Process is vital to success in the web development industry. Having a defined process enables you to finish work quickly and efficiently, and to ensure that time on a project isn’t being wasted. Process also helps ease the client’s fears and demonstrates that you’re professionals. But with web design and development projects for small businesses, it can be easy to let process slide. After all, the projects are small in scale, and everything is a bit more relaxed. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect the process. In this article, I’ve outlined a simple, 7-step process for WordPress development projects.
Step 1: Discovery
Calling this stage “Discovery” always makes me feel like Indiana Jones, exploring forgotten tombs and finding hidden treasure. And it can be a little bit like that. Discovery is all about figuring out exactly what the business needs from their website, and how the site ties in to their overall goals. While Indiana Jones has to navigate through complex booby traps and fight off armies of bad guys, your discovery process is a bit less strenuous, and even more fun. Prepare a list of questions to ask your client – they can answer them in a document, and then you can come together to discuss further. The questions will cover the business goals, their pain points, the problems they want the web project to solve, their audience, what content they require as well as the brand look and feel requirements. This slidedeck form the folks at WP Valet goes even deeper on the discovery process…
Step 2: Solution definition
After you and your client have completed discovery and you feel confident you understand their goals, the next stage is where you figure out your strategy for tackling the web development project. How you arrive at this solution is completely up to you. Some web development companies like to get the whole team together to brainstorm potential ideas. Others like to have the individual team members go away and come up with some concepts. Some teams will do a lot of research into the market and competitors, and others will leave the conceptual work to one or two specific people. This is also the stage where you agree on all the required features and functions for the website, and which plugins you’ll use for contact forms, store locators, ecommerce or lead capture.
Step 3: Content development
During the content development stage, the concepts for all the page content of the website are drafted – images, text and other rich media. This becomes the framework for the site features. Depending on the project and the capabilities of your team, the content development may fall to your company, or it may be the responsibility of the client. Alternatively, you could hire one or more freelancers – copywriters, photographers or videographers – to complete the content development. Of course content development is an entire science in and of itself. If you are interested to dive deeper this webinar from Brainrider offers some great takeaways on developing great B2B content in particular, but the lessons are pretty universal…
Step 4. Design
During the design stage, you work with the client to develop the visual look and feel. You may be starting from scratch with branding for a new company, or simply tweaking existing brand elements to work in an updated site. You create page templates for the site and show the client what they’re going to look like. It’s easy at this stage to shift elements such as navigation panels and images around on the page. This design stage will go through several iterations, each one moving closer to a final, approved design. As soon as the client signs off on the design, you can move to the next stage – development.
Step 5. Development:
Being a web development company, you’ve probably been itching to get your hands on the backend of this project ever since Discovery. Well, now is your chance to shine. Here, you take the signed-off designs and code them into the WordPress template. You’re creating the theme so that it matches the design concept, while also ensuring all the functionality works seamlessly together. There can be quite a few different iterations during the development stage, while different aspects of the project are brought together and tested. Testing is a vital component of the development stage. Each iteration needs to be tested on a staging site to ensure all the functionality is working. One everybody is satisfied the site is ready, you can begin the second-to-last stage – Deployment.
Step 6: Deployment
Thunderbirds are go! It is time to get this beautiful wordpress site into the big wide world. Hit PUBLISH and launch the site on the schedule the client provides. It’s time to clink glasses and celebrate another job well done. You’ll probably discover a few things go wrong, so be available during launch to quickly solve any issues.
Step 7: Management
Now the site is live, your job is over … right? Wrong. Although the hard work is behind you, with any web development project, there will be ongoing management tasks. For starters, there might be a few bugs in the site that aren’t detected until a few days or weeks after launch. Every time WordPress or one of the plugins releases an update, this can cause other elements to break. You may find you need to make little tweaks every now and then or replace plugins in order to keep things running smoothly. There may also be ongoing content needs, for example, blog posts, articles or white papers to be added, new pages created as staff members leave or services change, and other updates.
Tools to manage the project and workflow
Managing the different stages of a project can be a real headache, especially when your team is juggling several projects at once. Luckily there are several clever tools to help make things easier:
- WorkflowMax for overarching project management and resourcing. WorkflowMax is a fantastic cloud-based platform used by many creative and web development agencies to manage workflow. Jobs are entered into the system, staff and contractors can track time against them, and an invoice can be generated from this info. There are so many features you won’t know where to begin.
- InvisionApp for design prototyping. This is the leading app on the market for design prototyping. You can upload your designs and add hotspots to transform static screens into clickable interactive environments. An awesome collaborative tool for designers and clients.
- Gather Content for content planning and production. This platform enables you to gather the right information from your clients, set up fields and templates to make things easy for your content producers, and schedule your content production. Of course, you don’t have to follow a process like this exactly. You should work together with your team to come up with a workable process that makes sense for the type of work you do, but it’s important to ensure this process is supported by clever tools and apps to keep your web development agency profitably, professional and happy.
Check out this post from ALT Agency for more insights on the web development project management process.