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Web Development

Hand-coded PHP Web Application

Why Plan a Website?

Building a website or web application is analagous to building a house. If a person were to decide they wanted a new home and so they took their shovel and set to digging a hole in the ground, then found some materials and began building with no clear idea of what they really wanted (or needed) they would probably get exactly what they set out for — something they didn't really want or need.

"Hands down, Aptitude provides the best website and IT service that our business has ever encountered. They are responsive, efficient and provide creative solutions to our needs."

—Sue Stillman Linja, RD, LD - S&S Nutrition Network

We believe in the planning process. When you are building a house you start with dreams and ideas which are conveyed to paper in the form of a blueprint. While the time involved to create an appropriate plan will differ drastically, whether you are building a dog house or a mansion it is important to have a plan. To ensure that the dreams and ideas you have are what you get in the end, at Aptitude we follow a phased approach for our projects. We start with Project Discovery.

Public Sites Definition:

A public site has the main purpose of providing information to current or prospective customers. These sites can be information only or they may provide more complex interactions such as online shopping carts. Public sites would also include social sites and blogs.

Web Application Definition:

A web application is built to solve a specific business purpose. It is usually for internal use only, but could also provide online functionality for customers.

For example: Calendaring and scheduling functionality to track information to be presented to multiple users.

Project Discovery

The first stage involves our meeting with you (either in person, via video conference, or phone call) to discover exactly what it is you want out of your website or application. We want to know if you are simply looking for an information-only site or if you would like more complex features and capabilities within your site; we want to make sure we both know what are your dreams and ideas. The information gathered during this discussion will help us know how to proceed, and will tell us how quickly we might be able to move through the next phases (are we building dog house or mansion?). Other items discussed during this initial meeting include a domain name (i.e. — http://www.aptitudeit.net), hosting requirements, Search Engine Optimization, graphic design, software/hardware requirements, and maintenance of the site. This is also where you have the opportunity to decide if you would like to work with us.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Definition:

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the process of optimizing your website to acheive page one results in applicable search engine queries for the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!). Other online marketing terms are Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Social Media Optimization (SMO), also called social SEO.

Following the meeting we will provide a written statement of work to be completed with associated costs. If the project scope is large this phase may be extended after contracts are signed to gather additional information.

Planning

The planning phase will vary in length with the complexity of the site, the time requirement is comparative to the dog house vs. mansion analogy mentioned previously. A dog site does not require a full set of blueprints, just a quick sketch, but a mansion may take a significant amount of time to detail all of the necessary requirements. Instead of house blueprints, we create a flow-diagram which shows the each page of the site and they interrelate. We then build wireframes which are reviewed with you to ensure desired functionality. These wireframes show layout only, colors and graphics on the site are not addressed yet. Time spent getting these exactly right will save time in the design and development phases.

Wireframes Definition:

Non-functional line-only drawings of a web page, there are no graphics. These include detailed descriptions about functionality on the specific page.

Design

During the initial meeting we will have begun discussing colors and graphics, if it is a large project the discussion will continue during this phase. We will gather additional information from you regarding other websites and layouts you might like. We will also ask for any photos, logos, and files you might like to have displayed on your site. If you do not have a logo we can also provide graphic design services. With a more complex project we now take the wireframes and build them out into non-functional digital pages. These pages show all of the design elements which will be desired throughout the site. On smaller projects the design will be integrated with development and the graphic design elements will be presented on a functional webpage. Even on large projects, this phase can overlap somewhat with the development phase to reduce time in the project duration.
If you are interested in the ability to maintain your own site (add/delete/change content) after it's completion, we can build the site with a Content Management System (CMS), like Wordpress, Drupal, or Joomla!, or we can build a custom CMS for your specific project.

Development

This is where the site comes to life. The designs which are now complete are taken and made "active". We build out your entire site according to the specifications laid out during the discovery and planning phases of the project. In order to provide optimal functionality all our sites are hand-coded. Software such as Dreamweaver and other WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web design applications can make web development easier (in our opinion they do not) but they also add unnecessary code to the website which can make the site load less quickly. We understand the code behind the site so we can build exactly what you want, and if there are any problems we know where to find them because we wrote every line.

Testing and Launch

No matter how good the programmer, a new application is going to have a few bugs. Prior to launch, we test the site thoroughly for any functionality issues. We encourage your hands-on involvement in this phase of the project as, more than likely, you will have a better understanding of what the site should accomplish than anyone. This also gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the application and give feedback on anything you would like to have "tweaked" prior to actual implementation.
Once the testing is complete and we are both comfortable with the stability and functionality of the site we take it live on the web.