When most people need a website, their first thought is that a coding engineer must get cracking on building it. That is like saying: I want a new house, let a builder start building. There are essential steps that need to be taken before a house can be built if you want a fully functional, good looking, appropriately sized house that is. This is 100% applicable to websites.
The essential components of website building are quality information gathering as your first step or phase along with well thought out site map planning, top quality content, and consistent, long term maintenance.
In this guide to the development of a website, we will show you the 6 phases you need to go through to create a website. There is a lot of unpacking to each phase not shown here, and if you are not highly skilled in such projects, it is advisable to get an experienced, agile project manager involved.
The steps are:
- Step 1 – Information Gathering
- Step 2 – Sitemap Planning
- Step 3 – Content Writing and Compilation
- Step 4 – Design and Architecture
- Step 5 – Coding, Reviewing, Launching
- Step 6 – Maintenance
Project Development Timeline
With any project, regardless of the industry, three project pillars are played off against each other throughout the project journey.
Money. Time. Quality.
- Less of one will always mean more of another, for instance:
- Less money could mean less time and less quality.
- If you use low-quality input, then you might spend more money fixing it.
- If you restrict the time, then quality may suffer.
- If you don’t want the quality to suffer then, you would need to spend more money to buy more working hours to meet the deadline and so on.
Development always takes longer than expected, as with building a house, as each project is a prototype and highly customised to client requirements and market UX requirements.
You do have to draw a line in the sand though to start. Create a website development timeline and list every task that feeds into the six steps as well as milestones. This is the advisable way to track the course of the project, or it will run away from itself and become a never-ending project.
You can create a Gantt chart in project-specific software or keep it as simple as a Gantt chart in an excel spreadsheet. Gantt software will automatically change steps in a project plan if things are moved whereas an excel spreadsheet will need lots of admin adjustments for the entire project every time a time frame changes. Our preference is GanttPRO.
Let’s look at the six steps now and some insight into them:
Step 1. Gathering Information
At this first stage, it is all about getting thoughts down onto paper, quantifying those thoughts, research, distilling the core purpose of the website, verifying the main Goals, and researching exactly which target market you are after.
This is a critical stage and should be done well as it will be the foundation and guide to all steps that follow from thereon.
The clearer your understanding of your website’s purpose, the outcomes you want to achieve and who you are targeting, the more successful your business strategy will be.
Depending on your visitors, e.g. teenagers, retired people, parents, etc., this will define the site’s required functionality according to purposes. The better this is planned, the less you will be spending on expensive changes later with retrofitting code and functionality.
We suggest you allocate up to 10 working days to this.
Step 2. Sitemap Planning
This phase is also called wireframe construction which is another phrase used in the home building industry. The website developer will put together data to give you, the client, a “thin” outline of the website to provide you with a feel for how it will look. This is not a fleshed-out final product. An artist would call it a sketch.
The sitemap is also created. That is the item that looks like a bulleted list on websites, the skeleton or verbal map.
It will show you the relationships between main pages and subpages. It will show you if there is a complicated way of accessing subpages (which is not good). If there are multiple bullets below the main point, then you should simplify that, or your customers will get frustrated or just give up and leave.
If you are building the website for someone else, then you should get their sign off before the big coding sprint. A mock-up (wireframe) should be produced, no colour, just a black and white “slide show” display of page by page. Keep time investment low on this. We use Moqups software for this.
If you are the developer, then you should be deciding on frameworks, content management system and programming language. Here are the most popular scripting and programming languages used:
- Objective C
We propose that you plan for 2 to 6 weeks of work on this phase.
Step 3 – Content Writing and Compilation
This is usually not a clear and separate step. It tends to build alongside the other stages and is refined along the way. It is still a vital part and should have some of its own time allocated to it.
You need to capture the very essence of your website’s purpose, inspire, motivate and put in calls-to-action (CTAs) buttons or hyperlinks.
You will need attention-grabbing headlines, writing up the article-style text for each page, cross-page hyperlinks etc. This takes time and effort. The client is usually expected to create this or to hire someone to build it on their behalf like a copywriter. There is a big difference in copy written by a professional and a non-professional.
It is if all website content is provided at once, by the very latest, during website coding.
We propose that you plan for 5 to 15 weeks of work on this phase.
Step 4. Design and Architecture
This phase includes the design of page layouts, the review of all work to date and the approval cycle. Things start to take shape. All the information that you have carefully created is influential in this phase, and images, photos and videos are sourced or made to expand on that information.
A designer is the one leading the website layout, and at this stage, it can be a sketch or a formal graphic design. The structure should give the best visualisation of the content, lead the eye and guide the user to functionality. It will include colours, logos, images, quotes, widgets and more. You should be able to see a reasonably good representation of the final product now.
If you are building this for a client, you then present it to them for review and to supply feedback. There will be a few back-and-forth iterations of this until final sign off is achieved.
We propose you assign 4 to 12 weeks of project time for this.
Step 5. Coding, Reviewing, Launching
This is an exciting phasing as its “roll up your sleeves” time. The website construction starts and will incorporate all earlier researched and designed graphic items and elements.
Usually, the sequence is home page first, and then you build out from there according to your sitemap. The developer must implement the frames and the content management system on the server, so make sure that everything planned can be managed smoothly by the server.
Creation and testing constantly happen during this phase as all the earlier designed page elements, unique features and interactivity are created, in that sequence, then tested. It is critical to the success of the website that the developer working on the site has senior technology knowledge and experience.
Plugins are added in this step, and the crucial stage of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) happens now. It is labour intensive, but without it, the website will wither and die. It is not only about title, description and keyword, but there is also a long list to work through of at least 200 best practices, search consoles being set up. This includes authentication and, after going live, getting your website indexed as soon as possible by Google’s crawlers. Right near the top of best practices is: quality of code – any invalid code will damage your ranking with search engines.
As stated, throughout this phase, testing is occurring. The sooner you test, the less backtracking you have to do. Test every link, check every form and script, check spelling, and use code validators – you can find free validators online. This is important to ensure cross-browser compatibility.
Once you are confident that sufficient checking and rechecking has been done, then you can upload it all to the server using File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software. Test the website from the front end to make sure everything is behaving the way it should.
We propose that you allocate 6 to 15 weeks work time for this and another 2 to 4 weeks for tweaking after uploading.
Step 6. Maintenance
This is a highly overlooked recurring step by website owners. The internet is littered with outdated, failing websites which is very damaging for brand image. Having a maintenance plan in place is a must. A website is part of sales and customer service, i.e. it’s a service, not a product, be sure to keep an eye on it and make sure it is performing.
If you are the website developer, you should also view it as a service. You should not view handover as the cut-off point. You must ensure that the website is 100% functional and that the client is satisfied. You must have budgeted (financially and timewise) for tweaking changes post-handover.
Whatever webmaster system you have set up will send you notifications of end-user problems. Fix them as fast as you can, or your client will lose clients and, by default, you will lose that client.
As a webmaster, keep your websites up to date. Regularly update CMS, prevent bugs and decrease security risks.
This is an ongoing cycle, and we propose, once the site is established, that you allocate a set time each week to check on each website.
And Off You Go!
So, to recap before we depart:
- Coding is not the be-all and end-all of website building, just like bricks aren’t the be-all and end-all of a house design.
- Preparation as a direct impact on all future steps. Know what your website must achieve, know your target market and keep that website fresh and updated just like a retail store. Old and dusty doesn’t sell.
- Budget for time post-launch to tweak the website until everyone is thrilled. Treat each phase as equally important, and the quality will show in the result.
- Allocate a marketing budget for website upkeep and updating, including security.
- Allocate a marketing budget for new website content weekly.
Are you looking for the best company to build your very first website and assist with all of those final touches, as well as website maintenance? Contact Big Rock Graphics as we have dealt with many first-time clients and have supported busy developers. We have a true passion for bringing brand new website concepts to life.
Allow us to be the team that creates an extraordinary website for your brand.