Building websites should be fun and stress-free for the business owner. But oftentimes, you end up being burned by freelancers and offshore firms who over-promise and under-deliver. Many things can go wrong during web development, but by implementing these five phases of website development, your website project will stay on track.
As the old carpenter saying goes, measure twice, cut once. This phase is not the sexiest, but get it wrong, and your project is doomed to failure. At a minimum, effective planning consists of the following tasks:
- A thorough review of all website goals, target audiences, and business competitors
- A detailed listing of all website functionality, such as contact forms, digital downloads, or e-commerce activities
- Sourcing the best plugins and determining functionality that needs to be custom-coded
- Constructing a content migration plan and assigning the person or team responsible for its completion
- Assuring the web host has 24/7 support via email, chat, or telephone; they have adequate backup and recovery procedures in place; and they have a development or staging environment available to test all new website functionality and software updates before deploying the changes into production.
This planning should also formulate the basis of your test- or use-cases and will become the foundation of your pre-launch quality assurance testing.
There are more than a few web developers out there who say they can code a website. Sure, they may be able to download and install WordPress, and even install and configure plugin settings. But when it comes to coding custom themes or plugins or coding APIs to share data between two websites, many can’t rise to the occasion. Make sure that your web developer has full-stack programmers available for your web project. This means that if custom functionality is required, the manpower will be available to complete your project without added delays or costs.
WordPress is the most popular website-building platform on the Internet by far. There are literally tens of thousands of free and commercial themes to select from. While this may make the design phase of your website project seem easier, it is often fraught with hidden issues that could come back to haunt your project. Many of these themes come with a lot of built-in functionality that will not be needed for your project. This causes code bloat that will ultimately slow down your page loading speeds and make your site more attractive to hackers.
At Stellar Webdev, we code custom themes for each of our projects unless we are asked to use a commercial theme. This ensures that the website will be optimized for all needed functionality and will load its pages lightning fast. Speed is not only good for the human visitor, but it is also a major factor in search engine optimization (SEO) rankings.
Unlike creating a colorfully designed print PDF where everyone who holds it in their hands sees the same thing, web developers don’t have that luxury. All websites need to be tested on the major devices, browsers, and screen sizes to ensure a consistent look and feel. Short of purchasing every major device, services like CrossBrowser Testing will spot any device, browser, and screen-size issues so they can be fixed both prior to and after launch.
In addition, the website should be tested against Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and GTMetrix’s tool to be sure that sites load lightning-fast for any SEO campaigns you are responsible for. Having a web developer that is familiar with these services and uses them will be key for your project’s success.
This can be both an exciting time and an anxious one. Weeks or months of work have gone into the project. It’s time to pull the old website down and launch the new one. But there is that little voice inside your head that is thinking, will the forms work? Will emails be sent? Will the order be taken correctly? This is no time for doubt! The website has to work, or you risk losing face and having to bring the old website back to life. Your web developers should be with you for as much as you need. There are times when you will handle the DNS changes and other times when your web developer will do it. All website functionalities should be tested again. Your programmers should be on standby just in case they are needed.
A website launch is not the end of the relationship—it should be the continuation of a long and mutually beneficial relationship. There is still a lot to be done to the website after launch, including hosting the website, performing updates on the website’s code, installing malware and hacker prevention, and tending to content updates.
Your ultimate checklist will vary by project. Simple brochure websites will be a lot less complicated than full-blown e-commerce websites. Use these tips as the foundation of your plan, and you will be rewarded with stress-free website development.