Every website is different in its own way but generally the process of building a website is more or less the same. If we deconstruct the web development process it could be broadly put down in 5 basic steps.
Starting with collecting information, working on website layout and design to content generation and coding. Conventionally, coding is the most important aspect of website development. It is the core tech part of web design which gives the website its look and interactivity. Once ready the website goes for testing, review and launch and finally it requires continuous support and maintenance to be a fully functional and current website.
Let’s take a look at these stages of web development process in detail.
1. Information Gathering
This is the defining stage where the web designer figures out the purpose and goal of creating the website. It is to be clearly understood if the website is going to provide information, sell a product or promote services or whether it is going to be a combination of these goals.
At this stage you would want to have a fair idea of your target audience too. It is advisable to do a rough profiling of the potential and targeted users. Knowing the gender, age group and other factors like their interests will help the web designer style the website that will appeal to the target audience. There is no denying that a news portal has a serious look wile a website targeting teens is usually flashy and quirky.
There the web developer needs to gather data based on the understanding of the goal and target audience. This will help in deciding the content of the website later. You will have to build in functionality based on the intended use of the website – whether for selling, ordering, promoting or simply providing information.
You can begin this process of collecting data by interviewing the client, holding discussions and taking inputs through mails and supporting documents. Data thus collected will help the web developer company to come up with a work plan, cost estimates of the project, the size and talent required in the project team and other resources to consider for the completion of the website development project.
The information gathered is now put into a plan called the sitemap. This gives the client an idea how the website will work. The general layout, site navigation and dynamic elements of the website are planned at this stage based on the data and target use of the website.
The creation of sitemap helps to understand the inner structure of the website. It is best to get this basic sitemap design approved by the client to assess all the aspects are covered in the website functionality. Therefore a mock-up or wireframe is created. Wireframe is basically a sketch of the user interface sans the colours, logos and other elements. In consultation with the client also decide upon software and programming languages, frameworks, CMS (Content Management Systems), contact forms and other tools that will be used in website development.
At this stage design prototypes are developed taking into consideration end user and client’s requirements. The client is given website layouts that could be simple graphic sketch or functional graphic design. The website layout contains the images, colours and logos and gives a general understanding of the final feel and look of the website.
Sometimes the web developer provides two or three preliminary design alternatives with images and navigation. Based on client feedback changes are made to the design. Final approval of the client sets the stage for further web development.
4. Development – Coding and Content Writing
At this stage, the actual website begins to take shape as the web designer takes the graphic design from the prototype and builds the functional website. Generally the Home Page is created first and subsequently the pages are added as per the sitemap developed. Frameworks, contact forms, shopping cart, CMS, Social Media integration and other relevant elements are added to the website to check the server capability to handle these installation and set-up smoothly. Special features and interactivity too is added at this stage.
All this involves writing valid HTML/CSS codes compliant with current web standards. This ensures your website runs successfully and is accessible and functional. Programmer should add codes without disturbing the approved layout and design of the website nor hinder the application. Integrated Development Environment IDE should be used for coding. Adobe Dreamweaver, PHPStorm, Netbeans are the popular choices.
Simultaneously content is generated for the website with catchy headlines, compiling and editing the existing and creating new text for the website. Client provides ready content to be migrated to the website. Usually this should be done along with coding of the website. Coding and content should be search engine optimized for a better ranking of the website by search engines. Therefore it is imperative to have valid codes. The website elements like titles, keywords, meta tags, description should also be carefully chosen to improve website SEO.
The client should be given access to in-progress website for viewing in case any changes or corrections are required so that these can be handled there and then.
5. Testing and Delivery
Website now needs to go through intensive testing phase. Some of the tests which should be carried out are, integration testing, stress testing, scalability testing, load testing, resolution testing and cross-browser compatibility testing. Automated testing as well as manual testing should be done without fail.
These tests are run to check complete functionality of forms and other scripts. Every single link is checked to ensure there is no broken link on the website. Website is tested for compatibility with the latest versions of browsers. It is checked to find if there is any difference in browsing experience when viewed in different browsers. Possible typos can be checked by running a spell checking software. Code validators will help if the codes are valid and meet the current web standards necessary for cross browser compatibility.
After testing the website is ready to be uploaded to the server with an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program. Domain name is registered and a web hosting service is subscribed to for your website. Once these accounts are set up the website is uploaded to the server. Now a final test should be run as a precautionary move to ensure all the files are installed correctly and the site is fully functional.
Once the website goes live it needs support and maintenance. Feedback forms should be added to the website to detect problem areas and bugs if any encountered by the end users. This will help in fixing bugs as soon as they are detected. Continuous updating and content addition is required to keep the website current and relevant to the end user. Web developers offer packages for support and maintenance services on a contract basis. These services include taking regular back-ups of the website, installations of additional plugins, installing regular software updates. This will ensure bug fixes and reduce security risk to your data and website. Handing over the maintenance of website to web developer and designer helps you focus your time and energies on more important tasks of the business.
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