The web design process – whether updating the old site or starting from scratch – can be a long, overwhelming process. We have designed and developed hundreds of websites and want to share an outline of the web design process and define terms you will hear along the way.
From the moment the contract is signed, the web design agency begins a process called Intake and Discovery. The intake phase is an internal process we use to formally hand the project off from the sales team to the developers, designers, project manager, product owner and marketing managers responsible for the success of the project.
The discovery phase begins with a kickoff questionnaire, with detailed questions about products and services that will be added to or come off of the website, a description of the client’s ideal customer, list of competitors, target market, and more. This questionnaire is filled out by the client and followed up by content discovery interviews of key personnel. The purpose of content discovery is to gain a deeper level of knowledge beyond the kickoff questionnaire. There will be questions like, “How is your competition doing better than you are or that you are doing better than your competition?” and, “What are common complaints or positive reviews about your product or service?” The agency working on the project will use the answers to develop solutions that address them.
Website Design and Development
During the discovery phase, clients provide a sitemap – a table of contents for how their pages will be organized. This determines wireframing, a no graphics, no frills visual of the website’s homepage-basically the requirements for each page. The client authorizes the way the page is laid out and it moves into design. It’s important to note that design can change from the way a wireframe is laid out- typically this is decided upon by the Creative or Art Director.
Web designers recommend best UI/UX navigation, place logo and other graphic design treatments, and then add the copy. Imagine if you visited the homepage of a website and none of the links are clickable. The web designer and client know where their destinations based on the wireframes, but the website does not function yet.
A web developer takes the web designer’s plans and makes them work – just like a builder uses an architect’s blueprint. The web development is typically done on a stage website that is separate from the current, live website so that nothing is impacted throughout the redesign process.
QA Testing a Website and Go Live
The end of the website design process involves testing on both the agency side and the client side. All of the links are tested to make sure they open in new windows and navigate to the right landing pages. If it is an e-commerce website, items are added to the cart and taken all the way through the checkout process. Member logins are created and tested. This phase is very thorough so the website’s launch – commonly called a “Go Live” – goes smoothly. The launch of the website is recommended to do during a time in which there is low website traffic as the propagation period can take 24-72 hours to be visible (sometimes it can be as fast as a couple of hours).
Hosting Your Website
Many agencies already have partnerships with hosting providers like Azure, Acquia, AWS, WP Engine, Rackspace, and many others where they can host your website for you and maintain it. As a business owner or executive, it’s best to keep everything with the company that created your website to make your life easier – after all, do you really have time to manage it?
We wrote an in-depth whitepaper with advice on navigating the process so our clients can avoid common bumps in the road. The information in this whitepaper is valuable, even if you choose another web design agency. Download our whitepaper now.