People are often confused by what differentiates a website and a web application. While these terms are somewhat subjective, you can think of a website as informational (static content) and a web application as interactive (allows the user to perform actions). They are not mutually exclusive however and most sites will fall somewhere in the middle (a website with an online store for example). At Gray Owl Works, we do both and everything in between, from a beautiful responsive website that showcases your business to a full on custom web application to suit your business needs.
Crucial to any web development project is the ability to understand a client's vision and deliver a finished product that is not only functional—but looks amazing and is developed for the best user experience. In today's market, your website also needs to be responsive, fast, and adhere to modern web standards so that your content is available to the widest spectrum of users. To ensure the success of your project, we work to understand you and your business first, design and create mock-ups before development begins, stay current with web standards and best practices, and strive to choose the right framework for you.
Building a responsive website and/or application is like developing for three platforms: desktop, tablet, and mobile. We utilize the tools, frameworks, and techniques necessary to keep your product displaying optimally across all devices and believe in mobile first development. Not only do we make sure that your website or app will display nicely at all dimensions, but that it will display properly in all of the most popular web browsers as well (Chrome, Firefox, Safari... and yes, Internet Explorer).
Rigorous testing and delivering a bug free and functional product is of utmost importance to us. For any application effort, we follow a test-driven development process to make sure any bugs are found early, can be fixed more easily, and to ensure more modular and easier to maintain code is written. We are devoted to building products that are easy to use, functional, and most importantly products that will stand the test of time. We want you to love what we give you and we aim to produce deliverables that we both can be proud of.
We both hand code websites from scratch utilizing various frameworks and libraries and build with CMS solutions. You may be wondering why we don't use a CMS solution for all websites. There are some disadvantages to popular CMS solutions, like WordPress, which many may not be aware of. However, a CMS is perfect for some projects and we will do our best to help you make the right decision for your business or organization. Many others choose only to build with content management systems because it may be all they know or they want to deliver a quick and easy solution. Just because a site can be built quick and dirty with a CMS doesn't mean it should be. The decision ultimately depends on you and your project.
We have a lot of experience developing websites with WordPress and can fully customize themes, plugins, and custom build plugins from scratch to give you exactly what you want. For websites built with a CMS, we like to use either WordPress or SilverStripe.
Most CMS products introduce bloat to your pages (unnecessary scripts, styles, etc.) which will increase page load time. This means users will leave your pages if it's taking too long to load and it's no secret that page speed is a ranking factor with Google. Research from Google also shows that the chance of a bounce increases to 53% when a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load on mobile! We do configure our WP sites to minimize this but it still will never compare to a hand-coded website (we only include what the pages actually need which results in pages that load much much faster).
Are you prepared for ongoing maintenance? If you plan to manage your site after we build it, you must stay on top of updates for security reasons and to keep your system current. With years of experience developing with WordPress—we've seen it all. You never know what's going to happen with plugin and theme updates and it's more often than not that updates will break at least something on your site. Will you know how to fix it when this happens? See our Website Maintenance page to learn more.
Themes are often deprecated and we've experienced many situations where a site needs to be completely rebuilt a few years down the line because everything was tightly coupled with the theme, and poof—that theme no longer works with WordPress. This is why if you do choose a WordPress solution, we only use premium themes that have been around (and will be around), have withstood the test of time—and meet our standards!
Another thing to consider is the amount of time it takes to learn how to use WordPress. In our experience, we run into three scenarios. One, a client realizes they don't have the time to learn how to use it; two, they get so frustrated trying to make updates that they ask us to do it for them; and three, they are either experienced users already or hit the ground running. SilverStripe is another CMS option we offer which provides a much simpler user interface (UI) for updates and serves to mitigate this problem.
If you don't really need to update your site very often and don't mind someone else updating your content for you, you may want to consider a non-CMS website for some of the reasons outlined above. For smaller sites that don't need access to a wide range of technologies, a CMS can be overkill. Hand-coded websites are much more robust, secure, and can be less of a headache in the long run. Even if you want to move your site down the road, a static site can be migrated much easier and any competent firm or web developer should have no problem updating the content. This is not to say that WordPress or other content management systems are all bad! We will help you decide which solution is best for you.