In the past, it has been a common mistake among those creating a new website for the first time, to ‘dive in’ and start creative design and content creation without sufficient forward planning. The design process involves analysing the needs of owners and users of a site and then deciding on the best way to build the site to fulfil those needs. Without a structured plan and careful design costly reworking is inevitable, as first version of a site will not achieve the needs of the end-users or the business. The main development tasks which need to be scheduled as part of the planning process are as follows:
For a new site, these include domain name registration and deciding on the company to host the website. They also include preparing a brief setting out the aims and objectives of the site, and then – if it is intended to outsource the site – presenting the brief to rival agencies to bid for and pitch their offering.
Analysis and design
This is the detailed analysis and design of the site, and includes clarification of business objectives, market research to identify the audience and typical customer personas and user journeys and their needs, defining the information architecture of different content types and prototyping different functional and visual designs to support the brand.
Content development testing
Developing the site to create prototypes including integration of content management systems, database integration, usability and performance testing.
Publishing or launching the site
This is relatively short stage. Often soft-launch is used where the site is updated, but the version is not widely communicated until the owners are sure the site is stables. Some site owners such as Google test features with a limited number of users to assess their impact before the features are rolled out more widely.
Pre-launch promotion or communications
Search engine registration and optimisation is most important on new sites (sometimes known as ‘the Google sandbox effect’), where the site is effectively on trial until it is established. Briefing the PR company to publicise the launch is another example of pre-launch promotion.
The schedule should also allow for promotion after site launch. This might involve structured discount promotions on the site, or competitions which are planned in advance. Many now consider search engine optimisation and pay-per-click marketing as a continuous process, and will often employ a third party to help achieve this.
In reality, iteration of designs in prototyping phase is required. Then, once a working version is finalised it should be tested through user-testing and then live testing using A/B or multivariate testing.
Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.