Jul 9, 2015
Websites should load, run, and respond quickly. All of this speed is probably why we expect the web development process to be completed quickly as well. However, that isn’t always the case. The design and development of a new website is an involved process that on average takes six to eight weeks. And in some cases, even longer. People are often surprised by this timeframe. A common question we hear is why does it take so long? The short answer is that much more goes into developing a custom website than you might think. There are steps such as outlining navigation, determining how website features need to function, and website testing — all of which are important, time-intensive tasks.
Most web development projects have four phases to them. Each of these phases build upon the work performed in the previous phase — all while leading to achieving the goals and objectives of the project. These phases are Planning, Design, Development, and Testing.
Leading off is the Planning phase. This is where clear goals and objectives for the project are identified and defined. For websites, this means determining what the website is trying to achieve. Is it an informational website aimed at educating a specific audience? How about a lead-generation site trying to attract interested targets in your service offering? Whatever the purpose of the website, it is important to establish clear goals.
It’s during this phase that we determine where features and pages are going to be located and organized within the website. This is called the information architecture and it is a document that outlines where all of the pages are going to be listed in the website. This document is critical in identifying the main navigation, any pages that redirect to other websites, and the functionality of certain important pages, such as the homepage. It’s also the document that the designers rely upon in order to begin designing the website.
The Design phase is what most people consider to be the fun part. This is where all the ideas for the website begin to take shape. The designer creates a website design proof that shows how the website will look. This is a creative process that involves colors, fonts, images, and layouts — all aimed at conveying the message of the website and achieving the goals identified in the planning phase.
In this phase, you will see a proof of how the website will look. This collaborative process of feedback and refinement involves everyone, each examining the website from their own perspective. A great website design is one that achieves its objectives and engages the audience. It’s not about personal preference or that it uses our favorite color. It’s about what works best for this project and fits with the technology involved.
Development is probably the least understood phase of the entire project and that’s likely because most people don’t see it. It occurs behind the scenes. First there’s a design proof and then, sometime later, it becomes an actual website — almost magically. But it’s actually a very structured and practical process.
The designers provide the development team with a complete set of design assets containing everything necessary to build the website. The developers then begin pulling out or “slicing” pieces of the design so they can put them back together using HTML and CSS code. Site features are coded and web pages are built.
Now that the coding is complete, it’s time for the content to be added to the website. The content includes all the text and images of the website. On many projects, this is a step that takes considerable time to complete. Proper planning and attention placed on making sure that there is complete content for each page of the website is a great way to ensure that your project is completed on schedule.
Often for projects, the content is not ready or even written when it’s time for it to be added to the site. Our years of experience show this to be the number one cause of project delays. Let this be your public service announcement: have your site content ready when development begins. Content, content, content. It will be a huge benefit to you and your project team.
Once complete and content has been added, it’s time to see if we can break everything that the developers just completed.
Testing means challenging the website to make sure that there is nothing a visitor can do to break it. All the site features and functionality should work within normal parameters of user activity. We do this by testing the website in multiple internet browsers and checking that all the features of the website are functioning properly. If the site is responsive (if you’re not sure what responsive is, you can read our article on it here), then it is tested on iOS and Android mobile devices.
After we’ve tested the site, we invite you to do the same. It is your website after all, and we want to make sure it meets your approval. Once it does, and you’re ready, the site is launched and we will schedule your CMS training.
The entire web development process is involved and consists of multiple phases that can easily span many weeks. But rest assured, all of our projects are guided by a web project manager who knows what to do and when to do it. It’s their job to make sure each of these phases are done correctly and on schedule.
We go through all of these phases for two main reasons. First, to ensure your website is successful and, second, to make sure your website has a long life cycle. All websites have a life cycle — the amount of time their technology remains viable and the design stays relevant with current trends. By following these processes and best practices, we increase these life cycles.
A better project, a faster site, and one that lasts.