Entrepreneur’s and Executive’s Guide to Web Development Toronto

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What is Web Development vs Web Design

The best way to look at web development versus web design is the contrast between aesthetics  and function.

Web development focuses on functionality in how a web application retrieves, stores, and processes data.

Web design is far more considered with how information is presented and the visual look and feel

Web development includes a much more logical and analytical mindset, because web developers are required to solve problems in an efficient and scalable manner.

Web designers on the other hand need to think creatively and get inspired to create designs, which requires a different skillset.

How to Assess Web Development Quality

Assessing web development quality with Captain America ShieldBusiness leaders with limited exposure to web development and software technology should consider these strategies when determining the quality of a vendor.

Ask for positive and negative client references

Business leaders should consider using references as a source of insight in terms of whether to work with a service or how to best go about doing so. A majority of client references are overwhelmingly positive, otherwise a prospective vendor would refrain from providing them. This makes references not very useful especially when comparing one to another. A slight adjustment is required to draw out  referential insights.

Positive references are great for knowing the strengths of the company and also connecting with other organizations who are growing and expanding their web technology foot print. This often provides a needed second opinion or testimonials on an experience with web or digital transformation vendor.

Negative references can also provide an insight on the development areas of a vendor. This segment of feedback is often glossed over by companies doing reference checks. Negative references or past clients of a service provider whom had a mediocre or bad experience is invaluable. Through this approach Mindfield has been able to glean not only risks with working with vendors but also identify lessons learned to help ensure the working relationship starts and executives smoothly.

Vendors will sometimes be hesitant to provide negative comments which requires tact in navigating this scenario. One way would be to get a balanced perspective from references provided, using questions like:

-If you were to work with the vendor again how would you approach is differently?

-What are development areas of the web development team?

Another approach would be to directly ask for past clients who have discontinued service or cancelled a project. This would be another source of insight as an organization can determine how to avoid certain pitfalls or risks from bringing in a vendor.

Conduct Code Reviews

Offshore developers may sometimes front a local office like in Toronto or Vancouver while having the work delivered overseas. This certainly isn’t uncommon in today’s remote working enterprises, but vendor are obligated to share with clients that there is an offshore arrangement.

Having a code review and allowing the developer to walk through prior projects can help you determine whether they do in fact of domain knowledge or simply offloading work to another contractor.

Often times code reviews do require a technical skillset, and that is where partners like Mindfield can assist with ascertaining technical quality.

Speak Directly with Engineering Resources

Request to speak to software engineers from the Web Development agency and identify their aptitude in creating high performance systems. Particularly it is helpful to probe further in how an angency would ensure responsive interaction, application performance, security, and scalability. These are key qualities that separate out less experience web devs from professionals in the industry.

How to Work well with a Web Development Shop in Toronto

Effective web development vendor collaboration with Avengers banner

Here are some strategies in working effectively with a web development agency, so that both parties experience is meaningful and effective.

Know the problem you are solving

Business leaders should consider ideating or defining the application vision to a place where they know what problem they are trying to solve. This is typically done by a product manager or business analyst and if this type of resource or capability isn’t available, leaders should consider investing in an ideation phase prior to beginning build and development. This will help leaders develop a problem and value proposition statement, which provides clarity into a business case around cost and benefit realized. The other alternative is to simply ideate and explore technology applications with prototyping and proof of conepts. Where the focus is exploratory and incremental code is shared to end-users to determine fit and value of developed technology.

Consider Canned or Pre-Packaged Technology

Business leaders often start here when faced with a technology or automation challenge. It is prudent to determine whether there is an existing software in the market that would meet the needs of your organization. However some may find it challenging as they will need to conform their business practices to an alternative paradigm. What is typically advised is to conduct a fit-hap analysis where by the desired capabilities of a web technology is compared to the availability functionality of an available market technology for purchase.

Organizations then would need to consider the gaps and how they will address them either by creating customizations or managing processes through manual effort. For a primer take a look at your custom versus packaged technology comparison.

Focus on Quality Check for Web Applications

Modern web browsers like Safari, Mozilla, and Chrome all over built-in tools to view web applications in multiple formats. This allows for viewing or websites and applications in numerous formats including: phone, tablet, and multiple screen resolutions. Often time these types of test will flush out display and formatting issues that will reduce the quality and experience. Addressing these issues early on with your web developer is recommended prior to signing off.

Another recommended quality check  would testing cross-browser compatibility using , here are options for testing across Chrome, Safari, and FireFox

  1. Power Mapper
  2. Cross Browser Tester (Limited Time Trial)
  3. Browserling

Executives Need Ensure Quality Check Happens

Business leaders who require a web application must allocate time to test and verify the functionality and behaviour of the system. This means they need to plan time and assign team members to test and run through. It may be convenient to have the web developer to conduct the testing but there are two issues that cause developers to inherently not be suitable for testing

  1. Developer bias – similar to writers (source), developers begin to interpret and see the application with a lens that obscures natural end-user interactions
  2. The people who own or will use the software must test – end user testing helps create a check and balance so that developers are held accountable or  undocumented software behaviour is resolved
  3. Independent Testing is a Best Practise even for Leading Organizations – test driven development for example is a paradigm and a discipline that organizations use to ensure code gets thoroughly tested by writing test cases and then building software to pass, it is often costly and time consuming to adhere to a truly test-driven development culture, in absence testing should remain a function of a dedicated team or product subject matter experts

Types of Web Development Agencies in Toronto

Types of web development services in toronto featuring various comic book hero group logos

There are number of broad categories business leaders can choose to work with. Each offer their own strengths and know which aligns with your needs is key to finding the right partner. These categories are in no way mutually exclusive and in fact some larger firms have begun consolidating across these boundaries make it harder to tell.

Independent Developers – these are solo developers that organizations can hire as a contractor for piece meal projects, though depending on the provider an executive may need to manage the resource closely or look for referrals to reduce the risk of working with someone new.

Creative and Digital Agencies – creative agencies often have a stronger number of front-end developers which means design, UI, and UX is a strength. This often results in a premium on service costs since digital and creative agencies require higher investment due to the lack of predictability and the numerous creative iterations that may cause significant hours of labour to be incurred.

Full Service Technology Consulting Firms – technology firms that end to focus more on the integration and architecture of your application, along with strengths in creating robust application architecture and data models that scale. They tend to focus on the business case, scalability, and  performance of your application. Firms of this calibre will often trade off the previous competencies with a lower aptitude in user interface or visual design.

Offshore Delivery alongside Sales Offices – there are firms who focus on having a Toronto corporate presence but develop and code web applications using offshore locations. This provides companies with a way to save money while having an on-shore project manager. Organizations will need to go in fully aware of the geographic and political context they are collaborating with since economic or social instability may cause unforeseen risks. Further the over head with maintaining a staff in Toronto means the cost advantage of using offshore resources is further diminished.

How to Maximize Value of using a Web Development Company

Optimizing value of web development services with ARC reactor as focus image

Image courtesy of Marvelousroland via Flickr with some rights reserved

Need a Website or Basic e-Commerce

An e-Commerce site is a web application for all intents and purposes. Though businesses may not require the immediate intervention of a web development agency. Though often times less tech savvy leaders could be looking at 2-3x the time and effort spent if they were to create a site on their own. Organization can usually get more of their basic web page and e-Commerce requirements met through web site builders using Wix, WordPress, and SquareSpace.

Require Minor Customization to a Website or Basic e-Commerce Site

For organizations looking for small tweaks and modifications to their e-Commerce site, it’d be advised that they work with an independent contractor. This provides flexibility with having someone get up to speed with your application while helping to manage and commit modifications to the website. An independent often has fewer overheads than other types of web developers in Toronto.

Require Complete Overhaul of Existing Web Application

Due to quality issues or lack of fit with a pre-canned web application, a major revision or restart may be necessary. In determining whether to work with a Digital Agency or a Professional Consulting firm, leaders should consider whether they need the focus to be on user interface, engineering capability, or both.

If an organization is looking for front-end design focus, working with a digital or creative agency is advised since they will often have resources and competencies to provide insights on creative interactions.

Otherwise an organization looking to have high performance systems created along with automating proprietary business processes should look to having a professional consulting firm to handle the work. Another determinant would be in having an existing or large IT foot print with other dependent systems and software already being utilized. Having a full service consulting agency can help integrate and orchestrate these technologies meaning less waste or manual effort in the long run.

If organizations need both, leaders should inquire about the front-end and engineering capabilities of their candidate service provider, and seek to supplement the vendor’s gaps using a combination of agency and consultancy skillset.

Converting an Advanced Excel Sheet with Macros

Department leaders may sometimes have Excel with Advanced Macros processing reams of data. This can cause challenges with managing a single master copy or simply allowing team members to collaborate. It is recommended that professional review our article that focuses on converting Excel Macros to an application.

It is advised that a full service technology consulting firm should be utilized particularly for understanding the data flow and redesign of the application. Further documentation and business process redesign would require a more in-depth and traditional enterprise IT skillsets that are often not found in creative agencies.

Mindfield Full Service and Quality Web Development in Toronto

Mindfield Consulting has been delivering mission critical technologies for over two decades. We have capability to create global high performance system alongside intuitive and cutting edge user experience. Our team collaborates across 4 provinces in Canada along with two delivery offices in Toronto and Vancouver. Our teams successfully helped business leaders bring IT to the executive table. Mindfield specializes in custom software development, elearning for corporate training, and jira expert consulting.

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