There are numerous steps in the web site design and development process. From gathering initial information, to the creation of your web site, and finally to maintenance to keep your web site up to date and current.
The exact process will vary slightly from designer to designer, but the basics are the same.
Phase One: Information Gathering
The first step in designing a successful web site is to gather information. Many things need to be taken into consideration when the look and feel of your site is created.
This first step is actually the most important one, as it involves a solid understanding of the company it is created for. It involves a good understanding of you – what your business goals and dreams are, and how the web can be utilized to help you achieve those goals.
It is important that your web designer start off by asking a lot of questions to help them understand your business and your needs in a web site.
Phase Two: Planning
Using the information gathered from phase one, it is time to put together a plan for your web site. This is the point where a site map is developed.
The site map is a list of all main topic areas of the site, as well as sub-topics, if applicable. This serves as a guide as to what content will be on the site, and is essential to developing a consistent, easy to understand navigational system. The end-user of the web site – your customer – must be kept in mind when designing your site. These are, after all, the people who will be learning about your service or buying your product. A good user interface creates an easy to navigate web site, and is the basis for this.
Phase Three: Design
Drawing from the information gathered up to this point, it’s time to determine the look and feel of your site.
Target audience is one of the key factors taken into consideration. As part of the design phase, it is also important to incorporate elements such as the company logo or colors to help strengthen the identity of your company on the web site. The web designer will create one or more prototype designs for your web site.
In this phase, communication between both you and your designer is crucial to ensure that the final web site will match your needs and taste. It is important that you work closely with your designer, exchanging ideas, until you arrive at the final design for your web site.
Phase Four: Development
The developmental stage is the point where the web site itself is created. At this time, your web designer will take all of the individual graphic elements from the prototype and use them to create the actual, functional site.
Elements such as the CMS (content management system) like WordPress, interactive contact forms, or ecommerce shopping carts are implemented and made functional during this phase, as well.
This entire time, your designer should continue to make your in-progress web site available to you for viewing, so that you can suggest any additional changes or corrections you would like to have done.
Development involves the bulk of the programming work, as well as loading content (whether by your team or the client’s). Keep code organized and commented, and refer constantly to the planning details as the full website takes shape. Take a strategic approach, and avoid future hassles by constantly testing as you go.
Phase Five: Testing and launch
A test plan is a list of actions that test the technical parts of the website that link to your backend systems or perform specific functions. It also ensures your visitors can easily fulfil the site objectives outlined in the brief.
Your site’s test plan results from the technical brief and is set up to push the website to its limits. Under normal conditions, your site wouldn’t experience this kind of testing, but we do it so you can be certain it will perform on launch day and scale to accommodate future demand.
The purpose of the launch phase is to prepare the website for public viewing. This requires final polishing of design elements, deep testing of interactivity and features and, most of all, a consideration of the user experience. An important early step in this phase is to move the website, if need be, to its permanent Web server. Testing in the production environment is important because different servers can have different features and unexpected behavior (e.g. different database host addresses).
Phase Six: Maintenance
Websites are living, breathing entities and need constant care and maintenance. Updating content, making changes to the backend and fixing broken links are all in a day’s work.All of these phases are critical to the Web development process. But the thread that runs through the process is strategy: the desire to achieve a goal, to move the organization forward, to prosper in a competitive environment.