Getting that sparkle in your eye at the prospect of a fresh new website is a joy that we hope you’ll take with you throughout the process of site creation. It certainly doesn’t have to become a difficult path. We would like to help you, in fact, to make it painless and perhaps even a learning experience, an adventure in co-creation. We present here a summary of the phases in our systematic approach to taking your vision from concept to completion.
Define the Project
We conduct thorough discovery by quickly learning your initiatives from the ground up, thoroughly understanding your goals and tapping into knowledge that may reside in the minds of your team rather than on paper or in files. To this end, we conduct engaging stakeholder interviews (in-person/phone/email) to solicit such key information.
We aim to learn everything about your various audiences, their needs and your needs as an organization, so the site can fulfill its purpose. We believe that many designers, developers and agencies underestimate this phase of site design; we prefer to approach web development from a discovery point of departure – a fundamental effort to come to a deep understanding of your needs – that leads to an exact design, content and technological fit, rather than to assume anything while diving into pixels and code.
This approach is sometimes known as web ethnography, and leads in our experience to sites with far richer and more engaging content than you may imagine initially.
Develop Site Structure
We approach from high level and drill down to detail level from a set of key architectural views of the site. Site structure will be presented using best practices in information architecture, including visual flowcharts that express all navigation paths, page-level wireframes that detail content blocks and priorities, and anticipated publishing workflow charts. These living documents help trigger decision-making about content needs and navigational pathways. They show, prior to graphical design decisions, the amount and importance of what should be presented and are a vital reference for the build-out of a site.
Design Visual Interface
We present designs and gather feedback, incorporating feedback in delivered iterations, leading to a sign off on the look and feel of the overall site. Designs will be developed with SEO (search engine optimization), accessibility and web standards firmly in mind from the beginning, which will greatly aid the production of individual pages and added functionality. During this phase, a dedicated graphic designer/digital artist/illustrator with experience in web user interface design will be involved to bring imaginative possibilities into view.
Design Front End
The core to web design are the dual components of markup and stylesheets. Markup is the actual html code of the page or template. CSS, which stands for Cascading Style Sheets, governs the appearance of elements that appear in the markup, from overall layout to navigation, header, paragraph, list and form styles.
The CSS framework for a site is a critical and high-value translation of the visual interface that has been graphically produced into code that plays well in all major browsers. As the core of the site’s presentation layer, it governs the look and feel of the site. CSS coding is perhaps the single most important piece to give your site that “wow” factor, and to assure that it accurately represents the content in different browsers.
CSS styles are consistently and iteratively tested against the markup (html) for all pages, optimized for performance and modified for special cases (such as the handling of pesky Internet Explorer bugs). It’s important to keep in mind that CSS is also evolving and can accomplish things that had to be done graphically before, such as rounded-corner boxes, drop-shadows on text and so on. These touches can set your site apart and please the eyes of your visitors.
Develop, Build & Integrate
With the navigational, visual and content structures in place, we collect, edit and fill in the gaps of relevant content. This is a closely collaborative phase in which we help your company gather materials, polish content, translate unstructured content into structured content, and create additional audio-visual materials – such as screencasts, illustrations & photography – that complement or supplement your written content.
Concurrently, we fully develop the site’s functionality. We put in place any technical enhancements needed to store, query and manipulate data, achieve e-commerce, conversion or ROI goals, validate forms, make the building blocks of the site more modular and provide a secure online environment. This phase can include installing and setting up a customized company blog as well. It can also include putting in place SSL certificates for serving secure pages such as sign up forms or shopping carts.
We create the QA (quality assurance) plan, incorporating best practices to review, test and polish the site to ensure its elegant presentation on a wide variety of platform-browser combinations. We fix bugs and do final tests before launching the site. Web browser testing is done to a specification based on audience; if the site requires compatibility with older browsers or mobile devices, for instance, all phases of development will take that into account, and the site will be thoroughly tested against those user agents, as well as all modern desktop browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Chrome on both Windows and Mac.
Launch & Beyond
At launch, we open the site to the public, including search engines, and help further with marketing communications and further search engine optimization, as well as social media marketing and newsletter campaigns, if desired. We also estimate maintenance needs and create a maintenance plan and budget, as needed. If a Content Management System (CMS) has been deployed, we provide training on this system so that you can update your site in house, while still relying on us for technology and plug-in upgrades, backups and more involved content updates, as desired.