Building a website:
what you need to know
At Oxide, we design and develop a lot of websites. And we know that the process of building a website can be a little daunting. Where do you start?
What things need to be considered?
A few weeks ago Oxide was asked to present at Omaha Advertising X! on just that topic. So to help demystify the process for everyone, I thought I would share my presentation with you. In an ideal world, these are the steps you would follow to take your shiny new website from an idea to completion.
1. Establish a plan.
The first step for creating a new website will always be figuring out what you want to accomplish, and setting some restraints on the scope of the project. You need to ask yourself what are you trying to accomplish? When do you need to have it completed? ( Be reasonable here. Great work takes time and thought!) How much, in resources and money, do you have to spend?
2. Assemble your team.
At this point, you need to figure out who is going to make this happen. Typically your team will include internal stakeholders (such as yourself and any other people of importance within your company or endeavor), copy writers or content strategists, designers, and web developers.
I can’t stress the importance of having everyone on the same page throughout the process of the project. Establish a plan for communication early to help facilitate a good working relationship between everyone involved.
3. Develop a content strategy.
The most important aspect of any website is content. Relevant, well-targeted content is your greatest asset to build trust with your users, and to optimize your search engine results. To develop your strategy:
- Know the purpose of your content. What are you trying to achieve?
- Know your Audience. What do they want and/or need? What are they looking for?
- Develop your key messages. Convey your purpose, tailored to your audience. Reinforce your purpose.
- Anticipate your audience’s next steps/questions. What do they need to move toward?
Once you have a strategy, you need to determine what content you have available, what content needs to be repurposed, and what needs to be created. Remember that content is more than just words, it’s photos, videos, PDFs – anything that is needed to tell your story. Have the best content you can. The most beautifully designed site won’t mean anything if your users can’t find they information they need.
4. Determine website structure.
Create a sitemap. Start at your home page. What will your users need from
there? Identify and organize all pages and navigation. Revise and update your content needs.
Once the sitemap is completed and approved, start wire framing. Highlight
all features, elements, and content for each unique page. This is to establish function, behavior, and content priority, not the layout or design of the page.
At this point, once the content is completed, and the function of each page is established, then the design can happen. Design is a critical contribution to the perception of your company. Great design – not merely aesthetically pleasing, but also easy to use and understand – equals happy users.
If there are established brand guidelines, they should be followed. If not, the design should accurately reflect your business. Some tips:
- Design with real (or realistic) content in mind.
- Design to exact pixels.
- Plan for future growth.
- Don’t involve too many people.
The design process typically begins with initial mock-ups of key pages. Once there is approval of the general style, secondary pages, and other elements are designed. Finally (and ideally) a style guide that codifies navigation, type styling, color palettes, image usage, and other commonly used elements is established to help in the development of the site, as well as any future updates.
6. Development and CMS Integration.
Once the design is squared away, it time for the developer to take over. Ideally your development team has worked with you to establish the technical aspects of the site – the hosting environment, the DNS settings, and the Content Management System.
Using the mock-ups, style guide, and final content, the developer will code and create the final site. They will continue to work with the copy writer and designer on any necessary tweaks or changes.
Once the site is coded, take some time to review all pages and all content.
It’s much better to find and fix errors before going live! At the same time get feedback from trusted sources and make any relevant changes.
8. Launch and promote!
Let everyone know about your new site. Twitter, Facebook, your blog! Get the news out there to draw traffic to your new site.
Not something you typically want to think about right after launching your new site, but it is very important to have a plan in place for the upkeep and maintenance of your site. Clarify roles and responsibilities for site review and maintenance. Stay reliable and relevant!