In many respects, software development for the Web is a linear process. Many decisions are dependent on past steps. Changing something in the early stages of the project may cost almost nothing. Changing that same thing later on may double, triple, or even even increase the cost of the project 10-fold. Changes late in the game also usually introduce painful delays. Unanticipated change late in the game can even cause a project to fail.
A small, simple website can often be built by an experienced developer quickly, without a formal, documented work flow process. But in reality, the developer is usually keenly aware of what has to happen and in what order for a successful result.
As websites become larger and more complex, the need for a solid development process increases as do the risks of not using one. The subtleties are many and complex. Missing or not completing even a small step can make or break the project, jeopardizing usability, functionality, budgets, and/or deadlines. Generally, the larger the project, the more important the process.
At UNETY, we've been building websites since 1995. We have developed our process and fine-tuned it over the years. We use it on all our projects. We believe it is one of the reasons for our many successes. It has become a standard and is used by instructors at the college level.
Below is an overview of our process. It will give you a good understanding of what is involved.
At the onset of every project of significant size, it is important to create a Project Plan. This plan should be used as a guide to keep activities on track and coordinated throughout the development of the Web site.
The Project Plan should contain all relevant planning information and should be writing, reviewed, and approved by the client before proceeding.
Although contents and level of detail will vary with each client, a Project Plan typically contains:
The next step in creating a Web site is to decide what the pages should look like, how they should be arranged, and what they should do. This is called the User Interface Design.
In order to create a competitive and professional-looking Web site, it is important to have direct access to graphic designers who specialize in designing for the Web.
Professional user interface designers are skilled at creating an easy-to-use site as well as producing stunning graphics and state-of-the-art special effects.
Designers work closely with clients to create the desired look and feel and to layout the organizational structure of the Web site. Their design may coordinate with existing collateral or may be a brand new image.
The User Interface Design should contain all relevant design information and should be writing, reviewed, and approved by the client before proceeding.
The User Interface Design step typically results in the following:
The next step in creating a Web site is to make an Online Prototype, which is a full-color, full-scale mock up of the major parts of the new site. The navigation is working, so a user visit can be simulated, but only a minimal amount of programming is done.
Prototyping allows clients to take their site for a test run early in the process to verify the site will have the features and functions outlined in the planning step. This allows them to make changes early on, when it is much less expensive. This saves time and money, and helps ensure the desired results are achieved.
All significant parts of the new Web site should be prototyped, verified, and approved by the client before proceeding.
The prototyping step typically results in an online mock up of the major parts of the new site, produced from the GUI design, complete with:
The next step in creating a Web site is to create a relational database design for the new site. The database design step typically results in the following:
The next step in creating a Web site is to identify the business rules to be applied to the each page of the new site.
The next step in creating a Web site is to write the code for the site.
If you want to grab your viewers' attention immediately with a custom feature such as a multimedia presentation. This is the part of the process when our special effects experts step in. We determine the target audience of your site and come up with an audio, video, animation or Web presentation that will add style to your site.
Once all the features of the site have been programmed and individually tested, the next step is integration testing.
During integration testing, the entire Web site (end-to-end) is checked out on a test server to ensure that all components are working together correctly. All parties should participate the testing, including the developers, the client, and even some friendly users, if at all possible.
On customer request, test site may be password protected to ensure privacy.
At a minimum, at least one week should be allowed to ensure software and system bugs are found before publication, not after.
Once the site has been thoroughly tested, the next step is to publish it so that the intended audience can view it.This step typically consists of the following:
Once the site has been published, the next step is to begin marketing it, both online and in the traditional media, if this is appropriate.This step typically consists a thorough review of the Online Marketing Plan to finalization the following:
Once the online marketing has begun, the next step is to schedule a Project Review and Planning meeting to do the following: