The most successful websites need three fundamental things: compelling content, impressive aesthetics and functionality that’s suited to the organisation’s business aims. This all needs to be wrapped in strong branding and powerful SEO and user experience (UX) values.
Easy, right? Far from it. Building and maintaining a website that attracts and converts leads takes strategic planning right across the web development life cycle.
Which leads to the question, what is the web development lifecycle?
The first step to a high-performance website
Creating a website that achieves your business goals will rarely involve taking the easy route and opting for an online template. Nor can you merrily design beautiful pages in step one!
The beginning of web development involves extensive research and consideration, including a competitor analysis and work to firm up your brand if necessary.
Also, the best websites are customer-centric. They are designed and built based on valuable business intelligence about user behaviour, buying preferences and decision-making. In other words, you must create a website based on an understanding of who your customers are, and their preferences, needs and expectations.
Building up your content
Some people prioritise the next step over this one, but deciding the purpose and contents of your website helps to inform the design process.
Is your primary aim to inform, educate, persuade, sell or influence – or a mixture? Your brand identity and brand statements (USPs) then need to dictate colours and other theming choices, as well as your images, infographics, text and other content. This is when you want to plot out how to support search engine optimisation with keywords too.
Designing a successful website
The next part of the web development lifecycle is creating a customised design, using a versatile platform like WordPress or bespoke coding.
You will probably progress through artwork that demonstrates the proposed layout – including a site plan – before the construction of a wireframe. This is when you decide where you will place menus, tabs and content on your prototype site.
With that all agreed, the back-end aspects of your website, especially payment and customer relationship management systems – can be decided on. You will get a dashboard that enables you to add and remove data.
Throughout all of this, it’s essential to keep your website ‘on brand’, distinctive and easy on the eye.
Checking your UX
That last point is not just about pages looking great. One of the basic principles of user experience is ensuring that page visitors find what they need at a glance, and move to your action page (buy, register, visit or so on) in as few clicks as possible.
Is the most important information at the top of the page, and is your call to action loud and clear?
Beyond clarity and navigation, the other things to pin down at this stage include page loading speeds and – if it’s an eCommerce site – a checkout page that’s seamless and stress-free.
Functionality and simplicity
One of the biggest enemies of UX is a web developer or site owner who goes overboard with data files and plugins!
Of course, you need the correct functionality and content, like product directories that match your business goals. However, hefty data files and too many features will slow your site down and cause you to lose leads.
Also, make sure this is a responsive website that works equally well across all browsers and devices. If you have completed the first stages in a well-researched and considered way, your website should be simple to use, streamlined and effective.
After your website goes live
Does the web development lifecycle end when your site is live? Far from it. As the word ‘cycle’ implies, web development is a never-ending process!
You should have built in some handy analytical features that enable you to regularly evaluate how well you are attracting and converting leads. Also, refreshing your content regularly is vital for SEO and UX. Programme updates and other housekeeping tasks keep your site secure and functioning well too.
Crucially, you also need to continuously back up your website data and maintain the most up-to-date cyber security measures.
Much of this involves you – or an outside expert – regularly testing your website’s performance across multiple fronts.
In other words… the web development life cycle has a start, but no finish!
If you’re about to embark on your next web development project, why not let us do all the hard work we’ve outlined above for you? Our specialist web development team can help with your project from responsive web development to website hosting. Check out the full range of services we offer to help you! Get in touch with us if you’re ready for us to take on your next project or if you have any questions.