Businesses develop a website to have an online presence, but many websites fail to deliver on their promise. I learned my lessons with the development of our company website. Read about them in this article at no cost.
1. Web Development Process
It’s critical to use a proven and consistent process in website development. The steps may vary, but the key principle is to plan and design before you build and deliver. Here is a suggested sequence for the entire process:
- Information Gathering – As a first step gather all relevant information by asking pertinent questions about the website’s purpose, goals and target audience.
- Planning – In this next step you develop a site map with all the different webpages. Another key outcome here is the choice of CMS (e.g. WordPress).
- Design – This step determines the look and feel of the website and delivers the web style guide, and page layouts.
- Development – This entails content writing and the building of the web pages by merging the page layouts with the written content.
- Testing and Launch – After development, the website needs to be tested for bugs and usability before it is launched to the public.
- Maintenance – A website that isn’t updated with fresh content will soon lose its relevance. It probably won’t even take long before things stop working.
2. Web Style Guide
Your brand is built through consistency and a web style guide helps you to develop and maintain the look and feel of your website. Developing a web style guide facilitates a productive development process and ought to be a priority within a project of any size. Consider the following key elements:
- Brand – Ensure that the visual brand elements such as logo, tagline and messaging represent the purpose and values of the business and resonate with the target audience. Consider a rebranding if they are out of sync.
- Color Palette – People strongly associate with color, but don’t go overboard and don’t pick more than 2 or 3 colors in addition to a range of grey tones. Preferably, pick the colors from the logo.
- Typography – Use 1 or at most 2 typefaces for your website, but use a unique font for the different heading levels, body text, hyperlinks and testimonials. Use colors for emphasis, but do so sparingly.
- Other Elements – Be creative and consistent in the tone of your voice, pick a great icon set, and develop a unique style for your imagery. Finally, don’t be afraid to use white space as a design element.
3. Testing Environment
Any changes to a website need to be reviewed, approved, and tested before they are published to a live website. Direct changes to a live website irritate your visitors, and will result in broken links, a damaged reputation and poor ROI. A testing environment can also test the impact of a software upgrade on your website.
There are numerous options for setting up a testing environment. You can set up your own localhost or create a test site in a hosted environment. The test site could be independent or a clone of the live site. Finally, set-up can be as simple as activating a plugin or as complicated as installing various software components. Conduct your own research or get expert help to find your best option.
4. Backup Strategy
It’s critical that you develop a website backup strategy before your website is infected or lost altogether. Be aware that having a backup is no guarantee that it can be restored. Consider the following when making amends:
- Location – Store your backup in a different location from the live website, possibly in multiple locations (e.g. on-premise, external host, cloud). Ensure that the backup is secure from unauthorized access.
- Process – Using an automated process via a software solution or plug-in removes the administrative overhead. However, manual backups hand offer full control and enhance understanding. Consider it as a backup to the automated backup process.
- Testing – You should perform an entire backup and restore cycle of your website to ensure no data gets lost in the process. Having a backup that can’t be restored is arguably worse than having no backup at all.
5. Web Development Team
We often look for a single web developer, without fully appreciating that website development is a team sport. It requires a set of people with complementary roles, responsibilities, and competencies. Here are the core roles that need to be represented within the team:
- Web Manager – Has the overall responsibility for the website, leads the team, and ensures that the website meets the intended business and marketing objectives.
- Web Designer – Creates the style guide, wire frames and templates for the website, and ensures that the website is easy to navigate with quick access to relevant content.
- Content Writer – Writes and maintains the content for the website in a manner that persuades the targeted audience to take a desired action.
- Web Developer – Builds the website by creating the web pages and coding for advanced functionality and behavior. Also, tests the website to ensure that if functions properly.
These are the vital lessons I learned so far, but I keep learning every day. What about you? Need more help? Willing to share your own lessons? Let’s get in touch!