you to view snapshots of what your site pages look like depending on the browser. Sites such as: http://browsershots.org/ or https://www.browserstack.com/ are great places to start.
12) Forgetting to Breathe
Developers tend to immerse themselves in their website projects—they are perfectionists after all, they want to ensure all is running smoothly and flawlessly. This means long hours, repetitive task, and a ton of typing. Human error is bound to infiltrate the process. And then of course there’s the troubleshooting phase which in and of itself can be even lengthier.
Avoid the Trap: There are myriad tools and resources available to help you speed up and automate more components of the development process. Is your code editor the latest version? There are tools now available to simplify the testing, and what about exploring Microsoft Azure Web Apps in order to help you create more scalable sites? You can make it easier on yourself as a developer—you just have to get a little creative and resourceful!
Did we miss anything? Any mistakes you've made in the past that you've now learnt not to repeat again? Let us know by commenting below!