Over 60% of small and medium-sized businesses have invested in a website, yet many fail to generate business value with it due to issues in design or functionality.
For instance, as many as 70% of small business websites lack the most basic elements of web design on their homepage – a call to action (CTA).
Most of these issues can be easily prevented with proper website planning and project management.
In this article, we break down how most web agencies approach design and development to help you plan, monitor and optimize your website development process.
7 Stages Of The Website Development Process
From discovery to launch, these are the phases that your designers and developers will go through during web development process (or -should- go through) to build an engaging and high-performance website:
Stage #1: Project Definition
Most experienced agencies start with some sort of a survey or questionnaire that helps them understand the most important aspects of your business and website goals.
These typically include:
- Business details: This usually includes understanding your offering, unique value proposition, brand and other details relevant to website planning.
- Business goals: Setting clear, measurable goals will help your agency develop the most effective strategy to reach them, as well as help you measure web performance over time.
- Target audience: Defining your online target market will help your designers understand their preferences, study their online habits and develop wireframes and interfaces that are most likely to result in great user experience.
- Competition: This is one of the key elements for the research phase and it allows your agency to analyze the competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, and develop a strategy that will result in a market-leading website.
During this website development phase, your agency should also address any of your questions, raise the ones you may not have considered in your in-house web planning, as well as explain their website planning process as it tends to vary from agency to agency.
Stage #2: Planning
At this stage, your agency will define your website’s layout and core functionality.
Based on the data they’ve previously collected, they will be able to create:
- A sitemap: A sitemap is a birdseye view of your site; It is a map that determines the list of pages, their placement and relationship on the website. It includes both the user-facing elements and those intended for web crawlers only (Google for example). A site map helps define and organize web content, allowing your strategist and designer to go deeper into planning the look, feel and functionality for each page.
- A wireframe: A wireframe, on the other hand, is the layout of each individual page of the site. It outlines and maps out the elements and content, from headlines to CTAs and subscription boxes, on each page. Most agencies wireframe both the desktop and mobile versions of the pages.
This stage of website development will help you plan your on-site buyers’ journey, finetune the features and other elements, as well as envision the result.
Stage #3: Design
The user interface (UI) design stage will introduce your branding and complete the look and feel of your website.
This is where your brand book comes into play to ensure your digital presence is consistent with all other marketing assets.
The designers will apply your chosen color palette, type of iconography, imagery and other elements that define your brand.
If you don’t have a brand book, the best agencies will analyze your existing assets to identify common elements, and they will document their creative decisions to help you consolidate your brand image.
As web design is in many ways subject to taste, it is important to select one or two design decision-makers at most.
Trying to acknowledge too many opinions and implement requests usually leads to a sub-par UI which can affect your brand credibility, increase bounce rates and hurt search engine rankings.
To illustrate: According to HubSpot, 90% of visitors bounce due to poor website design.
Feedback is important, but there is a point where it can do more damage than good.
Stage #4: Content Creation
This stage of the web development life cycle encompasses planning, writing and editing various forms of website content, including:
- Landing pages
- Product/service description
- Case studies
- Blog posts
This stage requires working with skilled writers who will create assets that grab attention and help your pages rank on search engines.
Much like design itself, content is an important element of your user’s experience.
Quality web copy and resources will give them the information they need to make their purchasing decisions, while a strategic keyword optimization will place your web content on the path of searchers with high purchase intent.
Stage #5: Development
Once you approve your final design, the website development process gets technical.
This stage includes coding and your developer’s job is to make your site function properly. Your developer will create your homepage followed by the other landing pages, based on the website hierarchy.
The process also includes combining all the previously designed elements and building an actual site.
Stage #6: Testing
Testing is one of the most significant phases of the web development process.
At this point, your developers will check the functionality of all the elements on your website. The aim is to detect any issues such as broken links and compatibility with different devices to ensure everything works properly.
They will use validators to check the code making sure it follows the current standards, test the site’s speed as well as test for mobile responsiveness.
Once they finish the manual and automated testing, your website will be ready to go into a live server and launch.
Stage #7: Maintenance
The last -and the never-ending- phase of the website development timeline is maintenance. Once your site goes live, you may still need your agency’s assistance and support.
As your business grows, you might need to increase the number of pages, add more functionalities and features.
And you will need to carry out certain tasks on a regular basis, including:
- Editing existing content
- Adding blog posts
- Fixing bugs and issues
- Dosing site backups
- Installing plugins
Since digital and web design trends constantly change, you will also need to keep your site up-to-date both UX and SEO-wise.
What Are Web Development Process Methodologies?
A website development process methodology will help your developers to manage your project by breaking it up into several stages.
It allows them to define the website development phases while maintaining sufficient flexibility throughout the process so that the website is delivered on time and on-par with expectations.
Website planning process methodologies are also a form of codified communication. They include setting up different norms between the experts engaged in the project.
You can think of them as a set of rules that tell your designers and developers how to implement their strategies, how to work on tasks, how to share information with each other and more.
These are the most popular web development process methodologies:
- Agile: This methodology adopts an iterative approach that requires less planning. Its development cycle is quite short which makes it flexible and easily adaptable. Agile methodology also focuses on recommendations and user feedback which ensures high-quality project delivery.
- Waterfall: This model incorporates clearly defined process stages which developers must complete in a sequence. The project’s objectives are set from the beginning and experts working on it can easily estimate the cost as well as set deadlines.
- Iterative: This web development methodology is based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing and analyzing. It focuses on metrics and data which allows designers to learn from the changing market needs and deliver a successful project.
- Lean: This methodology eliminates waste (anything that doesn’t add value to client), and uses short development cycles, early testing and frequent client feedback. Lean aims for a fast delivery and empowers the cooperative aspect of work.
- Scrum: A type of agile methodology, Scrum skips the documentation and specifications and divides the developing process into sprints. The development team has more freedom to decide how to deliver the final product with minimum input from the team manager.
- Kanban: This methodology is based on workflow visualization, boosting efficiency by limiting the amount of work in progress and having no strict roles within a group. Kanban also doesn’t box work into sprints.
- Extreme Programming: This methodology’s best practices include continuous testing and planning, customer input and smaller, gradual releases.
Which Web Development Life Cycle Methodology Would Work Best For You?
When looking for the right web development process methodology, you and your team should analyze the entire project, to ensure the model you choose will give you the best results.
Here are a few tips that can help you decide:
- Project’s scale and scope: The scale of the project dictates the number of developers who will work on it. Obviously, the larger it is, the more experts will be engaged. When it comes to larger groups, the best way to go is to use orderly project management plans.
- Team experience: You should consider the previous experience of your developers with these models. Some of them may not be familiar with certain approaches which may prolong the project delivery.
- Team location: if your developers are dispersed, there will be a need for better coordination and collaboration. However, some models, like Agile, require frequent meetings and closely-knit teams. This is why you should consider your developer’s location.
- Flexibility in requirements: To pick the right website development process methodology, you need to consider the flexibility of your specification. For instance, the Agile and Iterative approaches are the best options for projects where changes are frequently introduced along the line. However, the Waterfall method is a good choice for projects where stability and predictability are preeminent.
How To Streamline Your Website Planning Process
No matter how big or small your project is, building a website can be a complex task. It not only requires a sizable investment, but it can take quite some of your time as well.
Here are a few tips that can ensure your web design process runs smoothly:
- Establish proper communication: Communicating with your team is important throughout the entire website development timeline. Your designers should engage you in the project to effectively develop a site that represents you, your business and your offerings. They should actively report on their progress and completed tasks so that you can easily track the process.
- Optimize the working environment: Your web designers should have different tools at their disposal to optimize the process. From project management to wireframing and graphic design, there is software that they can leverage to boost their productivity.
- Manage time effectively: To deliver the project on time, your team should outline the tasks, place deadlines and set priorities. For maximum efficiency, they should schedule their assignments and track their time to get an idea of how long it will take to complete the project.
- Automate tasks: Your web designers can automate many processes to save time as well. From batch actions in Photoshop to resizing images, using different tools they can do more with less hassle.
- Track the process: During the launch, your team will move your website from the staging to the live location. And to ensure everything is transferred and works properly, you should have a pre-prepared web development life cycle checklist with all the site’s pages and elements.
How To Streamline All Website Development Phases: 25 Tools To Use
There are many tools on the market that can help your team streamline the website development process and deliver a quality product.
These are the top 25:
Code & Text Editors
Code and text editors are the lifeblood of organizations. They help developers handle the coding efficiently and streamline their workflow.
These are the top five code editors that your team can count on to make the web development process smoother:
2. Atom: This tool supports the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. It is an open-source editor that allows cross-platform editing and it is pretty similar to WordPress. Atom offers great organization features for keeping projects in check including smart autocompletion.
3. Sublime Text: As a paid tool ($80 per month/per user), Sublime offers some great, advanced features like split editing, command palette and multiple selections. The tool is cross-platform and developers can use it on Windows, macOS and Linux.
4. TextMate: You can either use the free version of TextMate or you can upgrade to the paid option $59. The tool is a versatile plain text editor for macOS that has a simple interface. It has innovative features like function pop-up for quick overview and navigation and dynamic outline for working with multiple files.
5. Coda: This programming editor for macOS costs $99 for a single copy. It is quite preferred among developers because of its clean interface. The tool offers smart powerful features like local indexing and a CSS override for editing CSS on a live website.
Prototyping is an integral part of all the stages of website development. It helps your team to review concepts and identify shortcomings during the early phases of your project.
However since this process can take quite some time, there are some handy tools that can fast forward this phase.
These are the top five prototyping tools that you can use to create user-friendly interfaces:
6. Sketch: This is a vector-based design tool that is actually a combination of Photoshop and illustrator. Your designers can use it to create interfaces quickly and intuitively. It has some unique features like nested symbols that your team can use to pre-design different elements like shapes, buttons, widgets and more. It is compatible with macOS only and costs $99 per year.
7. Atomic: This tool enhances the web design process by allowing designers to solve complex problems. It requires Google Chrome so it is compatible with Mac and Windows users. Your team will need to design through vector tools and then export them here. You can either choose the free option which is one prototype per month or you can subscribe to some of its paid options that range between $19 and $99.
8. Framer: It is an advanced programming and prototyping tool that helps both designers and developers easily collaborate and rapidly experiment in the shared space. The platform has an auto-code feature and your team can leverage to create animated or interactive prototypes. It works on macOS and costs $12 – $79.
9. Balsamiq: It is a graphical tool that designers use to develop user interfaces, web sites, desktop and mobile applications. The tool is compatible with macOS and Windows. It has powerful features and your team can choose between 500 premade components, items and icons. You can get Balsamiq for $89 for a single license,
10. Webflow: You can use Webflow as a CMS, hosting platform and prototyping tool. It has a similar interface to Photoshop and designers can create websites in a short time. However, it is the best option for simple, static sites. You can get two projects for free, pay $16/month for 10 projects or $35/month for unlimited projects.
Collaboration tools help you directly communicate and collaborate with your team. They contribute to improved efficiency and increased productivity.
With them, your designers and developers can keep contact at all times, easily address problems and streamline their workflow.
11. Zoom: It is a video conferencing tool that allows face to face communication. It is especially useful if your team is disbursed. Zoom is a reliable way to manage your remote meetings that offers a free option, allowing you to make calls up to 40 minutes long.
12. Slack: It is a communication tool that helps remote teams to stay in touch and be productive. You can communicate with your team through different channels. It has some great features including audio calls, discussion threads, file sharing, mobile access and real-time chat. It offers these pricing structures starting at $6.67 per user per month.
13. Podio: This tool speeds up communication between your designers and contributes to more efficient teamwork. It allows you and the experts who work on your project to better organize themselves and streamline the website development process. The tool’s pricing starts at $9.00 per user per month, and it also has a free version.
14. Ryver: Ryver is quite similar to Slack. The tool offers your team a highly effective means of communication allowing them to set up chats with groups and individuals. What’s interesting about it is that you can control who sees what you post. Ryver offers three pricing options starting at $49/month.
15. Flock: It offers comprehensive communication tools and supports channels for a group or one on one conversations. Its users can send files, links, make video and audio calls, share their screens and more. The tool has a free option and paid plans starting at $4.50/month.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools will streamline your stages of website development. They contribute to a seamless conversation, faster collaboration, accurate project tracking and quick reporting.
Here are the top five tools that you can to manage your team easily:
16. Jira: This is an agile project management tool that allows web designers and developers to plan and launch websites successfully. It offers great management features like setting tasks and subtasks, organizing issues, assigning work and more. Jira’s pricing plans start at $10/per user, per month.
17. Asana: This project management tool helps you manage your company objectives and team tasks in one place. Setting group tasks, notifying developers using a personalized inbox and scheduling and prioritizing tasks are just a few of the features it offers. The tool has a free version and three pricing plans starting at $10.99.
18. CoSchedule: As an intuitive marketing project management tool, CoSchedule can simplify your web design process and streamline your team’s workflow. It offers many features in one place like setting tasks, deadlines, visualizing project progress and more. Its pricing begins at $20/month.
19. Teamwork: It is a cloud-based project management solution that has all the features that you might need to successfully run your website development process. Teamwork has a free version and three paid options starting at $11.25 per use, per month.
20. ProofHub: It is an online project management app that has a clear interface. The tool has integrated chat, workflows and boards, project discussions reports and more. It is available for both iOS and Android and starts at $50/month.
File sharing tools are fast, mobile-friendly and secure data storage that your team can access at any time to make the collaboration easier and smoother.
Here are the top five file-sharing platforms that your experts can use to meet their milestones successfully”
21. Google Drive: It is a file-sharing platform where your designers can share key project documents like photos, videos and content. Your team can 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 that allows you to protect your shared documents with passwords. It is easy to use and lets you customize your profile and email as well. This is a paid platform and starts $12.00 per month, per user.
23. Zoho Docs: It is a file storage and management software that lets you save different types of content. Your team can access it from different devices both online and offline. It has some great features like managing access permissions, assigning tasks and more. The tool starts at $5.00 per user, per month.
24. Dropbox Business: This tool can keep your team organized by allowing it to share content in one place. Some of its features include in-person, live online and webinars training. Its price starts at $12.50 per user, per month.
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.
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.
Following it helps developers make sure they don’t miss anything as they create a website for the client.
These checklists usually consists of the following categories and items:
- Information Gathering
- Set website goals
- Define target audience
- Sketch a sitemap
- Create a wireframe
- Choose programming language, framework and methodology
- Attain the client’s brand book
- Create several layout ideas
- Collect client feedback
- Alter the layout keeping in line with the brand book
- Build and deploy the website
- Add features and interactivity elements
- Develop the SEO strategy
- Testing and Launch
- Perform a thorough website QA
- Upload it to the hosting server
- Fix bugs
- Perform backups
- Update the website
Website Development Process Takeaways
Today, a website is a key marketing tool for business growth. It allows your prospects to find your products or services online and engage with your brand anywhere and anytime.
However, to deliver a successful product, you need to understand the website development process and optimize your collaboration with the partner agency.
From defining the scope to selecting the methodology and tools, each element of the process will contribute to the quality of the result, as well as the monetary and time investment required to achieve your business goals.