Part 3 in key concepts in selecting the right digital marketing partner
By Meredith Dunn
Meredith is a BECK Digital enthusiast with a weak spot for business planning, full cycle digital marketing and killer content.
What should your agency have in their web design project plan?
This post is part 3 of the series 8 Questions to Ask Your Digital Agency.
Planning for a new website is just as important as planning for any other project. Without a clear development process and a detailed scope of work, your web project could easily go awry, costing you time and money. To make sure your agency covers all bases, we’ve defined the necessary development steps for a successful web development project. Plus, we’ve included a handy web development cheat sheet outlining how the process should flow from beginning to end.
Time spent assessing a client’s needs at the beginning of the partnership can eliminate headaches and dozens of hours of development time later. During this phase, the agency will carefully review all design and development needs, outline expectations, and establish a clear plan of action with you.
- Client completes web design and development questionnaire
- Define needs, goals, marketing objectives and project scope
- Agency assesses client’s existing website and IT systems
- Agency recommends appropriate technologies and platforms
- Establish timeline, budget and strategy
- Agency evaluates industry and competition for strategic direction
Site Analysis, Architecture & Design
During this stage, the agency creates the basic web structure and designs for your site, along with accompanying maps, hierarchies, categorizations, navigation, and metadata – a process known as information architecture. User interface designers and digital marketers research and optimize the user flow (how a user navigates a site) using data on target audiences, task flow and relevant technologies. From there, low-fidelity wireframes (rough mock-ups) and then high-fidelity mock-ups (full-color web designs) are created to help you understand how the site will appear and be used.
- Select and register domain name
- Create website sitemap
- Establish server structure, navigation and page flow
- Develop information architecture
- Create and validate low-fidelity wireframes
- Develop web style guide (overall look/feel, fonts, colors, etc)
- Create and approve high-fidelity user interface (UI) designs
- Review designs for web standards compliance, usability and responsiveness
- Create or integrate logo
In this phase, web developers and engineers begin building your site based on the structures and designs outlined in the phase above. This phase generally takes the most time, as developers must custom code all front-end and back-end elements of the site, while scaling everything to securely work across various browsers and devices.
- Build database and/or CMS
- Install and customize CMS
- Program web page templates
- Code APIs, style lists, headings, anchor tags, buttons, and form fields
- Develop form scripts
- Integrate site with CRM
- Develop cross-platform navigation and favicon
- Configure web server and network security
Content Development and Integration
To ensure your site reflects your brand and voice, the content phase generally takes quite a bit of refinement collaboration between client and agency. What is discovered during initial client meetings and research, is now incorporated to create messaging that is representative of you and your industry, while also appealing to your customers. Superior digital agencies have in-house content specialists who can create or refine your messaging, and digital marketing specialists who can enhance your content for SEO. Be sure to think about how you prefer content be developed – either by the agency or you (the client), or some combination thereof.
- Collect and prepare digital content assets (content, images, documents, audio/video, photos, social feeds, files, etc)
- Develop, edit, proofread and approve content
- Confirm SEO objectives match content structure
- Optimize targeted keywords, usage and density
- Define heading tags
- Merge site and content
- Adapt font sizes, leading, and spacing for live content
- Define links and alt text for all images
- Validate calls-to-action
Site Validation and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
It’s important that your agency validate the right site elements are in place to optimize your ranking in search engine results. Beyond keywords, there are a variety of factors that affect SEO, such as page speed, web technologies, and URL and webpage structure. During this phase, developers conduct final checks and make upgrades to ensure your site is optimized for search engines. They will also validate that all back-end components of your site are secure, properly functioning and prepped for launch.
- Optimize cross-browser functionality and ability to degrade
- HTML / CSS / JS validation and minification
- Ensure URLs are meaningful and consistent
- Ensure proper security for forms
- Ensure proper headers
- Validate source control through repository
- CDN Integration
- Install analytics
- Create custom 404
- Ensure proper confirmation pages
- Configure back-up schedule
Testing and Training
Before launching your site, it’s crucial that your agency test key site functions, in addition to conduct website tests with real users. Usability testing is a way to see how easy it is for real users to use your site. This helps an agency identify problems, user confusion and any user experience issues that weren’t caught in the early development phases. This is also a good time to train the client on using the CMS and database, as all elements of the site will be live (in beta) and functioning.
- Site moved to server
- Test for accessibility
- Test links and transactions
- Conduct private user group usability testing (site in beta)
- Test social media sharing
- Train client on CMS and database use
- Make modifications – and test again!
Marketing and SEO Refinement
After testing and modifications have been made to your site, webmasters at the agency will finalize the list of your URLs (XML sitemap) so search engines can more easily crawl your site. They will also create mobile-friendly versions of your site’s HTML code to ensure super speedy load times on mobile devices. Plus, they’ll confirm your site translates well when sharing on various social media channels.
- Create XML Sitemap
- Create AMP pages
- Create Robots.txt
- Confirm Open Graph protocols and create Twitter cards
Congrats! It’s finally time to launch your new website! During launch, your agency will conduct final tests and submit it to search engines. Now who’s ready for some killer online success?!
- Launch site
- Submit site to search engines
- Final security and forms tests
Website Development Project Plan Infographic
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