Knowing Your Role: Why Client Participation in the Web Design and Development Process is Imperative
Teamwork. One little word that can make a big difference when building a new website. As if you didn’t get this lecture enough in grade school, we’re here to drill you again. Except this time, we won’t mandate awkward gym uniforms or first period dodge ball (unless you really want it).
Teamwork is the keystone to a successful website launch. That means your team needs to jive, not only with itself but the digital agency you’ve selected for the job. To understand the part you need to play in the process, you’ll also need to know what that process is. Listen close and take notes, you will be graded…
Phase 1: Discovery
Before hard hats are festooned and construction
begins, your digital agency will develop an understanding of who you are, what you do and how you do it. This involves some quality Q & A time that focuses on you, your industry, your target audience and specific online goals.
It’s your time to shine! Use this phase to re-evaluate how you’d like your new online identity to reflect your qualities. What could your online presence be doing better? What do you need the website to be able to do? What will your target audience expect of the website? Get it all out on paper now so the proper foundation can be built.
Phase 2: Information Architecture
In 2013, the average human attention span was 8 seconds, which is less than that of a goldfish! To keep a visitor engaged with your site as long as a crow with a piece of tinsel, you need to properly organize the information that will live there. Information architecture is the categorizing of content within tabs and pages to form a site map from which everything else will be built.
Because you know your audience best, and you know yourself even better, this phase requires your attention and input. Help your digital agency understand how all the pieces fit together. Rethink how content has been organized in the past and how it can be reorganized to optimize the user experience. How will you feed the most important information to your visitor in just 8 seconds?
Phase 3: Visual Design
In the visual design phase, your new website begins to take shape. The web designer will refer to the site map outlined in phase two to create the wire frame: an interactive model in which, only lines and vertices are represented, like a blueprint. With your target audience in mind, the designer will then go to work, crafting your new online identity through color and imagery.
You might not be holding the metaphorical paintbrush but you still exist in this phase. The designer will create a few mock-ups and you will be tasked with providing likes and dislikes about each version. The feedback you give will help the designer to craft a final mock-up that incorporates your preferences. Your honest opinion and prompt sign-off during this phase will ensure that website construction runs smoothly.
Phase 4: Development
In the development phase, things get real. Your developer will reference the wire frame and mock-up provided by the designer to actually construct your website. Here, visitor interactivity is conceptualized, coding is written to run special features, your content management system is integrated and all parts and pieces are seamlessly tied together.
The development phase can be daunting. It’s a lot of technical talk and widget working that you likely won’t understand but this is no excuse not to be present. Be sure all the function you wish to have (front and back-end) has been discussed. As approval is requested of you, be responsive.
Phase 5: Beta Testing & Deployment
Your site is nearly ready for its grand entrance! But before you and your digital agency push the blast off button, every aspect of the site must be scrupulously tested to ensure that function and form are flawless. Does the site work well with all browser types? Are forms being routed and received correctly? Do links work? Are all features integrated properly and actively performing? All these questions will be answered with an affirmative yes before launch.
During the beta test phase, you will be provided a link to the new website. This link is active and will provide you with an exact experience, but the site is not yet live to the public. Be vigilant as you peruse your new site. Do your part to test links and forms. Let your digital agency know if something isn’t working right. The more eyes on the project, the less likely a detail will be missed.
Upon final approval, your website is integrated with the end hosting environment and routed to a live URL.
Phase 6: Post Marketing Activities
A website without marketing will get lost in the cyberspace abyss. To ensure that visitors find it, you must participate in inbound marketing. The goal of inbound marketing is to target specific audiences that are already searching for your product or service to guide that audience to your beautiful new website. The information you provide there will help them make a purchasing decision (in your favor). To achieve this, talk to your digital agency about inbound marketing tactics, including:
SEO & Key-phrase integration
Social media marketing
Pay Per Click Advertising
Downloadable offerings (whitepapers, guides, ebooks)
There is a place and time for your input at every level of website construction – and rightfully so. Protect your investment by selecting a digital agency
with a client centric approach. Hard hats and steel-toed boots aside, make sure the agency you select is one you’ll enjoy hammering out the details with (pun intended). Collaboration and communication is essential and you’ll want to build a quality relationship in addition to a website to ensure current goals are met and future goals are made.