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7-Step Website Development Process With A Beginner-Friendly Master Guide To Custom Web Development

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There are nearly 2 billion websites and well over 5 billion users online as you are reading this.

It has never been easier to tap into this immense, global community, but it has also never been more difficult to reap business value from it.

At Digital Silk, we are big believers in custom websites. When developed professionally, custom websites are true to your brand, easier to rank on search engines, highly effective for marketing campaigns, scalable, secure, and, overall, a smart investment with long-term gains.

We’ll show you our custom website development process, so you know what to expect from a professional web design agency, for both new and redesign projects.

We’ll also share tips on how to prepare for your website project, explain the most popular development platforms and methodologies, and list the tools that can streamline your development process.

Digital Silk’s Website Development Process In 7 Steps

Let’s preface this with a brief introduction: We are a professional website design and development agency with a rich portfolio of all website types – from informational to eCommerce and web apps – and specialized in all industry-leading website development platforms.

Here, we’ll walk you through the steps we take to create professional websites.

What are “professionally developed websites” exactly?

Glad you asked!

Professionally developed websites are strategically planned for impeccable technical performance, as well as marketing efficiency, optimized for search engines and conversions.

Looking to grow your brand online? Request a quote!

This is the work we put in our custom website projects to drive results:

Stage 1: Project Goals

Custom website development projects are time-consuming and often costly, so citing “outdated design” is not reason enough to embark on such a project.

Before you embark on your website development process, define and document the specific goals you wish to achieve with the new website.

We recommend getting a written sign-off on these goals from all key stakeholders, highlighting that any future change to the goals may affect the project scope, timeline and budget.

The typical website goals we see include (and yours can include more than one):

  • Launch or rebrand, including product education and interest-building
  • Facilitate web administration via a user-friendly backend and an optimized content management process
  • Improve SEO and organic traffic
  • Increase lead generation, on-site sales, and/or other types of conversions
  • Increase stickiness and loyalty, including return visits and repeat sales

Stage 2:Website Planning

We have a full guide to website planning if you need one, so here we’ll give you a quick overview of the key points a professional web design agency considers and documents when planning your website project.

  • Functionality & marketing requirements: Thinking about your project goals, identify the key functional requirements that are in direct or indirect service of those goals. These requirements can be as mundane as newsletter subscriptions and social media integrations, and as complex as user logins, eCommerce features, and similar.
  • Integration requirements: Audit your current integrations to list the ones that should be migrated to the new website, which should be reassessed and which should be added to support your required functionality and goals.
  • Content management system (CMS) requirements: How much flexibility do you need in creating new landing pages and managing the existing website content? Define the CMS features that will make your website admin experience more intuitive and streamlined.
  • Technology requirements: Are you married to any technology (stacks) or are you open to tailored tech recommendations? Define the tech environment your new website should function in.
  • SEO opportunities: What are the keywords your target audiences Google when looking for products, solutions and vendors in your space? These keywords will directly affect your sitemap and landing page messaging to position your website for future SEO campaigns.
  • Sitemap & user journeys: This is where all the previous steps begin to translate into more tangible website planning; your sitemap will define your website navigation, key landing pages and how they relate to one another, forming a seamless user journey.
  • Conversion funnels & messaging: Messaging – or content architecture as some call it – is key to building effective website conversion funnels. This step involves outlining the content for each landing page, defining the information flow and content requirements, and providing a blueprint for design.
  • KPIs: How will you measure the success of your new website? Depending on your specific goals, list the technical, user behavior and marketing KPIs – think loading speeds, conversion rates and organic traffic, to name a few.
An image depicting a sitemap
Your sitemap defines your website navigation, landing pages and how they will be connected

Stage 3: Design

Notice that we are already two steps into your website development process and we haven’t even mentioned design or development.

Design and development should be in service of your project goals and website content, not the other way around.

Speaking of design, the first decision to make is whether the design process should be mobile-first or regular responsive.

Then we proceed to create your unique:

  • Wireframes: Grayscale visual interpretations of your landing page content structure, without images, branded elements or other distractions
  • User interface (UI) design: A finalized, static mockup of your future website built upon the approved wireframe designs and consistent with your brand’s visual identity
  • Prototypes (optional): Animated versions of your approved UI design that show how the live website would behave
An image depicting a website wireframe
A wireframe is a visual representation of your landing page content structure

Stage 4: Content Creation

As you are preparing for the development phase of the website development process, you can get started (or we can get started!) on creating your landing page and other relevant content.

Here’s what we typically focus on in parallel with the next (5th) step of our website development process:

  • SEO copywriting: Guided by keyword research, content outlines and approved designs, we create high-quality landing page copy that is true to your brand voice and business offering.
  • Long-form content: From SEO blogs to gated whitepapers, eBooks and even quizzes, we create well-researched and thoroughly quality assured content for your Resources section.
  • Custom visuals: Based on your approved landing page designs, our marketing and video design teams can create highly engaging visual content to enrich your website’s user experience.
Questions about our custom web design? Speak with our experts!

Stage 5: Development

After strategic and meticulous planning, we reach the development phase of your website development process.

This phase begins with a tech specification document, where our teams of true engineers define the technologies, functionalities, integrations and other technical considerations that will guide our backend and frontend development.

  • Backend development: Our teams of backend developers code your website, following our high-quality standards and established processes, and using carefully selected technologies. Though largely invisible to the end-user and admins even, backend development is key to high-performance and scalable websites, technical SEO, security and user experience.
  • Frontend development: Our frontend developers turn your approved designs into a live, interactive digital experience using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

When ready for review, you will be able to experience your website in a restricted staging website environment during the quality assurance process and before launch.

Stage 6: Quality Assurance

Professional agencies count on teams of quality assurance (QA) engineers to thoroughly test websites to ensure they are ready for launch, and run final rounds of testing once the website is live.

The QA process typically encompasses all elements of the website experience, from speed testing to responsiveness and other design elements, functionality and integrations, and security, among others.

Digital Silk relies on robust pre- and post-launch QA checklists to ensure the websites we create are ready for your admins, users and marketing campaigns.

Stage 7: Launch And Maintenance

The launch process is pretty simple: Following meticulous QA testing and official approvals, developers push the website live, making it accessible to online audiences.

At Digital Silk, the launch process also includes CMS training – a recorded walkthrough of the website’s admin panel to prepare your key stakeholders for future content editing and updates.

Businesses typically continue their agency partnerships on website maintenance retainers, which provide peace of mind as they delegate security monitoring and backups, and even other technical maintenance tasks such as speed optimization, integrations, bug fixes and more.

Looking for website development services? Request a quote!

Popular Website Development Platforms

Numerous website development platforms are available nowadays with varying features and pricing. Below are some of the most in-demand, industry-leading platforms for website building that support various types of websites from informational to eCommerce.

WordPress

Probably the best-known website development platform, WordPress is admin-friendly and customizable, supporting most – if not all – features and functionalities you can think of for your website.

With a huge number of plugins, WordPress is suitable for most types of websites including eCommerce thanks to the WooCommerce extension. It is widely used by both startups and large-scale businesses such as Sony Music and Time Magazine.

A screenshot of WordPress.com homepage
[Source: WordPress]

Drupal

Drupal is an open-source website development platform with a widely used and, powerful CMS system. Drupal uses modern development tools that enforce a quality standard and ensure consistency.

Drupal is also a versatile platform for website building used by various industries from automotive brands like Tesla to eCommerce businesses such as Wish.

A screenshot of Drupal's homepage
[Source: Drupal]

Laravel

Laravel is another popular platform used to build highly scalable and high-performance websites. Its open-source framework enables businesses to develop large websites at no cost.

It is best suited for small and middle-size businesses of diverse industries. However, it does require some coding skills to develop a website on this platform. Some of the well-known brands that use Laravel include BBC and Pfizer.

A screenshot of Laravel's homepage
[Source: Laravel]

Magento

Magento is a feature-rich solution for eCommerce platforms. Known as a powerful eCommerce platform that allows multiple stores, Magento also offers high security and support.

Magento also enables businesses to easily customize their online stores and edit pages without technical skills. Magento is used by industry-leading brands such as Coca Cola and Ford.

A screenshot of Magento's homepage
[Source: Magento]

Shopify

If Magento is a go-to platform for large enterprises, Shopify is a favorite among small businesses. It’s an all-in-one platform meaning that you don’t need to concern yourself with software updates, backups or maintenance whatsoever.

One of the biggest benefits of Shopify is that it requires no coding skills for developing your eCommerce website. The platform is used by established brands such as Heinz and Kylie Cosmetics.

A screenshot of Shopify's website
[Source: Shopify]

Web Development Methodologies

A website development methodology helps developers break a project up into several stages and each stage lays the foundation for next stage’s activities.

Some of the most common web development methodologies include:

  • Agile: Agile is an umbrella term that describes a web development methodology that divides the workflow into short cycles called “sprints”. This methodology prioritizes urgent tasks while modifications are later made in line with market changes. This requires less planning, flexibility and adaptability. Agile methodology focuses on recommendations and user feedback to ensure high-quality project delivery.
  • Waterfall: Uses a linear approach to software development by laying down the process in stages. Each stage has a defined list of tasks and developers can only move to the next stage once the previous stage is complete.
  • Iterative: Based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing and analyzing, Iterative focuses on metrics and data to change the website development process according to changing market needs.
  • Lean: This methodology is focused on crucial features while eliminating anything that doesn’t add value to the client. Lean uses short development cycles, early testing and frequent client feedback.
  • Scrum: Scrum shares Agile’s core principle meaning that the focus is on collaboration between teams and dividing work into short sprints. Scrum focuses on customer requirements and aims to reduce waste while constantly tracking progress.
  • Kanban: Based on workflow visualization, Kanban divides work into sections (planned, in-progress and developed) to simplify workflow and keep team members in the loop. Team members keep track of the progress and update the board as needed.
  • Extreme Programming: This methodology’s best practices include continuous testing and planning, customer input and smaller, gradual releases.
Kanban methodology screenshot
[Source: Atlassian] A Kanban board lets teams divide work into sections and update the board regularly to keep everyone in the loop

How To Find The Right Website Development Methodology For Your Project?

To find the best methodology for your website project, consider the following factors:

  • Project’s scale and scope: The scale of your project dictates the number of developers who will work on it.
  • Team experience: Consider the experience level of your developers to determine which methodologies they are familiar with and able to work with.
  • Team location: If your developers don’t all work in the same room, you should choose a mythology that offers easy collaboration and project management. Some models, like Agile, require frequent meetings and closely-knit teams.
  • Flexibility in requirements: The Agile and Iterative approaches are the best options for projects that may require frequent changes. The Waterfall method, on the other hand, is a good choice for projects that are more stable and predictable.

25 Tools To Streamline Your Website Development Process

There are many tools that can help your team streamline your website development process, from coding and text editors to project management tools, prototyping assistants an more.

Here’s a roundup of our top 25:

Code & Text Editors

These are the top five code editors that your team can count on to make the web development process smoother:

1. Notepad++: A free Windows tool, Notepad++ is one of the most popular and advanced text editors on the market. It supports syntax highlighting for various languages including CSS, JavaScript, HTML and PHP. Notepad++ is translated into more than 80 languages which makes it accessible to people from different parts of the world.

Notepad++ screenshot
[Source: Notepad++]

2. Atom: Supporting Windows, Mac and Linux platforms, Atom is an open-source editor that allows cross-platform editing, similar to WordPress. Atom offers great organization features to keep projects in check, including smart autocompletion.

Atom tool screenshot
[Source: Atom]
3. Sublime Text: As a paid tool ($99 per license), Sublime offers advanced features like split editing, command palette, context-aware auto complete and more. The tool is cross-platform and developers can use it on Windows, macOS and Linux.

Sublime tool screenshot
[Source: Sublime Text]
4. TextMate: You can either use the free version of TextMate or you can upgrade to the paid option. As a versatile plain text editor for macOS, TextMate boasts a simple interface and innovative features like function pop-up for quick overview and navigation and dynamic outline for working with multiple files.

Textmate screenshot
[Source: MacroMates]
5. Coda: This programming editor for macOS has a clean interface and offers powerful features like local indexing and a CSS override for editing CSS on a live website.

Coda screenshot
[Source: Coda]

Prototyping Tools

Prototyping is an integral part of all the stages of website development. It helps your team review concepts and identify shortcomings during the early phases of your project.

Use some of the most common prototyping tools to save time and create user-friendly interfaces:

6. Sketch: This vector-based design tool is a combination of Photoshop and illustrator. Your designers can use it to create interfaces quickly and intuitively benefiting from its unique features like nested symbols to pre-design different elements like shapes, buttons, widgets and more. Sketch is compatible with macOS only.

Sketch screenshot
[Source: Sketch]
7. Atomic: As a prototyping tool, Atomic enhances the web design process by allowing designers to solve complex problems. It requires Google Chrome and is compatible with Mac and Windows users.

Your team needs to design through vector tools and then export the result using Atomic Choose the free option or subscribe to a paid version to benefit from more unique features.

Atomic screenshot
[Source: Atomic]
8. Framer: As an advanced programming and prototyping tool, Atomic facilitates collaboration and experimenting in the shared space. The platform has an auto-code feature and your team can create animated or interactive prototypes.

Framer screenshot
[Source: Framer]
9. Balsamiq: Use this graphical tool to develop user interfaces, web sites, desktop and mobile applications. Compatible with macOS and Windows, Balsamiq offers more than 500 premade components, items and icons.

Balsamiq screenshot
[Source: Balsamiq]
10. Webflow: Use Webflow as a CMS, hosting platform and prototyping tool. With a similar interface to Photoshop Webflow is the best option for simple, static sites.

Webflow screenshot
[Source: Webflow]
Looking to grow your brand online?Let Us Give You Ideas!

Collaboration Tools

Collaboration tools improve team communication throughout your project. Our top five include:

11. Zoom: As a video conferencing tool that allows face to face communication, Zoom is especially useful if your team is disbursed. Use Zoom to manage your remote meetings for free with calls up to 40 minutes long.

12. Slack: Use Slack to communicate with your team and stay productive. with its great features including audio calls, discussion threads, file sharing, mobile access and real-time chat.

13. Podio: Speeds up communication between your designers and ensure efficient teamwork using Podio. This collaboration tool facilitates organization activities and streamlines the website development process.

14. Ryver: Similar to Slack, Ryver offers highly effective means of communication with groups and individuals. What’s interesting about it is that you can control who sees what you post.

15. Flock: Use Flock as a communication tool for a group or one on one conversations. Send files or links, make video and audio calls, share screens and more.

Statista screenshot on collaboration tools
The top three collaboration tools used for remote work in the United States in 2020 were Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype
[Source: Statista]

Project Management Tools

Project management tools improve communication and collaboration, and allow you to track your project from start to finish.

Here are the top five tools for managing your project:

16. Jira: As an agile project management tool, Jira allows your web designers and developers to plan and launch websites successfully your website. Jira offers great management features like setting tasks and subtasks, organizing issues, assigning work and more.

Jira screenshot
[Source: Atlassian]
17. Asana: Manage your company objectives and team tasks in one place using Asana. Set group tasks, notify developers using a personalized inbox and schedule and prioritize tasks. are just a few of the features it offers.

Asana screenshot
[Source: Asana]
18. CoSchedule: As an intuitive marketing project management tool, CoSchedule can simplify your web design process and streamline your team’s workflow. Set tasks and deadlines, visualize project progress and more.

CoSchedule screenshot
[Source: CoSchedule]
19. Teamwork: A cloud-based project management solution, Teamwork offers all the features you might need to successfully complete your website development process, including time tracking, Gantt charts, team resources and more.

Teamwork screenshot
[Source: Teamwork]
20. ProofHub: An online project management app with a clear interface, ProofHub has integrated chat, workflows and boards, project discussions reports and more.

ProofHub screenshot
[Source: ProofHub]

File-Sharing Tools

File sharing tools allow your team to share secure files back and forth for collaboration.

For many businesses, they became an integral part of daily work during the COVID-19 pandemic, when remote and hybrid work models became more common.

Looking to grow your brand online?Let Us Give You Ideas!

Here are the top five file-sharing platforms:

21. Google Drive: Share key project documents like photos, videos and content that you need for your project. Get 5 GB of data for free and enjoy unparalleled connectivity, change monitoring, automated saving, and instant file recognition.

22. WeTransfer: This cloud-based file sharing tool allows you protected sharing of documents using passwords. It is easy to use and lets you customize your profile and email.

23. Zoho Docs: A file storage and management software, Zoho is suitable for saving different types of content. Access the platform from different devices both online and offline. Managing access permissions, assign tasks and more.

24. Dropbox Business: Keep your team organized by sharing content in one place. Some of the features include in-person, live online and webinars training.

25. Microsoft Teams: This platform is a cloud-based solution that your team can leverage to communicate, meet, discuss and share files. Its pricing starts at $5.00 per user, per month.

Microsoft teams screenshot
File sharing is essential for easy and smooth collaboration
[Source: Microsoft Teams]

Website Development Checklist

A website development checklist is a document that outlines all the necessary steps from the beginning to the end of the website development process.

Your website development checklist should include:

  • Gathering Information
    • Set clear website goals
    • Define target audience
  • Website Planning
    • Sketch a sitemap
    • Create a wireframe
    • Choose your programming language, framework and methodology
  • Design
    • Define your logo, brand colors, typography and other branding elements
    • Create a brand book
  • Content
    • Define the types of content that will resonate most with your target audience
    • Create a content calendar for blogs, newsletters, social media posts, etc.
  • Development
    • Build your website
    • Add features and functionalities
    • Develop your SEO strategy
  • Testing and Launch
    • Perform a thorough website QA
    • Upload your site to the hosting server
  • Regular Maintenance
    • Fix bugs
    • Perform regular maintenance & backups
    • Update features and functionalities as needed
    • Update content as needed

Develop Your Website With Digital Silk

At Digital Silk, our experts create industry-leading websites that are designed to convert.

From aviation leaders like Tecnam and fitness equipment gurus like Archon, to educational institutions like Miami Country Day School, we walk with you every step of the way to make your website attract visitors, rank in search and generate revenue.

Our team is made up of the top designers, developers, strategists, copywriters and more to ensure your website takes your visitors on a journey with each scroll — one they’re sure to remember.

Get a free project estimate for your website Request a quote!

Takeaways On The Website Development Process

A professional agency will approach your custom website development process using a clearly defined methodology and protocols.

Though often overlooked, website planning is the key step in an effective website development process. Other steps include:

  • Defining project goals
  • Messaging
  • Wireframing and design
  • Development
  • QA
  • Launch and maintenance

From defining the scope of your project to determining your visual identity and selecting the tools you’ll use along the way, each element contributes to the final product.

To make sure your website development process runs smoothly:

  • Establish proper communication: Communicate regularly with your team throughout the entire project, from start to finish. Support your designers in effectively developing a site that represents you, your business and your offerings. Request reporting on the progress and completed tasks so that you can stay on top of the process.
  • Optimize the working environment: Give your web designers tools to optimize your website development process. From project management to wireframing and graphic design, software solutions can boost productivity.
  • Manage time effectively: To deliver the project on time, outline your team tasks, place deadlines and set priorities. For maximum efficiency, schedule assignments and track time.
  • Automate tasks: Automate the processes you can to save time. From batch actions in Photoshop to resizing images, use different tools to achieve more with less hassle.
  • Track your progress: During the launch, your team will move your website from the staging site to the live location. To ensure everything is transferred and works properly, follow a pre-prepared web development life cycle checklist with all the site’s pages and elements.

At Digital Silk, our experts perform research and analysis about your industry, competitors, target audience and more to craft specific recommendations for your website design and development.

Ready To Create A Market-Leading Website?Request A QuoteTell us about your project and let our experts give you recommendations.

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      2022 Digital Trends Guide