Designing a website all the way through from initial discussion to completion is basically a six stage process. Some web designers may choose to break the stages down further, as part of their own methodology, but the basic concepts remain the same and each stage has equal importance to the end product.
The six fundamental stages are:
1. Information Gathering
5. Testing and Delivery
The first stage in designing any website is information gathering. It is a crucial stage where many things have to be taken into consideration, the purpose and goals of the website, target audience, content and budget. This is the best opportunity for the designer to really get a feel for the client and their business.
Using information gathered in stage one, a plan for the whole website can be created, which is called a site map. This will include the number of pages needed, an idea of their content, how the navigation system will work and any additional technologies needed such as graphics or e-commerce requirements.
The next stage allows both the designer and the client to really get the look and feel of the website and to create a prototype design. Depending on the designer's preferences, this process can be started as simply as paper sketches and become as elaborate as a fully functional electronic 'working' version to be adjusted throughout the project. Key factors that must be defined at this point are fundamentals such as colour schemes, page layout and content. This can be one of the longest stages of the design process as the client must be happy before development can continue and the designer must adapt to achieve this.
The fourth stage is the developmental stage where the website is actually created, based on the client's acceptance of the prototypes. The 'Home' page is the most important, being the first one the online world will see. Additional pages after that are usually created using style sheets and a template which will define the basic layout of any given page, but can vary the content on each.
Testing and delivery phase allows the designer to ensure firstly that his navigation system, coding and views (in different browsers) of the finished website are accurate. After that it also allows for last minute client changes to the specification, within boundaries, for final approval. Obviously, testing that all relevant technologies are fully functional is included in this part of the process.
The very last stage is to get the website 'online', arrange for regular, ongoing maintenance and then to ensure that visitors can 'find' the site. A good website designer will know the best ways to ensure that on-site Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is in place and that this, as well as the website itself, are regularly updated, potentially with a maintenance contract.
Website development is one of the technologies that has to be carried out very rapidly and must keep up to date with current trends. Both the designer and the recipient of any website need to appreciate this and be willing to accept that commitment.