Web Development Project Lifecycle - 7 Steps to Success

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Seven is such a magical number, it only takes seven proven steps to make your website venture a success. In the neverending sea of websites, how to recognize a true quality and dedication for creating something unique that will stand out?

The answer lies in planning. 

When people take their first stab at making a website, the process often looks quite a bit different from what they expected. 

They walk in and say something like, ”build me a website”. They don’t know what the site should look like, they don’t know what it should accomplish, and they don’t know who the target audience is. They also can’t figure out why the designers are having a hard time delivering their perfect new site.

To get the website we are dreaming about, we need to learn a little bit about the typical project lifecycle when it comes to web development. 

Having an understanding of what comes when helps us to focus on what is needed at the moment and prepare for what we’ll need in the future.

Research/Information Gathering

Doing your research is the first and most important part of any project. It forces you to understand the purpose behind your undertaking. It gives you insight into the audience you are developing the site for and provides direction. 

In this stage, we determine important things like who the audience is, the mood we want to create, as well as the site’s purpose. Are you selling a product? Maybe you’re selling lots of products. Are you primarily featuring news articles? What about videos? Sites dedicated to children’s entertainment look vastly different from a news site. You need to answer a lot of questions before getting started.

This is also a perfect time to look into ways to track the project from start to finish. It’s a long, involved process, so you’ll need to track it. Software programs like M-Files work well here because they make the process incredibly simple by providing a framework and guiding you. However, you document the development of your site, make sure it’s easy to navigate and works for the way you work.

Planning

Once you’ve got a good idea of what you want to accomplish, you’ve got to create the plan that gets you there. Developing a sitemap will ensure there is a clear, navigable path to everything you want users to access. The sitemap is so helpful because it gives you a nice visual reference to the site’s structure. This ensures that nothing is left out or gets buried so deep in the site that users can’t find it.

This is also the stage where you will decide what technical specifications are required for the site to deliver what it must. Again, this all depends on your goal. Creating a site where users upload videos looks very different from a news site or an online marketplace, from a developer’s point of view. The site needs to be capable of conveying your message.

Design

Once you feel good about your plan, it’s time to get to the fun stuff. The design stage is where the site feels like it’s starting to come together. This is where we begin to see what the site will look like. Page mock-ups are built using elements from the client’s brand, such as the company colors, fonts, and logos. These pages aren’t usually functional at this point, but they allow the client to see how their posts or videos will be presented to the world. 

Now that we can start to see what the site will ultimately look and feel like, feedback is critical at this point. Each piece is a part of a whole, so make sure each piece is one you want. They should reflect both your brand and your audience.

Content Creation

Once you’ve got your site elements looking great, it’s time to create some content. While each new post or video adds new content to your site, they are still further down the line. You’ll need content to fill the page on launch. This is important because it gives the site further direction and structure. It turns your pretty shell into a full being. You can layout your mission statement, tell the world about your site, and generally set the tone for everything that is to come.

Coding

The pieces have been decided upon, and it’s time to begin putting the puzzle together. Using the sitemap as a guide, the site is built from the home page down through the sub-pages. All the design elements that were created in the design process are turned into functional buttons and pages and the site finally starts taking real shape.

This step will also provide your first opportunity to attract traffic through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Spending time optimizing your website elements (titles, descriptions, keywords, etc.) is a big driver of organic search traffic, so it’s an essential marketing tool you can’t afford to skip.

Testing and Launch

People love a beautiful site but if it doesn’t function well, they get frustrated and become much more unwilling to invest time with it. Sites undergo rigorous testing to make sure everything on the site works on the server. The links need to be tested, the copy needs a final edit and spellcheck, and the code needs to be validated so everything displays correctly on every device and browser. The wide variety of devices from which users access websites means the site needs to work on computers and mobile devices with different tech specs, from a variety of manufacturers. It’s a lot of checking and rechecking, but it’s an incredibly important step.

When everything has been tested and signed off on, it’s time for launch. All the code is uploaded to the server, and the site is tested once more, as a live version. Testing here is crucial in catching any last-minute errors with the installation. As long as everything is in order, it’s time to market your site and drive some traffic.

Maintenance

Keeping your site relevant means regularly posting and updating your content. Sometimes older posts get outdated, links go dead, and technological advancements require you to update your site. This is an ongoing process that ensures everyone who visits your site is greeted with everything you want for them. 

In conclusion

Yet, there is another important thing we need to mention – there are seven steps but they are not linear – they are very intertwined. Every step is there to spark innovation, creativity and getting back to the basics is always the right idea. 

You will have a ton of suggestions, brainstormings that will last but the most important is the result in the end – a fast, optimized website you will need to work on to keep the pace on the market. 


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