Web Site Development Process – The Life-cycle Steps

A system development process can follow a number of standard or company specific frameworks, methodologies, modeling tools and languages. Software development life cycle normally comes with some standards which can fulfill the needs of any development team. Like software, web sites can also be developed with certain methods with some changes and additions with the existing software development process. Let us see the steps involve in any web site development.

1. Analysis:

Once a customer is started discussing his requirements, the team gets into it, towards the preliminary requirement analysis. As the web site is going to be a part of a system, It needs a complete analysis as, how the web site or the web based application is going to help the present system and how the site is going to help the business. Moreover the analysis should cover all the aspects especially on how the web site is going to join the existing system. The first important thing is finding the targeted audience. Then, All the present hardware, software, people and data should be considered during the time of analysis. For example, if a company XYZ corp is in need of a web site to have its human resource details online, the analysis team may try to utilize the existing data about the employees from the present database. The analysis should be done in the way, that it may not be too time consuming or with very less informative. The team should be able to come up with the complete cost-benefit analysis and as the plan for the project will be an output of analysis, it should be realistic. To achieve this the analyst should consult the designers, developers and testers to come up with a realistic plan.

Input: Interviews with the clients, Mails and supporting docs by the client, Discussions Notes, Online chat, recorded telephone conversations,Model sites/applications etc.,

Output: 1. Work plan, 2. Cost involved, 3. Team requirements, 4. Hardware-software requirements, 5. Supporting documents and 6. the approval

2. Specification Building:

Preliminary specifications are drawn up by covering up each and every element of the requirement. For example if the product is a web site then the modules of the site including general layout, site navigation and dynamic parts of the site should be included in the spec. Larger projects will require further levels of consultation to assess additional business and technical requirements. After reviewing and approving the preliminary document, a written proposal is prepared, outlining the scope of the project including responsibilities, timelines and costs.

Input: Reports from the analysis team

Output: Complete requirement specifications to the individuals and the customer/customer’s representative

3. Design and development:

After building the specification, work on the web site is scheduled upon receipt of the signed proposal, a deposit, and any written content materials and graphics you wish to include. Here normally the layouts and navigation will be designed as a prototype.

Some customers may be interested only in a full functional prototype. In this case we may need to show them the interactivity of the application or site. But in most of the cases customer may be interested in viewing two or three design with all images and navigation.

There can be a lot of suggestions and changes from the customer side, and all the changes should be freezed before moving into the next phase. The revisions could be redisplayed via the web for the customer to view.

As needed, customer comments, feedback and approvals can be communicated by e-mail, fax and telephone.

Throughout the design phase the team should develop test plans and procedures for quality assurance. It is necessary to obtain client approval on design and project plans.

In parallel the Database team will sit and understand the requirements and develop the database with all the data structures and sample data will also be prepared.

Input: Requirement specification

Output: Site design with templates, Images and prototype

4. Content writing:

This phase is necessary mainly for the web sites. There are professional content developers who can write industry specific and relevant content for the site. Content writers to add their text can utilize the design templates. The grammatical and spelling check should be over in this phase.

Input: Designed template

Output: Site with formatted content

5. Coding:

Now its programmers turn to add his code without disturbing the design. Unlike traditional design the developer must know the interface and the code should not disturb the look and feel of the site or application. So the developer should understand the design and navigation. If the site is dynamic then the code should utilize the template. The developer may need to interact with the designer, in order to understand the design. The designer may need to develop some graphic buttons when ever the developer is in need, especially while using some form buttons. If a team of developers is working they should use a CVS to control their sources. Coding team should generate necessary testing plans as well as technical documentation. For example Java users can use JavaDoc to develop their documents to understand their code flow. The end-user documentation can also be prepared by the coding team, which can be used by a technical writer who can understand them, writes helps and manuals later.

Input: The site with forms and the requirement specification

Output: Database driven functions with the site, Coding documents

6. Testing:

Unlike software, web based applications need intensive testing, as the applications will always function as a multi-user system with bandwidth limitations. Some of the testing which should be done are, Integration testing, Stress testing, Scalablity testing, load testing, resolution testing and cross-browser compatibility testing. Both automated testing and manual testing should be done without fail. For example its needed to test fast loading graphics and to calculate their loading time, as they are very important for any web site. There are certain testing tools as well as some online testing tools which can help the testers to test their applications. For example ASP developers can use Microsoft’s Web Application Test Tool to test the ASP applications, which is a free tool available from the Microsoft site to download.

After doing all the testing a live testing is necessary for web sites and web based applications. After uploading the site there should be a complete testing(E.g.. Links test)

Input: The site, Requirement specifications, supporting documents, technical specifications and technical documents

Output: Completed application/site, testing reports, error logs, frequent interaction with the developers and designers

7. Promotion:

This phase is applicable only for web sites. Promotion needs preparation of meta tags, constant analysis and submitting the URL to the search engines and directories. There is a details article in this site on site promotion, click here to read it. The site promotion is normally an ongoing process as the strategies of search engine may change quite often. Submitting a site URLs once in 2 months can be an ideal submission policy. If the customer is willing, then paid click and paid submissions can also be done with additional cost.

Input: Site with content, Client mails mentioning the competitors

Output: Site submission with necessary meta tag preparation

8. Maintenance and Updating:

Web sites will need quite frequent updations to keep them very fresh. In that case we need to do analysis again, and all the other life cycle steps will repeat. Bug fixes can be done during the time of maintenance. Once your web site is operational, ongoing promotion, technical maintenance, content management & updating, site visit activity reports, staff training and mentoring is needed on a regular basis depend on the complexity of your web site and the needs within your organization.

Input: Site/Application, content/functions to be updated, re-Analysis reports

Output: Updated application, supporting documents to other life cycle steps and teams.

The above-mentioned steps alone are not strict to web application or web site development. Some steps may not applicable for certain tasks. Its depend on the cost and time involved and the necessity. Sometimes if it is a intranet site, then there will be no site promotion. But even if you are a small development firm, if you adopt certain planning along with this web engineering steps in mind, it will definitely reflects in the Quality of the outcome.

See the flowchart “How we do web development in Macronimous?”[PDF format]

Finding Web Design Fluency

1- Start Simple. Place your big content on the page first and work your way from there. After you add your pictures and videos you’ll find that the designing work suddenly begins to flow from there. It’s always easier to create something from something rather than something from nothing.

2- Don’t be afraid to go wrong. You can always erase anything you don’t like. Write down ideas as they come, play around, move things around on the screen and ctrl Z any mistake. It’s much likelier you’ll find a good idea while you work rather than by sitting still and dumb in front of your screen. All the greats do it, improvise. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Allow yourself to write at least 10 silly ideas down. I’m willing to bet at least one of them will move on with you to the next part of the web design process.

3- Take from the World. Use your eyes and your ears and absorb as much as you can. You never know when genius will strike. You may be doing something completely irrelevant. I can’t tell you exactly what to do to find inspiration but I can tell you that stressing about it has never done the trick for me. You can however, browse through other websites from the same field as yours, or simply websites that have caught your eye and use them as inspiration. Imitation is after all the highest form of flattery. One day you may find your own designs being used as inspiration.

4- Don’t Fall In Love Too Fast. How many times have you found yourself pouring your entire soul into the design of something as small as a button? Designers tend to become attached to their creations and at times they lose objectivity. If the people surrounding you are telling you that the button you just invested your soul in is out of context or inappropriate for this site, you may want to listen to them. I’m not encouraging peer pressure but you need t remember that at the end of the day, your new website is for everyone but you. If something rubs most of your potential website visitors the wrong way, it may be a good idea to let it go.

5- Ask for people’s opinions – this is basically on the same note as the previous point. Ultimately the website will serve you best by being attractive and accessible to as many people as possible. Even if you’re an artist and you have your own independent style I would recommend you leave your creative independence at home when you set to the task of customizing one of our free website templates.

6- Keep Learning – If this is your tenth website I think this is the perfect time to take advice from point number three and visit a museum or a football game. Don’t stick to the same clich├ęs. What was revolutionary and outstanding the first time around will not remain so on the fifth imitation. Just think about “the sixth sense” movie. Now that was truly original and exciting when I first saw it, and now they come out with a new rip-off of the film every few months. I don’t even bother seeing them anymore. Prevent your website from being a cheap imitation of a horror film, stay original, and stay fresh. Once again, it’s better to come up with something horrifying once in a while, as long as you know you are continuing a process of development and growth.

7- Have Fun! If you don’t enjoy working on web design, find someone who does. Nobody is ever particularly good at things they hate so don’t count on being the exception. What are you waiting for? Choose a template and get to work!

Can the Use of Flash Benefit Your Web Development Project?

If you have been listening to Apple fanatics, you may think that Flash is on its way out when it comes to websites. This is actually not the case. In fact, an increasing number of websites are continuing to use Flash animation and the program is still one of the best to use when you want to add visual interest to any website development project.

What Flash does

Flash is capable of adding animated segments to a website that would otherwise be static and visually uninteresting. Some take the form of small, animated areas and others take the form of flash games that relate to your company and the products or services that it provides. They all can make someone sit up and take notice of your site and make it easier to convert clicks to sales because they can keep a prospective client’s interest long enough for you to sell them what you are offering.

Flash concerns: are they valid?

One thing that many customers worry about is whether an area of Flash animation will slow down the speed with which their website can load. In the past, it was thought that Flash animation would really bog down how quickly a website would load. It was thought to be particularly bad in circumstances where users had slow connection speeds. It has now been proven that this is not the case. There is now no reason why you cannot use Flash to make your website much more visually appealing.

Can Flash help with SEO?

Many companies do not realize that Flash animation can actually contribute to higher SEO rankings. The fact is that word of mouth can often cause a larger number of users to visit a particular website. What draws them to certain websites? Often, it is Flash animation. Depending on the type that is used, it can actually bring them back again and again, especially if a company keeps their website development project looking fresh and new by changing up their animation from time to time.

Because you are getting a larger number of hits from both first-time and repeat users, your SEO rankings will increase. When used in combination with other SEO methods it can really help to skyrocket a website to the top of search results.

What to be careful of

Of course, there are things that you should be careful of. You should never simply include Flash animation for its own sake. Instead, you need to find ways to use animation in a way that it will promote your company, its products or its services. Items such as flash banners can also help you to incorporate advertising that will also increase your site revenue.

When selecting a website design or development company, you need to make sure that they have experience working with Flash. An inexperienced developer may create a piece of animation that not only fails to promote your company but which may actually end up destroying the feel of your website and driving away the very customers that you are hoping to attract.