In the early days of the Internet, having a simple, static web page to educate customers about your business might have been enough to get by. This “brochureware” approach to web development required little more than taking the images and text from a printed advertising brochure and publishing it onto a webpage as-is.
But this approach leaves little opportunity for features, such as a membership portal or e-commerce platform, that can make your website more engaging.
These days, even brick-and-mortar businesses recognize the importance of a website with an up-to-date blog, social media integrations, analytical tools, and more.
What is modern web development?
So, what makes modern web development services different from earlier approaches? One of the major differences is that the process can be more continuous, and integrated with other parts of your business, rather than a standalone project.
For example, instead of hiring a developer to create a static website, and then having to re-hire them every time you want to update it or something breaks down, your team can be continuously updating the website based on analytics and user feedback.
It’s much easier to add and subtract components as you go, rather than having to start from scratch every time you change something in your business.
Even less tech-savvy businesses can install new tools, such as chatbots and callback widgets, without having to worry about breaking anything.
Another difference is that more developers are becoming full stack developers, which means that they can handle both the front- and back-end of your site.
Old-school web development approaches relied on specialists to develop each piece of the website. For example, a front-end developer would focus on the parts of the site that the user interacts with, while a back-end developer would handle the internal elements, such as a content management system.
Full stack developers take a more holistic approach, and can oversee your project from start to finish. They typically specialize in one or more programming languages, such as Ruby or Python, and may have additional visual and web design skills.
One more thing to keep in mind is the rise of the API, or application program interface, which is essentially a language or protocol by which the components of your software can interact with each other or with components of publicly available software.
For example, the Google Maps API allows you to embed maps onto your own website, while the YouTube Analytics API allows you to track data about your video views.
You can also use a private API to make some of your data available to external vendors or other partners who need access to something in your database.
All of these changes mean that website development services are more flexible and can be customized to suit nearly any business.
But they also add a degree of complexity to the process, and mean it’s more important than ever to choose developers who can work with you closely from start to finish.
Types of web development services
Now, let’s take a look at some specific web development services that you might choose to incorporate into your project.
The simplest web development option is a website. This can consist of one or more web pages, as well as multimedia content, that a user can navigate through.
Websites can either be static or dynamic. Static websites deliver the same content to every user, and require manual updates, while dynamic websites offer some degree of interactivity, and may load differently based on the activity stored in browser cookies.
A dynamic website might show a different list of products or blog posts to each user, for example, depending on their previous clicks or search requests.
Many websites attract visitors using SEO (search engine optimization), which refers to the practice of using keywords that customers are searching for.
Websites are useful for generating traffic and providing information, but their features are limited compared to other web development options.
The next step up is to turn your web site into a web application. While the distinction is blurry, the main difference comes down to how interactive your website is. A site with a high degree of interactivity is called an application.
For example, a static page that displays a restaurant’s address and menu is considered a website. But a website that includes tools for making reservations or ordering takeout could be considered a web application.
Other common types of web applications include email and online banking platforms.
Web apps are similar to websites in that they’re accessed through a browser, but they don’t typically display distinct URLs for each page that you visit.
Instead of loading a new web page with each click, a single-page application rewrites the existing page with new information from the server. This makes the website faster and more “app-like,” even if the user experience is relatively similar.
Another major benefit to web applications is that they can be easily integrated with other software. For example, your e-commerce application could automatically input customer data into your company’s ERP or CRM more easily than a traditional website.
Web applications are not to be confused with mobile apps, which are designed for use on smartphones, and can take the form of native apps or in-browser web apps.
Modern web development services can create a variety of mobile apps, from field force automation apps that your sales reps can use on-the-go, to booking and ticketing apps that your customers can use to make purchases or reservations.
Unlike traditional websites, which may show up differently depending on which browser or operating system you use, mobile web development uses responsive design to make sure that your pages load properly, no matter which device a customer is on.
This can help you provide a consistent brand experience across platforms, create more opportunities for in-house collaboration, or offer services that your website doesn’t.
Whether or not you need a mobile app depends on what services you offer and where your users are located when they access your site. Travel-oriented brands may benefit from an app that customers can use in the car or on the go.
Mobile apps can also be configured for offline use. This is especially important if your users are likely to access them on a plane or on a subway.
These apps download enough data -- such as map data or playable media -- that they remain usable even when you lose connectivity.
Next, there are web portals, which differ from standard websites in that they provide a more personalized access point, either for at-home customers or in-house users.
For example, a web portal could include anything from an e-commerce storefront to an e-learning platform used for remote lessons or employee training.
Other uses for web portals include B2B portals for vendors, bulletin boards and forums, and self-care portals that allow customers to manage account settings from afar.
What makes portals so useful is that they’re tailored to each individual user of the site, and access can be restricted to only those users who have the appropriate account.
Instead of every visitor to your website seeing the same set of products, for example, they can view their purchase history and see products recommended for them.
When it comes to employee training, a portal can allow you to track which steps each employee has completed, or provide specific resources for their department.
Web portals are typically referred to as being horizontal or vertical.
Vertical portals are narrowly focused on a specific industry. For example, a real estate portal might provide resources tailored to home-buyers or real estate agents.
A horizontal portal is more wide-ranging, and can cater to many different types of users and demographics. Many news websites, such as Yahoo! News, are horizontal portals, because they serve as an access point for a wide range of content.
Web portals can have direct business applications, such as an enterprise web portal, or it can simply be used to provide a more personalized experience for customers.
Public web services
Finally, there are public web services, which use an open API to connect your server to external applications. This kind of web development is most useful for large companies that have relationships with multiple partners.
For example, let’s say you’re an e-commerce platform that has a referral program with dozens of affiliates. Without an API, these affiliates could refer customers to your web store, but wouldn’t have access to real-time data on your products.
With an API, they could use a widget to display which of your products are in stock and what the current prices and shipping times are.
Your web developer can make sure that your data is secure by setting up authentication methods to ensure that only the right partners have access to this data.
Hire a professional website developer for your project
Modern web development services have come a long way, and keeping track of all of your options -- and knowing which ones are right for your business -- can seem like a full-time job. That’s why it’s important to hire professional web developers who can do the job right and help you choose from among all the available options.Whether you need a full stack developer, or just want to create a single-page app, reach out to the team at Zibtek to get started on your new web development project today!