“Stop Thinking in Pages. Start Thinking in Systems.” – Jeremy Keith
“Responsive design gives us the opportunity to rethink our whole approach to designing for the web. We can stop designing “websites” and “mobile sites.” We can create flexible content delivery systems: sets of rules that define how our content will be presented as its context shifts.” Responsive Comping: Obtaining Signoff without Mockups
In this article we want to share with you the key steps involved in creating a successful website. We had spent years creating websites so the process is validated by our customers across many industries and different types of businesses. It consistently delivers awesome results but, at the same time, it’s not a Holy Grail. It’s not a “cookie cutter” solution or magic bullet either. Beyond mere steps, the human element is core – so we may take a little bit different path based on your specific goals.
When it comes to building a website, we try to use an iterative approach to developing your project. This means we deploy fully working version of your site to a development server from which you can interact with and give us your feedback. We also offer Responsive Design and Mobile Site Design services that can be incorporated in our Web Development Process.
Let’s now talk Web Development Process circa 2013.
1. Business Discovery and Requirements Analysis – Project Proposal
Requirements Analysis is critical to the success of a web development project. At this stage we work with our clients to define all the information that will go on the site. We ask the client to send us a preliminary project requirements document that outlines their vision and short/long-term business objectives. The document can also include user scenarios, use cases, wireframes, or design sketches.
The idea is simple: you give us as much information as possible and we provide the most accurate estimate.
If you have a Request for Proposal (RFP) document with requirements for your web project – you can also send it to us.
By understanding your vision, requirements and business goals, we define the core functionality and architecture of the upcoming website. We can also suggest you to use an ecommerce platform or CMS, such as Magento and WordPress, as we value their customization capabilities which can save you time and money.
2. Planning – The Project Plan
At this stage, our Project Managers work with you to lay a roadmap of your web system. If needed, we’ll also try to determine the immediate and long-term requirements for your site, including SEO and third-party integration: Social Media widgets, email subscription, and Google Analytics. The ultimate goal is to ensure that business objectives, web/mobile technologies, and design will be captured and implemented properly.
As a result of these efforts, we create The Project Plan broken into modules, milestones, dependencies, required assets and the product specification.
With a detailed project plan, our focus is on delivering amazing sites to our clients.
3. Website Structure and Sitemap Creation
Before we even get to wireframing and design, we develop the website’s information hierarchy putting business logic in a structured and reachable way. We can also work with your team on this task or use your current website structure.
Sitemap with user flow.
Brainstorming website architecture.
Website Structure: Primary and Secondary Navigation.
Once finished, we send you our ideas for feedback.
4. Prototyping User Interface and Content – Web & Mobile Wireframes
Once the website architecture is clear – we understand the navigational structure, conversion and content goals – we’ll apply that vision into core pages (homepage, product/service hub pages, About Us) and designs (web, mobile and tablet devices). This is where the visual layout of your web system begins to take shape. By the way, to create wireframes, we use Balsamiq, a neat mock up tool with a high focus on usability.
“Sketchy, low-fidelity wireframes let you focus design conversations on functionality”
Creating mockups for an app feels like digital drawing…
… but with specific use-cases in mind.
5. Design aka Look-n-Feel
For a website to be effective and attractive to the visitor, it not only has to be well-structured, it needs to be modern and visually appealing. So now that we know the visual layout of the website, we turn the wireframes to our graphic designers.
The Design Process: making beautiful things happen in Photoshop.
Designing mock-ups in Adobe Photoshop allows us to keep the design elements organized in layers that make them easily available for further slicing and coding.
A cycle of reviewing, “feedbacking” and improving the mock-ups takes place until our client is completely satisfied with the results (usually 2-3 iterations). This is the best time to make significant changes, not after the designs have been coded.
6. Back-end Development – Databases, Users and Security
Back-end development is an “invisible” element of the website. It’s responsible for databases, search engine, user authentication (login and authorization), uploads and so on. It also handles security issues. Back-end development includes all the mechanisms required to create the front-end for the visitor – aka client/server architecture. Depending on a project, we use several programming languages for this development phase – ASP, PHP, Java, C#.
Class diagram in action.
An example of a C# code snippet.
As far as the web development process is concerned, back-end developers often work with front-end developers and designers throughout the process, learning from each other.
7. Front-end Development – It’s Coding Time
From Photoshop to HTML: Styling a Primary Navigation menu panel
Coding complex forms
To test your website, our Quality Assurance crew works with checklists, specifications and wireframes created at the earlier stages. They will run the website through the diagnostics tools: code validators, broken-link and speed-test checkers. They will also do cross-browser check (the most recent versions of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera), and mobile testing – we now operate with 30+ mobile devices for the testing purposes)
Aside from being rigorously tested, all of the properties we build is backed up using special repositories. This means we can change things and then go back to access old versions of code if required.
Once you give us final approval, it’s time to deliver the site. We upload the website files to your live server. Everybody’s happy now:
A company site developed on SharePoint.
10. Post Production
After your website went live, based on your feedback, visitor statistics, and new requirement we can work with you on design tweaks, SEO hacks, and even conversion rate optimization.
Make Better Use of the Web – Work with Us
Want to learn more? Check out our YouTube channel and see why we’re the best company for your next web development project: youtube.com/dbbest