Web Design and Development the Right Way

There is a lot of information about how a Web Design and Development company will handle a project once it is awarded, but I thought it would be a good idea to write a brief overview of the entire process from an organizational perspective.

1. Identify your Goals

While every organization handles this differently, it is important to identify your Marketing, Content and Technical Requirements for any new Web Design and Development project. This will most likely involve getting a number of people from your organization together in a room for several internal discovery meetings and putting together a list of needs and requirements. They might include your overall branding and messaging goals, ideas from competitors or even unrelated companies that you would like to incorporate, and the technical specifications of your infrastructure.

2. Find a Qualified Web Design and Development Firm

Again, this is handled differently depending on your current situation. Many organizations issue a Web Design and Development Request for Proposal, or if they have a short list of vendors they would like to work with, they send a request to those firms and have phones calls and meetings about their requirements. Whether or not you issue a formal, public Request for Proposal, it is a good idea to write down your requirements and goals in a clear format that any vendor can understand.

You will most likely get a slew of proposals with varying solutions and budget ranges. If you don’t have an in house ‘expert’ on all things technical, you might consider bringing in a consultant to help you make a decision. Many times, however, bringing the top 3-4 companies in for interviews will allow you to quickly discover who you have the best chemistry with and who is the most passionate about doing the work you need them to do.

3. Discovery with the Web Development Firm

Just like you did a Discovery process within your organization, it is now time to give the Web Design firm all the information they need to do their jobs. Even though your Request for Proposal was detailed, make sure you leave no stone unturned. There are a million ways to interpret some aspects and the sooner you iron out the details the smoother things will go in the Development phase of the project.

4. Design and Content Development

After both parties feel they have all the information they need to proceed with the project, the firm will start both the Graphic and Technical Design of the Web site. Many times you will work with them on developing content for the site as well, but some times the messaging and content writing is done in house.

For the Interface and Graphic Design, expect to see a series of initial ‘comps’ or concepts for the home page and perhaps a few other pages. This will help you narrow down the overall look and feel of the finished product and you will go through a series of revisions to get things perfect.

For the Technical aspect of the Web site and System, expect to see a specifications document that outlines any functional work flow or database mapping that needs to occur. If you have internal systems or third-party applications that need to tie into the new Web site, expect to see a more detailed explanation of how those systems will fit together.

There are times when you need to do some initial usability testing with these designs. Even though the Web site is not functioning or even built at this point, in order to get some feedback on the approach you are about to build, a lot of organizations will do some basic testing with simple screen shots. This can be very helpful if you are building a complex application that has many possible solutions.

You should expect to sign off on all of these items before you proceed to the next phase of the process.

5. Development of the Web site

After the Design and Content Development is complete, the Web Design and Development company has all that they need to create and build the Web site. You should expect regular updates on their progress and depending on the length and complexity of the system, there will be a series of test releases, usually named “alpha” and “beta” or something like that. These releases are not finished products but give you, the client an opportunity to see the work in progress. It’s also an invaluable tool to let you see that everything is on track and according to your original requirements.

6. Testing (Usability and Quality Assurance)

After the “beta” release of the site, it should be fully-functioning but not yet publicly available. At this time you might do some usability testing to get some final feedback, though the major changes and development work is behind you at this point. You are looking for the last few minor issues and graphic or content tweaks at this point.

7. Final Revisions

The final changes are made after testing is complete and the Web site files are readied for a public launch. Chances are the other marketing initiatives you’ve scheduled to coincide with your new Web site launch are ready to go at this point. All you need to do is say the word “go” and this long yet rewarding process will be complete.

8. Launch

With everything prepared, your Web Design and Development firm, working in conjunction with your IT or Web infrastructure team will move the correct files, databases, third party applications, and everything else that is necessary to publicly launch your Web site to the correct place and your new Web site is now publicly available. Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off.

9. Follow up

This seems pretty straightforward, but a follow up or post-game meeting with your vendor is a necessary step in this process. Figure out what went well during this process and what could be improved for next time. Chances are you won’t do a major release again for another few years, but there will most likely be minor releases and the more you can work together to share information and learn about what works well and what doesn’t the better this process will go in the future.

I hope this helps you, and best of luck with your next project.

4 Do’s & Don’ts of Community Website Development

Web development processes are intended for adding variety of functionalities to any web site. Developers add numerous applications software to make web presence more dynamic and add flexibilities to the site in order to enhance performance level of the site. It is a developer’s work to put the ideas of their clients into practice by implementing newer technologies, creative web solutions and experience. You may find thousands of experts and sites advising dos and don’ts of web development – however, many of them can be irrelevant to particular web developing situations. Especially if you are working on a social networking site, you are less likely to find appropriate guidance. Hence, we have garnered following four dos and don’ts based web developing tips for optimum success.

1. Do give some useful through website – These days people are more keen on finding substance than just be attracted by merely colourful banners and images. Rather too much use of flashy objects and colours distract audience from site as they hinder from reading the main content. Today’s readers have understood very well that ‘all that glitters is not gold’. If you follow the reason that propelled sites like Facebook, MySpace to excel with rapid growth is presence of useful software in these sites. Incorporate useful and innovative software to your community site web development project to keep your visitors spend longer hours in the site.

2. Do integrate the newer functions than enabling them contacting and sending messaging to friends – Currently, social networking site users search for more beyond just usability to search, contact and message their friends. Recent studies have concluded that people look for cool games, widgets and applications to enjoy multiplayer games and compete online with their friends. In this way, you can increase your site’s potential to attract memberships. Adding cool online games allowing people to enjoy competition with their buddies will also encourage them in referring your site and inviting people from their circle.

3. Do facilitate users with video and audio sharing capacity – Gone are the days when people just articulate and share their ideas through text messages. They are now up to sending images, also videos and audio. Thanks to easy accessibility of cameras and video shooting facility thanks to high end mobiles, most of us are up to uploading and sharing our captured videos, images, or even audio files to social networking sites. Make sure your web development plan must include adding functionalities to the social networking site you are creating.

4. Don’t make your users wait too long – Whether it is to search for new friends or connect to existing friends, do not make your members wait for long to be connected. Success of any social networking web site development depends how easily users are accessing their friends and too with a few clicks only. Make sure the website features convenient user interface and navigation since all the users of the site are not likely to be tech savvy or geek.

Another common mistake is that web developers are likely to commit that overloading the website with excessive inclusion of graphics and over emphasis on making the site look catchy. Because overloading the site with large and heavy images, graphics irritate members and divert to other social networking sites.

Open Source Vs Proprietary Web Platforms

In the fast growing industry of online software, web platforms are considered the foundation and more often than not, the success factor behind the most prominent creative service companies and their clients.

The major differences between all web platforms are the two key types, Open Source and Proprietary.

Any business which is reviewing which web platform to use for their new website or to upgrade their existing should wisely weigh up the differences between these two types.

Why do we say be wise in choice? The answer is simple, if you decide on (or are sold) a web platform without assessing its features and power to be expanded or modified according to your business requirements now and in the future, you could be setting yourself up for serious loss or ongoing expenditure.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OPEN SOURCE AND PROPRIETARY WEB PLATFORMS?

The difference between the two types of web platform is simple…

OPEN SOURCE

Open Source as a type of web platform, is primarily free software which is made available to the general public under a GNU (General Public License). Open Source platforms are very popular with many developers and development companies, this is due to the flexibility, power and future proof benefits of Open Source.

Some of the most well known and used Open Source web platforms are Joomla!, WordPress and Drupal.

The most popular and widely used web platform by web developers to create websites and all sorts of web applications is Joomla! which is a Content Management System.

Open Source web platforms range in their focus from Content management systems, eCommerce and even multimedia delivery.

One thing to remember about Open Source which is a common misconception is that even thought it is free software, it is not poor quality. In fact it is very much the opposite, you will find with minimal research that Open Source is secure, reliable, flexible and has plenty of power to drive future enhancements for many years.

PROPRIETARY

Proprietary systems are completely opposite to the basic structure of Open Source. That structure being that most if not all proprietary platforms have ongoing license fees which the user / client is expected to pay.

The license fees may not necessarily be paid by the end user or client but will be covered inside the cost of the company supplying the platform to develop and implement it. License fees are normally included in the support or hosting fee and treated as normal.

Some website design businesses even have their own proprietary web platform which they use for all their services, this is perfectly fine as long as you stay with them and the working relationship goes without a hitch.

Any business/forward thinking person would recognize the faults with this. If said person did not want to be supported by that particular company/platform any more it would mean redevelopment into an alternative, which involves more cost and is essentially starting from scratch.

Proprietary software in a lot of instances can be very good, there are a lot of powerful and feature rich proprietary web platforms out there which will fit the bill in a lot of customer cases, proprietary platforms range with focuses on CMS, eCommerce or multimedia.

Some Open Source web platforms are also proprietary; in this instance you get all the benefits of Open Source but pay license fees to use the software. Some of these solutions are similar to your SaaS web applications or products.

GREAT, BUT WHICH TYPE OF PLATFORM DO I NEED, OPEN SOURCE OR PROPRIETARY?

So after touching on both types of platform, the real question is, what do you need in a website and a web platform? Do you fit into the Open or Proprietary category as a business and as a customer?

The easiest thing for you as a customer would be to speak with a web design and development company that either supplies an Open Source platform, or Proprietary and choose accordingly.

Obviously either company will try to sell you their particular solution, so you need to identify your needs and ensure the solution on offer will meet those and potential future requirements.