What You Need to Know
Why Client Participation in Web Design & Development is Critical
By Jessy Smulski | Jan 3, 2018
Everyone knows that teamwork is the keystone to a successful website launch. But not everyone understands how to make their teams work together. Maybe your internal lineup is copacetic. But what happens when a third party group of new players (i.e. your digital agency) enters the mix? Does communication hold up? How about the chain of command? If both parties don’t maneuver like a seasoned team of champions, you risk failing to meet time and budget goals. Worse still -- you might not end up with a website that meets your expectations.
Naturally, your first line of defense is to hire a digital agency with a proven reputation. But don’t underestimate your internal team’s role in the success of your next website project. You’ve got to know the game to play the game well. With that in mind, here’s a quick overview of the website design and development process. Learn it. Know it. And use it to maximize the value of your website investment.
Phase 1: Discovery
Before hard hats are festooned, and construction begins, your digital agency must develop their understanding of who you are, what you do, and how you do it. This involves quality Q&A time that focuses on you, your industry, your target audience and specific sales and marketing goals.
Your Job: Look your brand square in the eyeballs. This phase is your opportunity to re-evaluate how you’d like your new online identity to reflect your qualities and support your business goals. Start with these questions:
- What could your online presence do better?
- What makes your brand unique and how can you reflect that onto your website?
- What do you need your website to do?
- What does your target audience need your website to do?
Phase 2: Information Architecture
The average human attention span is 8 seconds (and falling). To keep visitors engaged with your site, you need to effectively organize the information that will live there and guide visitors deliberately through the pages. We call this practice “information architecture”.
Your Job: You know your audience best. You know yourself even better. 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: Design
In the visual design phase, your new website begins to take shape. The web designer will refer to the information architecture in phase two to create a wireframe
- An interactive, black and white layout of your website, void of all color and design.
- The skeletal depiction of your website content and navigation functions.
The purpose of your wireframe is to finalize how content will be organized and how navigations will be built. With your internal team’s approval, the designer will bring this wireframe to life through color, imagery, and multimedia.
Your Job: You might not be holding the metaphorical paintbrush, but you still exist in this phase. The designer will create a few mock-ups with varying color pallets. 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, decisiveness, and prompt approval during this phase will ensure that website construction maintains momentum.
Phase 4: Development
In the development phase, things get real. Your developer will reference the wireframe and mock-up provided by the designer to 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.
Your Job: The development phase can be daunting. It’s a lot of technical talk and widget working that you likely won’t understand. Don’t sweat; a good digital agency will translate much of this tech talk into terms you can grasp -- at least well enough to make educated decisions. Be sure all the functions and features you wish to have (front- and back-end) are discussed in detail prior to this phase. As review and approval are requested of you, be focused and responsive.
Phase 5: Beta Testing & Deployment
Your website is nearly ready for its grand debut! 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?
- Does your site load, view, and perform well on mobile devices?
All of these questions will be answered with an affirmative “yes” before official launch.
Your Job: During the beta testing 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.
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. Build a quality relationship in addition to a functional website to ensure current goals are met, and future goals are made.
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Jessy turns industry shop-talk into simple, insightful, humanized conversation. Often described as bold, empathetic, and charmingly sarcastic; her writing style reflects her personality and reads like a friend telling stories over supper. When she isn’t writing, you can find Jessy backpacking the midwest, snowboarding the rockies, or capturing life through the lens of her camera.