Developing a Web site for a client requires a systematic approach to needs assessment, marketing research and management of resources. Project management, communication and marketing skills are just as important as technical expertise. A typical development project follows the steps outlined below:
- What is the Web site trying to achieve?
- How will it generate income for the client?
The goals of a site may be overlooked in the excitement and anticipation of getting it online. The designer is responsible for determining how to achieve the client's goals and translate them into the site design and functionality.
Identifying Target Audience
- Who will use the site?
- What level of technology will the users have?
The designer must consider what kind of look and feel will fit the intended audience. The design of a site celebrating the Queen of England's Jubilee should differ from the design of a site promoting the music of the rock band Queen. The designer must also consider the intended audience's technological capabilities. It's probably safe to assume that the users of a site designed for an online role-playing game will have greater technological savviness and capacity than the users of a lawn bowling club's site.
Identifying Site Requirements
- Does the site need to connect to a database?
- Does it need any custom server-side programming?
- Will credit card transactions take place?
- Will user information be recorded?
- Are there multimedia elements required?
- Is the site comprised of a few static pages or hundreds or thousands of frequently changing pages?
These questions are keys to establishing the server-side technological requirements of the site. The designer of a site consisting of a large quantity of content delivered over hundreds of pages, should consider the use of server-side technology that allows this content to be delivered without requiring that each individual page be manually coded and maintained. An e-commerce venture that connects to a database and credit card processing gateways will require increased server-side management and resources for security and data maintenance.
Establishing a Design
Once the client and audience requirements are established, the design process begins. Usually two or three mock-ups are designed and presented to the client(s). The features, advantages and disadvantages of each design are discussed, and from the discussion a final design prototype is developed.
Implementing Back-end Support
After the design and functionality requirements of a site have been determined, the technology that satisfies the requirements must be acquired and configured. Some sites will require certain database, Web application, shopping cart, or credit card processing capabilities on the server. For some this means working with in-house systems administrators. For others it means finding a firm that will host the site and its back-end requirements.
Once the design has been finalized, the process of delivering the site begins. Clients often believe that once the design is complete, the majority of the work is complete. In fact, for the client, the work is just beginning. Clients can become engrossed in the look and feel of a site and can overlook the fact that just as with any other publication, a Web site requires quality content. Content production can be the most time consuming (and least enjoyable) part of site development. As the content is produced it can be organized into the design which is then implemented into pages for the site.
Testing and Revisions
Once the site is compiled, its HTML and back-end functionality must be tested. The designer must test for things like dead or incorrect links, missing images, database connections and encryption certificates. The site will need proofreading for spelling, grammar and information accuracy. User and usability testing will help determine if a site's goals are met by the design, navigational layout, and content. Having completed the revisions, the site is ready to go live.