The website development process: 7 steps to success

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Since websites surround us in their millions, we are used to taking them for granted and usually do not consider the sequence of steps that led to the creation of a particular website. In this article we are going to take a look at these steps, focusing on the best practices in website development. Different guides split the web development process into 5 to 8 stages, depending on their precision and granularity. We will take the number somewhere in between and walk you through the 7 core steps all website development professionals need to follow diligently to ensure a high-quality product is delivered in the end. These are the steps we’ll be looking at:

  1. Requirements collection
  2. Structure planning
  3. Layout design
  4. Content writing and compilation
  5. Coding the functionality
  6. Testing, revision, and deployment
  7. Support and maintenance

Website Development Timeline

When you need a new website, you have to try to balance three aspects of the project – price, time, and scope. The number of features that will be implemented depends on the period of time available before the planned release date, and on the amount of disposable financial resources. One convenient tool for mapping the website development timeline is building of diagrams.

1

Website Development Life Cycle

Now let’s dive into the aforementioned 7 steps that will help you to develop the perfect website with the least hassle.

  • Requirements collection

First of all, before making a new website, you have to answer a few key questions: who is this website for? Why would they want to use it? How do I make it profitable? One possible starting point for answering these questions might be a couple of brainstorming sessions, which can then be reinforced by surveys, market research, and other forms of in-depth analysis.

Some of the key ingredients of the website visitor profile include demographics (age, gender, income level, marital status, etc.), geography (country, urban or rural area, climate, landscape, etc.), and psychographics (hobbies, interests, religion, mentality, habits, etc.). All of the subsequent stages of the website development process will be greatly influenced by the hypothetical customer profile. A website for teenagers will be drastically different from a website for families with kids in terms of design, layout, ways of interacting, dynamics, wording, and calls to action. Needless to say that failure to invest sufficient time and effort into this initial step may cost a lot (both literally and figuratively), but do it right and it will be one of the primary factors in the success of your venture.

Estimated time required: 1-2 weeks

  • Structure planning

Once you have answered the questions in step 1, the development team has enough information to start putting together a sitemap and a wireframe for the new website.

The purpose of a sitemap is to show the inner structure of a website – a set of main website sections, dependencies between individual pages, and any other relations between the parts of the website. Having a sitemap helps you to visualize and better understand the website’s logic and make it as user-friendly as possible.

Wireframe is a website layout outline without actual design elements present in it. You can find dozens of free wireframe (sketch) editors online and create the first approximation of the website in a matter of minutes.

2

One more critical process to be accomplished in this step is picking an appropriate technology stack to implement the functionality. This includes but is not limited to the selection of CMS, programming languages, frameworks, etc.

Estimated time required: 2-6 weeks

  • Layout design

As we all know perfectly well – visuals matter. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and this certainly holds true in the virtual world. With an almost infinite number of options and alternatives, people won’t stick around on a site with poor navigation, annoying colors, or unprofessional images. Hence the designer’s job can really make a difference. As well as appealing to the eye and allowing effortless interaction with ease of access to key functionality, a website should also create the right mood for the customer – the one that will help them to achieve their goal with minimum stress.

3

It is important to remember that a website is created for a particular target audience (hopefully identified during step 1), so all design elements should mesh together to facilitate the experience of this group of users and account for its individual needs.

Obviously, a website’s design will also be affected by the type of website it is going to be – corporate portal, social network, blog, and e-commerce will all have distinct features, different accents, appearances, and characters.

It is of paramount importance to have the client approve the website design and eliminate any issues if they arise.

Estimated time required: 4-12 weeks

  • Content writing and compilation

Very few websites can be efficient without words. Even though visual content is highly important, any textual information that goes into the website is of equal importance. In writing for the web, the “what to write?” and “how to write?” are of top priority. Do not overload your customer with useless, irrelevant, or excessive information. Use concise sentences. Triple-check spelling. Use paragraphs wisely. Check logical sequencing. Include a call to action.

Content creation is a relatively independent step which can be initiated once step 1 is complete. If content is provided by the client (which is often the case), advice and tweaks from a professional copywriter may still be favorable.

Estimated time required: 5-15 weeks

  • Coding the functionality

The coding step is the part that most people think of when they consider the website development process. However, as we can see, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Coding adds heart and soul to the website, makes it feel and respond, makes it “talk” to a customer. This is the stage at which the HTML code is written to form the basic website structure, CSS styles are applied to make the website’s appearance sleek, and JavaScript applets (and other scripts) are incorporated to enable interactivity. All graphical elements designed in step 3 take their designated spots with corresponding actions assigned to them if necessary. Overall, the aim of the coding process is to make the sitemap and wireframes a reality.

Another part of the coding step, although not really classed as coding in itself, is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is a set of best practices to make the website easily readable by search engines (the Googles of the world), as well as by visitors! The second part is often neglected, however, the idea is that if a website is easy for people to use and navigate, it will also be good enough for search engines in terms of “searchability” and quality of content.

If a website is powered by a CMS, this is when it is set up, all necessary plugins are installed and configured, server performance is checked under a heavy load, and any necessary changes and fixes are made.

Estimated time required: 6-15 weeks

  • Testing, revision, and deployment

You can never have too much testing! Testing is often underestimated and regarded as an optional routine. However, the quality of this step’s execution is directly proportional to the quality of the future customer’s experience. Making sure all workflows go through smoothly, all foolproof measures are in place, all pages, forms and fields are displayed as intended on all possible devices, all errors and exceptions are handled accurately, and all coding standards are met (required for cross-browser compatibility) is vital to make the site a success.

Once tested, your brainchild is ready to go live. The most widely used way to show your website to the world is uploading it via FTP protocol to a server. After the domain name is registered and tied to the website, it will be accessible online.

At this point you’ll want to make a final check of all components of the site on the live server to ensure that nothing has gone wrong at the finish line.

Estimated time required: 2-4 weeks

  • Support and maintenance (ongoing)

Although we mentioned the finish line in the previous step, the real life of the website is just beginning. Just like a child, a young and immature website will inevitably make mistakes and will need to learn new things. This is why step 7 is marked as an ongoing process. New features will be added, unused functions will be eliminated, bugs will be fixed, text will be rewritten, news and special offers will be updated, etc. To make sure the website meets the target customer’s needs to the maximum, it is important to have a convenient feedback collection mechanism in place and to track comments rigorously.

One more thing: keep all the software up-to-date to minimize security risks and ensure optimal performance.

Estimated time required: ongoing

Wrap-up: Website development checklist

To sum up, we’ve put together a clear comprehensive checklist for you to follow:

Step 1: Requirements collection:

  • Define the website’s purpose
  • Define target audience
  • Identify competitive advantages

Step 2: Structure planning:

  • Create a sitemap
  • Sketch a wireframe of website layout
  • Pick technologies

Step 3: Layout design:

  • Create all visual elements
  • Get client feedback on them
  • Tweak if needed

Step 4: Content writing and compilation

  • Write new content
  • Get content from client
  • Review, check, add, compile

Step 5: Coding the functionality:

  • Implement website functionality
  • Make the website SEO-friendly
  • Get CMS up and running (optional)

Step 6: Testing, revision, and deployment

  • Test the website functionality thoroughly
  • Upload the website to server
  • Run a final check on live server

Step 7: Support and maintenance

  • Add a feedback collection mechanism
  • Fix and tweak as required
  • Keep the software updated

Developing a nice website is not rocket science, but it does require you to follow a sequence of common-sense steps as outlined for you above. Happy building!

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