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Behind The Scenes With One Of Our Front End Developers

Published on 27/05/16

Our front-end developers (FEDs) are responsible for translating the approved website design into a fully functioning and beautiful school website. But what is it they actually do and how long does it take them?

We asked Michael Howlett - one of our FEDs - a few questions with the hope of clarifying how important their role is when it comes to producing well designed, user-friendly school websites.

When you have received the approved website design from the design team what happens next?

Our first step is to sit with the designer who will lead us through the design, step by step, looking at what each section is, where the data will come from and discuss ways in which the user will interact. This is an incredibly vital part of the build process, as the designer has had a much more intimate relationship with the client and the site and it is important to understand what the client's expectations are and how the designer feels the site should act and feel.


Do you utilise coding to build the websites? If so, when did you learn how to do this?

The Front End team comes from a varied background of education and ages; some have been to University to learn programming, whilst others have been self taught and learnt whilst on the job. The beauty of coding is that anyone can do it with the right commitment and self-drive. It is also extremely important to continue to improve; the nature of the industry is built on evolution and it is imperative that each developer stays on top of their game.


What possibilities are available, in terms of features and functionality, when it comes to building websites?

With code almost all possibilities are achievable if given the right amount of time. Our CMS comes pre-built with various features and a wealth of inbuilt functionality which allows the Front End team to extend features and allow them to become more than their initial intention. As a result we have been looking at the way in which content can be added to the sites and strive to constantly seek out more convenient ways to empower the client to create content rich sites.


How do you ensure you keep the site’s load time down when there is lots of imagery involved?

High quality photography is a key feature of many sites we create. One way in which we try to keep the load times down is to allow the clients to crop their images to a sensible size without forfeiting too much of the fidelity of the photos. We are currently looking at more advanced methods to be able to dynamically load images as to shorten load times and make sites more device friendly.


How do you cater for responsiveness?

At e4education we adopt a mobile-first approach to responsive design. What this means is we build the site to work on mobile first and then extend the display out and adapt the design and flow to fit for larger and larger screens until we reach a final point where the site will look like the original design visual that the client has signed off. We speak in-depth with the designer about how certain aspects of each site should work when considering touch devices to ensure we make the sites as user friendly as possible.

We also look, where possible, to use more modern animation techniques as a large majority of devices no longer support Flash Video playback. This is currently a problematic area for web development as an industry as there is no natural alternative at this stage so we have to take each on a site by site basis and advise the client and the designer of what is currently capable.


As a developer, what is so good about working with our CMS (content management system)?

Our content management system gives us some pre-built functionality which allows us to quickly and easily pull content from various parts of the site; news, events, attachments etc and from here we can then build upon this functionality to create rich content. The CMS is also extremely adaptable, which allows us to think slightly outside the box when trying to create the most user friendly experience for the clients.

Our CMS also allows us to make incremental improvements which then get released to all sites on that version of the CMS which keeps a consistent process for new builds as well as amendments to sites which have already gone live; this streamlines the entire life cycle of the site and any one of the developers can understand, update and amend the code without much explanation.