Website development can be among the most complex projects that a company can undertake – but it doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right checkpoints, the development company and the client can both ensure a smooth process. It is important to set expectations at the beginning of the project in order to keep expectations in line with the finished website, as seemingly small changes during programming can cause delays and scope creep. For an extensive look at all aspects of website planning, Ben Seigel wrote an article entitled “A Comprehensive Website Planning Guide” that is definitely worth a read.
I have found that the following checkpoints in benchmarks keep the process moving along with minimal waste and few communication gaps between the agency and the client.
- Discovery SessionDuring this period of the website project, the agency and the client should have a meeting to get an idea of how the client’s business functions, what their needs are for a website, and what features the client would like or dislike in a new website. It can be helpful to use a website planning guide to aid in the discovery session.
- Create and present the foundation or strategy documentsI create and present a creative brief, a sitemap, and a wireframe of the page layouts at the same time. These three documents are easy to create and alter, and provide a fairly full picture of the website. Other companies will save the wireframes for the design stage, but I believe that presenting a wireframe early in the process can get the client to understand how their website will actually look.It is critical to reach an agreed scope about specific website features at this point (or at least before the site goes to programming), as this will prevent misunderstandings and assumptions about what the website will include and how it will function.
- DesignOnce the client agrees to the wireframe, design for the website project can begin. As a client, make sure to communicate any “must have” design elements, as this will provide some initial input to build from. Design should be a collaborative effort between the agency and the client in order to reach an agreement on an aesthetically pleasing site that will provide the client with the website that they need to further their digital goals.
- Copy and ProgrammingAfter the design is approved, the site enters the programming phase. This typically happens behind the scenes, so I have found that this is an opportune time to write and present website copy. Copy can be the most emotional aspect of a website project, as each page must be crafted to convey key messages as well as serve an SEO benefit. The agency should employ a SEO expert to review content specifically for this purpose, and the account manager should review the copy to ensure that all messages are on-brand. Presenting the copy in a word document allows the client to easily make changes to the text as they review it.
- Presentation and Final TouchesAfter the website is programmed and tested, the agency should present the website in person to walk the client through all of the features of their new website. The client should then review the site before submitting final changes and edits to the site. Once everyone agrees that the site is ready, it can be launched.
- Ongoing Support and TrainingA website project is not a typical production request – it is a tool that should be updated and tweaked regularly. The agency should provide ongoing support and training to help the client manage their own website.
Following this basic list of checkpoints during your next website project can ensure that it is a seamless process from beginning-to-end. Always keep an open line of communication throughout the project, and voice any concerns as soon as they arise to prevent miscommunication and delays.
Have you had a good or bad experience with a website project? Let us know what you would have done differently in the comments.