Web Development

Web Application Strategy, Design & Engineering

Developing robust platforms & applications that manage a variety of challenges within growing businesses using the latest in web-technologies

Today, the web is the cornerstone of all digital ecosystems - building platforms, exchanges and business models around it isn't an option, it's a necessity

what we do
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At Icreon, web development forms a cornerstone of our business technology practice. We utilize the latest technologies to build scalable, enterprise-grade solutions that stand up to rigorous use across a variety of verticals.

Everything from sophisticated automation platforms to robust social networks, to complex ecommerce platforms – we help businesses develop on the web to provide powerful software to the world in real-time.

Our process focuses on building the right platform from start to finish. We emphasize utilizing agile practices, combined with the right planning and preparation so that we can be flexible and pivot rapidly during an engineering and development process, while also having the blueprint and foundational elements pre-determined throughout the strategy, requirements & user experience design processes.

What is the future of Web Experiences?

Counter-intuitively, the web as we know it is dead. In it's replacement is a thriving ecosystem of digital experiences, tools & marketplaces that exist beyond your businesses PCs and smartphones. From smart appliances (such as watches and trackers) to augmented reality through Oculus & Hololens, to enabling intelligent sensing through IoT, the power of the web and the cloud has and will continue to grow far beyond the 2D experiences we're traditionally accustomed to dealing with.

Icreon's Approach to Cloud Enabled Web Apps

The future of web apps, cloud apps, & web development really lie in the ability to create a more compelling customer experience. We hear that phrase 'customer experience' all the time in today's digital world, but the question is what does it truly mean? In addition, when we talk customer experience, are we also talking about how to augment the employee experience, the stakeholder experience, the donor experience, or any other fill-in-the-blank experience?The short answer to that is yes! And for us 'customer experience' isn't some vague catch-all phrase.

We tactically define how to augment customer experience through the use of two key principles: personalization & intelligence. We zone in on creating personalized experiences that treat our audiences as if we were talking to them specifically. And we continuously infuse intelligence into CX by evaluating and utilizing the latest tools available in artificial intelligence and machine learning so that our experiences can respond back to customers naturally, whether it's through a site, a voice conversation a mixed-reality experience or otherwise.

Speak to a Cloud & Web App Experience Architect
thoughts

A few of the themes we prioritize when building web platforms on the cloud

Thoughts and Considerations

Modular

Creating experiences that can easily play-nice with other cloud- and legacy platforms

Future-proof

Leveraging the latest in HTML, Frontend & API technologies to manage technology obsolescence

Delightful

Imagining experiences that create customer delight, engagement & stimulate platform loyalty

Predictive

Making properties that leverage data and patterns to anticipate user behavior

Scalable

Connecting platforms with global infrastructure to create platforms that are truly world-reaching

Personalized

Tailoring sites to the implicit and explicit needs of its user to create more contextual 1:1 journeys

Adobe
Angular
AWS
Braintree
Cloudflare
Drupal
Google Cloud
HTML5
Magento
React
Salesforce
Sitecore

Tools we use to design & develop cloud and web apps that provide compelling CX

solution in action
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deeper

The Ways in Which the Web is Impacting Your Business

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The Importance of UI in Today's Web

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The New Wave of ESN is a Different Beast

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Optimizing Agile for Scalability

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The Ways in Which the Web is Impacting Your Business

Websites are often the lifeblood of an organization. Whether it’s marketing a brand online, providing a digital storefront, or creating a central repository through a content management system - websites are critical for businesses today. The various functions and capabilities of a website are often tied to the perception of a brand.

Reaching the right customers through optimized content, and immersing visitors with effective web design techniques allow for many businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors. But when a website lags behind in terms of trending technologies and approaches to web development, the increasingly tech-savvy consumer will negatively judge a brand by their website.

In the same way that retailers and restaurant chains strategically assess and carefully implement updates to physical locations, brands should hold their websites to the same scrutiny and attention to detail. If you’re wondering whether or not your own website is meeting the expectations of today's digital consumer, the following list will help you assess a website and decide if it's time for a redesign or complete rebuild.

Does Your Website Respond to the Range of Visitors?

Mobile devices are the new standard when it comes to computing. We are officially in the Post-PC era when it comes to the device of choice for consumers. In fact, 25% of all website traffic in the world came from a smartphone or tablet.
Not only do websites need to be optimized for mobile, but they must also attend to touchscreens and finger-tips rather than a mouse click. Buttons, content, and other user interface features must adapt to smartphones and tablets. If not, consumers will encounter a clunky mobile version of a website and end their visit.

Responsive website design (RWD) is an approach to mobile website design that adapts page elements for specific devices. RWD can allow for one website that optimizes itself for tablets, smartphones, and PCs accordingly. Leading to open access for potential customers regardless of the device they use to surf the web.

Are Load Times Preventing Transactions?

Website load times are more important than ever when it comes to reaching consumers online. Some studies have gone to pinpoint how each additional second of load time can reduce online sales by 7%. Given that many consumers are spending hours a day with light-weight speedy mobile applications, that expectation regarding responsiveness and quality will carry over to websites whether brands like it or not.

To counteract this problem, brands must consult with web development companies and web design teams to discover what aspects of a website are holding it back from optimal performance. Is it poor code? Are images and video files bulking down the website? There are countless factors that come into play. Brands should also reach out to their web hosting provider to assess bandwidth usage and potential solutions.

Is the Approach to Website Design Updated?

Studies have shown that visitors will judge a website within 6 seconds of seeing the homepage. This reality drives home the importance of compelling and immersive web design. Website design evolves at a tremendous rate, meaning that talented designers who position themselves at the crest of innovation are necessary to stand out in today’s increasingly digital landscape.

A recent Nielsen study found that the average American spends around 60 hours every week on a digital device. This adds up to a consumer base that is increasingly perceptive when it comes to critiquing digital experiences (specifically when it comes to the redesign of a website or mobile app). Mobile apps have also added to the pace of progress in web design.
Catering to touchscreens has resulted in the proliferation of flat design on many websites. Often times when the technical features of a competitor’s website are equal to your own, design elements can serve as a final factor in communicating the spirit of a brand.

Are Website Visuals Effective?

Many studies have shown that visual messaging can supplement written content and increase engagement with a page. Specifically for eCommerce operations presenting products to consumers, images and high quality visuals are the gateway to finalizing transactions.

Strategic use of graphics can also amplify the impact of web design. Specified visuals that help drive home the idea of an article, or the call to action on a landing page, are central to today’s web experiences. Another aspect of visuals to consider is the physical size of the files on a website. Clunky images can have a direct impact on load times and usability of a page.

Is Website Content Relevant and Targeted?

Written content is still critical despite the popularity of YouTube, Vine, and Instagram. Text must be adapted for the age of mobile users. Screen sizes are smaller and touchscreens have replaced the mouse. In the same way that graphics and icons have changed in response to finger-tips, the design of written content must take into account mobile users.
Larger text, the use of sub-sections, and shorter more focused content writing is central for today’s websites. Not only does the written content detail a company’s services and products, it can also serve as a channel to distribute calls to actions (such as singing up for a whitepaper, or filling out a contact form).

The Importance of UI in Today's Web

In today’s technology-driven world, designing a website with a friendly user-interface (UI) is one of the most challenging jobs. Even veteran web designers are having issues acclimating to the ever-changing world of web development trends. Unless a UI satisfies the users’ expectations, a website will have little value for all website visitors. It might include all the necessary functions and features, but users must be comfortable with an intuitive UI.

Every business user has a different approach for a preferred UI for the website. The focus should be on meeting their business expectations while attending to their own tastes and preferences. Strictly emulating trendy web design styles won’t help, but focusing on the user intent will make for a successful website.

Strong communication channels between the web development team and potential users, end-user documentation, and effective feedback systems are central to optimizing a website. So let’s take a look at the processes that lead to an effective UI and a great end-user experience for website development.

Business Workflows and UI Design

Consistent iteration of UI should also be kept into consideration. Location of call-to-action buttons, color schemes and wordings in message labels should be experimented with throughout the website. The more intuitive the interface is, the easier it is to use.

And the best way to identify if a UI is intuitive or not is to continually receive feedback and apply the insight. This lowers down training and support costs for website development that melds with their existing preferences.

A successful web design and development project rests with identifying and incorporating the needs of users. When introducing a new website, there is a serious chance of disrupting processes and taking away from the productivity and efficiency gains. Constant communication with intended users is the only way to ensure a website will meld with their existing workflows.

Web design companies must commit to consistent feedback and iteration sessions. They should establish a deep understanding of the preferred website of the users. The more you constantly communicate with them, the more insight a team will have of their needs.

These proactive strategies serve to build a website that aligns with user requirements. While web developers focus on technical aspects of the website, web designers need to emphasize usability.

Usability is Crucial to Website ROI

UI plays a significant role in making or breaking a website. While the business functionality is important, the way a website provides it to users is just as important. No matter if your website is technically excellent, if your users don’t like it they won’t use it, and ROI will not be achieved.
To be successful in developing a website, don’t underestimate the value of UI design and its usability. Focus on them from start and you will deliver a user-friendly website with a user experience that leads to greater productivity.

The New Wave of ESN is a Different Beast

The traditional understanding of the enterprise social network revolves around one idea:
ESNs are internal websites that help employees get work done.
This is a good baseline of what the purpose of an enterprise social network should do, and ten years ago, it would have been a fairly comprehensive definition. But as social networks have continued to evolve, they’ve stumbled into a few major roadblocks, mostly owing to sub-par execution which has lowered their profile and clout in the workplace. Here are a few of the most common issues that plague enterprise social networks, according to the Worldwide Intranet Challenge:

  • Information is difficult to find
  • Staff is unable to contribute sufficiently, making the intranet feel less interactive
  • The intranet fails to actually help with the completion of work tasks
  • Content is not kept up-to-date
  • The design is lackluster

These issues turn enterprise social networks into a vicious cycle: When users run into friction in the ESN, they stop contributing. When they stop contributing, the content takes a nosedive. When the content fails, users exit the platform in droves. When usage numbers fall, the social network fails. And when the social network fails, stakeholders begin to view the entire idea as non-essential or even harmful as part of a larger overall IT strategy.

Here at Icreon, we frequently talk to businesses who have had bad experiences when implementing social networks, and we understand the realities that affect them. But there are ways to turn the tide in your favor when it comes to ESN, which requires us to adjust the ways in which we currently perceive them.

What do ESNs Need?

To some businesses, the very idea of social networks can hit a nerve. Indeed, the word carries a bit of a stigma—as we discussed earlier, some businesses have already had problems with past ESN attempts, and have become wary when it comes to implementing new technologies that bear even a slight resemblance.

But the truth is, there's nothing wrong with social networks themselves. Instead, our problems stem from the limited view of social networks as static content-stores. This idea has led to narrow authorship and participation capabilities, feeble use cases, and an overall lack of reasons to use the system over time. When a user posts a piece of content, the relevant parties are expected to find and use the content accordingly.

Instead, what ends up happening is that this content falls apart: Users have trouble locating it, they don’t want to take the time searching for it, and they ask the original poster to send it as an email instead. Under this dated "Social Network 1.0" approach, content is expected to perform on its own, even without being placed in any business context whatsoever.

What enterprises need is an altogether more social solution—one which treats employees as part of a larger, interconnected web of content that actually appeals to them. They should be able to contribute to a social network, and they should be able to see easily view and navigate the content that matters most for their workflows. Luckily, for the last five years we’ve been seeing a shift toward social networks which address these issues very well—a shift which has been influenced by the quickly-evolving world of social media.

How Social Network 2.0 Can Help

You don't have to take our word on the impact of social, contextualized networks: According to a recent report from McKinsey, businesses can see a 20-25% boost in productivity when they implement social collaboration and communication technologies. On top of this, all it takes is a quick look around to see that of all the turnkey social network solutions, we’re seeing social platforms like Slack and Yammer jump to the forefront of the pack, mostly owing to two factors: their ability to Specialize and Contextualize both employee workflows and system content. These two criteria are the cornerstone characteristics behind Social Network 2.0, and if your own solutions aren’t built with them in mind, you may already be behind the curve.

Specialize

One big issue that social networks run into is that they attempt to accomplish too much at a time; they bite off more than they can chew. Due to budget, time, and other resource restraints, enterprises can rarely create multi-faceted platforms that prove to be more efficient than their already-established counterparts. Why would my employees try to communicate with one another via social network when they already have Skype?

The solution to this problem, of course, is to choose specific functions for your social network to accomplish, and then execute to a point of laser-focus.

To create a social network that specializes in a certain area, you first need to figure out what your business needs, and then seek to fill that void using a custom intranet. According to James Robertson-one of the foremost experts on social networks — these functions should work to address the following business needs:

  • Content Storage
  • Internal Communications
  • Activity Planning
  • Team Collaboration
  • Company Culture

Instead of trying to develop a platform to handle every single internal company function, make a social network that specializes in what your team members need most help with, and if possible, something for which quick and easy solutions aren’t already available. If you need to force your team members to use your ESN just to improve adoption, then you’re doing something wrong. Instead, you should be implementing a platform that your employees actively want to use, even if that requires you to forego an over-ambitious array of functionalities.

Contextualize

Aside from not offering compelling functionality, the other big problem with business social networks is that they fail to fit within the larger context of business operations. If an administrator on your social network publishes a list of policy documents, what is your system doing to bolster that content? Is it sending a notification to relevant team members? Does it even support the ability to tag or notify users? Without social context, content has a way of disappearing into the ether of an intranet system.

This is where consumer-oriented platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have really helped to move the needle: By making content relevant—and more importantly, interactive—these platforms have helped ESNs stay relevant without sacrificing functionality. Slack, for instance, is a platform which ostensibly looks like a simple chat interface, but which integrates with services like Google Drive, Asana, Dropbox, GoToMeeting and Heroku to let users implement content in the ways that best suit their own workflows.

The big problem with platforms like Slack and Yammer is that they are not suitable solutions for every organization. Depending on your team’s size, workflows and needs, the ideal tool could look very different from what these platforms offer. What Slack, Yammer, and other social intranets do provide, however, is a good example of what Social Network 2.0 can do for your business, and how you might consider implementing it for your teams.

"Social Network" doesn't have to be a dirty word. Whether you're trying to create a new system from the ground up, or simply trying to upgrade your existing system, there is a wealth of changes that you can implement to bring your internal platforms to the standards of Social Network 2.0.

Regardless of what business processes you're hoping to support—from content, to collaboration, all the way to company culture, a specialized, social intranet will help you to create a tool which your employees will want to use, and which will actually help them to get their work done as efficiently as possible.

Optimizing Agile for Scalability

When Agile is implemented and scaled succesfully, its impact can improve cross-organization technology strategies which touches on every aspect of the business value chain.

The Agile Scalability Landscape

Agile is an avante garde approach which facilitates an environment of organizational collaboration. Adopting Agile comes with changes that can be challenging, but if overcome, they can drive improvement on the overall development strategy. For example, while internal teams get familiar with the methodology, productivity might drop. They will need to get comfortable with the new, open, collaborative approach. However, if we keep in mind that Agile should be molded, adjusted and customized to the teams’ and projects’ specific needs in order for it to drive positive impact, the implementation should be successful.

Key Benefits of Agile Scalability

The benefits of leveraging Agile scalability will vary depending on the organization’s unique needs and implementation process. However, based on our experience helping our clients across multiple sizes and verticals, we have identified three tangible benefits that organizations experience when switching into an Agile methodology:
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  • Improved relationships between stakeholders and project teams through collaboration
  • Increased transparency behind decisions made by stakeholders
  • Identification of communication, governance, and development gaps at various levels of the enterprise and addressing them for better impact

Often times, organizations don’t have a clear idea on where to start. That’s why we always recommend getting a professional point of view that can help define what’s the process that better fits your organization’s needs.

Identifying Roadblocks to Agile

Even if the Agile methodology will come with more benefits that challenges, it’s important to be aware of those initial roadblocks that the implementation process may have. We have identified 3 main areas that tend to be challenging especially during the initial phases and a few questions that you can ask internally to determine what’s the best approach for your organization:

Communication Issues
  • Are you letting your team members know when you are not able to complete a specific deliverable?
  • Do you communicate challenges and ask for support readily when you need it?
  • Are you flexible and open to hearing other people’s perspectives
Governnance Issues
  • Did you participate in team retrospectives to address government gaps?
  • Have you created a list of individuals and their roles in the project as well as the specific skill sets that are required and that they have?
  • Do you have visibility on each individual’s experience in executing Agile in both small and large teams and other functional roles?
Development Technique Issues
  • Does it take too long to complete the development of a build, testing of a package, or deploying a solution?
  • Are you repeatedly completing the same tasks manually?
  • Once you brainstorm these questions with your team, you will be taking the first steps towards scaling up Agile.
Monitoring Agile Scalability

Now that we have learned about the key benefits and a few challenges of scaling up Agile, as well as the Agile Scalability implementation plan, it’s now time to learn about how to monitor the new Agile approach. In order to monitor the Agile approach, you will create and prioritize user stories, create cost and communication plans as well as analyze specific metrics. The monitoring process will help you track the various changes. Here, we have outlined three key methods that you can implement to monitor Agile Scalability:

1. Develop User Stories, Cost Plans, Communication Plans

1.1 User Stories: When you create a User Story, you can assign a Business and Effort Value to it. For example, as a project team, we want to bring our distributed teams together for the project kickoff so that we can understand each other’s work habits and minimize fragmented development.

Ask team members to create user stories and assign sizes to them, for example: extra small, small, medium, large, and extra large and then collaborate as team to reorganize these stories to determine the final agreed upon size.

1.2 Cost Plans: When you work on a project, account for the people and technology costs. Budget for Agile projects should be acquired using one of two approaches:

1.2.1 Stage Gate or Milestones – Create budgets for the sprints leading up to a given duration or a predetermined level of completion according to an agreed upon scope.

1.2.2 Time & Material – Funding is requested based on the value of high priority tasks for upcoming sprints. Funding is requested whenever it is needed.

1.3 Communication Plans: Conduct team meetings to discuss key milestones of scaling initiatives and explain the rationale in their context.

2. Analyze Scaling Metrics: Once you implement Agile, there are specific defined areas that you need to assess the success on:

  • Technical Debt: Assess if the development artifacts are taking too long to complete.
  • Productivity: Evaluate the sprint productivity through burndown and burn up charts
  • Satisfaction: Conduct Feedback Focus groups and disseminate surveys in order to gauge if the team members are satisfied with the new approach. Address their concerns
  • Business Value: Assess how the managers, and other key stakeholders view the solutions. Are they satisfied with the solutions and do the solutions project enough business value?

3. Conduct Retrospectives: Once the Agile approach has been used in the organization, it is important to reflect on the changes. Hold meetings with team members and ask them to describe likes, dislikes, key areas of improvements, questions and ideas for the new Agile Scalability approach.

To put this into practice, our agile software engineering teams work with our clients to ensure that we're maximally engrained into your business and the challenges you're trying to overcome. We leverage test-driven-development methods that works in synergy with product & testing teams to iterate fast, drive change, and create superior technology.

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