Thinking about web development for your business?
Building a comprehensive website involves various components and a wide range of specialist skills. From web development to copywriting, UX design to SEO, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of a web development project.
But by understanding each of these components, you can prepare your business and team to organise workflow and get the best results from a web development agency. Here is a step-by-step guide to the various areas of a new web development project - from the initial analysis stage to its final launch.
1. Analysis and strategy
In this initial stage, the main goal is to define the priorities and long-term strategy of your website. Do you want your website to educate, sell products or attract new customers? How do you want to use your website, to what purpose and for whom will inform the design and functionality of your website.
This is a time for you to consider your target market and how you can best capitalise on their online habits. In this way, you can concretise what will be the key roles and functions of your website according to the needs and interests of your target market. That could mean developing an online store or ensuring your website has blogging capabilities. This is also the time to lay the technical foundations for your website SEO.
Before the web development process can move forward, you also need to consider the broader business strategy. For instance, how will the website be rolled out? Under what timeframe and with what scope? For both your business and web developers it is crucial to know what you want from your website and how you expect it to be achieved. Clarifying your strategic vision will ensure your project proceeds without creating hiccups in the future.
2. Sitemaps and IA
Once you have the guidelines for your web development project ready, the next step is to look at information architecture (IA). How information is structured and accessed play a huge role in the usability and success of a website. It's also essential for SEO. Poorly organised information for instance, can confuse visitors and increase your bounce rate, while well-managed information lengthens the time spent per page and helps grow the number of your return visitors.
Here, the goal is to break down information into easily digestible pieces. This can be a challenge for many businesses. While there may be a temptation to share everything about your business, it is essential to reflect on the most important fields to include on your website. You do not want to overload websites with unwieldy information. Think instead about balancing the top-level with the detailed.
Once you have filtered your content into small pieces, the task now is to assess how these pieces can be best arranged. Consider the logical flow of information from one page to another. If your website were a physical space, how would you want your customers to navigate it? When you have clarified this, web developers will represent this in a structured sitemap.
A sitemap is the result of IA. It is essentially the skeleton of your website, allowing you to see the structure and hierarchy of your website pages and content. This in turn, sets the foundations for design, development and content production.
3. Content strategy
Developing a content strategy is a prerequisite for any successful web development project. Before moving further, you need to understand how you will use content to advance your business and SEO goals. This involves sitting down with a data analyst to conduct a preliminary analysis of your website. From this initial analysis, web developers will craft a complete website blueprint, covering topics such as content purpose, element ordering, page goals and SEO architecture.
All these areas are crucial to generating web traffic – particularly through SEO. Investing time at this stage to refine and hone in on your key terms, keywords and central brand values will pay out in the long term, ensuring you have the proper structures in place to effectively roll out your content.
Ideally, this work is then synthesised in a centralised document (a 'content strategy document') to help the team – such as content strategists, copywriters and designers – work together to implement a content strategy.
4. Copywriting and content creation
With your content strategy document in hand, you can now create the content for your website. Some businesses prefer to complete this in-house while others use a web development team. The advantage of the latter is that the site can be populated as it develops. This can save you from making unnecessary revisions and tweaks. You will also benefit from a collaborative process that can help you craft a strong brand voice that will resonate with your customers.
The copywriting stage essentially consists of writing the web content for every page of your website. Following the guides outlined in your content strategy, each section must be filled out keeping in mind keywords and the overall layout. This step also involves creating meta descriptions, tags and titles that support your SEO strategy. Some businesses may also use this moment to consider copy for social media, linking posts to key pages and other items.
5. Design and UX
As you create copy, web developers will start designing the look of your website. The objective of this stage is to take the sitemaps (see above) and transform them into a complete user interface. You can expect this stage to be very comprehensive. From branding and typography to the placement of banners, the process of designing a website can take a lot of consideration.
Often, the stage proceeds by meeting with your web development team and discussing how branding and functionality will be presented on key pages, such as the home page. Based on these discussions, the team will offer top level designs for your main pages for you to discuss. Once you have signed-off on the branding and layout details, your web developers will start designing all the pages of the website including deep level pages and unique purpose pages.
The final part of this step is to review the complete website design. At this point you can revise any minor details and final amendments.
6. Web development
With the design, content strategy and copywriting underway, your web development project moves to the technical stage of web development.
Web developers use your final designs as a framework to code both the back-end functionality and front-end visual elements. This stage involves setting up your website’s host environment, installing software and configuring databases.
This is the point where your website starts to take shape and you can see the results of the web development process. It also lays the groundwork for the future functionality of your website, integrating relevant APIs and customising the web applications that will serve your site and its users in the long term.
To ensure your website works successfully once live, it must first undergo a rigorous testing process. This is a very important step in which every page is tested and analysed to ensure full functionality.
Web developers look for hidden errors, broken links and measure the loading time of each page. One of the most influential factors in search engine algorithms is page loading time, so it is crucial to iron out any delays or snags before your site is launched.
Once all the test results are analysed, your web development team will address any problems and make sure the website is working smoothly. Depending on your team, they may use this stage to install and set up the tools you need to track your web traffic. By tagging buttons, navigation and videos, web developers can measure the performance and progress of your website.
Finally, the website is moved from the test ('staging') environment and made public on the production server. If you had an old website, web developers will reconfigure your servers and redirect your web domains so the point to the new site. Excepting any problems, this brings a close to the web development process and the start of your new website.
Finding the right web developer for your business
A website is an asset critical for your business. So it's essential to build it right. With the right team of web developers and digital specialists, your business can build a website that's central to growing your business.
More questions about the web development process? Talk to a digital agency in Melbourne about your business needs.
Digital360 on 15 May 2017
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