The Web Development Phase
The Web Development Phase
The Web Development phase is the primary work phase when creating a new website. The design “look” of the website has been established in the Design Phase and with the client’s approval it is time to actually build the website.
When developing a website the development phase is the most time intensive. It is also a critical phase when you consider that great designs with poorly developed websites don’t produce great results…
But I thought the “look” was the most important aspect of your website?
It sure is an important aspect of your website – without a great looking website you really reduce your ability to keep new web visitors on your website – BUT no matter how good the website looks if it does not function well, if it does not have easy navigation, if key information and content are not available or if the DREADED “Coming Soon – Please Check Back” – is sitting on half your menu items – then your website might as well say – “Please go to a better website – one that has spent the time to get the information you are looking for online!”
Man that’s brutal – Can’t you just add information “after the site goes live”?
Clients and prospects alike do not enjoy wasting their time and seeing web pages “with great intentions… coming soon”. It is a royal waste of their time and they will generally leave the website and not come back (now talk to me about brutal – you just lost a prospect!). So it should be obvious why having a full understanding and game plan for your web content is one of the key starting points of developing a great website. This includes establishing the menu items of the website that requires both the web development company and the client to participate and focus on. The core content of the website should have been established in the sales phase and definitely finalized in the design phase. It simply is not good enough to decide you will update and add content after you have launched the website.
A good development company will work closely with the client in this phase and will encourage and motivate the client to launch good content. Again It should clearly be established in the design phase what is the most important items (and content) required to produce the results the client is looking for. It simply doesn’t make sense not to produce key required content for the website during this phase.
Good Content takes Hard Work!
Today there are a lot of organizations that are now in the “Web Design” business. There is the old fashion webmaster (becoming a past relic to some extent if you can still find him or her), then there is the small web design & development companies (like BeareWare) and then you have the major companies such as AT&T, Network Solutions and GoDaddy to name a few who are now offering website design services. But no matter which company is developing your website the responsibility of content always rests on the shoulders of the client.
You will see this on most web contracts and descriptions – “Client to provide content”. Easy to say but NOT really easy to produce. During the sales phase the prospect will inevitably hear “….and then we add your content” – MAGIC – and it includes a FREE CAR WASH! But the reality is good web content takes hard work and a good design and development company must have a good plan and solid methods to assist the client during this phase. And as can be seen by the development check list below there is a lot of ground to cover and the importance of team work is paramount to producing an outstanding website:
Web Development Checklist:
Approved Design: The “look” has been approved by the client in the design phase.
Route Domain: Your domain (yourdomain.com) must be pointed to your new website.
Setup Hosting: Your website must sit on a web server” commonly called the host.
Install CMS: Development starts with CMS Website installed on the “Web Server”.
Integrate Design: The graphic templates are integrated into your CMS Website.
Setup Menu: Menu options and functions should be clearly defined in design phase.
Customize Software: Fine tune CMS Software to optimize the look and functionality.
Add Web Content: Adding content to the site which really brings the website to life.
Add-On Systems: Add-on systems include Online Shops, Calendars or Photo Galleries.
Add 3rd Party Software: Real Estate Listings, Travel Agent Tools or RSS Feeds.
Setup e-Mail: Setting up your e-mail accounts (with your domain brand).
FTP requirements: FTP Drop Box for uploading & downloading files thru your website.
Wow – impressive check list – what happens if you can’t get to all of this?
We end up with a website that is not going to produce the best results. So to be frank there is not an option to not complete all aspects of the development from our point of view. But I have to say I do see quite a lot of websites online that have not completed all tasks listed above. It just looks poor on the company who owns the website – it makes them look Incompetent. That’s not a good message to be sending prospects.
I think this really helps identify the commitment that must be made by a client when they participate in the development of their new website. As stated above it’s a lot of work and the best results are ALWAYS when the web design company and the client collaborate closely during this process. When you look at the list above website owners should also be very cautious of companies that “tout” web design as an add-on “bundled” product (but fail to mention web development or state that “you” can setup your own web pages – cause its SOOO EASY!).
Web Design as an Add-On Product?
There are many companies that have become “Web Design” companies overnight. It is a happening industry and let’s face it everybody needs a website. It doesn’t surprise me at all that large corporations have now added “Web Design” as an additional product to sell. Some of these large companies are selling internet access and online advertising and then additionally offer web design as an upgrade to their “bundled” package. Other companies offer web design as an additional package to domain purchases and hosting. If you review our web development check list above I think it should become obvious that someone is going to have to a lot of work once the “Web Design” phase is complete.
FOLKS – web design and development is not like turning your phone on or taking out an advertisement. It’s a LOT OF WORK that requires great planning, management and implementation to ensure success. And just to add some food for thought here the cost of “Web Design” from these large companies is a monthly fee (usually tied into other packages) so ultimately the client will be forced to bundle multiple services (for many years) and may very well have to maintain the bundle to keep the website online. Your website is just way to important to ever be tied to any other product or bundled service!
And Just To Verify – Do I Need To Understand All Aspects of the Development?
Technology is complex just like investing and the best advice I have heard about investing is don’t ever invest in something you don’t understand. I really see an analogy to that statement with technology. So when you have a look at the development list there certainly may be a few items that you may not be familiar with. Some of it is tech “stuff” – the core basics that come with each website – such as the domain name, the host, and website software such as a CMS System. Most of these items can be explained in very easy laymen terms – and there is nothing in the development list that fits in the “magic” category. Probably one of the more complex items in the list is the actual customizing the CMS software (which is the discipline computer programming).
To elaborate your CMS website is a computer program written with 1000’s of lines of computer code which actually is what makes your CMS website so powerful. Quite often in developing a new client site BeareWare will make some coding changes to the software to help the customization. Most of the time it’s nothing major and generally might be a cosmetic appearance or a functional behavior. But it is a part of why the development phase is important.
Now – If you can understand the last paragraph you just read in this blog – then you are fully capable of understanding the development phase. And as we constantly remind our clients – ask questions – then ask some more questions. It is very important that our clients are very comfortable with the development process – we hope to keep them as customers for the next 20 years so their education and understanding of this process is paramount.
So at the Completion Of Web Development Is A Great Website!
Well just about! As you can see there are a lot of pieces to the development phase. At minimum the website is developed over 30 days (longer pending the size of the project) – and you have multi-disciplined persons working on the website (the graphic designer, the programmer and developer, and the project leader) – so it really serves to have a final review with the client after the development phase is completed to do some final fine tuning before going live.
And being a CMS website this should include a training session (and a training manual) combined with that final review. Although we are at the finish line of the project the final review and training are an important part of the process. The client is also much more “educated” about their website at this stage of the project and many of their questions and comments during the review and training session really make the launching of the website an exciting event!
After all that work your company’s professional website is live and ready for action on the World Wide Web – it just doesn’t get any better than that!
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included strategic website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still primarily a webmaster. And this is “Interview with a Webmaster.”