Design and development process

Executive summary

Unlike many other agencies/developers, I follow a “content-first” approach. This means that I do not design and build the website first and then try to make each piece of content fit the design. This is important because your content is the reason your users are visiting your website.

It is of the utmost importance that we not only produce your website content in such a way that it can be indexed by search engine but write it in such a way that it can be easily understood by your audience – Your users will skim read so the design, structure and volume of content must facilitate this. This content-first approach will help your audience find your content online and make it easier for you to drive traffic to your website.

To that end, I’ll help you create your sitemap and content first and only then move on to design and development phases. In this way, we ensure that the design is optimised for the content it is trying to display and will generate the best return on investment possible.

The process we will go through together is this:

  1. Scoping
  2. Copywriting & Wire framing
  3. Design
  4. Development
  5. Publish
  6. Support & Maintenance

The process

Phase 1: Scoping

This can be quite an intensive phase of the project. We discuss yours and your audiences’ needs at length to determine, and then prioritise the final list of requirements. This becomes the blueprint from which we work together for the remainder of the project.

Phase 2: Copywriting and wire framing

As the client, this is the most intensive and time-consuming aspect of the process. It is often also where projects stall. The reason for this is that organisations often underestimate how truly difficult it is to write good website content. Should you not have an in-house copywriter but be blessed with the budget to hire one, I would strongly recommend you do so. A decent copywriter will pay dividends. I can’t stress this enough.

During this phase I – and the copywriter should you have one – will work with you to structure your content in a way that will make sense to your audience. This is done through the creation of a sitemap and then wire framing.

Wire framing is the process whereby we mockup or test out different page layouts. Traditionally, this has been done during the design phase with the content added later. However, as I follow a content-first approach we are going to instead install the content management system and then add the content to all the pages. This will allow you to click through the site and get a “feel” for how a user will navigate through your content. Visually, the site will be unstyled – black text on a white background. In this way, we are not distracted by design and can focus on the content, the experience your audience will have and iron out any bugs or roadblocks we may encounter.

Once the sitemap and content of each page has been approved, we move on to the next phase.

Phase 3: Design

Using the wire frame as a guide, the designer will begin to mock up some basic designs. These will be supplied to you as graphics so that you can get a visual “feel” for the design direction. Once you have approved these mockups, the designer will refine the mockups and begin designing the look of specific pages of the website. Once complete, you will be required to sign-off on the design files.

This phase of the project is much less intensive than the previous two and only requires your input at key stages for design sign-off.

Phase 4: Development

Using the signed off design files, I will create the websites templates – sometimes this process is referred to as “skinning”. These templates will be applied to each of the pages of the websites we built in Phase 2. During this phase I will work closely with the designer to ensure that the design is implemented correctly for desktop, tablet and mobile devices.

On larger projects, development milestones are identified to ensure the project is kept on schedule. Client input is welcomed at each milestone.

Phase 5: Publish

This is the fun phase! After receiving final sign-off from you, I will run a few pre-launch checks. The website will then be made published! If needs be, I can help your in-house sales/marketing team to promote the new website through social and email marketing campaigns.

Phase 6: Support and maintenance

Like a well-built house, well-built websites still require maintenance to keep them looking and functioning optimally. The old adage, “A stitch in time saves nine” couldn’t be more applicable to websites. Once the website is live I am available for ongoing support and maintenance work. This can be managed on an ad-hoc basis or through a monthly subscription service.