There are numerous steps in a 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 generally the same.
The first step in designing a successful web site is to gather information through a discovery process. 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.
Certain things to consider are:
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, we determine a basic layout and create the general framework of the new site.
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 – aka 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.
During the planning phase, your web designer will also help you decide what technologies should be implemented. Elements such as interactive forms, ecommerce, etc. are discussed when planning your web site.
Drawing from the information gathered up to this point, it’s time to determine the look and feel of your site utilizing the general frame work agreed upon in the last phase.
Target audience is one of the key factors taken into consideration. A site aimed at teenagers, for example, will look much different than one meant for a financial institution. 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.
Your web designer will create one or more prototype designs for your web site. This is typically a .jpg image of what the final design will look like. Often times you will be sent an email with the mock-ups for your web site.
In this phase, communication 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. It may be determined during this stage that a photography session may need to be scheduled or it may be determined that stock photography and artwork will be sufficient or in some cases a combination of the two will be utilized.
Then development can begin…
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.
This is typically done by first developing the home page, followed by a “shell” for the interior pages as a theme in our content management system, WordPress. The theme serves as a template for the content pages of your site, as it contains the main navigational structure for the web site. Once the theme has been created, your designer will take your content and distribute it throughout the site, in the appropriate areas.
Elements such as interactive contact forms, and 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.
In this stage we take the developed theme and start integrating all of your content into each page. In some cases we will make recommendations on modifying your content to ensure it ranks well with search engines such as Google.
It is generally recommended that each page of content has a minimum of 450 words of relevant content to rank well on search engines.
At this point, your web designer will attend to the final details and test your web site. They will test things such as the complete functionality of forms or other scripts, as well last testing for last minute compatibility issues (viewing differences between different web browsers), ensuring that your web site is optimized to be viewed properly in the most recent browser versions.
We are well versed in current standards for web site design and development and follow are best practices in relation to browser compatibility.
Once you give your web designer final approval, it is time to deliver the site. An FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program is used to upload the web site files to your server or if hosting the site with us this is when we will point your domain name to our servers.
This marks the official launch of your site, as it is now viewable to the public.
One way to bring repeat visitors to your site is to offer new content or products on a regular basis. Most web designers will be more than happy to continue working together with you, to update the information on your web site. We offer maintenance packages at reduced rates, based on how often you anticipate making changes or additions to your web site.
If you prefer to be more hands on, and update your own content, you can do that as well and we show you how to do that. Typically most of our clients utilize a combination of their own time to make updates and having us do some of the more advanced updates and acting as a backup for you.
It’s really up to you as far as how comfortable you feel as far as updating your own web site. Some people prefer to have all the control so that they can make updates to their own web site the minute they decide to do so. Others prefer to hand off the web site entirely, as they have enough tasks on-hand that are more important for them to handle directly.
That’s where the help of a your web designer comes in, once again, as they can take over the web site maintenance for you – one less thing for you to do is always a good thing in these busy times!
Other maintenance type items include SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This is the optimization of you web site with elements such as title, description and keyword tags which help your web site achieve higher rankings in the search engines. The previously mentioned code validation is something that plays a vital role in SEO, as well.
There are a lot of details involved in optimizing and submitting your web site to the search engines. This is a very important step, because even though you now have a web site, you need to make sure that people can find it!