Being experienced web designer with fifteen years in the web development industry, I have seen a lot of stuff. Personally I was involved in more than one hundred completely different projects, but in all these cases there were something similar — the procedure — some steps you cannot ignore if you want to succeed. As a whole, these steps are called web development process.
Especially for those who interested — I will explain website development process from my point of view. In addition, I will bring some obvious examples. Of course, in different companies procedures may vary, but in general — they are same.
This article will be divided into the two parts. The part you are reading right now is about the general idea of a website, negotiations and technical documentation. Next part will be more focused on designing process itself: with hardware and software, graphic templates and programming included.
The way I know it, the rough conception of website appearance is always in place. People start to think about appearance even before they know webpage plan for their site, before the budget calculations, before everything else. My entire career I keep hearing from people the same story — I need a website and want it to be like this one! This approach is so wrong, so damn wrong! Do you know why? Because architectural principle "form follows function" is a very god idea to be used with website building. Functionality as the general idea! In the end of the day, it is a web and graphic designer job to make strong functionality look contemporary and trendy. Not vice versa.
Here is an example. Medium sized company sells some Hi-Fi stuff and wants to create a website with the same appearance as the website of the company that produces Hi-Fi equipment. Could this be possible? Someone can say yes, but I will disagree. You see, purpose of these two sites will be different even though both are about Hi-Fi. First website is designed to present production to dealers and press; second should be focused on selling production to visitors. It is two different philosophies, concepts and implementations.
Apparently, the problem from the paragraph above should be resolved during negotiation process. It is great when your vis-a-vis is professional enough to devolve project to designers. This is ideal and rare situation. However, mostly, negotiations could be a pretty hard nut to crack. In this case, you have to explain everything and sometimes protect every decision you make during web development process. Very annoying job I must say.
Imagine a professional car mechanic, owner of a small business facility, who eager to find new clients online. No internet experience before, no knowledge about social media nor about search engine optimization. What possibly this person can suggest? Where to put his exorbitant logo and how to apply even more terrible color scheme?
This may sound funny, but in reality for those smart people — one of the most important things is logotype position. Really! Suggestions from my clients is a peach. About Linux server configuration and hosting, about programming languages to use, about logotypes, frameworks and so on. This exciting quest never ends.
My point about negotiations is simple. Negotiation process by itself is very important but both sides should never forget its real goal! Negotiations are about what do you want and expect; about how much it will cost; about development schedule. Not about how to do it and what software to use.
Finally yet importantly — technical documentation. Under this term, I mean a technical task that is created and coordinated with the client. If there is a brand book available, its guidelines could be used in technical documents as well.
Procedure of writing technical task starts right after contract is signed. It is a very important part of the overall web design process and a hard one. In most cases, technical task contains everything about the future website. Information written in the technical task should be particularly detailed. It must include a list of site sections, pre-installed CMS modules, additional programming with algorithms explanation if necessary, minimum system requirements for the hosting or server, timetable and so on.
It is hard to bring an example here, because technical task is always different one to another. Let us put it this way. In simple cases it could be around 5-10 pages. In complex ones, I saw documents with 120 pages. As you can guess, document must be signed by both sides. After signing is complete, technical staff takes its part and development goes according to the document.
Next part: Naked Web Development, Part Two
We will get back to you as soon as possible.