Creating a website is a multistep process. After the contest and choosing the best provider to be assigned the order and the signing of the agreement, the time comes for the creation of the website. This process may vary in details depending on the type and size of the project, but typically it consists of the same stages.
1. Clarification of customer’s needs
Customer’s needs are examined at the stage preceding the offer which – in order to meet the needs – must relate to the requirements specified by the customer and placed in the brief and optionally in other documents. But when starting cooperation for the development of a website, the interactive agency’s representative should try to clarify the customer’s needs with respect to the business aspects (goals, target groups, processes), as well as the aspects related to the functioning of the website (functionality, structure).
It is worth noting that during the creation of the website additional needs may arise. Some of them can be satisfied within the budget and arrangements contained in the contract. Others may require an annex to the agreement and will involve additional costs.
2. Functional project
At this stage, with all the necessary data, the agency designs a functional solution. The result of this work is a document called the functional specification.
For standard websites (e.g. company’s website) the functional specification is not needed – usually just a list of common functionalities and structure of the content presented in the form of a tree of subpages is enough.
With the increase in the website’s complexity, the workload and the time it takes to prepare a desired functional specification, which will become the basis for further steps towards the implementation of the website, increases.
3. UX ProjectM
When it comes to the UX project (user’s experience), the agency focuses on ease of use and intuitiveness of the individual elements. Users will experience the website in the context of their expectations and habits.
The efficiency of the website is highly influenced by features that users do not even think about, processing them in a split second and subconsciously evaluating. What we mean are transparency, simplicity, the manner of providing information, a balance between creativity and typical, comfortable patterns.
A good understanding of the specifics of the target group, the industry and the goals of the website as well as experience, knowledge and skills of the development team building the website allow for preparing the optimal UX design.
For simple websites this stage of works is an integral part of the graphic design. For larger projects, the effects of the UX project have the form of a set of mock-ups of the individual pages of the website. They can be static images of individual sections or, if necessary, take on the form of a clickable and navigable prototype of the website.
4. Graphic design
This very important, in view of the end result, part of the process of developing a website should occur after the preparation of the functional specification and the UX design.
Graphic design is a creative work based on customer’s requirements and the information gathered in the earlier stages. However, creativity is further limited by the guidelines regarding the brand (e.g. the brand book).
At this stage, propositions (one or more) regarding the look of the website are formed. Most often the customer becomes familiar with the proposed appearance of the home page and one of the types of subpages. The customer then immediately accepts one of the proposed graphic projects or notifies the agency about the proposed amendments.
After the design is accepted, the agency moves on to designing the other views the website.
5. Construction of the interface (front-end)
The elements with which the user will come into contact via a browser are crucial for the effectiveness of the website.
At this stage, the static designs of individual views (subpages) turn into dynamic templates. You can already see how the individual components will behave when you hover the mouse or click on them (highlights, animations).
6. Integration with back-end
A website operates on the basis of mechanisms and systems invisible to the user. These systems determine the efficiency of the different functionalities and the website as a whole.
After the first templates are prepared and accepted by the customer, the team responsible for creating the website begins the process of integration with the CMS (administration panel), database and other elements of the mechanics of the website.
In the case of non-standard websites a dedicated back-end gets created based on the specification.
Back-end is usually installed and configured (in parallel with earlier stages) in a working environment, i.e. at a temporary URL, unknown to unauthorized users. This allows for a smooth transition to the next stages.
7. Implementation of individual functions
The more unusual the solutions the website is to use, the more work will be required in terms of programming individual functionalities.
At this stage the first version of the webstite, supposed to be the closest to the final version, gets completed.
8. Functional tests
Before the website is fully ready to be put online, we need to check that all the functionalities work properly – and that all sections are being displayed correctly. If errors are detected, they are systematically corrected.
Of course, individual elements of the website are tested at every stage of its development. The margin for error, however, remains and thus the developer of the website intensively tests all the functionalities once more when the website is completed.
After the completion of internal testing, the customer receives access to the website to conduct their own tests, check all the elements, ask for any amendments. After that, the customer accepts the website.
9. CMS usage training
If the customer decides not to delegate content management to the agency, the people indicated by the customer undergo training in using the CMS. It can be done on-site or remotely.
The quality of training has an impact on customer’s satisfaction and reduces the likelihood of the customer frequently contacting the developer with questions and requests for help.
It is a good idea to let the customer’s employees train new employees. This will increase their skills and ground their knowledge.
10. Website’s launch
Launching the website at the official URL means making it available to end-users. It is a premiere in the truest sense of the word. Both the client and the agency can use this event for marketing purposes.
The launch of the website is followed by the stage of its development. Customers often sign a maintenance agreement with the agency. Under this agreement the agency is tasked with taking care of the website. Frequently such an agreement includes the administration of the content when the customer does not have time and adequate resources, web analytics and development works (website’s modifications, preparation and implementation of new functionalities).