The process of designing and developing a website can be quite overwhelming and challenging. A lot of thought, effort and discussions lead to the launch of a ‘perfect website’. Knowing how hard the entire process is, it will be a good idea to divide the website development process into different stages. This will also lead to effective team management and proper control to achieve maximum quality. Following are the steps of a web design project lifecycle:
Why do you need a website? Make sure you have an answer to that one before even thinking of going further. It is particularly important in the case of Business Websites. A business must analyze why it wants a website (a business model) – to promote the business, generate revenue or offer support to customers. The website is going to a part of the system. How the web based application or website will help the existing system or the business should be basis of the analysis.
After analyzing requirements from a business perspective, it is then time to focus on user needs. Make sure you can clearly classify your target audience and establish functionalities the user will require. Never assume that you know what a customer wants. In fact it will be a good idea for a business to consult actual or potential users and discuss key factors that might affect the website (from a client’s perspective).
Input: Interviews with clients, supporting documents and mails, discussion notes, model sites etc.
Output: Cost, Size of Team, Hardware-Software requirements, supporting documents, approval, work plan
A ‘functional’ specification is a blueprint or a detailed plan of the website. After carefully considering business and user requirements, the next stage will be to form a website specification. What should be included in the menu, how content will be structured, how tasks should be generated etc. are some of the questions to be answered at this stage. A designer gets information on what should be presented and the programmer concentrates on functionality. Prototypes, mocked up web pages or illustrations of how a website will work are also prepared at this step.
3. Design and Development
Drawing from the information gathered in the above two stages, it’s time to determine the look and feel of your site. The web designer will create one or more prototype designs for your web site. A lot of suggestions and changes to be made are exchanged between the client and designer at this stage. Design is concerned with how the website looks and if it fits the client requirement. User Experience (UX) and Usability both come into play here. And once the layout/design is finalized, it will be safe to move to the next step of developing. The developmental stage is the point where the website itself is created. The developer takes all graphic elements from the designer and uses them to create an actual functional site. Developing requires a lot of technical knowledge and programming. Content writing for the website is also done in this stage. You can hire professional content writers or write the content yourself.
Close interaction between the design and development team is necessary at this stage. A well designed functional website should be the ideal output at this stage.
4. Testing and Delivery
At this stage, the entire web development team comes together to have a close look at minute details and test the website. Following is a checklist of things to test on your website before launching/delivery: (there are various tools and testers available online)
· Flexibility (Try varying window sizes and font sizes)
· Speed (access the site via a modem & check image size specification)
· Validation (validate HTML, CSS and check for broken links)
· Browser Independence
Once the website passes the testing phase, it is time to deliver the site. An FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program is used to upload the website files to your server. After your website is uploaded to your server, the site should pass through a final last run trial to confirm if all files have been uploaded correctly and make sure the site continues to be fully functional.
This stage marks the launch of your website, its now viewable to public.
5. Promotion and Maintenance
Once a website is launched and visible to the public, the next step will be promoting the website to get visitors/traffic to the site. Various SEO/SEM techniques can be used to increase site visibility and drive targeted traffic (many web design firms offer these services). This is a very important step, because even though you have a website, it is important for people to find your site.Another important aspect is ‘maintenance’ of a website. Continuously upgrading a site with fresh content and features will increase traffic, popularity and visibility. You can continue working with your web designers to update information on your website (design firms offer maintenance services at reduced rates) or, if you prefer a more hands on approach, and update your own content whenever required, then a CMS (Content Management System) can be implemented to your website. Its implementation is decided at the planning stage where the designer will utilize software to develop a database driven site.
A website development process will obviously also pertain to company specific frameworks, methodologies, tools and languages, but the steps mentioned above are a broad outline of steps which are necessary to develop and maintain a website.