Web Development – What in the World is a Mashup?

I’ve wanted to write something about mashups because I’ve been having trouble understanding just what they are, and writing often clears the way to understanding with me. I hope this article works for you. On the other hand you may be perfectly clear on the subject already. In which case don’t read this article as it may just confuse things for you and I couldn’t live with the guilt. I’m joking!

Anyway, I read a book recently where mashups were touted as one of the additions to web applications that make for the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Antediluvian Web 1.0, of course, was that unenlightened time near the turn of the century when our relationship with the web was limited to feeding it information and reading what it had to say. Web 2.0, or today’s web, not only takes what we feed it but interacts with our input; and what we read is then altered and illuminated in the process. Or something like that. Put a lot of the emphasis on the word “interacts” in my definition of Web 2.0.

Further research found that in order to make a mashup you first had to know something about XML because that is the language used to structure the data–whatever that means. I found a number of fine books on the subject I’ll never get around to reading. Then you have to know a lot about JavaScript because that will be the functionality that brings life to your web page. After that you are ready to form your mashup. All you need is php and mySQL to retrieve the data from the API or API’s (Google maps is a good example of an API often used in mashups). At this point I became fairly certain I wouldn’t be developing any mashups of my own any time soon as I am even less clear on the definition of API’s than I am of mashups.

Ok, so what is a mashup? A mashup, according to the Wikipedia is a “web page or application that combines data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service.” Apparently you couldn’t combine things under Web 1.0? Anyway, I don’t think I can improve much on that definition. In fact I feel like the judge who once defined pornography by saying he couldn’t define it but he knew it when he saw it!

The mashups I am most familiar with appear when I want to travel and need a place to stay. It seems every hotel and motel on the continent has a webpage with a map on it produced by Google Maps. Usually the information on the hotel jumps out at you when you run your cursor over an oversized pin in the map. You can usually zoom in on the motel to find the easiest way to get there. This is an example of two databases, Google maps and a hotel database acting in concert with JavaScript allowing you to interact with the webpage. Walla! You’ve got a mashup.

Open Source Trends That Will Influence Web Development in 2018

As the technology landscape keeps evolving, we find ourselves surrounded by new and emerging open source platforms every other day. New developments such as Open Stack, The Internet of Things and more have created a complete paradigm shift in the way we use technology in our everyday lives. Here is a rundown of the top open source trends that will rise to popularity in 2018.

Open stack will gain more importance

Open stack is essentially a cloud operating system. It offers admins the ability to provision and control huge compute, storage and networking resources via an intuitive and user-friendly interface. Many businesses are already using open stack for managing their cloud computing systems. The popularity of this system is due to its flexible ecosystem, transparency, servers and lower cost as compared to the other equivalent alternatives. Open stack is expected to surge in acceptance and will be a major influence in the future of cloud computing.

Progressive web apps will be more popular

Progressive web apps is an aggregation of technologies and design concepts as well as APIs that enable you to have an app like experience in the mobile browser. Traditional websites have certain inherent shortcomings. Apps provide a more personalized experience, but have a huge demand on the resources as they have to be downloaded to the user’s device. PWA delivers the best of both the worlds. It effectively provides an app like experience and can be accessed via a browser. It can be indexed by search engines and can be made responsive to fit any form factor. This technology is poised to soar to new heights in 2018 – that’s a no-brainer.

Rust to rule perfectly

Unlike most programming languages, Rust does not come with a safety vs. control tradeoff. It offers 100 % control without compromising on safety. Rust has a unique approach that includes built-in testing and developers consider it as a viable option for an open source language. It is an effective option to languages such as C and python to write secure code.

R user community grows

The R language is a project by GNU. It is associated with statistical computing and graphics. It offers a wide array of statistical and graphical techniques for development. R is a perfect open source option for data manipulation, calculation and graphical display. It will definitely rule the open source market in 2018 too.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence expand in scope

Machine learning and AI give machines the ability to learn from the past and improve the user experiences without the programmer having to explicitly code the instructions. With several open source technologies leveraging them to build cutting edge applications, these kind of apps will definitely be widely implemented in 2018.

As the internet of things connects more and more things and cloud computing rises in implementation, 2018 will see a number of technology disruptions and open source will definitely be a driving force for most of these innovations.

Web Site Development Process – The Life-cycle Steps

A system development process can follow a number of standard or company specific frameworks, methodologies, modeling tools and languages. Software development life cycle normally comes with some standards which can fulfill the needs of any development team. Like software, web sites can also be developed with certain methods with some changes and additions with the existing software development process. Let us see the steps involve in any web site development.

1. Analysis:

Once a customer is started discussing his requirements, the team gets into it, towards the preliminary requirement analysis. As the web site is going to be a part of a system, It needs a complete analysis as, how the web site or the web based application is going to help the present system and how the site is going to help the business. Moreover the analysis should cover all the aspects especially on how the web site is going to join the existing system. The first important thing is finding the targeted audience. Then, All the present hardware, software, people and data should be considered during the time of analysis. For example, if a company XYZ corp is in need of a web site to have its human resource details online, the analysis team may try to utilize the existing data about the employees from the present database. The analysis should be done in the way, that it may not be too time consuming or with very less informative. The team should be able to come up with the complete cost-benefit analysis and as the plan for the project will be an output of analysis, it should be realistic. To achieve this the analyst should consult the designers, developers and testers to come up with a realistic plan.

Input: Interviews with the clients, Mails and supporting docs by the client, Discussions Notes, Online chat, recorded telephone conversations,Model sites/applications etc.,

Output: 1. Work plan, 2. Cost involved, 3. Team requirements, 4. Hardware-software requirements, 5. Supporting documents and 6. the approval

2. Specification Building:

Preliminary specifications are drawn up by covering up each and every element of the requirement. For example if the product is a web site then the modules of the site including general layout, site navigation and dynamic parts of the site should be included in the spec. Larger projects will require further levels of consultation to assess additional business and technical requirements. After reviewing and approving the preliminary document, a written proposal is prepared, outlining the scope of the project including responsibilities, timelines and costs.

Input: Reports from the analysis team

Output: Complete requirement specifications to the individuals and the customer/customer’s representative

3. Design and development:

After building the specification, work on the web site is scheduled upon receipt of the signed proposal, a deposit, and any written content materials and graphics you wish to include. Here normally the layouts and navigation will be designed as a prototype.

Some customers may be interested only in a full functional prototype. In this case we may need to show them the interactivity of the application or site. But in most of the cases customer may be interested in viewing two or three design with all images and navigation.

There can be a lot of suggestions and changes from the customer side, and all the changes should be freezed before moving into the next phase. The revisions could be redisplayed via the web for the customer to view.

As needed, customer comments, feedback and approvals can be communicated by e-mail, fax and telephone.

Throughout the design phase the team should develop test plans and procedures for quality assurance. It is necessary to obtain client approval on design and project plans.

In parallel the Database team will sit and understand the requirements and develop the database with all the data structures and sample data will also be prepared.

Input: Requirement specification

Output: Site design with templates, Images and prototype

4. Content writing:

This phase is necessary mainly for the web sites. There are professional content developers who can write industry specific and relevant content for the site. Content writers to add their text can utilize the design templates. The grammatical and spelling check should be over in this phase.

Input: Designed template

Output: Site with formatted content

5. Coding:

Now its programmers turn to add his code without disturbing the design. Unlike traditional design the developer must know the interface and the code should not disturb the look and feel of the site or application. So the developer should understand the design and navigation. If the site is dynamic then the code should utilize the template. The developer may need to interact with the designer, in order to understand the design. The designer may need to develop some graphic buttons when ever the developer is in need, especially while using some form buttons. If a team of developers is working they should use a CVS to control their sources. Coding team should generate necessary testing plans as well as technical documentation. For example Java users can use JavaDoc to develop their documents to understand their code flow. The end-user documentation can also be prepared by the coding team, which can be used by a technical writer who can understand them, writes helps and manuals later.

Input: The site with forms and the requirement specification

Output: Database driven functions with the site, Coding documents

6. Testing:

Unlike software, web based applications need intensive testing, as the applications will always function as a multi-user system with bandwidth limitations. Some of the testing which should be done are, Integration testing, Stress testing, Scalablity testing, load testing, resolution testing and cross-browser compatibility testing. Both automated testing and manual testing should be done without fail. For example its needed to test fast loading graphics and to calculate their loading time, as they are very important for any web site. There are certain testing tools as well as some online testing tools which can help the testers to test their applications. For example ASP developers can use Microsoft’s Web Application Test Tool to test the ASP applications, which is a free tool available from the Microsoft site to download.

After doing all the testing a live testing is necessary for web sites and web based applications. After uploading the site there should be a complete testing(E.g.. Links test)

Input: The site, Requirement specifications, supporting documents, technical specifications and technical documents

Output: Completed application/site, testing reports, error logs, frequent interaction with the developers and designers

7. Promotion:

This phase is applicable only for web sites. Promotion needs preparation of meta tags, constant analysis and submitting the URL to the search engines and directories. There is a details article in this site on site promotion, click here to read it. The site promotion is normally an ongoing process as the strategies of search engine may change quite often. Submitting a site URLs once in 2 months can be an ideal submission policy. If the customer is willing, then paid click and paid submissions can also be done with additional cost.

Input: Site with content, Client mails mentioning the competitors

Output: Site submission with necessary meta tag preparation

8. Maintenance and Updating:

Web sites will need quite frequent updations to keep them very fresh. In that case we need to do analysis again, and all the other life cycle steps will repeat. Bug fixes can be done during the time of maintenance. Once your web site is operational, ongoing promotion, technical maintenance, content management & updating, site visit activity reports, staff training and mentoring is needed on a regular basis depend on the complexity of your web site and the needs within your organization.

Input: Site/Application, content/functions to be updated, re-Analysis reports

Output: Updated application, supporting documents to other life cycle steps and teams.

The above-mentioned steps alone are not strict to web application or web site development. Some steps may not applicable for certain tasks. Its depend on the cost and time involved and the necessity. Sometimes if it is a intranet site, then there will be no site promotion. But even if you are a small development firm, if you adopt certain planning along with this web engineering steps in mind, it will definitely reflects in the Quality of the outcome.

See the flowchart “How we do web development in Macronimous?”[PDF format]