A successful website development process
Good Work was created around developing websites and web-based applications for design and marketing teams. Whether it be client-side teams at brands or corporations, or creative studios who design websites for clients, our processes are centered around catering to this type of work.
Web developers can develop websites, that’s a given, but placing a heavy emphasis on the indirect — but very important — processes that ensure overall success is crucial: launching projects on time, clearly communicating to everyone involved and being reliable from project kickoff to launch. However, replicating that process over and over again with a high success rate is challenging.
Over the last 5+ years we’ve created and refined processes that work well not only for us, but our partners, too. Sometimes our process spans months, other times it’s in smaller iterations, but sticking to it ensures our projects rarely break down.
I hope this post helps both clarify and spark ideas for your own development processes, ensuring both short- and long-term success.
Before getting started, it’s useful to have a thorough understanding of your project. For straight-forward websites, this can be as simple as a phone call or meeting to nail down a sitemap and understand template and feature needs. For more complex builds this may require an in-depth discovery phase where we brainstorm and prototype ideas to ensure we’re developing the right product, a road map to proceed and a rough prototype to reference throughout the life of the project.
At this point we should have enough details to plug the information into our custom estimating tool and nail down development costs and timelines. The deliverable here is a proposal and/or contract. Throughout the pre-development phases of the project we like to keep an eye on design progress and provide any necessary feedback along the way.
Once the design is signed off and completed, we like to hold a handover meeting with both the design and development teams to talk through development expectations. Since we’ve been involved with the design process from the start, we use this meeting to review everything with a fine-toothed comb. We can then nail down a specific timeline and expected launch date.
Things we look for in a good design handover:
- Full design files, including mobile
- Documented functionality requirements and CMS expectations
- Web-friendly font licenses and files
- Exported assets
Our ‘Six steps to a successful designer to developer handoff’ article is a must-read when creating a bulletproof checklist for your design handovers.
Following the design handover we move into development, which typically involves front-end development and content management system (CMS) integration. This phase usually becomes a silent period between agencies and clients, so we like to provide a weekly status update at a minimum, flagging anything unexpected as soon as possible through calls and emails. As development comes to an end we move into our quality assurance phase.
Once development is finished and all content has been entered into the website, we begin our quality assurance process. After completing our own internal checklist we put the website on a special testing domain and walk our client through the site and how to use our quality assurance tool, Pastel. We provide our clients with a minimum of two rounds of quality assurance feedback before scheduling a launch date.
Our ‘How to implement a bullet-proof QA process’ article walks through the details of launching successful websites and web-based applications.
Launch and post-launch
Once all stakeholders have reviewed the website with a fine-toothed comb it’s time to schedule a launch date. After launch, nine times out of ten we book a follow-up project to implement any new features and ideas that might have come up in the quality assurance process. From there, the website moves into maintenance mode, where we make updates on an as-needed basis. For larger websites like Applause, we develop intentional maintenance plans to ensure the website is continually evolving.
I can count our failed projects over the years on one hand, which resulted from veering off our processes in one way or another. By documenting and sticking to our processes we’re able to run a calmer company and ensure happier clients and partners.