7 Key Steps to a Successful Website Development Process
Websites do a great deal of heavy lifting for businesses. Tasked with attracting new traffic from search engines, providing an essential resource to existing users, and marketing the firm with its best foot forward — a high-quality website has to be easy to use, packed with information, and provide a highly engaging experience. Designing a website that does all of these things demands expertise, domain knowledge, and care. Most importantly, it requires a robust and reliable website development process that ensures outstanding results every time you build a new page.
Few know web design and development as well as the web development vendors we work with daily. Building pages and services in collaboration with clients on a regular basis, there are a few common threads that run through every successful project when it comes to good web development.
Here, we've put together a guide featuring the seven most important steps for you to take to ensure you succeed when it comes to future web development. Starting from the initial requirements gathering stage through to launch, maintenance, and beyond, these milestones of web development can help give you a head start towards success and help your pages to stand out amongst the nearly 2 billion websites online today.
7 Stages of the Web Development Process
Your website is invariably going to act as the face of your company for new and existing users. In many cases, it may serve as your primary sales, marketing, and customer support channels, too. The modern website is effectively a digital storefront for organizations, and getting it right from the very beginning will invariably pay off.
While the steps listed here are in a specific order, the way your developers progress through them will likely change according to their processes. During testing, for example, you're almost certain to find bugs and flaws that require going back to the development and design phases to make improvements.
Even by the time you reach the long-term maintenance phase, future upgrades and extensions will require going back to step one to research, plan, and design new features to be added.
These seven steps should act as a starting point for your web development process. When you're ready to kick off your project, we have additional resources and guides that cover the best practices of web engineering, such as taking a look at the pros and cons of web frameworks to help inform your development efforts.
When following these seven steps, it will pay off to take extra time and care to follow each one thoroughly, spending time getting each right. Performing each step, in turn, will send you well on your way to launching a website that is performant, attractive, and highly relevant to the needs and requirements of your users.
Information Gathering and Research
The most overlooked area of web development by far, the initial research that goes into your project has the single biggest return on investment from any of the seven development phases.
The information gathering phase should help you to identify what your users expect from your services and how they expect to interact with your business. You should be able to identify the competing services out there and create a plan of how you're going to improve on these services to reach more users than the competition.
Some of the questions you should be able to answer from this stage include:
- What product or service are you offering users? How are you going to bring focus to this area?
- Who is the biggest competitor(s) within your industry?
- What elements have made your competitors successful? What can you do better?
- Who is your target audience? What can you do to reach them?
- How are you going to reach the largest number of new users possible?
- What are the most commonly used marketing channels and strategies in your industry?
Website Strategy and Planning
Once you've gathered enough information about the kind of site you need, you can begin planning the tools and requirements you can use to get there. This phase should outline the pages, services, and technologies that your site will feature. A rough wireframe outline should begin to identify the user interactions and architecture that will underpin your site.
To help, we've kick-started your technology search with a real-world comparison of the highest performing web framework benchmarks to use in your next project.
Choosing the right solution and strategy at this stage will help future design, development, and testing stages by providing a clear guideline for producing your apps and services.
The third phase of the website development process is about defining how your business and pages will look. This is a phase that needs careful consideration of how your target audience interacts with the web and what they expect to see when they access your site. Ease of use, accessibility concerns, and discovery should be at the forefront of thinking throughout this stage.
Additional factors you should be thinking about during the design phase should include the identity of your business, its existing branding, and how the web experience is going to fit in with the rest of the organization's workflows. It's worth considering the entire interaction from beginning to end from a customer's perspective to get an idea of how your site can perform.
For today's web, closely consider how your website looks when accessed from mobile devices as much as a desktop web browser as devices account for more than half of web traffic today.
At last, with the design and outline ready, it's time for developers to create the assets and code that turns wireframe mock-ups and design files into a fully functional website.
At this stage of the project, good communication is the most vital and valuable tool you have. Front-end and back-end developers should be communicating well to wire up the user interface with the databases, APIs, and resources that support it. Additionally, clients and stakeholders should be in close contact with their developers to ensure the site is coming together with all the features and graphics planned in earlier stages.
Here, we have front-end development companies that specialize in the frameworks, technologies, and techniques for making highly responsive and performant web pages for businesses. On the other side of development, we also have some of the best backend development companies putting together the servers and resources to ensure sites are robust, reliable, and highly performant for users.
With a website's content, graphics, and tools in place, the process of testing and vetting the site ahead of the launch can begin. As another area where it can be tempting for teams to cut corners and speed through on a tight budget, it is vital that testing is not undervalued.
A comprehensive test plan helps to guarantee that your site is working at the most critical times of peak traffic and use. In most cases, testing kicks up bugs, new features, and resources that require re-development or redesign to get everything working as it should. The end of the development phase is typically only the halfway point in web design. Every minute of this process is well worth the time and cost investment in ensuring that users trust your services and can access them freely.
Launching Your Website
Finally, with approval from everyone invested in the project, it's time for the site to go live for users. During this phase, nerves build, and all the theoretical planning and strategizing done at the earliest stages gets put into practice.
The launch phase is the most time-sensitive of each of these seven steps of web development. Keeping an eye on site metrics can prove useful in ensuring everything is working exactly as predicted.
It can help to launch to a small, targeted audience early to kick up any bugs and errors before marketing to a larger one through social media channels.
The longest-lasting phase of the web development process is maintenance. This phase begins at the end of development and testing and lasts until the site is retired in favor of new technologies or services.
Keeping on top of updates and minor fixes are two of the primary responsibilities developers take on during this phase. Additional tasks arising according to the requirements of the business typically feature upgrades and extensions that target new use cases. In these cases, developers go back to step one in evaluating, planning, and designing for a specific feature set or upgrade to enhance services.
Web Development Process
Of course, this is only a big-picture outline of how the web design process takes place. In real-world production, no two projects are ever identical, and each one will require slightly different details, tools, and requirements to underpin a technical project.
Regardless of the project, however, a strong working relationship between developers, stakeholders, and management is key to success. Good communication and consistent processes made up of a few key milestones invariably make for a successful website development process every time they're deployed.
Q1. What are the basic steps of website development?
The website development process can be boiled down to just a handful of key steps.
- Research and Planning. Find out what users want from a service and web page, and provide that in the best way possible.
- Web Design. Decide how users are going to interact with your pages, and come up with a strong visual design.
- Development. Build your web pages to meet your earlier research and designs with frameworks and tools to help.
- Testing. Ensure your site works across multiple browsers, operating systems, devices, and various screen sizes.
- Launch. Publish your website on a host or platform that allows you to share your idea with the world.
- Maintenance. Continue with long-term upkeep, upgrades, and extensions to your website to keep it from going stale, and to keep users invested.
Each of these steps is critically important to success. None can afford to be skipped if you value your user base and intend to build a long-lasting service.
Q2. What is the web development life cycle?
The web development life cycle is a process of understanding your website's requirements and designing, launching, then maintaining your website to meet these goals.
- Gathering relevant information. This process is about figuring out how to understand your users and provide them with services and resources that will add value.
- Planning. During the planning phase, you should be aiming to design an architecture and web resource that meets the user's demands discovered in stage one.
- Design. This phase should be about building a service that is intuitive and easy to use for the audience you identified in earlier stages.
- Development. Finally, it is time to build the site. This step is made much easier with an effective wireframe mockup and the design credentials outlined in the previous stage.
- Testing. Verify that the site works technically while meeting the demands set out at every previous stage, including being acceptable and valuable to the users it targets.
- Launch. Publish and host the website to engage with users in a valuable way.
After the launch phase, developers should be ready to revert to step one in implementing new features and extensions over the lifetime of the service.
Q3. What is the difference between a portal and a website?
A portal is a service aimed at a specific set of users, whereas a website has a more generic audience. There is a lot of overlapping functionality between a portal and a website, but a portal delivers specific content to a group or single user based on identifying them through a login or other technology solution. In contrast, a website is designed to serve as broad an audience as possible with information for all users.
It's common for companies to build portals to provide internal information for employees, while their website has a more general landing page for the public.
An organization-specific portal is a great way to share resources and knowledge through a private, access-protected web page. It's easy to set up multiple user roles for specific groups and share relevant and protected information using these discrete groups. While some portals aim to be broad in delivering a wide range of services to their users, others aim to narrow the scope of information they provide, with some serving as a source for a single subject or domain of information.
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