When considering your next move online, you know weighing the latest web technologies is vital to ensuring success in your digital communications. But don't go digging for your crystal ball just yet. Predicting precisely which direction the web is headed in the next few weeks, months or years can be tough even for the most experienced decision makers. To make matters worse, those wildly attractive trends popping up in the development community today might actually lead your brands down a technological dead end.
To simplify the process for you, our experienced technology team at Audacity has compiled a quintessential list of the most viable web technologies you should implement in your digital strategies. With a discerning eye we analyzed key aspects of web tech from server environments to content management systems and separated the fluff from the facts. Here you'll find the best moves you can make today to keep your brands in a winning position for the long term.
Get Ultimate Speed and Reliability with “LAMP Stack"
Whether you're launching a website for a new corporate division, building unique landing pages for a campaign, or creating a microsite to support a new product, you know that the speed, reliability and stability of your online presence can mean the difference between delight and disappointment for your customers. To preserve the quality of your digital communications, it's crucial to lean on the most dependable server environment available.
Current market leaders rely on a trustworthy set of technologies commonly referred to as a LAMP stack. Short for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, the LAMP stack is an industry workhorse, powering the lion's share of the Internet. By using the technologies involved in the LAMP stack, you can leverage blazing fast web server software (Apache), an efficient and reliable database for tracking all of your customer and order information (MySQL), and a valuable scripting language (PHP) to execute all of your business logic.
Choosing a LAMP stack configuration will put your brands in sync with web development leaders. According to online researcher Netcraft, over 51% of the web is running on an Apache platform, with only 20% running on Microsoft and the remaining 29% sprinkled across various other server options. It's worth noting that LAMP is a collection of prominent “open source" server software allowing you to tap into a large brain trust of developers who are driving innovation while constantly updating and improving the systems operating your website. On the other hand, Microsoft's .NET platform is a closed, proprietary system. Because of the advantages open source solutions allow, Audacity highly recommends LAMP over .NET configurations when producing a web property for our clients.
On another note, if you're curious why we don't recommend alternative scripting languages such as Ruby or Python, we've found that PHP is the most widely compatible and offers the most creative freedom. Just one more reason for choosing LAMP stack.
Adaptable, Readable and Beautiful with “Responsive Design"
Ten years ago, browsing the Internet looked the same for everyone: staring into the screen of a desktop or laptop. Today, people consume information on the go, accessing the web through numerous devices (have you bought your Smartwatch yet?) and utilizing numerous browser versions.
We all know mobile makes lives easier, but it's worth noting how fast the takeover is happening. According to research published by Monestate in their quarterly review of e-commerce search traffic, mobile use nearly doubled from Q1 in 2012 to Q1 2013.
While the idea of being “mobile friendly" isn't a new concept, development leaders are responding to the challenges presented by the multi-device world we live in through implementing a responsive design framework to new web developments. This trend is supported by Google, as stated in an article published in June, 2013 on its Webmaster Central Blog. In that post, Google recommended webmasters “follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device."
Responsive web design is the easiest, and most adaptable way to present your web applications to users viewing on a variety of platforms. While previous development practice was to offer a separate “mobile" site, this approach is flawed, expensive, and difficult to maintain. Having a mobile version of your website requires creating a separate code base, demands twice the time and money to make updates (because every change has to be duplicated), and often causes problems when mobile users email a link to desktop users who will open the mobile link to an underwhelming first impression.
Using a responsive design alleviates this issue, making it the choice of market leaders. For the curious geeks, Bootstrap from Twitter is an open source responsive front-end framework that modern developers often include in their code base. With the summer release of Bootstrap version 3, its developers continue to balance code stability with innovation as they establish strong web standards and best practices, which we strongly recommend.
The second level of adaptability is guaranteeing your site displays on all operating systems. While some marketers love the visual impact of website features built with Adobe's Flash software, it is important to recognize that Flash is poorly supported by mobile operating systems and completely absent on all iOS devices. With iPhones maintaining 40% of the market share, according to Neilsen.com, you definitely want your web application to be iOS friendly. For your technology to truly work across multiple platforms (operating systems) you could go one of two ways:
- Build a mobile app (or should we say apps, since you'd need to create one for iOS, Android, and Windows), or
- Create a web app (mobile friendly) that runs via an Internet browser.
We recommend option two. It's more streamlined and cost-effective (one size fits all browsers).
Simple and Compatible With the Right “Content Management Systems"
After all that effort to get your site performing at the highest level, you want to keep it up to date without requiring a degree in computer science. The good news is, the world of content management is simpler and smarter than ever. Today it is possible to choose from a few key players to land on a swift and viable Content Management System (CMS) that serves your purpose precisely. From our research we believe the following three to be the best choices for a variety of purposes:
WordPress is the most prolific CMS on the web. It is free, open source, and has a truly massive community developing plugins and themes. It is often the best choice for small- to medium-sized websites, and it offers a very user-friendly interface. Like all CMS's, it is not an ideal fit for all projects. Due to the complexity of its database structure, WordPress begins to buckle when dealing with large databases, and performing complex queries of the database is sometimes resource intensive. When using WordPress, it is best to keep its implementation as simple and lean as possible, so its strengths as a user-friendly CMS may be leveraged while maintaining a high level of performance.
ExpressionEngine is a content management beast. It can handle numerous content types, quickly sift through huge amounts of data, or serve up a complicated e-commerce system. There is a large community surrounding it and an extensive add-on marketplace empowers it as a “Swiss army knife" CMS that can meet nearly any project's demands. It is important to note that there are many cases where ExpressionEngine is overkill, yet websites built on ExpressionEngine are designed to last many years once developed. Now that prominent members of the ExpressionEngine community are bringing their own CMS's to market (like Craft listed below), it will be interesting to see how creator, EllisLabs, responds. Hopefully, under the leadership of their new Chief “Maker," the product will enter a new era of excellence. Competition should spark innovation.
Craft CMS is a promising newcomer onto the CMS scene. Developed by one of the premier add-on developers for ExpressionEngine (Pixel & Tonic), Craft operates under a business model where the core of the CMS is free. Advanced (and arguably some essential) features are offered at an additional cost. Although at present the community is small, it is growing quickly. Craft leverages into its code base an impressive PHP templating engine called Twig, letting the core developers focus on developing other features. For now, Craft is best suited for small- to medium-sized websites that do not require advanced features like e-commerce.
The Time to Act is Now
Still not confident you have that crystal clear picture of your digital future? Don't worry, we do. Whether your company is looking to build a complex e-commerce solution, demo a new product launch, or do something that's never been done before, the technology team at Audacity is prepared to lead you down the right path. Contact us for more information on how to take your web tech in a winning direction.