The Web Site Design and Development Process
There are several key steps that need to be followed in the web site design and development process. From gathering various bits of information, to the creation of the finished site, and then thinking ahead to maintenance to keep the web site up to date and relevant.
So the process needs to go something like this:
Testing and Delivery
Step One: Information Gathering
The first step in designing a web site is to gather information. Lots of things need to be taken into consideration before deciding on the functionality or look and feel of the new site.
This step is the most important one, because it requires me to really understand the company or organisation or client. What are the goals of the business/organisation/entity, and what can the website do to help achieve those goals?
There is no short cut to this bit so be prepared for a lot of questions!
In many ways this is like the starting point of a standard business plan - Who are you, what do you do and who are your customers?
What is the purpose of the site? Do you want to give out information, promote your services, sell physical products or digital ones etc… ?
What do you hope to achieve by building this web site? Inevitably this will have one of two answers - either to make money in some form or share information.
What is the specific target market for your “business”? Consider their age, sex or interests – this will influence the layout or style for your site.
What kind of information will site visitors be looking for on your site? Are they looking for news and information, reviews or a particular range of products or services, can you sell it to them or give it away - what do you get in return…?
Do you have a logo already? The colours for the site will need to reflect these or at least compliment them. If you don't have a logo, now is probably a good time to get one - see me for details!
Stage Two: Planning
Having considered the details from step one, it is time to put together a plan for the site. This involves the creation of what is known as a site map. As the designer, I will look at all the elements required to meet the objectives uncovered in step one and work out how they would best be knitted together. This involves rough sketch maps to work out which bits need to be accessed directly and where various bits may need to be linked or cross liked.
The sketch map is a list of all main topic areas of the site, as well as sub-topics. This helps me to understand what content needs to be on the site, and is essential to developing the site navigation (buttons or links etc.). A good navigation system makes it easy for people to find their way around the site and get to the information they want quickly. The old rule that you should be able to get where you want to be in three clicks or less is still valid in this short attention span world we live in!
It is at this stage that the functionality or interactivity of the site will be decided upon. This will require the integration of modules or subroutines into the website to perform the functions required and, although they can be added later if required, work best when integrated at this stage.
Stage Three: Design
Based on all the work done so far, it is now time to consider the actual design elements of the website to create the look and feel that meets all the objectives already considered.
So if you are developing a site for children or teenagers, it is likely to be colourful and exciting, but if it is for a firm of solicitors you will probably want to tone it down and give a more sombre and professional feel to the site!.
Unless we have already discussed the style in detail, now is the time I will present a few mock ups for you to consider/critique/slag off or accept before committing time and effort to replicating the style across the site. If you haven’t done so already now is the time to speak up if you are not sure on the design, because it can mean a lot of rework if changes are requested to the design after this point! (it also means I may have to charge extra so be warned)
Now this is where the fun bit starts…
Step Four: Building the site
The building stage is the point where the web site starts to come alive. I will take all of the individual graphic elements from the mockups and use them to create a working site. Most of the effort goes into developing the home page as this is where first impressions are made and you want to grab the visitors attention. This is also the primary area for the call to action you require from your visitors (you do want them to DO something don't you?). The secondary work is around the design and layout of the sub pages which will essentially be repeated but with different headings and content.
Elements such as the CMS (content management system) like Joomla! or WordPress, feedback contact forms and shopping carts are implemented and made functional during this stage.
The early stages of this are done on a desktop server in my office, and once the bulk of the site is functioning as it should, the remainder is done on my hosting servers, and you will be given access to view progress of the actual site as it would be seen if it were published onto the web. This area is a password secured area which can only be viewed by clients and not the general public.
A lot of fine tuning goes on at this stage especially around the code that delivers the pages to the viewer. Such things as HTML and CSS code take a bashing from me as I fine tune the consistency of fonts, layouts and other elements across the site. I also spend a lot of time working on perfecting graphics when required.
This is all fully tested in the next step…
Step Five: Final Testing and Delivery
At this point, I test run your web site. I will test things such as the functionality of forms and scripts, as well as final testing for compatibility issues with different web browsers. As my sites are written to the latest HTML 5 and CSS standards most of the time this goes without problems - most of the time!
Once you give me final approval, it is time to deliver the site. If you have taken hosting with me then this step is easy as I can set things up - if you have opted to use our own hosting there is a little more fiddling around to do to upload the files and recheck database connections etc and another series of quick tests to ensure connections are as they should be.
Form here on in your site is now visible to the world. However there is a difference between being visible and being visited! This is where Search Engine Optimisation and advertising come in - please refer to my section on SEO to gain an understanding of how this works!
Step Six: Maintenance
The launch of your site is not the end of the road - you will need to keep refreshing content and offerings to keep people coming back to the site.
There are many site statistics programmes that can be implemented to measure footfall on your site to ensure you are keeping it going.
You are going to need to do regular back ups of the site to ensure you can be up and running quickly if the worst were to happen OR you could just leave all that to me for a small fee!
Seriously though, content is king and you will need to keep updating the site and developing and refine what you do with it.