For better or for worse, 2016 brought to the forefront a lot of issues that we’re still grappling with right now. The attack on Paris at the end of 2015 indirectly gave us Brexit and the rise of Euroskeptic movement, with divisive figures such as France’s Marine Le Pen and Holland’s Geert Wilders gaining more popularity with their constituents. Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States, which two years into the office has become one of the most controversial democratically elected head of state in the history of the world.
One other event stood out for me however, which was the release of The Life of Pablo, the seventh studio album of the American rapper Kanye West. The album was notable not just for the quality of the music but also because it received a treatment that no album has before; it was updated and more than once, like Windows. It is a most curious act and one that I think could prove to be monumental to music as a whole, one that I think parallels the world of web development.
When is a product finished?
We’re used to seeing updates for computer programs or video games but never music and yet the internet of course has changed a lot of things. When all we had were cassettes, vinyls and CDs, there was no way for musicians to mess around with them post-release, once an album’s out, that’s basically it. Now that Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music are the norm, where most of my music library is essentially controlled server-side, musicians, like Kanye, have a way of controlling the narrative.
Had some last-minute tweak to a song you couldn’t apply in time or wanted to add new song altogether? Kanye actually did both of them in 2016, over updates spread across from March up until June for an album that was released on Valentine’s Day 2016. Even after two years, I still don’t know whether what Kanye did with his music is a good thing or not but I do know that when it comes to web development, this is the right approach.
Unlike music, whose artistic quality is mostly undisturbed by technological progress, web development offer no such luxury. You could, for example, listen to My Bloody Valentine’s shoegaze classic Loveless, released in 1991, side by side with their 2013 comeback album mbv and Loveless would still holds up admirably. On the other hand, compare the websites for the candidates of the 1996 United States Presidential Election, the first time campaign websites were officially a thing, with the ones from the 2016 elections and see how much two decades worth of progress looks like.
A website could never be finished or up-to-date, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that they are up-to-date for like, a month or two, before some genius somewhere came up with a library that could radically alter how a website works. Just like how the popular multiplayer game Fortnite is regularly updated to add new contents, game fixes and balance changes, your website should have professional support and maintenance backing it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the following reasons.
To deal with unexpected maintenance
Websites are a service and services are judged not for how they deal with customers on a good day but how could they cope with the customers on a bad day. A train service for example would get no praise of being consistently on time but even the slightest of delay, even when it’s something that the company have absolutely no control over, is more than enough to send adults into a tantrum. I’ve seen such things happening at an airport and chances are you have too.
When your website is for some reason, broken, you need a team of professionals to be able to quickly identify why and solve that problem as soon as possible. You might think that you’re not going to have a need for a web development team once your website’s up and running but trust me when I say you’d be glad to have one when your website crashes at some point. Having a dedicated team would also enable you to communicate clearly to your customers what the problems are and what’s the ETA on the maintenance work.
For cybersecurity issues
Somewhat related to the point above, dedicated team of professionals would also be helpful in dealing with cybersecurity issues, which have taken a lot more space in the headlines since the WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017 and Australia’s own decision to ban Chinese companies from partaking in the country’s 5G development project. Cybersecurity as an industry is expected to grow enormously in the next five years, which makes perfect sense as our existence gets pushed more and more into the digital world.
To manage platform updates
Just like your computer run on an OS that gets continually updated over time, your website also runs on an underlying system referred to as the content management system or CMS for short. Also just like how OS updates can sometime wreak havoc to your computer because of sheer incompetence on the manufacturer’s part, updates to the CMS can sometimes break the functionality of your website, especially if you’ve done some extensive modifications to the core platform.
Having a dedicated team to handle and manage these updates, checking and testing them for possible conflicts, can help you solve problems before they actually become one.
To help keep your websites up-to-date
Last but not least, and one that I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this same piece is that the world of web development, as with any other technology, moves at a relatively rapid pace. What’s cutting edge now is obsolete the next quarter and unless you’re diligently following the industry, chances are you won’t have the time and knowledge to keep up with every minutiae of development. The solution is to offload the duty to someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
Having a dedicated team of web developers, whether in-house or on a contractual basis would enable you to keep up with all the latest development trends and apply them when necessary to your website. Obviously you still need some sort of oversight, giving the green light on changes and developments that you feel would increase the appeal and the performance of your website while passing on the rest. A true web developer’s work is never done, precisely why continuous website support is absolutely necessary.