The website development process can be very confusing, there are so many steps, some are easily understood, others are incredibly complicated and it can be difficult to understand exactly what is going on. I like to say that understanding the website development process for you is like us trying to understand what an accountant does, learning all the laws to ensure you come off better. It is also important to know that just like accountants where some are incredible and will save you thousands with their knowledge, there are good website developers that will save you thousands in the long term and there are bad web developers... We will touch on some ways you can try to establish the quality of your web developer.
This is the first and sometimes the most important step, the discovery stage begins before you even sign with your web developer. To give an accurate quote it is essential for them to have a well-rounded understanding of what you hope to achieve. Without this, they risk underquoting and not allowing themselves the resources to achieve everything they need, or worse they agree to a project in which they lack the capabilities.
So what exactly does the discovery stage involve? The discovery includes finding the best technologies for your project, determining your target audience, your purpose and main goals. It also involves researching your competitors, determining the keywords they are targeting and how you can remain competitive. Essentially, the discovery stage lays the foundation for design, development and copywriting.
Timeframe: 1 to 2 weeks
Planning involves determining what your site map looks like and finding the right design for your brand. A sitemap will include all the pages that will be present on your website and how all these pages will link with one another. This will help you understand how usable your new website will be. Some agencies will create a wireframe at this stage whilst others will progress straight to design, this often depends on the scope of work, for example, a larger project will likely involve the use of wireframes whilst this is seen as unnecessary for smaller-scale projects.
Timeframe: 1 to 3 weeks
The design stage is where you will begin to see your vision come to life. This stage will rely on the first two stages heavily, to guide the most important pages and how they will connect to the other pages. The layout of each of your pages will be created at this stage, placeholder photos or photos you have already provided will be used to help the design come together. The fonts and colour scheme will be chosen or guided by your existing branding.
After the design is complete you are often given the opportunity to review the design and make any changes you feel are necessary.
Timeframe: 3 to 9 weeks
Creating content is a crucial step essential to helping you create a competitive SEO presence. This includes curating all of the copy for your website, making sure it has the right keywords and engages your users. This is often the responsibility of the client and not the developer. Many web development agencies specialise in design and development, however, some will have experienced copywriters who are specialized in writing online content. The earlier the copy can be provided to the developer the better, as the length of the copy can have an impact on the overall look of a website and any issue can hence be resolved promptly.
Timeframe: 2-6 weeks
Here comes the fun part. Finally, the website can be created. If all the previous steps have been carefully taken this final step should be straightforward. It will involve hours of work taking the visual design and translating it into a language that computers all around the world can understand. Today this not only means laptops and desktops but mobiles, tablets and everything in between. Development also includes connecting your website to a CMS so that you can update content in the future.
Timeframe: 4 to 12 weeks
Before you are presented with the final version of your website intensive testing will take place behind the scenes. Does everything link where it needs to link? Does the contact form work? Does the website load with a speed score of 80 or above? These are all checks your developer will take to ensure the quality of your website.
Timeframe: 1 week
At this point, your developer will provide you with a staging link where you will be able to go through and check everything for yourself. Does it look like the designs? Is the copy correct? Have any mistakes been made? Most of these issues would have been resolved at some earlier stage and you should be left with very minor issues if any. Last-minute design or functionality changes are often not possible as even small changes have the potential to delay the launch by weeks. Hence, at this stage, you are looking at whether what you have been promised was delivered or not.
Timeframe: 1 week
Finally, come to the launch! This is often performed at off-peak periods for your business so that if there are any issues they can be resolved. Otherwise, your website will now be live and ready to love.
Like a car, a website is a complex piece of technology, again as a car, every now and then the website needs maintenance to allow it to run smoothly with the updated requirements of browsers around the world. If you allow your website to become outdated, eventually it will unfortunately break. Hence, we recommend to all our clients that they take some measures to ensure their website is regularly maintained either through us or through their in house IT experts.
The best way to protect yourself from choosing a bad web developer is to ask the right questions. These include asking about how you can manage your website in the future if you need to make changes update copy or alter images. You might even wish to get them to show you the backend of their websites so you can evaluate the usability, believe me when I say not all backends are created equally. For us, there are backends we will even refuse to work in simply because they have been set up so poorly. On the other end of the spectrum there are developers who put future usability for their clients at the front of their process.
There are resources out there to help you check how fast a website is. You can simply take the URL of their previous projects and paste them into a tool like Google's page speed test. If they show a page speed of above 60 on mobile and above 80 for the desktop you are in the green! Some developers however cut corners when it comes to page speed to save on cost.
Another great question to ask is what is included? Some developers will connect your website to search engines for you as part of their service whilst others may not even create a site map for Google.
If you are curious about what some other questions to ask might be check out our article on the top 12 questions to ask your website developer.
If you are interested in hiring one of our expert developers to consult on one of your projects please reach out to us through our contact form here.