Web Architect

Submitted by peter on Tue, 03/06/2018 - 10:31

The Web is the visible face of the Internet. Architecture is the creation of a structure and the end result. Architecture is as relevant to the Web as it is to buildings and manufacturing and almost every other activity. Web architecture is created and developed by Web Architects. When you want really effective Web and Internet systems, start with the architecture.

Education has an architecture based on the age of the student, their background experience, and their interests. The development of a musician is different to the development of a doctor or a physicist or a bricklayer. Unfortunately our local education system tries to push everyone into whatever narrow pathways that the major political party thinks is right.

Cars have an architecture that has changed to make automated assembly easier. From the 1960s to the year 2000, car architecture changed to make cars more reliable and safer. Now the architecture has changed to make cars fashion statements built from cheap plastics that will force you to replace your car instead of repairing your car.

The Web has changed from a Web site orientation to a dual Web/Application use. Your Web site has the front end display separated from the processing so that the back end processing can also feed an application using similar technology.

Unfortunately many Web sites are developed without an architecture. The Web site is built to feed an application then the developers attempt to replicate the application using Javascript in your Web browser, creating a really bad experience for Web site users.

Aesthetic architecture

Architecture lays the base for the aesthetic appeal of a structure. Many Web sites start with the aesthetic design, the equivalent of an interior decorator, then develop something to fit without developing an architecture to support the aesthetics. There are hundreds of examples where organisations followed this approach, spent tens of millions of dollars trying to make it work, that had to scrap everything and start again.

Social architecture

Social media use is replacing Web sites as the focus of development. You get millions of visitors from your expensive social media campaigns then turn away the visitors with a Web site that does not deliver. You need the overall architecture before throwing time or money at social media.

Technical architecture

This is the bit that separates big successes from the sites that eventually fail to grow. Using online shops as an example, they fail to grow from a local shop with limited products, they fail to expand Amazon style. Customers give up and leave the shop.

Aussie Farmers Direct is today's an example of an online shop expanding from a niche to something more general then failing. AFD failed mainly due to foreign retailers flooding the market with subsidised imported goods. Australia's free trade policy stops Australia doing what every other country does, which is to add tariffs to imports when the exporting country is subsidising the exports.

ADF adjusted their Web site to capture more customers in niches where they could best service people who use online shopping the most. ADF added product ranges and options. Their closure looks like a case of too little or too late. They lost customers then added features that would have kept those customers if added earlier.

A good Web architecture makes it easy to add, change, and develop your customer service. My successes are examples of good planning at the architecture stage. Some of those successes at the Web level then stressed the rest of the organisation because the other parts did not have an architecture to allow rapid expansion. A great Web architecture needs the backing of a good flexible business architecture to capture the big inflow of customers.

Professional architecture

Professional architecture sounds weird and is as important as the other aspects of architecture. I could write many examples where slow growth or outright failure results from unprofessional representation of Web site development. People with the wrong experience misrepresent themselves, leaving you with an award winning Web site that attracts visitors but fails to convert the visitors to customers.

In and out of fashion

Web architecture was almost unknown in 2005. Back then I googled "web architecture" and found little of relevance outside my own writing. A few years later, many Web development companies added pages on Web architecture but mostly to promote their one limited design that they forced on every customer.

Today Web architecture is back out of fashion and decorative aspects of Web design are in fashion. The developers attempt to win awards but appear to have no interest in developing customers for their customers. The Web site owners are then forced to spend massive amounts on advertising, often through the agency that developed the Web site. The agency may make far more profit from the commissions on the advertising than on the web site development.

Plan ahead

One of the google results in 2005 was a reference to a 1996 book about Web site development. The book described a development approach that was obsolete a year or more earlier. I made lots of money fixing web sites that used the obsolete approach. You need an architect who can plan ahead.

When you build a warehouse, you might plan for a ten year use with options to expand when needed. You hire a Web developer who locks your Web site into something that suddenly needs a massive change in less than a year.

If you had started with a good architecture, you would be applying only regular updates for a known period, say two years. This would be similar to your ten year warehouse use allowing for extra shelving as your product range expands. A lack of architecture is equivalent to you adding the extra shelving then finding the concrete floor is not strong enough to handle the weight.