Good Website Development ProcessI recently read a good post at Smashing Magazine entitled Following A Web Design Process that lays out some guidelines for how to successfully and efficiently manage the website development process.
It was interesting to read it and to generally say to myself, "Yep, that’s what we do" over and over again. It got me thinking on the relative ubiquitousness of this kind of approach in website development today and how it once wasn’t so clear what a successful path to good project management entailed. When I started designing websites in 1995, it was a bit of ‘feel your way along’ for much of each project. Slowly, over time, common problems and solutions to my approach revealed themselves and became codified into my standard working process.
The pain of those early days and lessons learnt has mostly faded into memory but the fact remains that even with the best laid plans, bumps in the road do come up. We can never be certain of what curve balls a client, the market place, or even a piece of technology may throw at us.
However, I do know though that having a solid process which you can clearly and thoroughly articulate to a client will greatly reduce those risks. Helping a client fully understand the process not only minimizes risk but also helps you get more input from the client at the times you most need it. That, in turn, makes for a better final product.
Our process is part of all of our contracts and includes language making clear how certain steps are tied to deliverable dates and proposed budgets. This makes certain that a client will at the very least be aware of this before even deciding to engage in any work with us. Further, we often tailor the general process when there are unique considerations on a project (like print collateral to accompany a website).
Below is our general process (deliverable and budget language excluded):
- Requirements review: meeting with the client to discuss projects goals and vision, target markets, content requirements, reference sites, materials and available assets. Basically, cover off everything the client knows and wants at this point.
- Architecture/Sitemap: maps out the website architecture, defining sections & pages and their flow and relationship to each other
- Functional Specification: a document that sets out in detail the things the website must do – and how it will do them
- Prototype/Wireframes: a simple visual layout of the website pages with the intent to support the Functional Specification by starting to define certain layout and UI conventions to be employed across the website
- Mock-ups: Produce mock-ups based on all approved requirements from the Discovery process
- Review Cycles: review mock-ups with the client and refine/revise accordingly until we have approvals
- Template coding, application coding, content integration, testing and bug fixes until we are satisfied the website is in a launch-ready state
- Client Review: release the website to the client for their review
- Final Tweaks and Testing: respond to any last client feedback and do final tweaks and one last round of testing
- Launch: push the website live
- Training: any post-launch training or documentation delivered to the client as warranted by the website
- Client Survey: solicit client feedback on the entire project process to learn more about what’s working and what can be improved