June 29, 2015

My Web Design Process

The process I take to bring your project from start to finish is based on a traditional waterfall method of project management. In the waterfall process, one step is completed before the next is begun. Within each of these steps I incorporate other, more flexible, methods. The benefits of the waterfall method is that we come to an agreement about when each step is finished before moving on to the next, the steps work as reference points for an accurate schedule, the steps can work as billing points on a complex project, and transparency into the status of the project among other benefits.

#1 SurveyDetermine what will be built
#2 DesignReview proposed designs to agree on what the final website will look like
#3 BuildI will get to work building the site
#4 Test

After building the site, I will test the site to make sure that it works on all browsers and devices
#5 Acceptance TestingA review of the site by you, the client, to ensure that all the items we have agreed upon have been properly implemented
A Note About SEO

A note about SEO best practices and some tips regarding SEO


The Main Process Points:

#1 – Survey/Discovery

Level of Client Engagement: High

The first step is getting to know you and the project. We can do this in any variety of ways, by face-to-face meetings, using Skype or other technologies, by phone, email, text – whichever you prefer. I will ask what your expectations are, what you are trying to achieve, what your budget is, ask for examples, samples or competitor sites, communication preferences, which search terms you wish to target (see SEO below), and any other questions that may be relevant. I will then come up with a project plan and a project proposal with options when possible.

If you have an existing, I may ask for access to the site in order to conduct a complete survey of your existing site. To safeguard your information I may also ask you to provide a non-disclosure agreement if I am asking you to provide sensitive information.

Deliverables – depending on the project type I may provide:

  • Proposal of services listing what will be provided during the project
  • Proposed site map showing the relationship of the pages
  • Content inventory (if you have an existing site). This is a list of all the existing pages
  • A list of functions – this seeks to define what functionality will be present on the site such as newsletter sign-ups, ecommerce capability, navigation menu options, essentially anything that has a process
  • A Technology selection – seeks to answer what tools will be used to build the site
  • Hosting information (if required). All sites need to be hosted by a professional Internet Service Provider (ISP) which incur separate, recurring, costs. The ISP provides web hosting, email services and more. I can recommend an appropriate ISP if needed

Depending on the size of the project and the effort involved, I may require am engagement fee for this portion this work. Upon payment, the deliverables will be provided.

#2 – Design Phase

Level of Client Engagement: High

The design phase mainly encompasses the visible aspects of the site. This includes:

  • Selection of a “theme” if we are using existing web technologies such as WordPress, Joomla or other similar technologies
  • Graphic design such as the color selections
  • Typeface/font selection
  • Imagery such as icons and photographs
  • Information architecture which deals with the arrangement of how information is presented
  • User experience which looks at how the user interacts with the site

Deliverables– depending on the project type I may provide:

  • Design Composites: design “comps” are simple visual documents used to show the color, typography, and arrangement of content to show how the final web page will look like when built. The goal is to create and review multiple variations of these designs and eventually arrive at the final design of the site
  • Wireframes: these documents show how where content areas are located on the page to ensure that the most important information is presented in the most appropriate location

#3 – Build

Level of Client Engagement: Low

The build phase is where I take all the decisions we have made in the Survey and Design phases and build the actual website. Initially I build this “locally” on my own computer and do not share this part of the process with the client. This part of the process changes rapidly: I will discover issues with designs that need resolution, sometimes with your help; I will discover opportunities that may not have existed earlier; better design solutions may be discovered along the way.

I will be testing the site along the way to make sure that the site works well on as many different web browsers, computer operating systems (such as PC and Apple) and devices (such as tablets and smart phones). The goal of testing is to make sure that the site is functional for 99% of all users – it is not possible for the site to work fully for all combinations of users.

#4 – Testing

Level of Client Engagement: Medium

Once the site is fully built I will move all the code to the “production” environment where it can be fully tested. The production environment is the set of systems that your customers/users will be using when they go to the your site. I will ensure that the site looks good, that all the functions work, and that device and browser checks have been made and that no links are broken etc.. When these checks have been made I will notify you for that last phase – user acceptance checking – is ready for you.

User Acceptance Testing

Level of Client Engagement: Medium

The last step of the process is for you to check the site to ensure that all the elements we had agreed upon in the previous steps have been implemented. This is called user Acceptance Testing. In this step you go though the site and check that the site looks and works as you expect. There are frequently some items that need clarification or additional attention at this point – together we will determine how to communicate these outstanding issues and how they should be resolved. Once all issues have been resolved, the site is sent “Live” – essentially we turn it on so that users can now go to the site.

Deliverable– Your finished site!

Search Engine Optimization

In my experience, a well-designed and well-executed site appears in the search results of major search engines (such as Google, Bing and Yahoo) with little or no modification required. In the Survey portion of the process we will determine which search engine terms you wish to target but there is only so much I can do ethically to ensure the success of these efforts.

Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO”, is the process by which your content is modified, improved upon or otherwise updated to improve the likelihood your site will appear in certain search results. SEO, such as content writing, is its own complex discipline worthy of hiring an expert for. There are points about SEO that are worth explaining.

SEO has become an increasingly complex process lately and should be approached deliberately and delicately. Search engines regularly change how they rank websites in order to discourage people from manipulating search results. If you make changes to your site that appear to be manipulating SEO best-practices in order to “game” or manipulate search results to appear higher in the lists, you can be penalized or even removed from a search engines site completely.

Working with SEO Experts:

Approach Search Engine Optimization experts carefully. There are many unscrupulous firms that may approach you after your site is made public. Many companies that promise better SEO results are often located off-shore and provide sub-standard workfor sub-standard fees. Some valid, professional, search engine optimization “experts” use methods that work temporarily, by taking advantage of temporary weaknesses in search engines, but fail later. Another major problem with all SEO companies is “search term stuffing”. Search term stuffing is the act of cramming a bunch of related terms to your content with minimal regard to readability in order to look relevant to search engines. Search term stuffing helps search engine listing but hurts your actual users. A key to quality is to compare your content before the SEO experts adjust it, to after the SEO experts have adjusted it: if there is no real change in the tone of the content, then you likely have identified a good firm.

Tips to craft the best SEO content:

  • Think of how you would use Google to find your own site. Think of terms someone unfamiliar to site would use to find your site
  • Identify the search terms you wish to target
  • Make sure you can realistically obtain these results
  • Spend time on creating good, descriptive, content
  • Ensure that there are links to your site from other locations on the internet. This is important: if you can get other relevant sites to link back to your site, the better your results should be. Even linking your site from your social media sites you control will give you an advantage in search results.

Tips to Set Your SEO Expectations:

Be realistic about which search terms to target. If you do not use a specific terms on any of your pages, do not expect to show up for that term on searches. For example if you are a cafe and and use the term “coffee” on your site, you should not expect to be listed under the displays for “Arabica”. However, you should expect to be represented in the search results if you use the term “Arabica” in your navigation menu, have multiple pages using “Arabica …” in the title and have pages that use the term Arabica in the content. Another example: if you are unluckily named Brad Pitt, would you expect to find yourself listed on the first page of Google? No. However, if you are Brad Pitt from San Francisco, you should expect a better ranking for your site under the search term “Brad Pitt San Francisco”.