We all admire a beautifully designed website. We admire the exquisite visuals, the friendly User Interface, and ofcourse the refreshing content. But what exactly leads to all this? It’s certainly not luck. Some serious teamwork goes behind Website Development. Website Development is an intersection of different phases or steps. It’s a collaborative effort involving the Marketing, Designing, and Technical personnel.
So let’s discuss each step in detail. Let’s understand the process from initiation to completion.
1. Looking at the bigger picture
Before any ‘What’, there’s a ‘Why’ that needs to be answered. This applies to website development too. Therefore, it’s important to define the scope of a website beforehand.
What does your brand represent? What are your business goals? What is your target audience?, and more importantly, What kind of content will create interest in the target audience?
These are the handful of questions that should be answered before proceeding further. Otherwise, all your efforts to create a contemporary website will fall flat.
So to define the project’s scope and answer all the above questions, SRS documentation is done in the planning phase. SRS (Software Requirements Specifications) contains the information on the goals, parameters, target audience, user interface, hardware and software requirements.
Besides this, a decision on CMS (Content Management System) is also taken. Whether you want to go for WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla, is decided during the planning phase itself.
2. Setting Up The Architecture
Once the information pool is there, the next step is to build the website’s architecture. Sitemapping is an ideal way to start things off.
The purpose of a Sitemap is to establish the navigational flow of a website. In other words, it’s a blueprint that shows the relationship between a website’s pages and its content elements.
That said, sitemap doesn’t give you an idea of the user interface. This is the reason why wireframing is done.
So what’s a wireframe?
It’s a highly simplified representation of a website. The layout is in the form of blocks, where the text is indicated by lines, and image-spaces are indicated by squares having ‘X’ inscribed in them. Such a format establishes the architecture without doing much detailing.
The wireframe is like an experimenting ground, on which you can do the number of iterations before finalizing the structure. Tools like Balsamiq, Axure, or Pencil Evolus can be used in this regard.
Although a wireframe makes things easier, still it’s not artistic in nature. It doesn’t showcase the colours, logos, and other visuals. For that, prototypes need to be created, which is the next step in the website development process.
3. Giving A Feel To The Website
What’s a person without personality? Very much useless. Similarly, Wireframe is a layout sans the personality of a website Therefore it’s important to impart a feel to the website so that it reflects the brand’s personality. This is why a website’s prototype is created.
A prototype is a mock-up of the website’s live version. During this phase, the colour combinations, logos, and typography are incorporated, keeping the target audience in mind. For example, if a website is youth-oriented, then colours like purple, yellow, red, and green are used. The idea is to remain consistent with the brand’s ethos and identity.
The aim is to create a web design in which the functionalities remain consistent. Take for example a functionality like the ‘View’ button. To provide a user-friendly experience, this button should be placed exactly at the same spot in every section. Because of this consistency, users won’t have to search for the same button in every section.
Web designers usually create more than one prototypes for a website. They are mostly created in JPEG format.
4. Making The Website Functional
This phase is all technical, and this is where developers jump in.
In layman’s terms, developers fetch the graphic elements from the prototype and make them functional. Moreover, the selected CMS, as well as Contact Forms, are also implemented during this phase.
The Home Page is developed first. Once it’s done, a ‘Shell’ is created for the interior pages. This ‘Shell’ serves as a template for the content pages.
All this might sound very simple, but some serious front-end web development goes behind the scene. This includes writing robust HTML/ CSS codes that align with accepted standards and result in flawless functionalities.
The transition from mock-ups to a live website involve various stages of coding. Firstly, the components of the website are mapped into the HTML elements and a basic HTML code is written.
In the next stage, the look and feel of a website are defined and stored in CSS files as stylesheets. Once defined, a stylesheet can be used for multiple HTML pages, thereby saving a lot of time for developers.
5. Testing it out
Ask any writer, how important is proofreading? He will simply say, “It’s paramount.”
Similarly, the codes written in the previous phase need to be proofread. Just think about it. What’s a point of writing a code if it’s proven invalid later? To avoid such scenarios, testing is crucial.
During this phase, a dedicated team tests for the website’s cross-browser compatibility. It is done to ensure that a website is optimized and supported by the latest browsers. Stress is generally given on input fields, login and sign up areas.
The testing team tries to ensure the validity of a code. As long as the code is valid, the website aligns with the developmental standards.
Testing is usually conducted in five phases.
- Smoke testing: It’s a non-exhaustive form of testing. It ensures that a website is stable enough to be tested further for other critical functions.
- Unit testing: As the name suggests., it’s the testing of the program’s individual units (A piece of code). Let’s assume that an application has three components, namely A, B, and C. In unit testing, these three components will be tested individually. Generally, a unit is characterized by a few inputs and a single output.
- Integration testing: After the unit testing, the next logical step should be to integrate and test individual components in different combinations, say, A and B, B, and C, or A and C. Well, this is what Integration testing is. It ensures that there is a seamless interaction between different units of a program.
- System testing: Manufacturing and testing the individual parts of a car doesn’t ensure its on-road performance. For that, a car needs to hit the road for a test drive, to see how smoothly its break or gears are working, or whether it is giving an ideal mileage or not. This is what system testing is. All the components (A, B, C) are tested as a whole system, to assess its compliance with the mentioned requirements.
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT): It’s the last leg of the testing process. As the name suggests, it involves actual users who determine how functional an application is, in real-world scenarios as per the specifications.
6. Analytics and Feedback Loops
After testing, you might think that your website is now ready to take off. It is, but there is still a lot to do. In fact, a website is always a work in progress. At the end of the day, it’s about maintaining healthy traffic and a low bounce rate for your website. It’s about intriguing your visitors enough so that they turn into leads.
You need to understand the behaviour of your visitors. You need to keep the content of your website fresh and relevant. Also, having a feedback channel is a must. This way you can understand the contemporary needs of your visitors.
You can always incorporate Google Analytics, to get precise reports on the website traffic. To understand the behaviour of your visitors, you can use SmartLook. It tracks visitors that land up on your website and record their activities. You can discover how your visitors are interacting with the website’s elements. You can figure out why they are leaving your website so early, in case they do.
Another potent technique to enhance your website’s performance is A/B Testing. It involves comparative analysis, in which two versions of the same web page are used. Visitors are exposed to the two versions at the same time. The version that gives a better conversion rate is used for future interactions.
Now that you have understood the nitty-gritty of Website Development, you might feel confident to build your own website. Get in touch with a professional website development company in this regard.