Building a website is easy. Just sign up to Wix or any other website builder out there and your are on your way. Once you kick start your project, you’ll realised soon enough, you have no idea what you’re doing or what’s next?
I’m not talking about how to upload an image, make marquee text (which was famous early 2000) or how to bold font. It’s about the strategy of the website, the underlying process that not many follow or know.
As a seasoned website designer and developer, I have seen many websites that has good content, but poor design. Or exceptional design but lack of maintenance. Website is a living campaign, you have to nurture it. Not set once and let it rot.
Here’s my take and thoughts on website design and development. This is also why some website can be really costly, but very effective and efficient at converting visitors to customers.
There are 6 Process of Successful Website.
(I wish can simplify this further but no, I can’t)
- Gather info
- Test and Launch
The diagram above shows how you as the customer play a role in the website design and development, the tasks and the processes involved.
1. Gather Info.
Probably the most overlooked process of website development is gathering information. Gathering information is important to ensure that you are on the right track throughout the development of your website.
Before you kickstart your project you must understand and answer the following questions:
a. Purpose & goal
Why do you need a website? Do you want to create a fanbase? Sell your products and services? Share information and expertise? Improve branding? Improve market positioning? Gain more revenue?
You can have as many purpose as you want, but it has to be stacked. E.g. Share information to create fanbase, then convert fan to prospect, then prospect to customer, then customer to brand ambassador.
b. Target Market
Who are your target market? Are they teenagers? Are they people who are looking for a job? Are they gamers trying to improve their game? Or corporate B2B market?
Knowing your target market will help you to determine how your website is going to look and what sort of content is relevant to them.
c. Content Strategy
What sort of content are you going to write? Are you going to write them yourself, hire or get guest bloggers? How are you going to write about your products? What is the tone of language? Are they looking for something specific? Do they want to learn more about your product? Do you need a copywriter?
The most important bit of digital marketing in 2017 is having a content strategy. Content strategy is sharing piece of information that provide value to your visitors. This helps boost your authority in the knowledge domain, trust in your work, and improve you branding overall. Website visitors prefers fresh content every time they come back to your website. You better have a strategy to get your visitors to “stick”.
From the findings in Process 1, you can now plan for your website. This is where your sitemap is created.
The sitemap is an overall structure of your website. This encompass the main topic also the sub-topics of the website. This will be your guideline to build your website. It is important to keep the topics to be free of jargon and easily understood. The debate whether it’s “about us”, “about” or “about x company” is irrelevant, because it shares the same meaning.
Sitemap can also help your customer (visitors) to understand where to go to find the right piece of information on the website, like map in case of lost.
Also in this process, discuss with your website design/ developer which platform is best. A simple site explaining one particular service or product does not require to use Content Management System (CMS). Personally, I prefer to use WordPress over any other CMS due to its flexibility and community.
As an optional step, functionality is also planned in this process. You need to decide what function is required on the website, which can ultimately improve your with interaction with customer and visitor. These functions includes, user login, admins, capturing user details, subscription of emails, social share and more.
The look and feel of the website is determined from the gathered information up to this point.
The key factor to consider is your target market. Your website design should be designed intended for your target market. A website targeted at college graduate is totally different than designed to sell luxury goods. Other factor to consider is your corporate identity, color, logo and overall marketing theme.
Normally you are given a mockup of the website in image format. Depending on your website designer, there are allocated revisions before proceeding to the next level. Revision are amendments of the design and is typically chargeable once it hits certain number otherwise there will be unlimited changes.
Your communication with your website designer is of utmost important. Be really specific about what you want. Avoid vague comments like “make it pop” or “give it more vibrance”, “impress me” because it’s not helpful. It is natural if your website designer wants to defend their design, they have developed certain style over the years. Trust in their artwork, they know what they are doing.
Once you have finalized the design, the development begins to take place.
In this process, the mockup of your website is now translated into codes. Now this is a job for web developers, (but most website designer today can code as well).
Depending on your web developers, sometimes you are given access to check the website prior to launch.
Important Note: Avoid major changes in design of the website design at this process as it will cost your web developer time and redoing the task (no one likes to do same thing twice)
It normally starts with a skeleton or using a framework like Twitter Bootstrap, Foundation, Genesis Theme etc. Code a few pages and then translated to WordPress theme (if you choose to use it). This is can be really hard (depending on level) and normally takes about 1-2 weeks to code. This codes include writing from HTML/CSS to PHP.
Changes of text, wordings, headlines and data entry should be done in this process.
5. Test and Launch
There are many tests that goes on before launching the website. This is process is highly recommended to avoid embarrassment, worst, showing a broken website to your prospects. You will lose their trust if nothing is working.
The tests that can be done before launching are the following:
a. Multiple Screen Size Test
The aim of this test is to check on different screen size and platform. Normally done on Laptop or Desktop, Tablet and mobile devices. According to 2017 standard, laptop, desktop and mobile contributed about 1/3 of traffic respectively.
b. Browser Test
Every browser renders differently. In this test, the aim is to ensure that your website looks exactly the same on every browser. The common browser is Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. The one that gives most headache is Internet Explorer.
c. Speed Test (optional)
By 2017 standard, your website needs to load in 5 seconds (or less). A study conducted by Google, visitor will give 8 seconds before deciding to leave the website. This also helps with your conversion. Just dont test on every single page, this can be really exhaustive. There are online tools like Pingdom, GTMetrix and Google Page Insight to check the speed.
d. Website Size Test (optional)
To ensure your website loads quickly, the size of website page has to be small. The common large files are videos and images. Be sure to optimise its dimension and size before using it for website.
In this process, it’s common for web designer and developer to get to sign off on User Acceptance Test (UAT). Signing this means you have accepted the website and the project is now over. You are normally billed for the full amount or remainder (if partial payment is in place).
Optimizing website is an additional step. Not many web developer do this. This includes, making sure the codes are efficient (doesn’t request from the server too many times), optimised images and labelled, and Search Engine Optimized (SEO).
If I have to rate SEO importance, it would be 5 out of 5. It’s that important. This will determine how your well you rank on search engine (like Google duh!). Search engine can give you free traffic and exposure (when others pay thousands) if you do it right.
Well done! You can now allow public to access to your website.
The second most overlooked process is maintenance (the first is planning).
Once your website is launched, it doesn’t mean the work is over. To get repeating visitors, you need to offer a new content on regular basis. You can do this by adding new blog post, add new gallery of your events that you held, update product images and add testimonials from satisfied customers. Anything to shout out about.
Most web designer and developer would be happy to continue this relationship as a maintenance service. Depending on business model, some offer monthly, some offer updates every 6 months.
If you are using CMS like WordPress, be sure to update your CMS when new updates are available. This helps to close any security gap and potential threat to your website.
In our maintenance plan, we do regular back up, WordPress updates, plugin updates, check for error, track downtime, website analysis, optimize the current website and more. You can check out our maintenance plan for more info.
Last Words From Me.
To ensure that you benefit most from your website, be sure to communicate well with your website designer and developers. Like I’ve mentioned before, be specific what you want to achieve and avoid vagueness in your explanations.
While most website designer and website developer focuses on the technical aspect, I like to put emphasis on the marketing side of the website. For example; how to gain more traffic, improve conversion rate, reduce bounce rate, ultimately, improve your brand positioning.
After all, website is just like any other marketing campaign, it has to have ROI.
When you are ready to build a high impact website that you can be proud of, be sure to get our Website Design and Development Service.