Why your cousin shouldn't build your website
Looking back at the Internet’s birth
The TV series "Beverly Hills 90210" engulfs the country's youth while everyone is listening to Nirvana's grunge rock or dancing to Haddaway and Mr. Vain. You may or may not have gotten your very first Nokia 3210 and think that SMS and Snake is the best thing ever. At the same time, concepts such as webmaster and Netscape Navigator are born.
At this time, most websites are static and are using HTML tags and FTP servers that only white-socks-in-sandals programmers know how to handle. In fact, the Internet is still a baby in a diaper. As it undeniably happens, the baby becomes a toddler – later a child – then a teenager – and here we stand a quarter of a century later and are looking back on a development that few of us had imagined.
So, here we are today. With smartphones that give you access to all kinds of information and the latest episode of Game of Thrones or Youtube videos with kittens – whenever and wherever.
In order to understand why you need more than a webmaster or a full stack developer to brand, develop, optimize, scale and maintain a website, you need to put the last 25 years in perspective.
What happened over the last 25 years?
As your computer, smartphone, watch, car – even your house – have become smart and jumped on the Internet, there are many things that have become easier for the consumers. However, at the same time, there are a large number of technologies that need to be updated, maintained, and renewed.
Today, your website is so much more than just an online business card. You may have a website where customers can search, compare, and buy your products or services. Maybe you have a specific smartphone app that uses data from your online product catalog. You might have content that you would like to know who is reading. You want money, for the things you sell and you want to know if the customers receive your items. Your website is perhaps a service that you provide to your customers. All in all, your website is quite a complex being.
Frontend vs. backend – what is the difference?
Your website can usually be divided into several parts. There would be a backend part that provides the heavy logic of retrieving or storing data to the database. The backend calculates statistics, perform various tasks and communicate with other systems to retrieve/save data, so you know what your customers have bought.
In addition to the backend, there will be a frontend section where your visitors can click around, search, read about your products, see similar items, and make purchases. In the frontend section, it’s all about giving your visitor an easy, aesthetic and, not least, captivating experience of what you would like to tell or sell.
Backend and frontend will communicate together, but most often be written in different languages and use different frameworks that help alleviate trivial functionality, such as, retrieving and saving in the database or creating navigation and expressions so that the visitor can access your website.
Are you seeing a foot specialist if you have a toothache?
As technologies become more advanced and new opportunities arise, the developers are beginning to specialize in different fields.
The backend technologies are primarily about calculating or moving the correct data from A to B – in the fastest way possible. Often there is a lot of data that needs to go back and forth, so a backend developer will work in the database, server, and cache layer.
The last couple of years, buzzwords like Headless, UX, and UI have flown around us, and it is related to a truly spectacular velvet revolution that has markedly changed the way we utilize the web. This also means that the programming languages and the products being built are much more complex. Whether it is a Laravel framework or CMS, such as Drupal or Wordpress, a single developer can no longer overlook the amount of technological progress on all fronts. From a developer's point of view, you will often specialize in some programming languages and frameworks, where you can achieve a high level of expertise.
The time of "Svend from the IT department" that could save your report from the printer, troubleshoot your Windows and update the site - all in one day, has long since been over, and the full stack developer is also an abused term.
You want the best players on your team
You might compare web development to a football team. You need goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards. A website requires just as much effort from several talents, and it's a good investment if you want your brand or business to grow and scale.
Therefore, it's no longer enough to find one who can build a website that is "fine" or go with a half-hearted solution built by someone's cousin. Your competitor already has a product that is good enough, and yours must be even better. You'll need a team of passionate players who can help you in the long run. It's nice to win one match, but it is a special feeling to be able to lift the trophy in the end.
However, it is only in fairytales and in Danish soccer in '92 that miracles happen. The rest of the time it’s good preparation, knowledge, hard work, and a bit of luck, that is the best way to success.