What is the ideal web development team structure?
Do you need a web development team? To start with, most companies either outsource web development or have one person responsible for it.
However, as your company grows you may find that it becomes too much for one person and/or cheaper to do in-house. At this point, you need a web development team. Understanding the ideal structure for one is a challenge, similar to working out the ideal structure for your marketing team in general.
So, what does your web development team need? How do you structure it in a way that supports your overall marketing strategy and all stakeholders?
Roles Needed for a Web Development Team
First of all, you don’t necessarily need a full-time person for all of these roles. In some cases, somebody may wear multiple hats until the team is built out further. You also might bring some functions of web development in-house while continuing to outsource others.
But here are the roles you need to have covered.
Somebody has to be in charge. For web development, this is ideally somebody with both IT and project management experience. They don’t necessarily have to be a coder themselves. But they have to understand what is possible and what can be achieved.
They also need to decide when outsourcing is an ideal solution and when things can be done in-house. Consider looking at whoever has been liaising with an outsourced developer if you have one; that person has likely been building the required experience.
Professional web development companies also have a project architect. This is the person who oversees the entire project arc and ensures that everything is put together in the perfect way to support your business needs. This person typically involves himself in project requirements analysis to study what you need. They then coordinate with other team members to ensure that the development process supports it. More technically, they may work with the developers to make sure that the site you are building supports the right information architecture for your content.
Most businesses don’t have a separate project architect but roll this into project management. However, it’s important to understand that somebody has to have a solid idea of what the structure of the website is, what your needs are, etc.
Back-end developers work on the stuff that you and your customers never see. The back end is the nuts and bolts of the website. They handle a lot of the server-side stuff and will need to work within the technical specifications of your web server. You can sometimes avoid needing a back-end developer by using a content management system to run your website. In this case, the back end, and much of the front end, is handled for your plug and play.
If you don’t use a CMS or need to significantly alter one to meet your needs, though.
The other side is the front-end development, which is the site itself as the users see it. This means things like how web pages are served to clients, making sure that the site recognizes mobile devices, etc. It also includes integrating with social media. They handle everything client-side to make sure your site works across multiple devices and in all browsers.
On many smaller teams, the back end and front end are handled by the same person. This is also the largest chunk that tends to be outsourced. Software development and web coding are highly specialized skills. Unless you already have them in your IT department, it may not be worth trying to get somebody in-house.
Do not neglect this piece! UX/UI designers work on how your website looks and feels. A good user experience designer makes your website care. Okay, a website can’t care, but…
UX design requires a mixture of graphic design, coding and, yes, marketing. It’s the UX designer that helps you make a website that will actually sell products. The developers make sure it stays up.
The UX designer makes it sing. Good UX design requires a solid understanding of your business and target audience. And a really good designer avoids the temptation to do what is fashionable right now.
Quality Assurance Engineer
The last IT is quality assurance. This is the person in charge of testing your website and making sure it works. They might rope in other employees to act as testers. A good QA engineer will test your website across multiple devices and multiple browsers to make sure that you are not losing customers just because they happen to not be using Chrome.
Finally, there is the person responsible for putting content on your website. This might include getting your logo and giving it to the UX designer so they can put it in the layout. It also includes seeding your blog with those few initial articles, linking YouTube videos, etc.
Again, you don’t necessarily need a full-time person in each of these roles. If you outsource to a web designer, though, they probably will do that.
For the average company who refreshes their website maybe once a year, though, a full-time web development team is generally overkill.
So, how do you structure such a team to make it work and give yourself the best results? In many ways, it depends on your goal and your budget.
Structuring a Web Development Team on a Low Budget
If you are a small business looking at this you might be panicking. Stop! There are plenty of ways to reduce the size of your web development team.
One of them is outsourcing. Typically, you would outsource the web development part of the package and likely project architecture. You hire a vendor to design (and possibly maintain) the website for you.
Outsourcing leaves you only in need of a project manager to work with the vendor and a content director to get your content onto the site. You can integrate the latter role into your overall content management policy and even automate using a platform such as Welcome.
Another way to keep your team’s needs down is to use WordPress or another content management system. With these systems, you install a basic framework that sets up your site for you. You don’t need to do any code or hire a coder, although you may want to hire a consultant familiar with the system you are using to help with the initial setup.
Your low-budget team thus might only be a project manager to keep things running smoothly and a content director to put content onto the site, and that need can be further reduced.
The Effects of Outsourcing and the Use of CMS
Both outsourcing and using a CMS reduce your control over your own site. With outsourcing, you have to pay again if you need the website to be refreshed. Whether this is a good course of action depends in part on how often you need or want to do this.
With a CMS, your user experience is limited, or rather the amount you can change it is. Many experienced web users can immediately tell when they are on a WordPress site. This reduces the uniqueness of your site dramatically.
But if you have a low budget this might be your best option.
Web Development Team Structure on a Higher Budget
Of course, you might be reading this article because you are hitting problems with full outsourcing or your WordPress site and have reached the point where you need to increase your team.
The best way to cover all the team roles with a reasonable number of people is:
- Project manager and project architect. If the person in charge of the project also understands how they want the site to be, these roles can easily be combined into one. If you need a specialist requirement analyst, they can often be brought on as a consultant for one-time or occasional needs.
- Web developer. This person handles the back-end and front-end coding of the site, with the potential to outsource website refreshes when they happen (at a lower rate because you’re doing your own maintenance). Web developers need to know CSS, php, multiple programming languages, etc. so they can produce a technically solid site that will not go down.
- UX designer. UX design is highly specialized, but you may have somebody on your content creation team willing to learn the skillset involved. Otherwise, it’s best to outsource this to a specialist.
- Content director. This role can typically be done by somebody from your existing content management team, as it is mostly editorial, especially if you use Welcome to control publishing content. However, they also need to understand search engine optimization and how web content works. Choose somebody with experience in text-based content and SEO.
You need to get your team together at the very start of the development process unless you are transferring an existing website that has been designed by a vendor. In any case, a significant refresh of your user interface is recommended at intervals to take advantage of advanced technology.
Should You Use a More Hierarchical or More Flat Structure?
As already mentioned, somebody has to be in charge. However, beyond that, your team should operate in a mostly flat way. Nobody is more important than anyone else, although some might have more work to do at particular times.
It’s vital to make sure that everything in your web development project supports the needs of your business, and that means involving the content director and other people from marketing from the start. Resist the temptation to let your programmers “play,” as you can end up with a very pretty site that does none of the things you need.
One way to reduce the size of your web development team is to have your existing content manager take on the content director role. This can easily be achieved if you use a marketing software platform that automatically posts to your site as well as to social media. Welcome does this and more. Check it out today and sign up for a free account here.