Designing a winning website requires a well-thought-out online strategy focused on reaching organizational goals — that can be anything from attracting visitors to buy products to getting the public to understand an issue to introduce visitors to a new brand.
There are numerous steps in the website design and development process. From gathering initial information, to the creation of your website, and finally to maintenance to keep your website up to date and current. However, the most critical step in the web design process is creating an accurate project definition, and it's purpose.
Phase One: Discovery
The first step in designing a successful website is to gather information in order to prepare a project brief that focuses on measurable goals. This is where we are discovering why the new website is required or what triggered the need for a change. Without identifying the problem, it's not possible to judge whether the applied solution was correct.
What is the purpose of the site? What is your vision? How would you calculate your ROI ( return on investment )? Do you want to provide information, promote a service, sell a product? If your website was your employee - what would it be his/her job description?
What do you hope to accomplish by building this website? What are two or three specific, measurable goals that the site should achieve? Clear goals allow us to focus on what will provide the most impact and move the organization forward. Three of the most common goals are either to make money, share information or to save your time.
Is there a specific group of people that will help you reach your goals? It is helpful to picture the “ideal” person you want to visit your website. Consider their age, sex or interests – this will help us determine the best design style for your site.
What kind of information will the target audience be looking for on your site? What will attract and motivate your users to engage with your organization? Are they looking for specific information, a particular product or service?
Phase Two: Project scope and site architecture
Once the goal of the project is defined, a project scope has to be established.
By creating a well-defined project scope plan that outlines specific activities and deliverables, along with specific timelines, we will be able to clearly set expectations for both parties. This is a critical step. One of the most common frustrations with Web projects is scope creep - it's when unforeseen requirements go beyond fixed budget and timeframe.
Defining a site architecture is very helpful for determining the overall project size and shape. The architecture consists of the sitemap and wireframes of pages - non-visual representation of content and functionality.
Creating the sitemap ensures that we've considered all the key pages in the site, showing their relationship to each other and defining how the site‘s overall navigation should be structured. Wireframes provide a detailed view of the content that will appear on each page.
Although they do not show any actual design elements, the wireframes provide a guide for defining content hierarchy on the page.
Phase Three: Design
Once the blueprint for the site has been defined through the creation of the sitemap and wireframes, the next step is to determine the look and feel of the site. Target audience is one of the key factors taken into consideration here.
A site aimed at teenagers, for example, will look much different than one meant for a financial institution. Elements such as the company logo or colors are taken into account to help strengthen the identity of your company on the website.
In this phase, opened and frequent communication channel is crucial to ensure that the final website will match not only subjective preferences but it's aligned with company's strategic goals. We work together in this way, exchanging ideas until we arrive at the final design for the site.
Phase Four: Development
This is where the website itself is created. All of the individual graphic elements from the prototype are used to create the functional website. Your content will be distributed throughout the site, in the appropriate areas to give us a better picture of the final result.
This is when we create videos, slideshows, podcasts and other media that will appear on the site as well as start to build out the HTML and CSS of the site.
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Phase Five: Testing and Delivery
At this point, we attend to the final details and test your website. We test things such as the complete functionality of forms or other scripts, we test for last minute compatibility issues (viewing differences between different web browsers), ensuring that the site is optimized to be viewed properly in the most recent browser versions.
Once we receive your final approval, it is time to deliver the site. We upload the files to your server – in most cases, this also involves installing and configuring WordPress, along with a core set of essential plugins to help enhance the site.
Here we quickly test again to make sure that all files have been uploaded correctly, and that the site continues to be fully functional. This marks the official launch of your site, as it is now viewable to the public.
Phase Six: Maintenance
A website, like a garden, isn’t a one-time cost. It’s a commitment to ongoing maintenance and updates. You need to remove the deadheads, plant some fresh ideas regularly, and keep the weeds at bay.
You have to accept that some parts are dying off, and replant or repurpose. You have to give up on things which just won’t grow and find things which do. One way to bring repeat visitors to your site is to offer new content or products on a regular basis.
If this interests you, I will be more than happy to continue working together with you to update the information on your website. Check out more details about my maintenance packages offer.
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