We have developed a six-part methodology process designed to take us from concept to completion quickly, efficiently and without unnecessary delays and cost overruns. Each of these phases are conducted and completed in a systematic and stepwise fashion virtually guarantees our client’s satisfaction and the Web development project’s overall success. Our strategy has aided us in becoming a leading Web design and development Agency around the world.
Phase 1: Groundwork
The first phase of our process is in many ways the most important because it is here that we undertake the steps necessary to learn everything there is to know about
- Our clients
- Their business
- Identify their needs
- Learn about there goals
- Set a plan to achieve results
All of the work completed in Phase 1 will set the direction for the entire Web development project and ensure that the proper steps are taken to create a final deliverable that will drive the proper audience into action.
We break Phase 1 into three separate yet equally important parts: Hunting & Gathering, Assessment and Planning.
We ask questions, sample products, visit stores, surf websites and do everything in our power to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can. We attempt to get into the customer’s mindset so we can understand how they think, why they make certain decisions and what we can do to influence them. To us,
Hunting & Gathering comprises
- Internal & Competitive Analysis : The first thing we do is to bring together all of our client’s existing marketing and sales materials. Brochures, annual reports, advertisements, product samples, direct mail campaigns and current websites – we look at and assess every part of our client’s marketing plan to understand where they are and
- How they got there : Simultaneously we also do exactly the same thing with their competitors and rigorously compare how others in the industry have attempted to differentiate themselves. Our competitive analysis is intended to give us an in depth picture of the landscape our clients are operating in and an understanding of what challenges and opportunities lie therein.
- Audience breakdown : Our next goal is establish a strong sense of the core audience we will be targeting and what they are searching and asking for. We speak to our clients at length about their primary and secondary target markets in order to develop and create a core customer profile. The customer profile, although fictitious, is an combination of the demographic information, technological capabilities and personality traits that are common to most customers and must be accounted for in project decision-making.
Backend Programming Needs (Interactive Projects Only)
Here, we investigate our client’s current websites and software applications to understand what technology they employ. This step is an important piece to the puzzle when it comes to implementing ecommerce and Web-based applications to streamline business functions.
Once all the “data” get together, we start to look at it for common themes and concepts, and to map out the desired goals. During this step, the focus is on developing solid end points and an effective creative brief that is designed to guide the entire Web development project.
The creative brief is a summary of the visual and communication goals, target audience, communication strategy and specific requirements for the project. Once the client approves the creative brief it will serve as an important touchstone throughout the project.
With the goals for the Web development project firmly set and the methods and requirements for communication squarely decided upon, it is now time to define the steps and plot the course that will allow the project to be completed on time and on budget. Within planning there are numerous tasks.
Scheduling : Defining clear schedules and realistic deadlines is an important aspect of planning. We set detailed and individual task due dates to ensure that the timing of all deliverables is understood by all parties.
- Team building : At this point we define the members of the project team and assign their responsibilities. A project manager is generally named to function as the key client-agency interface.
- Establishing a communication channel : Next we establish a communication mechanism to keep all parties in the loop and informed. This usually takes the form of a password-protected client site that allows for easy information exchange and secure posting of prototypes and working samples.
- Kick off : We’ll organize all the information related to the project in a document called “The Statement of Work”, which the client must give the final approval on. This document should be used as a final, detailed specification for the work to be performed by us. Once we have agreed to work together, we have to complete this document to ensure that both parties understand the scope and outcome of the project. It should include a detailed description of the work to be performed, deliverables, deadlines and milestones. Additionally, a Non-Disclosure Agreement can be signed at the request of the client or ours.
Phase 2: DEVELOPMENT
During this phase, we examine and assess content and begin to map out our structure and architecture. These are essential as they provide us with our first sense of what the final project will actually look, feel and function like. During Web development we complete several critical steps.
- Auditing and Organizing : Content is the single most important aspect of any piece of communication, yet the one that is often most overlooked and delayed. For this reason, during this phase, we assess all content, organize it, outline what is usable and define what needs to be completed or redone. This includes copy, photography, illustrations and other visual and written forms of messaging. We also define how the content will be delivered and what new material will be created and when.
- Site mapping : The name is borrowed from interactive planning, but it applies across the broad. Basically, what we do is illustrate visually how the project will unfold. For a website that means the proposed links, main navigation and direct content tabs are shown while for a print piece a more basic pagination or layout schematic are provided.
- Wire framing : A wire frame is an informational and architectural plan that shows the major content areas, basic functionality and primary and secondary navigation of a website. It’s role is to define the structure of a site, provide a page flow and give us a visual reference to use during the creative phase of the project.
- Navigation & HTML Prototype : By defining this critical aspect of the project early, delays and unnecessary creative work can be avoided and eliminated. We also build an HTML Prototype during this phase to examine content, navigation and page flow and decide whether our informational model allows for maximal usability.
Phase 3: CREATION
We start to implement all of our creative ideas to happen as we experiment with visuals, colors, and language until us, quite literally, have nowhere else to turn. We pare down our ideas and concepts until we arrive at a few options that we fully believe address the needs of the project and will deliver the desired result. We then present these to our client, agree upon a solution and move forward. Creation covers the following tasks.
- Conception : We develop an array of visual solutions that will serve as the graphic look and feel for the project. Here, we balance creativity and functionality to arrive at appealing and arresting sketches and thumbnails of our conceptual ideas.
- Presentation and Refinement : Once we have selected the concepts we feel most strongly about, we then present them to our client, seeking feedback. Based on our client’s likes and dislikes, we then make revisions and tweaks as necessary. We continue to refine the selected concept until we reach at a single execution that all agree should become a reality.
- Style Guide and Graphic Template Design : The style guide sets standards for fonts, colors, visuals and many of the other components in the project to maintain the integrity of the initial concept and Web design. Similarly, graphic templates are used to streamline the production process and allow the final product to take greater shape even without final content.
- Content development : This means selecting final photography, authoring copy and refining or developing other necessary visual and messaging components. Content development is when the true personality of the final product really becomes apparent.
Phase 4: BUILDING
Now we get together all the pieces to construct the final product. Building is both difficult and rewarding because as with any other construction process, it is labor intensive and takes time. However, when completed there is truly nothing better than seeing the fruits of all of this hard work.
- Integration and construction : HTML or graphic production begins now as our developers and designers set out to build each and every element that will make up the final. For websites that means actually slicing up the graphic templates into the individual components that will become flat graphics, animations and rollovers. It also means writing the code and doing the Web development work that will power the site, enable its functionality and allow it to do exactly what was promised. In the graphic realm, this encompasses laying out all pages and beginning to produce the final mechanical.
- Content population : Now is the time when the final copy is completed, approved and incorporated into production, same goes for photography. We attempt to avoid delays in content delivery (a common pitfall for many projects) by focusing on our deadlines and strictly adhering to them.
- Backend Integration (Interactive only) : If your Web development project involves backend engineering, this is when the steps are taken to bring this important functionality to life. It is also a vital crossover point marking the almost complete evolution of the project from production to launch.
- Testing : once our building is complete, we test our work thoroughly and completely to make sure everything is perfect. The first thing we do during testing is to develop a QA plan that will direct all of our testing efforts and provide us with a “checklist” of tasks to accomplish and items to verify.
Once the QA Plan is complete, we actually set out to complete it. Our testing process is generally divided into multiple stages with each one increasing in level of detail. After each phase, we prioritize the problems and “debug” the bugs we find. This continues until everything is working smoothly and the final is ready to be launched.
Phase 5: Launch and Beyond
For us, the launch is the exciting culmination of a challenging yet rewarding process. It is when all of the hard work put in by many different parties truly pays off. However, the launch doesn’t mean the end. In fact, in many ways it is the beginning of a new phase in the Web development project, one that is perhaps even more important than the steps that were taken to get to the big day.
- Launch : This is also the ideal time to get the word out and let people know about the big news. We help our clients prepare an announcement campaign and for websites make sure they are optimized for search engines. This is done so that customers and target users are in the know and can begin to use the final product.
Phase 6: Post-Project Assistance
- Maintenance : Ongoing maintenance is necessary to keep content relevant, functionality optimized and graphics fresh. We help our clients establish a maintenance plan, train them to effectively accomplish these tasks and, if desired, will remain involved with the project to manage all ongoing upkeep to ensure that everything remains running and working as it should be.
- Measurement : After the launch, we help our clients track the success of the final project and document its affect on the bottom line. We request feedback from past clients to ensure that they’re happy with the results of the project and to encourage repeat business.
However, throughout the entire project, client involvement is a vital component. The main reason is we work and build with the client, not by ourselves, and the final product is the result of a team work; namely both us and the client, working collaboratively, side by side.