Developing Your Website From Start To Finish

Illustration Building a new website, or redeveloping your current one, can be fairly straightforward. It’s a lot like building a house or an office building, depending on the scale of the project. And just as with building or remodeling a house, what you’re buying is not an off-the-shelf product but services that will produce a website built to your specifications. Often the most successful website projects result from more or better planning than from the actual physical building of the website. Using our imaginary house as an example, envision forgetting to specify during the planning phase the location of the electrical outlets and light switches. If planned ahead of time, they would’ve been very easy to install, but adding them later would require tearing down the walls.

Regardless of the size of your website, use the same process, or the applicable portions of it, for planning, designing, building, and managing your website.

Start by defining your goals and enter the development process with a clear objective of what your business needs to accomplish online. Leave the smaller stuff, such as colors, images, fonts, and even layout, for later, because they are like trim and paint on the building—they go on last and should support content, functionality, and architecture; and your website should not be revolving around them, not even if you are an online art gallery.

 

1. Planning


The planning phase is the most important because it will produce the blueprint and an action plan for building of your website or other online presence. This phase requires a lot of interaction with you and your team. Except for small differences, we use the same process for building a new website as for rebuilding existing websites. Start with the following question: “Why do we need a (different) website?", rather than “What do we want on it?”

Gathering Information and Assessing Project Requirements

We learn about your business, understand your objectives, and listen to your answers to our questions so that we can create an outline of the project.

What We Will Ask You What We Will Do With Your Answers
Your business goals for the website. Put forward the framework of your website.
Descriptions of features you envisioned for your website. Determine and recommend technologies and software to power the website and specific features.
Outline of the website content. Estimate the scale of the project and the best approach to publishing and managing of the website.
E-commerce requirements, such as payment systems, products or services inventory, retail sales information, if any. Make recommendations for the site’s payment processing, if building an e-commerce website or accepting payments. Decide on the database format.
Hosting preferences. Explain your website and data hosting options with us or ask questions about your existing hosting environment.
Desired launch dates for the website(s) and related projects. Recommend the best approach to producing the website or other platforms in the allotted time period.
Consider production and deployment in clearly defined phases, if feasible.
Outline the project timeline.
A list of desired domain names (www.MyDomain.com). Check whether if the domain names are available, recommend on the range of domains to register on your behalf, such as misspellings, multiple extensions (.com, .org, .net, etc.).
Register the domain names immediately to prevent registrations by another entity.
Register user names on social-media.
An assessment of liability and security concerns. Recommend a website- and data-hosting environment and a Content Management System to minimize risks and reduce liabilities.
Explanation of your brand and its identity. Make initial recommendations on the best approach to maintaining your brand identity online.
Definition of your audiences. Recommend the best delivery platforms, such as optimization for specific devices or mobile apps and extension to social media.
Outline of existing marketing efforts. Determine how best to align the website with your marketing campaigns and efforts.
Definition of success. Recommend milestones, additional features, and methods for measuring the results.


Identifying Content

We identify the content that will populate your website and the source of the content. We also create an initial map of content relationships, such as using the same content in multiple sections of the same website, other websites you might own, and social media. Common types of content include:

  • Pages
  • Articles
  • Blog(s)
  • Banner advertising
  • Discussion forum or comments
  • Documents
  • E-Commerce item (physical and digital products or services)
  • Forms for communications, registrations, activations, support, or information-gathering, etc.
  • Newsletter
  • Calendar
  • Gallery (images, art)
  • Showcase of products or services
  • Incoming content feeds, such as RSS feeds (content pulled from other websites)
  • Outgoing content feeds (your content that is powering other websites)
  • Search
  • Social-media content integrated into the website (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, etc.)
  • Directory (staff, services, links, etc.)

Type Of Content What We Need To Know
Textual content
  • In what format will it be provided?
  • Who will be responsible for final edits?
  • Will you need an expert to write your copy or an editor to polish it?
Downloadable Files
  • In what format will they be provided?
  • How many?
  • What will be their purpose?
Audio
  • Streaming or downloadable?
  • Live sessions or pre-recorded?
  • From other sources, such as external feeds or websites?
Video
  • Streaming or downloadable?
  • From other sources, such as external feeds or websites?
  • Embedded from other places, such as YouTube or Vimeo?
Content Feeds
  • From where?
  • In what format?
Social Media
  • What part of your social-media content will be used for your website?
  • Which social media, such as Facebook and Twitter?
  • How many streams?
Photos
  • What is the source of any photos?
  • Self-produced or stock photography?
  • Will you need us to supply or purchase photos for you?
RSS
  • What would be the incoming content feeds?
  • Would you have any outgoing content syndicated to other websites?
Other content
  • What type of content?
  • In what format will it be provided?
  • Will you need an expert to produce it?
Copyrights That you are not exposing your organization or ours to copyright violations.


Defining Roles and Project Management

Working together, we identify the stakeholders in the website and also related online projects and their roles. Together we assemble a team of people that will support the process of building a website or online presence for your customers.

We can serve as your project manager by collaborating with your entire team, or we can interact with one person designated as your internal project manager.

Role Who Tasks
Project Manager A person from your organization or WebCreate.com
  • Manage the web-development project from start to finish.
  • Coordinate efforts of the members from internal and external teams.
  • Take responsibility for project milestones, deliverables, and budget.
Internal Stakeholders Representatives from the areas of your organization that need to be involved in the project Provide content and describe features for the website that are unique to their departments’ areas of specialty.
Copywriter or Editor A person from your organization or third-party Write, or compile and edit, all textual content for the website.
Marketing Coordinator A person from your organization or WebCreate.com
  • Provide guidance in maintaining brand identity.
  • Help align website and any other online presence with internal marketing efforts.
Photographer (if needed) A person from your organization, third-party, or WebCreate.com Provide professional, high-quality photos to represent your brand or products.
Review Panels Representatives from your organization Provide guidance, as well as review and approve content and relevant website features, in terms of accuracy, compliance, or legal exposure.

 

2. Agreements & Contracts


Based on the information gathered in the planning phase, we draft a contract that includes:

Contractual Obligation What Does It Mean?
Project Scope and Statement of Work Defines the final work product, such as the website and related projects, software and hardware platforms, device and platform optimization, and most details that describe desired outcomes.
Cost Provides cost structure for the project(s).
Project Delivery Timeline Defines the initial project delivery date and, if applicable, project milestones and delivery dates of specific project elements.
Copyright Ownership Defines who owns what upon completion of the project.
Confidential Information If applicable, specifies the responsibilities of each party in maintaining project or information confidentiality.
Professional Conduct Provides you with our assurances of professional conduct.
Warranties & Performance Describes the types of warranties we provide for our work.
Terms Defines the terms of the contract.
Term & Termination Defines the time period of the contract as well as termination by either party.
Website & Data Hosting (if applicable) Provides a description of hosting services and a cost structure for hosting your website(s), data, and e-mail.
Relationship of the Parties Defines our role as an Independent Contractor and the role of any web-developer agents.
Limitations of Liability Describes the range and limitations of liability by either party.
Payment Terms Specifies payment terms. We require a 50% down payment on most contracts.
Signatures A place for your and our signatures that approve the contract.

 

3. Development


We begin the development phase by creating a diagram and detailed descriptions of your website and its features. After you have verified that our plans match your vision, we produce your website and related online presence using the following components (when applicable):

Project Management

For larger projects we set up an online project-management website, where you can watch and participate in the development process. This by no means replaces personal contact with you and is intended to enhance collaboration as well as provide you with tools to oversee the project.

Domain Names & Social-Media Site Names

We register and set up on your behalf previously identified domain names, domain aliases, and social-media names.

Hosting

We set up the appropriate hosting environment for your website and data, including a project website that is not accessible to the general public and where we develop your website.

Website Foundation

We build the foundation of your website, which includes programming, and the Content Management System – basically the engine that will power your website and its features.

Initial Website

We build the initial website, including architecture, page templates, navigation systems, e-commerce, and brand elements. This is where you begin to see the website coming together.

Content

We populate the website with the initial content, such as textual content, images and features. Depending on the decisions made during planning sessions, this is where we could be turning over the Content Management System that would allow you and your staff to add to and manage the website content, including text, images, audio and video files, products, etc.

E-Mail

We set up an e-mail system that reflects your domain names (if applicable) and serve all your business e-mail needs.

Social-Media Sites

If you elected to expand your online presence to social-media sites, we set up your pages on the selected sites.

Testing, Verification, and Fine-Tuning

We test features, functionality, accessibility, and compatibility with appropriate devices and platforms. Together we verify the content and functionality, and fine-tune the website or social-media presence.

Training

We provide the necessary training for using the tools for managing the content (Content Management System), e-mail systems, database or product management, and social-media pages. We also provide a complete overview of the website’s functions and features.

Documentation

If documentation was requested for the website and related projects, we complete it and provide you with the final copies.

Soft Launch of the Completed Website

Although the entire production of your website takes place on the project website and is invisible to the general public, we still do a soft launch with your team to simulate the stress of the official website launch. This allows for last-minute fixes and tweaks without any consequences to your business.

 

4. Launch


We make final preparations for your website’s launch by testing everything again. Once the website passes the final tests and we get your approval, we make it available for the world to see, access, and use. We also give you full access to you the Content Management System and finalize all contractual obligations.

If your website was scheduled for launch in phases, we would launch the scheduled phase of your website, finalize the phase-specific contractual obligations, and continue working on the remaining phases of the project.

We can also assist in announcing and promoting your new website with press releases, as well as print and digital ads that align with your marketing efforts.

 

5. Post-Launch


We expect interaction and questions from you and your team soon after the website launch. As you begin using the website, you and your staff will begin getting ideas for changes, new features, and content expansion. We recommend that you take notes on the feedback you receive internally and from your customers so that we can all use your notes later for improving your website.

A good way to learn about the effectiveness of your website is to solicit visitor feedback. Your visitors may not know how to articulate their experiences on your website. Make it easy for them to share their experiences with you by providing them with feedback forms or by conducting surveys that ask only a few but precise questions about your visitors’ experience on your website.

We also shift our focus to the support and maintenance of your website to the extent we have contractually agreed upon. As we continue to support you, we remain ready to assist in keeping your website up to date, and to plan, develop, and deploy additional features.

Post-Launch Task When Who How
Checking for Errors Immediately post-launch Your organization and WebCreate.com Errors are never meant to make it to the final website but they do on occasion. Make the changes that you can through CMS, and provide other changes to us for immediate implementation.
Soliciting Internal Feedback Indefinitely Your organization Take notes of the positive and negative experiences with the website of the members of your organization. Most important is to learn if the website is doing its job for the organization.
Soliciting Visitor Feedback Indefinitely Your organization and WebCreate.com Use feedback forms and surveys to learn about your website visitors’ experience. Keep checking with your visitors regularly to identify areas for improvement.
Measuring Web Traffic Indefinitely Your organization and WebCreate.com Analyze the website access and use statistics that were set up for your website, to include internal statistical tools as well as Google Analytics. Use the results to drive business decisions as well as website changes.
Monitoring Search-Engine Rankings Indefinitely Your organization and/or WebCreate.com Using automated tools, such as software or online services, and also manually by checking your popularity on relevant search engines and directories.
Reacting to Brand Abuse Indefinitely WebCreate.com with your organization WebCreate.com can provide add-on response services to protect your brand from abuse, such as trademark infringement or copyright violations, or—if you handle sensitive personal or financial information—from phishing, pharming, vishing and smishing.
Building Links Indefinitely Your organization and/or WebCreate.com Build quality links to your website from other sites to help generate traffic and improve your ranking with search engines. Links from other websites, business directories, blog mentions, articles are just a few methods of link building.
Popularizing through Social Media Indefinitely Your organization and/or WebCreate.com Use social media to push the word out about your website quickly. Your fans will re-share your links and reach even more people.
Updating Content and Features Indefinitely Your organization and/or WebCreate.com Have a plan of action for updating your content and other venues regularly.


 

6. Planning Again


We recommend that you assess your existing content as frequently as needed to prevent your website’s content from becoming out of date or out of sync with your services, products, or information. Start back at the planning phase of the website development process to decide on the reasons for making the changes to your website’s content or its architecture, and what those changes would entail. It’s less stressful and less expensive to keep evolving your website incrementally than having to redo the entire website at some point in the near future because it has fallen too far behind the technologies used to access it, or if too much of its content has become outdated.

On our end, we will periodically review your website to ensure that it remains compatible with the new technologies and devices being used to access it. We will advise and recommend changes to your website to keep it functioning properly for years to come.

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