New Website Development: 10 Items for Your Checklist
What is the way to avoid any mistakes and to use every important details in order to launch a website or app successfully?
We start a new business, plan a pivot or create a new branch of a successfully expanding business. In any case, nowadays a website, as a "window" into the global network, is an integral part of the strategic development plan.
When creating something new, we are not bound by confines of an already existing product (say, as in case of the redesign). We have the opportunity to start from scratch and create, we dare say, an ideal product. Or the product, which is little short of the ideal.
If you have no website development experience, or if you want to implement an idea, which is totally new to you, it is better to seek help of professionals.
Regardless of the project scale: from a landing page to a huge online store, you have the opportunity to get it right the first time, so not to re-do it later. Why not take an advantage of it?
Website development is a complicated and multifaceted process, which requires serious preparation and monitoring.
Just imagine: this is not one or two people who will work on the product.
Depending on the project complexity, goals and scope, the work may involve:
- solution architect;
- web designer / UX/UI designer / product - designer;
- layout designer;
- SEO expert;
- PM (Project Manager - a person in charge for organizing a team’s work).
The larger the project and the tighter the deadlines, the more specialists are engaged in the process and the more things one should know when building the website.
Proper environment shall be arranged for the experts, and namely:
- work is to be organized;
- a clear plan based on the project’s specifics is to be drawn up;
- plan implementation is to be monitored;
- changes required are to be introduced in the course of solving the existing problems and facing a new one.
This sounds complicated, doesn’t it? But is realizable.
You just need an effective approach and modern methods and tools.
Checklists present a simple and efficient way to control and organize work (in any field).
Checklist is a list of items/questions/positions used to check whether the work/task/procedure is performed correctly.
Checklists allow the following:
- to streamline and systematize actions;
- to visualize the process and the status;
- to exclude unnecessary items;
- to fix the practically proved process and to avoid repeated mistakes.
Checklists have long confirmed their practicability:
- starting with housewives who write a list before going shopping and scratch off things already bought;
- to serious banking operations, for which checklists are made to describe a sequence of actions required.
The Internet offers a lot of checklist templates and even tools to create them for every occasion.
In our work, we also use this convenient technique (both generally for the project and individual checklists for each person engaged) in order to:
- systematize and coordinate the work of all the specialists engaged;
- to get involved in the process, monitor it and the following results;
- simplify the work time management for each specialist;
- give PM the possibility to have a retrospective view and to optimize the process, if required.
We have developed our own checklist specifying the basic process for developing websites and apps, which:
- has been successfully used by Umbrella IT for several years already;
- we consider now the shortest way to achieving goals;
- can be adapted, if it does not match your case.
Please, consider that all checklist items are closely interconnected and overlap.
For this reason, we do not offer any fixed items order: study them carefully, and in the process of project implementation consider them all in general while focusing on the one, being most significant at the definite moment.
1. GOAL SETTING
Start by setting goals and defining specific tasks.
In fact, it is very difficult to factor in all the intricacies of the future process, especially if it is completely unfamiliar to you.
We in Umbrella IT always support our clients. We are ready to help and give advice, starting with the very first call and/or e-mail, because we are aware of the significance of a proper start is.
But this is you to make the decision:
- either you define specific tasks and project requirements on your own;
- or you think of a general idea, and then entrust a chosen team with developing the concept in detail.
The more specifically you define the goals and requirements, the higher the probability is that the end result will meet your expectations.
2. FIRST COMMUNICATION
When selecting a team to work on your project, you fix the time for the first call/meeting.
You get acquainted with a solution architect or analyst who will run your project, discuss the product’s general idea and submit any pre-designed and pre-defined requirements, specifications and sketches available: any information that will help the team to understand what you want to get at the end.
Following several such communication sessions, you decide on which team to choose. And the team, in its turn, draw conclusions as to what they can offer you.
The final results of the work largely depend on the choice you make at this stage. You should consider all the information about the team that you can get.
Be sure to check the following:
- experience (preferably at least 3 years in commercial development);
- convincing portfolio;
- at least, 15 people in the team;
- real references;
- the company’s own high-quality website;
- your impressions of the first communication (psychological compatibility, approach to work and flexibility);
- office of the company (if they have any or they work from home);
- style of communication (whether they answer quickly and to the point).
In no way the fruitful cooperation always mean joyful and optimistic regular reporting. You should be aware not only of the progress but also of the challenges and the ways to overcome them. You should have a feeling that you can trust the team in any situation. In this case, you are practically guaranteed to successfully launch the website.
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After you have made up your mind about the team to entrust your project, the predevelopment begins.
To help the specialists to understand what you want your future website to be like, you need to answer accurately and concisely to some organizational and technical question. Thus, the team will get the full picture of the future product and final detailed requirements thereto.
From our experience we have formed our predevelopment checklist and offer it to you as an extra aid:
- What are business goals for the project?
- Which indicators are used to measure the project success?
- What will happen if these business goals are not reached on time?
- To what extent a success or a failure of this project can affect your financial position (the company's reputation at the market, etc.)?
- Do you want to use ready-made solutions to achieve the project goals?
- Is this project related to your other projects? If yes, in what way?
- Are there any restrictions for this project (timing, budget, technology, countries of use, etc.)?
- Is there a team ready to work on the project on your part? Who is included?
- Who makes decisions (sign contractual documentation, budget, work acceptance, a transition to a new phase of works, etc.)?
- Do you have any internal procedures that the team shall adhere to?
- Are there any detailed project requirements (separately for design, SEO, role distribution, etc.)? In what form do you prefer to present them?
- Will you need to develop a mobile application in the future?
- Are there any technology requirements?
Yes, right you are! There are many questions (and this is only a rough list). At this stage, you will need to work profoundly with the team. Nobody but you can explain what exactly you want to get at the end.
It is up to you to choose the form to present the questions and answers. We are client-focused: questions can be offered in writing or you can discuss them with our architect.
As a result, after a joint discussion of ideas, options, and possible risks, the team will start working on their more visual form.
A mind map is a schematic representation of the future website functions grouped by blocks. This is kind of a function guide.
When you receive a completed map, you should compare it with your idea and adjust, if required.
Do not be afraid to ask. The more things you discuss at the initial stage, the easier it will be to work further on and the lower is the risk of errors and rework.
After the mind map is approved, the team makes a preliminary estimate of the works to do and the timeframe.
Again, you are actively involved in the process to discuss and agree upon the result achieved
We have already told you in detail in our article how mind maps and wireframes are developed.
Whether any wireframe prototypes will be developed or not and at which stage (before signing the contract or after), it depends on what is optimal for your project.
As the estimate and the scope of functions are agreed upon, you can proceed to sign the contract.
4. SIGNING THE CONTRACT
A contract for website development is the similar legal document as in any other deal or business. Therefore, it is recommended to involve lawyers prior to entering into it.
But there are aspects that should be paid special attention to:
- to specify deadlines and key requirements in the annex to the contract;
- to stipulate in advance who has the rights for the final product;
- to discuss NDA signing (or NDA may be a part of the main contract);
- to outline a work transfer-and-acceptance procedure, frequency, and form of payment, as well as penalties.
In any other matters, follow generally accepted practices, which you are accustomed to.
There are several options to work on the design:
- you may have a ready-made design developed according to your overall marketing plan for the website launch;
- or you have already chosen a designer to perform the work;
- or you may entrust the design to the same team that is involved in the development.
Depending on the situation, the activities aimed to develop, approve and coordinate the design may be summarized in another checklist to be fit into the overall project work plan.
More details as to what happens in the designer workshop you can find here.
As soon as everything is agreed upon and signed, the creation process begins. At this stage, you will enjoy the results of the job achieved in collaboration with the team starting from the day one.
PUSHING FOR DEVELOPMENT
Following signing the contract, you receive a welcome letter with a notification that the project is sent to development. The PM will be your contact person, responsible for organizing and coordinating the project activities.
The PM provides you with a detailed schedule of all activities to be performed (roadmap).
The document specifies:
- breakdown of the project into phases (that is, the project stages to implement a certain amount of work);
- breakdown of the phases into sprints (short intervals, about a week long);
- work starting date;
- number of developers involved;
- progress status (as the work progresses, the status changes: planned, in progress, ready for review, reviewed and implemented).
Such specific and detailed visual information helps all parties involved in the process to understand exactly what is happening at the moment and what is planned next. Naturally, in the course of the project, the schedule can change depending on the progress, external impacts, etc.
Simultaneously, tools are adjusted and configured to track execution of the tasks (we use Trello). Based on the work schedule, the PM distributes tasks among the team members, transfers them into the system and constantly monitors their progress.
The process of coding and testing runs in three environments:
- development (the developer writes the code and pre-checks its function);
- staging (at this phase, the client can view the already tested blocks);
- production (as soon as the decision is made that the functions are ready to work, the server and its domain name are configured, and the application is uploaded to the production server. In some cases, unrestricted access is provided not to all users, but only to a certain group of people in order to test their response and collect the results (and make any adjustments, if required).
As the work progresses, following the production phase various services are connected that allows you to assess the performance of the product created:
- New Relic is the service that allows you to assess a technological component - performance;
- services like Google Analytics allow you to trace users’ behavior on the website and analyze the conversion.
The documents under the project are executed throughout the whole process. This is an important part of the work, which shall not be underestimated, because you may need all descriptions, test results, design options, codes, etc. in the future.
8. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Search engine optimization is required to ensure that your website is in line with all requirements of search engines and, as a consequence, ends up at the top of search results.
To make the search engine optimization really effective, you need to start working on it in advance, as you start thinking over the concept, and continue in the process of coding. The relevant requirements are set to:
- page structure;
- correct url;
- usage of keywords;
- correct sitemap;
- correct code.
When the project enters the production phase, the page loading speed and indexes are checked. After such tests, adjustments are made, if required.
Why is it important?
One way or another, you will need to deal closely with the search engine optimization later on, in order to bring the website conversion to a proper level, so that it would meet the goals set.
SEO specialists prepare and implement the optimization strategy, and if the relevant requirements are met at the development stage, they can act more efficiently, without being distracted by the need to change the code, etc.
9. PROJECT COMPLETION
Completion of the project is another major milestone, for which both parties involved in the process should be prepared:
- the team checks the closure of all planned activities against the checklist;
- it is checked whether all works are accepted;
- the client performs final payments;
- the client is provided with all the documents, as agreed in the contract;
- the project is closed.
After the contracted activities are completed, you may be offered some hardware and software support
- entering into SLA (Service License Agreement). Under this agreement, the team provides technical support to the client's servers to timely eliminate any possible errors or failures.
Thus, you will always have "assistants" at hand. It is up to you to decide, whether you need such services or not.
We have told you about 10 key items that should be included in your checklist to launch a new website.
And here is a traditional bonus from Umbrella IT - we always give our clients more than we promise.
Here is one more, eleventh point in your checklist.
11. THINKING OVER MOBILE VERSION
No doubt, the website or application will play their part in your business development, and the user behavior can be easier tracked on the web resource if compared with mobile apps.
But in the current context, as the mobile users share is constantly growing, this is unreasonable to ignore that huge market. That’s why we recommend to initially think over the further extension of your web product through a mobile app. We will tell of the way to do it in our next article. Follow our new publication on our site!