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     Web Site Design Process

Phase 1: Define the Scope
Before any work can be done on a site, you need to define the scope of the project. In most cases, this involves information gathering, background research, comparison studies, risk and budget analysis, understanding time constraints, any anticipated maintenance needs (such as updating the site with content), establishing goals and targeting audience. The scope should be clearly defined and agreed upon by all parties at the on-set of the project. It is during this phase that a single contact and sign-off person on the client-side needs to be firmly agreed upon.  By defining the project's scope, you're on your way to guaranteeing its success.

Phase 2: Planning the Project
In the planning phase, all the original information gathered in Phase 1 needs to be re-evaluated and verified. The architecture of the site needs to be developed, and the framework must be built. Sitemaps and flow charts are common at this stage of the game. Content is developed and prepared for the framework of the site. Specific features of the site (such as dynamic content) are firmly defined and approved by your contact person prior to proceeding any further.

Phase 3: Design and Testing
In most cases, the design phase starts before the architecture has been finished. Designers work to add visual representation to the thoughts and ideas presented in the first two phases. By the time the look and feel is established, the entire site is laid out and ready to enter production.

Although this phase can actually occur many times throughout the entire design and development process, it most often takes place both before and after Production and Implementation (see Phase 4).  Whether testing is done with a paper prototype of a potential design, a Web site mockup, or a fully functional Web site, usability testing is a very important way to ensure that the final product meets both the client's expectations and the users' needs.  This phase may include multiple rounds of testing, from formal focus groups or contextual interviewing, to informal audience studies. Testing can check for everything from HTML tagging bugs to typos to programming errors, or just to give feedback on the usability of an interface.

Phase 4: Production and Implementation
The production and implementation phase encompasses the merging of content with the designed layout. All pages are coded, and graphics are produced.  Testing takes place to ensure the site performs at its highest level. All of the final pieces are put into place prior to acceptance and launch.

Phase 5: Marketing the Site
The web is a passive medium. If you build it, they will not come.  A Web site will achieve maximum success only if a targeted marketing campaign completes site development.

Site Marketing does not begin when the site is launched. It begins in the strategic planning phase.  Who is the target audience?  Why are they coming to the site?  What do they want to see when they get here?  How will they find the site?  It is important to develop a carefully crafted marketing strategy that will deliver measurable results.

Phase 6: Maintenance and Updates
     Once the site has been accepted and launched, it may enter into the realm of a maintenance phase -- where either the client or the developer makes any necessary changes or updates. However, because this phase could actually include all of the other phases (for instance, if the client requests a re-design or additional content), the issue of maintenance and/or changes must be addressed at the very start of the project.

Of course, every client is different; therefore every project has its own needs. This means that every project needs to follow a standard set of guidelines.  Since you can't make up a whole new set of rules after the ninth hole, the rules have got to be set in place prior to tee-off.

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Last modified - Monday, December 27, 2004 -
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