Web Design and Development

Your website will be one of the most important assets your business will have.  So, when designing and developing this website, it’s important, I believe, to utilise a phased approach that features pre-planned milestones, clear deliverables and formal approvals.

In retaining a developer or agency to design and develop your site, my recommendation is that they follow the below phased methodology:

  1. 1. Scoping
  2. 2. Design
  3. 3. Content
  4. 4. Development
  5. 5. Marketing
  6. 6. Maintenance

1. Scoping

Scoping is a critical phase of a web development project and vital to ensure that the completed site meets your current and future needs.  I’d suggest following a Scoping methodology such as the below to best capture your website and business requirements:

Requirements Gathering

A series of meetings with your developer, and all nominated stakeholders, to gather the content, functional, and commercial requirements for the website.  This process should be wide ranging and will examine both your immediate and future requirements of the website.

The Requirements Gathering process should focus on the following key areas:

Business Requirements

  • Current business model & revenue streams
  • Future plans & strategic goals
  • Role of website in broader business operations
  • Strengths/weaknesses of current website

Content Requirements

  • Content and image creation & management
  • External content integration
  • eCommerce services
  • Community elements – forums, blogs, chat, polls, etc
  • Multimedia integration – audio, video
  • Publishing processes

Marketing Requirements

  • Newsletters
  • Surveys
  • Competition engine
  • User polling
  • Email

Database Requirements

  • Membership registration
  • Application and accreditation processes
  • CRM

Design Requirements

  • Existing vs. new design & branding elements
  • Information architecture
  • Navigation & site layout

Commercial Requirements

  • Advertising
  • Sponsorships
  • eCommerce
  • Premium Content
  • Other revenue streams

2. Design

I’d suggest getting at least two alternate look and feel designs based on the Design Specification developed during the Scoping Project.  Typically this comprises two designs for a homepage and a content page.  This will ensure you have the opportunity to provide feedback and request changes to the preferred design.  You can then have the altered design presented to you for final approval.

At the end of this stage of the project, you should have a clear understanding of the visual elements of the new website including; brand positioning, page layout, proposed navigation structure and other interactive elements.

3. Content

Work with your designer to develop a Content Plan based on the Content Specification prepared during the Scoping Project.

The Content Plan should include proposed content areas, information architecture and required functionality for the website.  The plan can include text articles and rich media content including video, audio and interactive content elements, e-commerce functionality and User Generated Content (UGC), such as blogs, forums and letters.

The Content Plan could also include:

E-Commerce – Recommendations on the functionality and integration of e-commerce, including payment gateway, product catalogues, integration with supply networks and fulfillment and shipping.

Editorial – Recommended processes and budgets for creating, sourcing and managing content and images and for writing online content, including style guides outlining language, tone, personality, and target audience demographics.

Publishing – A publishing timetable describing recommended updates of site content within in content area and leads from the homepage.

Information Architecture – Design and layout of all elements of the sites, including navigation elements, look and feel, HTML templates and style guidelines for editorial content, images and graphics.

4. Development

You should also develop a Functional Specification for the Development Phases based on the outcomes of the Scoping, Design & Content phases.

During the Development Phase you should chose both the CMS and development platform:

Content Management Systems (CMS)

In conjunction with your designer, you should assess a range of CMS technologies to help you choose the most appropriate technology platform for your business needs.  Depending on the size of your website, my ultimate recommendation would be an Open Source model.

Open Source

Open Source technologies are free to use and their continued development relies on a dedicated group of volunteer developers who extend and improve the technology.  There are many various Open Source platforms available with a range of features and functionality.

The benefits of Open Source include the absence of ongoing license fees or maintenance contracts.  However, no Open Source platform does exactly what is required “out of the box” and so may require customisation work to fit in with a particular business model and workflow needs.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation is the science and art of increasing the ranking of a website in organic or ‘free’ search engine results.  SEO should be a key element of all website development projects.  I have posted more on SEO in the past, so I won’t go into great detail here.

5. Ongoing Marketing Services

Along with your new website, you should be  developing and implementing digital marketing campaigns.  Why build a site if no-one is going to visit?  You should be prepare and then implement a marketing campaign to compliment the launch of the new website to ensure high levels of traffic and user participation.

The channels used most often include:

Search Engine Marketing

Highly targeted, highly cost effective Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns comprising tens of thousands of keywords, hundreds of creative and sophisticated bid management strategies targeting users in Australia and around the world.

Search Engine Optimisation

Website audit to improve its performance in the organic or free results of search engines. SEO focuses on three key areas – site accessibility, content and links.

Email Marketing

Development of database mailing lists and implementation of highly targeted, cost effective ongoing email communication strategies.  You could also work with third party database providers to access new audiences and target new markets.

Display Advertising

Implementation of highly targeted display campaigns utilising the latest creative formats, including Flash, video, OTPs and expandables.

6. Training, Support and Maintenance

Find a designer that will offer training and ongoing support in the use of all platforms and technologies used in the website development project, including the selected CMS and any other solution. Training sessions and documentation should be tailored to different admin user groups.


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