Creating your service-based website

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Information gathering

Purpose

What is the purpose of the site? Do you want to provide information, promote a service, sell a product… ?

Goals

What do you hope to accomplish by building this web site? Two of the more common goals are either to make money or share information.

Target audience

Is there a specific group of people that will help you reach your goals? It is helpful to picture the “ideal” person you want to visit your web site. Consider their age, sex or interests – this will later help determine the best design style for your site.

Content

What kind of information will the target audience be looking for on your site? Are they looking for specific information, a particular product or service, online ordering…?


Planning

Using the information gathered from phase one, it is time to put together a plan for your web site. This is the point where a site map is developed.

The site map is a list of all main topic areas of the site, as well as sub-topics, if applicable. This serves as a guide as to what content will be on the site, and is essential to developing a consistent, easy to understand navigational system. The end-user of the web site – aka your customer – must be kept in mind when designing your site. These are, after all, the people who will be learning about your service or buying your product. A good user interface creates an easy to navigate web site, and is the basis for this.

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Design 

Drawing from the information gathered up to this point, it’s time to determine the look and feel of your site.

Target audience is one of the key factors taken into consideration. A site aimed at teenagers, for example, will look much different than one meant for a financial institution. As part of the design phase, it is also important to incorporate elements such as the company logo or colors to help strengthen the identity of your company on the web site.

We’ll create one or more prototype designs for your web site. This is typically a click-through prototype which resembles the behaviour and look of a live site. The most important reason for this is that it gives you the opportunity to express your likes and dislikes on the site design.

In this phase, communication is crucial to ensure that the final web site will match your needs and taste. It is important that we work closely exchanging ideas, until you arrive at the final design for your web site.

Development

The developmental stage is the point where the web site itself is created. At this time, our developer will take all of the individual graphic elements from the prototype and use them to create the actual, functional site.

This is typically done by first developing the home page, followed by a “shell” for the interior pages. The shell serves as a template for the content pages of your site, as it contains the main navigational structure for the web site. Once the shell has been created, your designer will take your content and distribute it throughout the site, in the appropriate areas.

Elements such as the CMS (content management system) like WordPress, interactive contact forms, or ecommerce shopping carts are implemented and made functional during this phase, as well.

This entire time, your designer should continue to make your in-progress web site available to you for viewing, so that you can suggest any additional changes or corrections you would like to have done.

On the technical front, a successful web site requires an understanding of front-end web development. This involves writing valid HTML / CSS code that complies to current web standards, maximizing functionality, as well as accessibility for as large an audience as possible.

Content loading or migrating

This is where we take the developed page types and drop in the relevant copy. Because we’ve done all the ground-work in the first stage of the web creation process this is a smooth process with only some remedial checks and revisions necessary.

If you’re updating an old site to a shiny new one you may have some content you want to transfer over. This could be a simple export from the old site into the new site, or something a little more manual. Either way we’ll find out what URLs are ranking well and make sure they stay live where possible.

Testing

At this point, your web designer will attend to the final details and test your web site. They will test things such as the complete functionality of forms or other scripts, as well last testing for last minute compatibility issues (viewing differences between different web browsers), ensuring that your web site is optimized to be viewed properly in the most recent browser versions.

A good web designer is one who is well versed in current standards for web site design and development. The basic technologies currently used are HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). As part of testing, your designer should check to be sure that all of the code written for your web site validates. Valid code means that your site meets the current web development standards – this is helpful when checking for issues such as cross-browser compatibility as mentioned above.

Once you give your web designer final approval, it is time to deliver the site. An FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program is used to upload the web site files to your server. Some web designers offer domain name registration and web hosting services as well, or have recommendations as to where you can host your site. Once these accounts have been setup, and your web site uploaded to the server, the site should be put through one last run-through. This is just precautionary, to confirm that all files have been uploaded correctly, and that the site continues to be fully functional.

Other final details include plugin installation (for WordPress or other CMS driven web sites and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is the optimization of your web site with elements such as title, description and keyword tags which help your web site achieve higher rankings in the search engines. The previously mentioned code validation is something that plays a vital role in SEO, as well. There are many WordPress plugins available that further enhance the default WordPress functionality – many of which directly relate to improving your SEO, as well.

There are a lot of details involved in optimising your web site for the search engines – enough to warrant its own post. This is a very important step, because even though you now have a web site, you need to make sure that people can find it!

Get your site working hard

Once we’re live we can focus on building more traffic, capturing leads and making sales. A return on the investment is what we’re all focussed on. We’ll also keep an eye on on the site’s security and updates to make sure there is minimal downtime.