This is the last part of the four part series: How Your Website Comes Together. By now you’ve learned about front-end and back-end code, servers and how they work, and how the internet works. You know about all of the things that go into making a website and having it available online. There’s just one last thing you need be aware of.
If you have a website and you want people to keep coming back, you have to be ready to do some maintenance and go one step further. Keeping your website up to date and secure is just one of the facets of maintenance. Good documentation is a part of maintenance as well as search engine optimization. Here are a few things that go into maintaining a website.
There will be at least one update to your website at some point in time. The most common kind of update is adding a new feature. As your website starts getting more users, they’ll show you places that you can improve. One way of doing that is by making your website easier to use. Maybe instead of having people type in a regular search box, you have the box do some kind of typeahead prediction for them.
Features aren’t the only way updates come about. Any time you have real users on your site they are destined to break something in an unforeseen way. Fixing bugs is also one of the reasons you’ll be updating code. It could be something as small as a color change or it could be something huge like your payment form not working. Either way, bugs are a part of the web developer’s cycle.
Something else that might need to be updated are the libraries your code base uses. Libraries go through updates as well and that could change the way they work with your updated code. Keep all of your libraries up to date to prevent any potential security leaks and to get the best performance out of them (most of the time).
The only time documentation is a pain is when you can’t find it or it’s poorly written. Part of maintaining your website is knowing how your website works. Over time that knowledge fades because of different projects or just because you slept the night before. Leave enough documentation so that you or anyone else could figure out how the website works.
Leave notes on how to get through the sign up process or how to get through any other processes on the site. This documentation is mainly for you so it doesn’t have to be a formal write up with perfect grammar or a certain format. It just has to have enough information to be useful.
Your documentation could be a bunch of pictures with arrows if that helps you and maybe a new person figure out what to do next. Having documentation in your own words will make it easier for you to work more efficiently because you’ll know exactly what to do. Think of your documentation as the instructions you wish you had when you start any new project.
This is just a bonus for developers looking to go a little further. You can make yourself a more valuable web developer if you know a little about SEO or search engine optimization. SEO is a whole field dedicated to helping web pages rank better in search results. It doesn’t take much extra work as a web developer, but it can make a huge difference in the amount of traffic a site receives.
Once you have all of the content available, you can start focusing on specific keywords in that content. You’ll want to pick one keyword or key phrase that people will probably search for and then tweak your page to add extra emphasis to it. One thing you can do is look at the keyword density. Your keyword shouldn’t appear in the text more than 3–5 times depending on the length of the content.
Another thing you can keep an eye out for is the mobile responsiveness. Search engines lower the rank of pages that have crappy mobile layouts. Make sure your website is easy to navigate through on different sized devices. You can do a quick check by using the developer tools in any browser to change the size of the website. There are even preset phones and tablet sizes you can choose from.
The last thing you want to consider are the semantics of the HTML. When those web crawlers hit your website they use semantics to find some of the data they’re looking for. If you aren’t using tags like <main> and <aside> you’re probably missing out on some easy optimization.
Well, hopefully you’ve learned a bit from this whole web series. Maintenance is one of the things that gets overlooked in the initial process of making a website and I hope this gave you a few things to think about. As a web developer, you don’t have to worry about much other than the code.
But if you want to be a super highly valued web developer, knowing about all of these other things will help you considerably. When you have more of these skills you open yourself to new opportunities for your career and even for higher salaries. This just touched the surface of all the great things you can learn. So make sure you go learn at least one of these things really well (besides the code part). 😉
If you’re having a hard time getting your first junior dev job, don’t feel bad. It took me about 6 months to find that first job after teaching myself for about a year. But I learned some things that made it easier getting jobs after that.
I’m going to share what I learned in a webinar on Feb. 24 so if you’re interested click here to register.