A website is a lot like a car. I noticed the similarity early on in my career and having delivered a whole host of websites since, the comparison is as important as ever.
I recently gave a lecture at a University on the topic and this comparison really helped to drive home the importance of doing things properly. Especially when I asked the students if they would consider travelling in a car that hadn’t been thoroughly tested.
If we take the following basic process for delivery, it is clear to see how far the comparison goes:
1. Discovery & research
Whether you’re building a website or a car, the research and discovery phase is one of the most important.
For example, without properly scoping the objectives of an F1 car it’s unlikely to be safe enough to drive, let alone be competitive. Yet many jump straight in when building a website, skipping the research and basing their project on assumptions about the user and what is needed.
You could probably build a car on assumptions too, knowing a car needs wheels, an engine and a steering wheel. But, in terms of generic requirements, not much separates an F1 car from a fire engine in this regard.
Have you ever seen an automotive designer shape a car out of clay or polystyrene? That’s a lot like a wireframe for your website. Visualise and stress-test a prototype before spending significant investment in the build. Think about aerodynamics – match your wireframe to the initial objectives and aims.
3. Concepts & Design
This isn’t purely aesthetics for aesthetics’ sake. How a car looks seriously affects the driver/passenger experience. This process is as much about feel as it is about style. You want your passengers to feel comfortable and safe on a long journey and the quality of design can make or break this. By the same token, you want your customer to feel safe and confident enough to transact on your website.
4. Front-end development
Front end development (HTML, CSS, JQUERY/ BOOTSTRAP ETC) brings a flat design and wireframe to life.
It wraps the experience around the customer and shapes the seats and driving position. It laces all controls within reach of the driver, delivering the look and feel of the buttons and dials on the dashboard.
5. Back-end development
Back-end development powers the experiences for the user/driver. Not only does it put the engine in to make the whole thing move, it is the onboard computer that brings intelligence to the experience.
Where the front-end creates the style and motion of the windscreen wipers, the back-end brings the experience that turns them on at the first sight of rain. It adds the intelligence to change their speed as the rain gets heavier whilst also changing the traction of the car without driver input.
Then the back-end development produces the experiences that store the driver’s experience preferences, from seating position to engine mode. It sends data back for analysis to diagnose issues.
6. UAT – Testing
Every single use case needs testing on a site or application and in every single scenario. Only then is it ready to be used by customers.
Unit tests will check programmatically for potential issues prior to human testing. Human tests will then show how the original specification and use cases work in practice. Penetration testing will help ensure a site is secure prior to real customer input.
7. Maintenance & Optimisation
Following the launch of the site/car, it’s essential to take care of it. Like checking the levels in your car and replacing worn tyres, your site needs to be consistently maintained and upgraded to accommodate for browser/experience updates.
Optimisation is the process that looks to improve the performance and experience of a website in the same way an F1 team looks to shave milliseconds off their lap times throughout the race calendar.
Next time you deliver a website or an application, be sure to put as much care and attention into its development as if it were a car. Don’t cut any corners to win your race. Only then will you be going places.