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The Process of Website Design and Development

STEP 1 Overview

Before considering paying someone to create, build and upload your website, it is important to take the time to plan exactly what is needed in the website. This will save you time and money. It will ensure the design process is seamless and quick. Thoroughly considering the audience or target market, as well as define the overall purpose and decide what content will be developed. This content should be the easiest to find on your website, that is extremely important.

STEP 2 The Website's Purpose

It is essential to define the purpose of the website. What will the website accomplish and what will users get from it. A clearly defined purpose will help the rest of the planning process as the audience is identified and the content of the site is developed. Setting short and long term goals for the website will help make the purpose clear and plan for the future when expansion, modification, and improvement will take place. Don't be afraid to set up staged goals. This is a cost effective way to get the most out of your website without spending a lot up front. You should set up goals for traffic and potential revenue for your website. If you are not meeting these goals you should rethink your position.

STEP 3 Target Audience

Defining the target audience is a key step in the website planning process. There would be no point in trying to sell ice to Eskimos. If you are selling women's clothing, why have pictures of men wearing clothes on your website? I know it sounds simple, but many people miss this boat completely. First let me explain what the target audience is. The audience is the group of people who are expected to visit your website - the market being targeted. These people will be viewing the website for a specific reason and it is important to know exactly what they are looking for when they visit the site. How old are they? What is their gender? How much money do they have? Where do they live? A clearly defined purpose or goal of the site as well as an understanding of what visitors want to do or feel when they come to your site will help to identify the target audience. Upon considering who is most likely to need or use the content, a list of characteristics common to the users such as:
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Location
  • Needs
  • Buying history
  • Income
  • Web Experience

Taking into account the characteristics of the audience will allow an effective website to be created that will deliver the desired content to the target audience. Plan and simple it will get results.

STEP 4 Website Content

Content evaluation and organization requires that the purpose of the website be clearly defined. Collecting a list of the necessary content then organizing it according to the audience's needs is a key step in website planning. In the process of gathering the content being offered, any items that do not support the defined purpose or accomplish target audience objectives should be removed. It is a good idea to test the content and purpose on a focus group and compare the offerings to the audience needs. The next step is to organize the basic information structure by categorizing the content and organizing it according to user needs. Each category should be named with a concise and descriptive title that will become a link on the website. Planning for the site's content ensures that the wants or needs of the target audience and the purpose of the site will be fulfilled.

STEP 5 Organize Your Website Documents

Documentation is used to visually plan the site while taking into account the purpose, audience and content, to design the site structure, content and interactions that are most suitable for the website. Documentation may be considered a prototype for the website - a model which allows the website layout to be reviewed, resulting in suggested changes, improvements and/or enhancements. This review process increases the likelihood of success of the website.

First, the content is categorized and the information structure is formulated. The information structure is used to develop a document or visual diagram called a site map. This creates a visual of how the web pages will be interconnected, which helps in deciding what content will be placed on what pages. There are three main ways of diagramming the website structure:
  • Linear Website Diagrams will allow the users to move in a predetermined sequence;
  • Hierarchical structures (of Tree Design Website Diagrams) provide more than one path for users to take to their destination;
  • Branch Design Website Diagrams allow for many interconnections between web pages such as hyperlinks within sentences

STEP 6 The Storyboard

In addition to planning the structure, the layout and interface of individual pages may be planned using a storyboard. In the process of storyboarding, a record is made of the description, purpose and title of each page in the site, and they are linked together according to the most effective and logical diagram type. Depending on the number of pages required for the website, documentation methods may include using pieces of paper and drawing lines to connect them, or creating the storyboard using computer software.

Some or all of the individual pages may be designed in greater detail as a website wireframe, a mock up model or comprehensive layout of what the page will actually look like. This is often done in a graphic program, or layout design program. The wireframe has no working functionality, only planning.

STEP 7 Select a Web Design Company

Everybody is a web designer and everyone can build websites. This is far from true. Everyone can build a website, but can they build a website that works? Can they build a website that sells? A website that not only looks great, but performs? Can they build a audience targeted marketing piece that can increase revenue and traffic. The answer to all of these questions is NO! Our clients come to us for that reason. Experience. Here are some important questions to ask when selecting a web design company:
  • How many websites have they built?
  • Are they using website templates instead of doing custom work?
  • How long have they been building websites?
  • Do the websites in their portfolio look good?
  • Do the websites in their portfolio work?
  • Do they resell third party technology?
  • Do they understand how to target my audience?
  • Do they understand marketing?
  • Do they understand pay per click marketing?
  • Can they get my website high in search on Google, Yahoo and MSN?
  • Did they recommend that I create an outline of the project?
  • Do I get access to the source code?
  • Can they build a Content Management System or do I have to keep paying them to do changes?
  • Did they offer any solutions or recommendations I haven't thought of?

STEP 8 The Proposal

After doing a rough outline of the project a more in depth proposal will be sent to both parties. This will outline exactly what is expected and a date of estimated completion. Once the proposal is signed by both parties. A 50% desposit will be required to begin work. After we receive the signed proposal and the deposit we begin work on the website mock up.

STEP 9 Website Mock Up

We build a one page website with Flash elements. We work strictly off the outline to build a mock up that will WOW you. We keep in mind your color scheme, target audience, outline, flow and goals of your new website. We host the new website on our testing servers and will make changes / revisions as needed. During the entire website design process you will have access to this test domain and will be able to monitor the progress of your website development

STEP 10 The Go Live

After we finish building all of the pages for the website. We have you review all of the content and then do a final revision. After this is completed we test, restest and then test again every link, image and form on your website. At this time the remaining 50% balance for the website is due. After we recieve the final check we put your website live on your hosting or on ours. After the website is moved to the new server we test, restest and test everything again to ensure that the website is 100% functional. To protect your investment we burn all of the source files of your new website to a CD and mail it to for your records.