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February 28, 2015

The Web Development Process - Part 2

Part II Development and Launch

4. Site Development

It is now time to actually start building the website. There are two major steps during this stage:

1. Technical/Functional Planning

2. Build and Integrate the Site

1. Technical/Functional Planning

First,review the Discovery Phase answers, Site Structure and Visual Design and confirm that everything is in alignment and supports the overall project goals and needs. Next, review and adjust the technical/functional specifications for the site:

Basic Technical Specs - generally speaking the basic components revolve around:

  1. Browsers - what browsers will you target: Chrome, Firefox, Safari?
  2. Operating Systems - Mac, Windows, Other?
  3. Display Resolution - what is the screen resolution the site will be designed for? What other screen resolutions will be supported gracefully?
  4. Connection Speeds - what is the expected connection speed for your primary users, what other connection speeds will you target?
  5. Page Download Sizes:
  • 30K and under
  • 30-80k (typical page)
  • 80-100k (graphic heavy)
  • 100k+ (not recommended unless all users are high-bandwidth)

Confirm Functional Specs - what technical/system functionality does your site require? Use of W3C web standards is recommended to insure that your site performs correctly, in any environment. The basic tools and functions are:

  • CSS
  • Flash
  • (X)HTML version
  • JavaScript
  • Rich Media (video, audio)
  • Search functions
  • Secure Credit Card Transactions
  • Backend Technologies (database, cgi, CMS, personalization, login)
  • Web Analytics - Google Analytics for your site at UT

2. Build and Integrate the Site

Yeah! Time to turn all this planning into reality! The steps include:

a. Building templates using web standards

  • CSS - separate presentation from content
  • (X)HTML - use valid (x)html
  • Javascript - add light scripting, degrade gracefully and maintain accessibility
  • Optimize - optimize images, css and (x)html
  • Run initial tests on templates

b. Create Pages

  • Pour content into templates
  • Establish method for content contributors to review, update and add content

c. Backend Development = CMS

This is the core administrative backend that allows for the updating of general content pages on the site. Most of the systems described below would be custom applications built on top of a base system. A good CMS can accommodate multiple users with access to different sections/features. You can build a multi-level security functionality, if needed, in order to accomodate the various users..

The CMS provides your administrator with an easy to use browser-based WYSIWYG content editor. Users familiar with Microsoft Word and other text editors will quickly learn how to author and publish content on your new website without the need to learn HTML. The WYSIWYG editor includes standard formatting options (e.g., bold, underline, numbered lists, and tables) as well the ability to upload, resize and reposition images in real-time while editing the document.

Samples of some of the most widely used systems controled by a CMS:

  • E-commerce functions
  • Blog posting and editing
  • Document uploading
  • Calendars
  • Social media publishing
  • News releases uploading

5. Quality Assurance Testing

1. Content - accurate, understandable, spelling, grammar (review conducted by content contributors / content editors)

2. Links - review site for broken links

3. Functionality - does the site perform the functions defined in the original project definition, create task list and conduct methodical testing

4. Validity - validate (X)HTML, validate CSS

5. Accessibility - automated or manual section 508 tests

6. Browser/OS/Resolution - cross browser functionality on the target browsers

7. Connection Speed - use the a web page analyzer to get analysis and recommendations on the speed/size of your pages

8. Usability - conduct informal or formal usability testing with your target audience

9. Search Engine Optimization - review your site for semantic markup. Read about Organic SEO

10. Load Testing - contact your server administrator to discuss load testing techniques

11. Security - request automated SecurityXM Scan, review file authorizations, review authentication method, conduct authentication test

6. Site Launch

Once you give your web designer final approval, it is time to deliver the site. An FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program is used to upload the web site files to your server. Most web designers offer domain name registration and web hosting services as well. Once these accounts have been set up, and your website uploaded to the server, the site should be put through one last run-through. This is just precautionary, to confirm that all files have been uploaded correctly, and that the site continues to be fully functional.

7. Maintenance

The development of your web site is not necessarily over, however. Most sites need to offer new content or products on a regular basis. This is where a retainer agreement comes in handy - most web designers will be more than happy to continue working together with you, to update the information on your web site. Similarly, many agencies offer maintenance packages at reduced rates, based on how often you anticipate making changes or additions to your web site.

Remember: a website driven by a CMS gives you the ability to edit the content areas of the web site yourself. You’ll be able to edit existing content this way, or if you are feeling more adventurous, you can even add new pages and content yourself. But, there are things that might require heavy lifting - or simply are beyond the scope of the WYSIWYG functionality of the CMS.

It’s really up to you as far as how comfortable you feel as far as updating your own web site. Some people prefer to have all the control so that they can make updates to their own web site the minute they decide to do so. Others prefer to hand off the web site entirely, as they have enough tasks on-hand that are more important for them to handle directly.

That’s where the help of a your web designer comes in, once again, as they can take over the web site maintenance for you – one less thing for you to do is always a good thing in these busy times!

Other maintenance type items include SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SES (Search Engine Submission). This is the optimization of you web site with elements such as title, description and keyword tags which help your website achieve higher rankings in the search engines. The previously mentioned code validation is something that plays a vital role in SEO, as well. This is a very important step, because even though you now have a web site, you need to make sure that people can find it!

Attila Sary