5 things you didn’t know about: Web Development

Written by Matt - 21/06/2023

Web development is a multifaceted and ever-evolving field that holds many surprises for experienced professionals let alone a business owner undertaking their first website project. While many people have a very basic understanding of what web development is, there are some aspects that you may have yet to think of or consider.

In this blog post, we will delve into five intriguing things that most people are unaware of when it comes to the development stage of a web project.

1. HTML is not a programming language

We have always taken the approach that our clients should not need any knowledge of coding to manage their sites as it just isn’t necessary. When managing content, however, some might see or interact with the HTML that sits behind. Understandably, to most, this looks unapproachable and like complete gibberish.

A common misconception is that HTML is a programming language but it has no logic (if “this” do “that”), there’s no mathematics involved and it doesn’t really “do” anything. Instead, HTML is a Markup Language meaning that it exists purely to give structure to a web page and tell your browser what each part of that page is.

The more common tags that you might see have very simple meanings:

<div>’s are just “boxes” around content that allow us to move things around

<p>’s are paragraphs where the tags mark the beginning and end of each

<a>’s are anchors (links) that allow a piece of text or an image to be clicked and take you somewhere else

So, next time you see some HTML, before you back away slowly or hide under the desk, take a deep breath, give it a read and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can work out what’s happening.

2. Browsers and devices are not all the same

While Google Chrome has seemingly taken over the world, Internet Explorer is effectively no more and iPhones are everywhere, chances are that your website audience is spread across various browser apps and devices of all shapes and sizes.

This would be fine if they all worked in exactly the same way, but they don’t. Chrome, Firefox and Safari, for example, all use completely different rendering engines and therefore load web pages in their own unique ways.

Unfortunately, the websites we build don’t “just work” on all of these various combinations straight away. While a single component of a web page may be straightforward to build in isolation, it takes constant testing and tinkering to ensure that all parts of a page work together and display as intended on the most popular browsers at a range of screen sizes.

3. Caching, a gift and a curse

Imagine you go to a restaurant for a meal. You order and wait for the food to arrive. Instead of a nicely prepared meal, the waiter presents you with instructions and all of the ingredients and tells you to make it yourself. It would probably be quicker if the chef had made it for you and brought it out ready to eat though right?

This is essentially how caching works with websites. Rather than being sent all of the individual pieces of a page and your browser putting them together every time it loads, your browser saves a fully assembled version of it the first time and then loads this every time after making it much quicker to browse.

While the benefits of caching (speed and browsability) far outweigh the drawbacks, that doesn’t mean that those drawbacks aren’t still a pain to deal with.

We realise that we sound like a broken record when we tell you on a support ticket that your issue is due to caching and it just needs to be cleared, but 99% of the time it is the cause of a fix or change to a site not showing up for you yet.

4. Nothing is set in stone

A typical web project with us involves three stages, wireframing, design and build. In the build stage, we take pride in reproducing the design you’ve signed off on as accurately as possible.

But, up to that final stage, everything you’ve seen is static and then when you see the built site, you see the same thing again. This leads a lot of people to believe that they are restricted to exactly what we’ve produced forever or that it will take more time and money to simply move things around.

This could not be further from the truth. We understand that websites need to be fluid and priorities change. While it would always require more work to add something completely new, we build sites so that their content sections can be added, removed, reordered and repeated as you see fit and train you so that you can manage it all yourself.

5. Turn it off and on again

While it may have become one of the biggest running jokes in tech, sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed. Seriously, it does actually work.

Even though, as a team, we have a wealth of experience and technical knowledge in building websites, sometimes it is just really hard for no apparent reason. Unexpected behaviours, errors, bugs and intermittent issues (these are the worst) crop up now and again and we can go all around the houses to fix them only to find that they went away and we didn’t change a thing.

Web development can be incredibly rewarding, building something that a business is going to use to grow, but it can also be immensely frustrating along the way. If you’re thinking about upgrading your website, get in touch with us today.