What to keep in mind before custom developing a web scraper?
Every business in some way or the other depends on data to help them make decisions. This is a data-driven world and businesses needs to be constantly vigilant and updated with the data. If businesses can process the right data at the right time in an ethical and efficient manner, they can keep up and stay ahead of the competition. How do they do that? Web scraping ( I’m sure you know what is it! ). With the rapid increase in data dependency, there is also a spike in the need for web scraping services. Let me at this very initial stage clarify that there is no magic web scraping tool available that will scrape data from each and every website on the web. Every website is different in terms of structure, navigation, coding and how they present the data. Thus, there exists no such one “out of the box web scraping solution”. Read an article here to know more about challenges and best practices of scraping.
But, again, this doesn’t mean that off the shelf web scraping tools don’t work, they do. But, most of the websites that are scraped are dynamic in nature. Every website is custom coded with different layout and structure. They also undergo regular structural changes to keep up with the latest trends. This makes it extremely difficult to write a series of code that can scrape multiple websites simultaneously. Here is where Custom software development steps in. A custom software development team will design web scraper bots to crawl thousands of web pages, all custom coded for you so that you can set a vision for market trends, customer preferences and competitors’ activities and then analyze the trends accordingly. But again, web scraping is a whole new niche and there are certain things that you need to keep in mind before you hire a custom software development team to build a custom web scraper according to your requirements!
You’d be surprised to know how frequently websites get updated! Not all changes will affect the web scraper, but, keeping a tab on the modifications is quintessential to ensure that the quality of data is not affected. Make sure that the custom software development team is aware of this and they have some automated program in place to monitor and keep a tab of the changes on the target websites. They should set alerts if they see any red flags or anomalies in the dom structure ( Missings fields, modified field names etc ) of the websites. This will help prevent data loss during the whole web scraping process.
Web scraping is a niche process and to be very honest, not everyone’s cup of tea. It requires knowledge of a compelling technology stack. Also, a robust end to end infrastructure is paramount when it comes to web scraping. Make sure that the custom software development company you hire has the infrastructure to support the resource-intensive tasks like developing, running and maintaining web scrapers for scraping large websites at a faster scale without interruption. Make sure the custom software development team has the ability to constantly tweak and twine their web scraping infrastructure and scale in order to improve performance and data quality.
Though extracting information from the web is complex, churning that unstructured data into clean, structured information that can be further analyzed is even more challenging. And clean data is the MVP! So, make sure that the custom software development company that you are hiring doesn’t only make a web scraper and extract information and forget about it. Make sure they review and test the extracted data in the utmost reliable way. Also, make sure they create an alert in case of data inconsistencies and web scraping bot errors. Data quality assurance and timely maintenance are an integral part and the custom software development company that you are hiring must take responsibility and ownership for that.
Maintenance and business integration
With off the shelf solution, the web scraping scope is limited and maintenance is a challenge. As these tools face extreme difficulty when there is a minor structure modification, they need to be maintained and adapted from time to time. While extracting large chunks of data, you should always be in the lookup for minimizing request cycle time and maximizing performance. Make sure the custom software development team has a detailed understanding of the web scraping framework and infrastructure so that it can be auto-tuned for optimal performance. What to do with all that data? Interact and analyze, of course!! Before that, there has to be a way an organization can effortlessly consume these structured and clean data into their own systems.
Wrapping Things Up
This is a niche field and if you are doing something in the niche area, you are bound to take on some challenges. Given the number of challenges and the requirement for end-to-end maintenance, this can be an inconvenience for the in-house development team. So, it’s always a better plan to outsource web scraping to established custom software development companies, if you lack the experience and infrastructure that web scraping demands. BinaryFolks can save you from such headaches and our vast experience and expertise in web scraping can help you allocate way more time to analyze the in-hand structured data to improve productivity and business gains.
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