Website Development Demystified: A Comprehensive Blog Series


The Importance of a Solid Plan from Day One

Navigating the world of web development can be overwhelming, especially with its technical jargon. Poorly executed websites can lead to missed opportunities and lost revenue. If you find yourself with a “bad” website, trying to identify the issues can be like getting lost in a dense jungle without a map or compass.

Businesses can avoid these pitfalls by adopting a proven web development project formula from the start. By breaking down the process into manageable steps, anyone can streamline their web development projects and achieve exceptional results. This article aims to demystify web development, offer solutions to common challenges, and explore the process of building great websites.

To maximize conversion rates, a solid plan from the outset is crucial. Even a seemingly minor 1% increase can significantly impact profitability. Therefore, having a thoughtful plan that incorporates SEO and CRO strategies, considers user experience, design, and content, will ensure long-term success.

38% of visitors will stop engaging if the website content and layout is unattractive. -Adobe

So let’s impress that 38% of consumers you’re probably losing and dive into the formula, process, or roadmap for successful web development.

As the Director of Web at ARF Services, I have shaped this process through years of both success and learning from failures. The web development project follows five key phases, each contributing to the success of the next: game plan development, site architecture, content creation, website development, review, and launch.

You might notice, the first three phases don’t touch a bit of code! 

The primary objectives of this process are twofold: 1) achieving repeatability and 2) ensuring long-term success. By approaching planning and architecture like a skilled architect, your website will become a fundamental pillar of your marketing efforts, rather than an afterthought. In this article, we will delve into each phase in detail, providing insights into their respective goals and objectives.

Phase 1 – The Websites’ Game Plan Development

Phase one is of utmost importance as it lays the foundation for a successful web development project. During this stage, you must establish clear website goals and determine the essential features required. Additionally, it’s essential to identify your target audience with detailed buyer personas, devise effective SEO strategies, and create comprehensive site outlines. This phase serves as a roadmap towards achieving measurable success in the future.

Key Deliverables and Considerations:

Website Goals
  • A clear definition of the business’s offerings.
  • A clear definition of website visitor and conversion goals.
  • A clear understanding of all website features and integrations.

Every project must have a clear direction from the outset. The strategy for achieving these goals will be developed later in the process. To begin, it is essential to define your offerings, assuming you already have a clear understanding of your business. Next, conduct a thorough analysis of your web analytics and competitors (you can use Similarweb for this purpose). Determine your primary conversion goals, which are the pages or points on your website that prompt users to transition from anonymous visitors to known prospects by providing their name and email. These conversion points could include a shopping cart checkout, a request for a quote, or a general contact form.

Additionally, this is an opportune time to evaluate your visual assets and initiate parallel projects to create new photo and video resources.

Buyer Personas
  • At least one detailed buyer persona to define the buyer’s lifestyle, priority initiatives, success factors, perceived barriers, decision criteria, and questions asked along the buyer’s journey.

Having a detailed buyer persona is crucial for ensuring long-term success. It acts as your compass, sextant, regional map, GPS, and flint during your expedition. With a persona in hand, SEO research becomes more accessible, and defining a content strategy becomes clear, while your conversion points become apparent. Once you build a website with a persona in mind, attempting to build without one feels like camping without all your gear.

SEO Strategy
  • Conduct keyword research to define primary and secondary keywords.
  • Create a detailed site outline listing out every page for the website matched with selected keywords.

With that handy-dandy persona (yes, I have children who watch Blue’s Clues), you should have a solid understanding of your audience’s needs. Combine that with your website goals, and you’re on the right track. Utilize tools like SEM Rush, Google’s Keyword Planner, or MOZ to define your keyword targets. While explaining SEO research in-depth is beyond this article’s scope, I’ll cover it in a follow-up post soon. For now, create a list and consider search volume and competition. Strive to strike a balance between high volume and low competition keywords.

Use this research to craft a site outline, which acts as a map for all your site pages, listing each page and its primary keyword target. Remember to plan for essential but not search-focused pages like “about,” “our team,” or special conversion pages like “request a quote.” Be sure to include them in your site outline!

Finalizing Project Scope
  • Integrate website goals and SEO strategy to establish a comprehensive and cohesive project scope.

In this step, it is crucial to consolidate all the elements you have developed so far. By combining your website goals and features, buyer persona insights, and site outline, you will create a well-rounded and detailed project scope. This comprehensive approach guarantees that your web development project remains focused and aligned with your overarching objectives.

Benchmark Reports
  • Integrate website goals and SEO strategy to establish a comprehensive and cohesive project scope.

This step is often overlooked, but it’s crucial to establish tracking reports for the current website, including search ranking reports. Once the new site is launched, these reports will provide a data-driven way to measure its success.

Phase 2 – The Websites’ Architecture

Site Architecture involves crafting a content strategy that caters to the target audience’s priority initiatives, success factors, perceived barriers, and decision criteria, as outlined in the buyer persona. Design concepts are then developed to establish the website’s mood and appearance. Mock-ups of the home page, contact page, generic content pages, and various content types are created for both desktop and mobile platforms. This phase lays the groundwork for the website’s visual and content components, ultimately forming the final map or blueprint for your website’s development.

Key Deliverables and Considerations:

Content Strategy
  • Define the approach to addressing the buyer persona’s needs and concerns.
  • Create wireframes for content layouts.

Utilizing the buyer persona, create a content strategy that directly addresses their needs and concerns. Establish the appropriate tone and identify key ideas to tackle each concern effectively.

For example, if your persona values case studies or testimonials as essential decision criteria, integrate them strategically throughout the site. Ensure that every keyword-focused page addresses the persona’s decision criteria, perceived barriers, and success factors. This strategy will guide the written content and design requirements for the next phase.

Wireframes serve as an effective tool to experiment with content layouts and strategies without getting caught up in design details, allowing you to focus on the site’s functionality.

Design Concepts
  • Establish the mood or aesthetic of the brand’s website.

While the content strategy takes shape, your selected graphic design team should focus on defining the visual mood of the new website. This process entails determining color schemes, photography style, and layout ideas, establishing the groundwork for the upcoming stages. To aid your designers, share examples of websites you admire and brands you wish to emulate, ensuring the final design aligns with your vision.

Mock-Up of Site
  • Designers create a mock-up, including the home page, contact page, generic content pages, blog, and various content types (e.g., rooms, events) for both desktop and mobile.

Combine the elements of the content strategy and wireframes, such as testimonial blocks, with the design concepts. Designers can then proceed to develop the site mock-up using tools like Adobe XD and Figma.

While achieving consensus among your team may require some time and effort, this approach ensures the site can be built with a high degree of confidence.

Phase 3 – Content Creation

During Phase 3, the emphasis is on crafting compelling copy for all pages, optimizing page titles, and meta descriptions for SEO, and collecting essential visual content. This may include scheduling photo or video shoots if needed. If new content ideas arise, additional wireframes can be developed. This phase is vital in making the website engaging and appealing to the target audience.

Note that Phase 4 can commence simultaneously! With designs, outlines, goals, and features already defined, your development team can begin Phase 4 immediately and incorporate content as it is completed.

Key Deliverables and Considerations:

  • All the pages defined in the SEO site outline will have content written, with SEO-optimized page titles and meta descriptions. 

Writing SEO-friendly content might seem daunting initially, but a well-defined content strategy simplifies the process of creating content outlines. Aim for 500-1000 words per page, with a focus on providing valuable and informative content. Remember to keep the “we-we” test in mind; excessive use of the word “we” in your content can come across as self-centered. Instead, empower your potential customers by adopting a customer-centric approach – they will appreciate it!

Utilize a copywriting service such as Writer’s Access, or SEM Rush Marketplace.

After completing each page, send the content to your development team for seamless incorporation into the site.

Visual Content
  • Gather all necessary visual content pieces for your website.
  • Complete photo or video shoots, if applicable, during this stage.

Allocating time and effort to high-quality visuals is essential for enhancing the user experience. Strive to obtain or create the best visuals within your budget constraints.

Wire Frames
  • Create additional wireframes for new content ideas that emerge during this phase, instead of full mockups.

In many projects, new ideas for website design or layout improvements emerge during content development. Incorporating this step in the process encourages continuous refinement and enhancement of concepts by involving everyone in the creative process.

Phase 4 – Website Development

After completing Phase 2, the development team can initiate the setup of development environments and lay the foundation for the website. They will work on developing or integrating all necessary website features, ensuring seamless functionality. This phase transforms the design and content into a fully functional website that aligns with the business’s goals and objectives.

There are various technical aspects involved in choosing content management systems, hosting environments, and more. While we won’t delve into those details today, rest assured that if you’ve partnered with a reputable development team, they will guide you through the process based on your website goals. Should you wish to discuss the technical aspects of your website further, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Key Deliverables and Considerations:

Build and Develop
  • The web development team will set up a web server and begin constructing the site.
  • A development website domain will be established to monitor the site’s progress. 
  • As content and visuals are completed, the development team will implement them accordingly. 
  • All website features and integrations will be implemented.

Although this phase may seem concise and simple, it actually entails a significant amount of work for the developers. In terms of hours spent on each phase, this one usually takes the most time.

For the client or management team, key responsibilities include monitoring progress, providing the development team with necessary input, granting integration access, and supplying content assets to ensure a smooth execution.

Phase 5 – Review + Launch

Hooray! We’ve reached the final phase of the web development process! During this celebratory stage, live user testing takes place to assess the website’s usability and ensure a delightful user experience. Our team will promptly address and resolve any bugs or issues that may arise. Before the launch, we’ll follow a comprehensive checklist to double-check all SEO requirements. Once the domain is updated, we’ll thoroughly test all forms, features, and integrations on the live domains. Post-launch, we’ll revisit the site launch checklist to ensure everything is in tip-top shape, and then it’s time to rejoice in the successful launch of your fantastic new website! This phase ensures that your website is fully functional and perfectly aligned with your business’s goals and objectives.

Key Deliverables and Considerations:

Live User Testing
  • Once the site is considered “complete,” it’s time to kick off a live user testing period to evaluate the website’s usability. 
  • Addressing and fixing any bugs or issues is vital to ensure a seamless experience.

Involving a diverse group of users, including friends and family, to navigate and explore the site is essential for a successful launch. Keep in mind that casual visitors won’t provide feedback on bugs and usability; they may simply leave your site.

An effective approach is to design mini-website quests for users to accomplish. Encourage participants to record their screens as they complete tasks, such as finding content about a specific service, explaining the process, locating the contact form, and submitting it.

One excellent service to aid in this process is UserTesting, which offers a wide range of testing options beyond just websites. They can source anonymous users for you, making your testing process efficient and fruitful.

Launch Site
  • Follow the launch checklist to ensure all necessary steps have been taken, including meeting all SEO requirements.
  • Change over the domain to the new website.
  • Check that all forms, features, and integrations are working on the live domains.

The big day has finally arrived! Although it may feel a bit nerve-wracking, rest assured that in just 4-24 hours, your website will be ready to share with the world. So take a deep breath, celebrate this milestone, and get ready to see your brand-new website shine!

Post- Launch Follow Up

  • Review the site launch checklist again to ensure all tasks have been completed.
  • Celebrate the successful launch of your website with your team!
  • After one month, run benchmark reports against your new website to measure its success.

Congratulations on the successful launch of your new website! Take a moment to celebrate your hard work. In just a month, don’t forget to check your benchmark reports to gauge your website’s success.

And that’s how you build a website! If your job title isn’t “Director of Web,” you might not have the time to go through this entire process for your business. However, if you are a startup or a one-person marketing team at an SMB, you can use this process to gradually build your site for success. Additionally, you can utilize this information to hold your web design and development partner accountable.

If you ever want to discuss your website with us, feel free to reach out via our contact form.

Check Out Our Web Development Packages and SEO Packages.

About the Author

Justin Scott

Justin Scott is the Florida Branch Manager at ARF Services. Talk about web design, SEO, and digital marketing that will meet your needs. Read more by Justin Scott

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