Website Design & Development Process: Steps To Building a New Website
When you’re working with a web design company to build a new website, the website development process they take you through is critical to the project’s success. A well-established process will make the build go smooth and lead to a painless launch.
So, what is the typical development process? We’ll walk you through what to expect.
Identifying Your Goals During Sales
A sales representative that has your success in mind and isn’t just trying to sell you something will take you through a sales process that uncovers your motivations and goals for the website project. Understanding where you’re at now and where you want to go is important in order to make the proper suggestions.
Once you’ve had your initial conversations, the sales representative will create a detailed proposal that outlines all of the proposed pages, features, and functionality of your website. The proposal should be detailed enough that questions are not being asked halfway through the project, such as “will there be X page” or “will my site connect to X piece of software?” All of these details should be hashed out in the proposal. Of course, things come up during a website build and you may need to address add a page or a feature along the way.
Planning For Content Creation & Population
Often overlooked until the end of the project, planning for content creation and content population are huge pieces that when planned upfront can then be delegated appropriately. You’ll need to determine who will be writing the content, the client or the agency, or if there is a possible hybrid model. Often we’ll have clients supply us with content and we’ll make revisions and modifications to make the content more engaging or to optimize the content for SEO.
The content population demands can be substantial, especially for a larger website. These needs should be discussed in the first step of the process, sales. Be sure to identify with your sales representative who is responsible for adding the content to the website via the CMS (content management system). These days it’s usually fairly easy for the client to add blog posts, articles, and landing pages, but it is a time-consuming process. Also, if you have complicated layouts or designs, or if SEO is very important, it may make more sense for the agency to handle content implementation. Be sure to have a plan so if you’re responsible for writing content you can start working on it and not wait until the last minute!
Understanding Your Creative Vision
Before a website designer or creative director starts putting together layouts and graphics to show you, they must first understand what you like, what feeling you want, and your brand guidelines. This can be done by looking at competitor websites, reviewing other websites that match your creative vision, and just having a conversation to be on the same page. If you’re not aligned here you’ll waste a lot of time going back and forth with design revision. While this may or may not impact the budget, a bunch of design revisions will usually lead to an expansion of the timeline, which no one wants.
Designing Your Website
When the creative team gets rolling, this is where the project starts to come to life and really “starts”. Your web designers and graphic designers will usually first mock-up your homepage. Sometimes they’ll provide one concept or sometimes multiple designs, depending on what you agreed on. After their initial concept is done a meeting will be set to review the work, note changes, and provide an updated design. This back and forth and can happen as many times as needed until you approve the homepage.
After the homepage is approved it’s time to design interior pages. These pages often include basic content pages such as an about us page, and also include categories, products, service landing pages, industry pages, articles, blog posts, and more. The elements that were used on the homepage will be carried throughout the interior pages giving your website a cohesive look and feel. You’ll go through the same revision and approval process.
Coding Your Website
Often when in the development phase of the website project you’ll feel like not much is happening. It’s tough to show updates of half-written code and if you tried to view the website it would be filled with errors. Often weeks or months can go by without being able to actually see an update, but your account managers should be filling you in on the progress the team is making. You should also receive timeline updates, letting you know if your project is still on track for the expected launch date.
Implementing Content / Content Population
Utilizing the CMS content implementation begins. The content population may fall on the agency, the client, or a mix of both. Either way, loading up the content, images, products, and more needs to get done before the project can move forward. It’s important this is completed to move on to the next phases and handle those phases correctly.
Search Engine Optimization Integration
With the website programmed and the content in place, the SEO team needs to review. SEO’s will make suggestions for minor code changes, content tweaks, URL revisions, and get the website as SEO-friendly as possible. If your project is a website redesign, this phase of the project can be extensive, including implementing 301 redirects. You’ll also want to either set up or migrate your website analytics software, usually Google Analytics and configure Google Tag Manager. Having an experienced SEO agency is the key to launching your website and retaining, or gaining, first-page Google rankings.
Testing & Fixing Found Issues
Your website development agency should be the first to test the website and fix any known issues before releasing the website for client-side testing. While not all bugs can be found, the entirety of QA shouldn’t fall on the client. A standard process is using a ticketing system or project management software where bugs can be tracked, statuses updated, and everyone knows exactly what’s been found and what’s being fixed.
Launching Your New Website
There is a lot on the technical side that can go into launching a new site, such as switching DNS, installing your SSL, and configuring hosting, but once this is done (should only take a day or two) you’re ready to go live! The launch is a simple process and soon you’ll check your domain and see your new website.
Make Modifications To Get Results
Now that visitors are interacting with the website you have to look at the data and confirm you’re getting the best results possible. Are leads where you want them to be? Are your online sales up? Are your search engine rankings where they should be? Website modifications can be made to continually improve the performance of your website. To increase rankings and traffic you’ll want to engage in an ongoing SEO campaign and you may want to consider conversation rate optimization to improve leads and sales. Making small changes can drastically improve performance, more than doubling conversions. Screen recording software can also be installed to watch users navigate the website and using that data you can improve the user experience. The key to ongoing success is to not launch your website and forget about it but to continually improve your site, always striving to improve.