There are numerous steps in the website design and development process, from gathering initial information, to the creation of your website, and finally to maintenance to keep your website up to date and current.
The exact process will vary slightly from customer to customer, but the basics are generally the same.
This first step is actually the most important one, as it involves a solid understanding of what your business goals are, and how your website can be utilized to help you achieve those goals.
What is the purpose of the site? Do you want to provide information, promote a service, or sell a product?
What do you hope to accomplish by building this website? Three of the more common goals are either to increase sales, provide more information about our company and its products and services as well as providing ways to better service your existing customers.
Is there a specific group of people that you are targeting? It is helpful to picture the “ideal customer”. Consider age, sex, interests and geographic location.
What kind of information will the target audience be looking for on your site? Are they looking for specific information, a particular product or service, online ordering?
We encourage clients to review competitor sites and discuss what they like and dislike about each site and to also review websites of companies that are in their respective industry as to navigation, design, functionality and content that would work best with their new or improved website.
Using the information gathered from our Introductory Meeting, InteractiveWest then goes to work in putting together recommendations and cost estimate for your new or improved website.
InteractiveWest will typically assist our clients in developing a Site Map listing primary categories as an example that could include Services, Products, About Us, Support and Contact Us areas of the site. Underneath these primary categories would be a listing of pages that contain additional content and resources to fully develop your company’s services, products, support offerings.
A site map serves, as a guide as to what content will be on the site, and is also essential to developing a consistent, easy to understand navigational system. The end-user of the website must be kept in mind when designing your new website. These are, after all, the people who will be learning about your service or buying your product. A good user interface creates an easy to navigate website.
During the planning phase, our web designer will also help you decide what applications will be implemented. InteractiveWest will be recommending applications including Content Management System and associated Components, Plugins, Modules and Extensions that will be needed. Other aspects including Ecommerce, Search Engine Optimization, Interactive Forms, Flash, Graphic Design, Customer Training, Project Management and Web Maintenance services will also be reviewed.
Drawing from the information gathered up to this point, it’s time to determine the look and feel of your site. InteractiveWest has relationships with over 50 graphic designers and graphic design firms that have experience in creating custom designed websites for large corporations to very small businesses. Our Graphic Designer will create one or more prototype designs for your new or improved website based on your input for Home and Inside Pages.
A second option is to consider purchase of a Commercial Template. Almost all of our web development projects utilize a Content Management System Application such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento or Expression Engine, Many third party developers sell already designed and coded commercial templates that typically costs less than $50.00 vs custom graphic design services that range from $750.00 to $3,500.00. There are literally thousands of commercial templates to choose from. InteractiveWest then would assist with customizing the look and feel of the newly purchased template with your company’s logo, color and layout changes etc.
Some popular Commercial Template Vendors include:
ThemeForest (WordPress, Joomla, Expression Engine and Magento Commercial Themes)
Themefuse (WordPress Commercial Themes)
Joomla Shack (Joomla Commercial Themes)
Many commercial themes incorporate backend features that eliminate the need for installing additional components, plugins, extensions or modules such as a Blog, Photo Gallery, Contact Us Form etc. that offer some cost savings and better integration of those features.
InteractiveWest will typically ask our clients to review Commercial Templates for the Content Management System Application that we will be utilizing for the project to help narrow down 3 or 4 commercial themes that we then review to let the client know the pluses and minuses of each theme and how easy or hard it will be to customize for the exact look and feel plus functionality needed for your new or improved website.
Development phase of the project typically begins after our client approves our estimate and forwards signed agreements and deposit to begin work on the project.
Our first step is to typically order a low cost domain such as a .info domain ($2.17 at GoDaddy) as an example, and setup web hosting services on our server for that new domain in order for our client to review development project in progress. Our programmers then download, install and configure pre-determined Content Management System Application along with any components, plugins, extensions or extensions plus commercial theme the client may have selected.
InteractiveWest then codes custom graphic design elements provided by one our graphic designers or begins customizing the commercial template you have selected. Once Home and Inside Page Templates have been modified and approved, we’ll begin building out content for pages throughout the site contained in the Site Map that was developed in the planning phase of the Project.
Elements such as Ecommerce, Blog, Photo Gallery, Slideshow, and Interactive forms will then be implemented. We then will ask for your input on additional changes or corrections.
On the technical front, a successful website requires an understanding of front-end web development. This involves writing valid XHTML/CSS code that complies with current web standards, maximizing functionality, as well as accessibility for as large an audience as possible.
Testing and Delivery
At this point, our web designer will attend to the final details and test your website. They will test things such as the complete functionality of forms or other scripts, as well testing for web browser compatibility issues ensuring that your website is optimized to be viewed properly in the most recent browser versions.
A good web designer is one who is well versed in current standards for website design and development. The basic technologies currently used are XHTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). As part of testing, our web designer should check to be sure that all of the code written for your website validates by using validation tool at W3C.org.
Search Engine Optimization
78% of Internet users conduct product research online and 50% of consumers spend 75% or more of their total shopping time conducting online research (Source - Search Engine Land, February 2010). Worldwide, we conduct 88,000,000 searches per month on Google.
Many Americans begin their purchasing experience by doing online research to compare prices, quality, and the reviews of other shoppers. Even if they end up making their purchase in a store, they start their fact-finding and decision-making on the Internet. To do this, they type keywords into sites like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask and AOL. The engines then rank sites related to these keywords based on relevance and authority.
It’s important to rank well in Search Engine results as 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results and 60% of all organic clicks go to the top three organic search results. 70% of the links users click on are organic links and not paid links.
Search engines extract these keywords from your on-page text, headers, page titles, inbound links and other factors. However, you might not have made a conscious decision to target those keywords. Even if you did, you might not be monitoring your rankings or have a sense of how good your chances are of ranking well for those keywords.
Once all keyword possibilities with sufficient search volumes are selected, keywords must then be filtered for relevancy. You don’t just want to pull in traffic; you want to ensure that your traffic is of high quality. Quality traffic helps you convert your visitors into customers at a higher rate.
We then optimize pages with title, keywords, description, editing of copy for keyword frequency and addition of alt and title image tags to each page along with other work to assist with have your site obtain higher organic search engine ranking that results in additional traffic to your new website.
Other Search Engine Optimization services we provide include utilizing WebPosition Site Submitter to submit your site to various Search Engines. We also add your website URL to DMOZ.org manually as many Search Engines rely on DMOZ to provide search results. A robots.txt file is added to direct search engines to crawl your site and also to exclude pages on your site that you may want excluded from Search Engine results.
Local Directories and Mobile Applications have become a major resource for consumers searching for products and services locally. 73% of all searches for businesses products and services are conducted on the Internet compared to 23% for printed Yellow Page directories (Source – 15 Miles Local Search Study 2010).
InteractiveWest provides a Local Search service where we manage your business listing through a Local Distribution Network of more than 100 Local Directories and Mobile Local Search Platforms such Google, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, SuperPages.com, YellowPages.com, YP.com, Dex Online, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, MerchantCircle, Local.com, Matchpoint, Kudzu and TomTom navigation devices.
Improving your Local Search visibility makes it easier for potential customers to find your business. Your business will appear in Search Engine and Local Directory results for your local area. Marketing your business online locally is a cost-effective way to reach new customers. Your business listing in Local Directories often contains a link to your website that both visitors and search engines use to find your website and learn more about your business. This, in turn, helps improve your overall website ranking with major search engines.
Staging website plus your new website are hosted on a Unix based server running Red Hat Enterprise Linux on a Dedicated Server. Any company that regards its website as a critical part of its business should choose a Web Hosting vendor that offers a dedicated server as the foundation of its web hosting infrastructure.
If your business does not want to get involved with day to day tasks such as server management and operating system security update installations or server monitoring and maintenance, InteractiveWest provides flexible web hosting services that allow businesses to focus on their business.
Your website is hosted on secure servers that include intrusion detection and protection with demonstrable system uptime including application software of 99.95%. Ongoing maintenance and upgrades to hardware and server applications are inclusive with vendor agreements InteractiveWest has in place with 1and1. InteractiveWest also employs a Server Administrator to oversee server upgrades on an ongoing basis and to troubleshoot any web hosting or email services issues.
InteractiveWest offers domain name registration services as well. Once your new domain has been created or existing domain dns record has been edited to point traffic to our server and when you give us final approval, it is time to make the site live. This marks the official launch of your site.
Once your new site has been launched, your staff will be trained to edit and add content to your WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or Expression Engine Content Management System. We review your web-based Admin backend and train you and your staff on how to edit, delete and add page content; upload images and files; and also review built-in Components, Plugins, Modules and Widgets. We also provide a style guide and written instructions to assist with maintaining your new site. If possible, InteractiveWest offers onsite Training. For staffs that aren’t local, InteractiveWest provides training services via WebEx.
It’s really up to our clients as to how comfortable they are in updating their website. Some people prefer to have all the control so that they can make updates to their own website the minute they decide to do so. Others prefer to hand off the website entirely, as they have enough tasks on-hand that are more important for them to handle directly.
The vast majority of our web development projects include a Content Management System. It offers the ability for our clients to edit and add content themselves. We give you access to a web-based backend administrative area, where you can use an online editor (similar to Microsoft Word) where you’ll be able to edit existing content and even add new pages and content yourself.
InteractiveWest always supports our customers with any necessary changes that could include template/design changes, menu changes and/or add additional functionality offered by a new Content Management System component, plugin, module or extension. InteractiveWest typically charges a modest hourly rate for web maintenance work and is able to quickly turn around website maintenance work for our clients.
Ongoing Client Consultation
The development of your website is not necessarily over, though. One way to bring repeat visitors to your site is to offer new content on a regular basis or add additional features or functionality with your website. Our web development team will be more than happy to continue working together with you, in making additional recommendations with improvements to your website and your overall internet marketing efforts.