Your website is a significant investment, and therefore many business owners would like to understand the process of crafting their online presence. That’s why we offer this guide, The Six Phases of the Website Design & Development Process. As an Account manager at Htech Responsive Designs, I prepared this guide to better describe the workflow and technologies we implement in very simple terms. By the end of this guide, you will have a basic understanding of how your website is designed and developed.
My goal is to provide transparency as you review our services for the implementation of, or enhancements to your website.
As this is a general overview, certain customizations may result in slight deviations from this guide among different designers and varying online platforms.
- Information Gathering
- Testing and Delivery
Phase One: Information Gathering
Before anything else, quality research is vital for the effective development of your website. Before we can even plan a basic layout, we need to develop a full understanding of your business and its processes.
Early information gathering is actually a necessity for the remainder of the project. It’s how we understand your business, the culture that makes it unique, and the products or services it offers. We need an intimate knowledge of the goals you have set for your organization and how much growth you anticipate. We must also understand how your personality fits with and has influenced your business. We then use this information to determine which technologies to use and how they can be implemented to make your vision a reality.
Needless to say, a crucial step is for the account manager assigned to your project to interview the “powers to be” in your organization about the goals of your online presence.
To help prepare for this critical step, here are a few of our most important inquiries:
- Why does your organization, and thus website, exist? Do you need an ecommerce solution for your products, offer marketing services, answer specific questions, etc.?
- When this website is complete, what do you want to happen? Most websites either serve as a venue for products sales or provide pertinent information.
- Who do you want or expect to visit your website? Try to consider the best answer to this question, as determined by your organization’s functions and goals. Think about who your visitors will be, where they are in life, what they do and their possible interests – after all, it is their likely preferences that will guide the design of your site.
- What products or information do your visitors hope to discover? Do they already know specifically what they want, or are they browsing possible solutions for a generic problem?
Phase Two: Planning
Once we have developed a deeper understanding of your business, we will begin to draft a plan for your website. In this phase, we will create a site map.
The website’s site map serves as an outline for your site. It organizes the primary topics and subcategories appropriately. The sitemap will be used to direct the content that will fill your site. This will ensure a navigational scheme that is intuitive and uniform by design. Throughout the process of drafting your site, the potential visitors are kept at the forefront of our focus. After all, they are the ones who will ultimately determine whether your site is successful in accomplishing its goals. An interface that is easy to navigate is at the core of a great user experience.
It’s during this phase that our web designer will begin to consider the most effective technologies and platforms for your site. They will determine whether hand coding or a content management system (CMS), such as the popular WordPress platform, will be best for implementation. They will also consider the functionality that should be included for your site, such as contact forms or social media integration.
Phase Three: Design
Based on all current planning and research, we now consider the graphical design of your website.
This is when we more carefully consider your most likely visitors. For example, a site directed towards young adults will feature a different layout and color scheme than one designed for professional business clients. During this phase, we will also consider the company’s branding materials, including its logo and color scheme. After all, a website serves as an online extension of your brand.
Don’t worry, our designer will provide you with a mockup of the website long before implementation. Usually, this is a single image that shows the design elements of your site. These prototypes can be customized further according to your preferences. The image can be sent by whichever medium is most convenient for you, whether that happens to be email or an online space with restricted access.
Whichever you choose, this will facilitate collaboration between you and the web designer drafting your site. You will be able to review our progress as it’s made and offer any suggestions along the way.
At this point, effective communication between our designer and you becomes vital. This is when we will ensure that the website meets your precise preferences and specifications. We encourage you to communicate effectively and frequently with our designer at this point. By considering the designer’s ideas and offering your own, we will produce the design that will be featured in the final stage.
Also, we usually decide through this communication process whether an additional mobile website should be included. Usually, much of the content remains the same for mobile sites, but the navigation and design may look very different for use on small screens.
Finally, we can begin to develop the site…
Phase Four: Development
During development, your site is actually coded into existence. The drafts you were provided with before are just graphics; now, we are actually creating a functional, fully coded web application.
Just like your visitors, we typically start with the home page. This will heavily influence the rest of the site’s development. It will provide us with a template for the remaining pages, as it holds the primary navigation and any other site-wide elements. This way, we can use this guide to fill in the rest of our site appropriately.
As we draft each page, we will also implement the functional aspects of your site. This includes ecommerce solutions for product sales and contact forms for customer inquiry (among others). If a content management system is to be used, it will also be implemented in this phase.
Even during the development process, you will still be able to view our progress and make suggestions accordingly. After all, once you see each functional piece actually working, you may decide to add capabilities or further enhance the design.
This is also the time we will begin working on page content. At this stage we can either use your current content, or have our professional copywriters create relative content. This is so important as each sentence is written with an eye on how it will be seen by the search engines. We refer to this as SEO (search engine optimization), and it essentially means how well your site ranks in search engine results based on its various attributes.
Search engine optimization is such an important concept that it has actually given birth to a new industry. SEO professionals start multi-million dollar companies with the sole purpose of optimizing websites for search engines. Needless to say, this concept merits a discussion of its own. Without it, potential clients will have a difficult time finding your website. Remember, that if your customer cant find you, they will find your competitor.
In the technical sense, a proper website implementation needs a developer skilled in the HTML and CSS coding techniques that conform to strict web standards. They must also use these languages to enhance functionality and consider a broadly diverse audience.
Once development is complete, we begin testing our work…
Phase Five: Testing and Delivery
Like any industry, our website builders need to test their work before delivering the final product. Our designer will ensure that your website is ready to offers its full potential on a variety of desktop and mobile platforms. Each functional component is carefully tested using different browsers, technologies and conditions as well as varying mobile devices.. We will also ensure that each navigational link points to the correct page on your site.
The website and its code will also be tested against stringent web standards that have become universal on the Internet. This ensures that your website’s code is optimized for both users and devices. It also helps ensure compatibility as web technologies evolve.
After both you and our designer are satisfied with the final result, it’s time to put your site online. Websites are stored on servers, and the files are transferred using an FTP (file transfer protocol) program. The servers can be owned by you, us, or even a third-party provider (such as Godaddy). Regardless of which vendor you choose, the preferred domain name for your business will need to be registered . Unless you have your own web servers, website storage usually comes with a monthly fee as well. Fortunately, the fee is typically low and can usually be paid on an annual basis if preferred. Once the site is live, we will test it using an Internet connection. Feel free to do so as well, since the website is now live for the whole world to see. This final test is just to ensure that no glitches inhibited the upload.
Once a site is live, there may still be a little work left to do. If your site is using a content management system, it may require the use of plugins for full functionality. These Internet technologies must be installed on the server. Plugins are important for a variety of functions, including your website’s ranking among search engines.
At this point, your website is officially on the Internet and ready for visitors.
Phase Six: Maintenance
One thing we have come to expect in the world of computer software and coding is that our work is never truly done. Computers are constantly evolving to meeting the ever changing demands of consumers. An effective website today may fail to continue driving traffic tomorrow. One remedy is to provide fresh, engaging content that users find helpful. Blog posts are perfect for this, but they must be submitted regularly. Search engines love blogs, so it’s important to keep the overall SEO strategy in mind when drafting them.
Don’t worry, we are happy to continue collaborating on your site. We even offer maintenance plans at rates far lower than the cost of developing your site. We will help ensure that new content conforms to best SEO practices. As the web continues evolving, we will also make any necessary changes to your site as needed for continued compatibility.
If you’d like to try maintaining the site’s content on your own, content management systems, like WordPress, offer the perfect solution. Ideally, this will have been decided upon during the planning phase. A CMS can be implemented for an existing site, though it’s a process that takes time and money. Either way, the platform allows you to log into the “backend” of your site and make changes to content without ever touching the code. Just like any other online form, you can type text into a box, then click “update” to see it live on your site. You can add new posts and pages this way and even change some of the formatting.
Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not you should update the site’s content is your decision. You may strongly prefer to maintain complete control over the content. Or, tight schedules and a lack of technical knowledge may prevent you from doing so.
If you are leaning towards the latter, we are happy to continue helping. We’ll take care of the website, allowing you to focus on the daily tasks of running a business. We will monitor the site for any required maintenance over time, including plugin updates, platform upgrades, and so on.