In today’s digital age, having a well-designed and functional website is crucial for businesses and individuals alike. But a lot of people don’t know how to get there. Armed with the goal of “we need a new website” or “I want a website designed”, clients often have the vision in mind, but not necessarily the steps.
We work with all manner of businesses and organisations, all with differing levels of understanding, and take briefs to create sleek digital experiences. That is to say, we know how to explain the process. And, importantly, we know how to get great results.
Website development encompasses a comprehensive process that involves careful planning, design, coding, and testing – and more. It can also be both creative and technical at the same time; from complex code and languages, to page design and UI, there is plenty of expertise involved.
In this article, we will unveil each step of the website development journey, to provide you with a complete understanding of how a website comes to life. Once you know, you’ll be much better armed to brief your website agency effectively, and unlock the website of your dreams. If this is step one, then step two is getting in touch with the experts, us.
Define Your Goals and Objectives
Before diving into website development, it’s essential to clearly define your goals and objectives. We can’t build what you can’t envision. So, determine the purpose of your website, whether it’s to sell products and services, showcase your portfolio, or provide information, then brief your developer.
Understanding your target audience and their needs will help shape your development strategy and is a best starting point for any website. It can be helpful to separate your existing audience from your target audience (if they are different), as this highlights what you currently are and do, compared to what you could be. This way, you ensure your new website works for you, and your audience.
Plan and Research
The planning phase involves conducting thorough research and gathering information about your target audience, competitors, and industry trends. This data will guide your decisions regarding website structure, design elements, and functionality. That’s not to say you can’t be different in the industry, just that benchmarking and understanding norms can be a good place to start – we have plenty of examples of striking modern websites underpinned by tried and tested best practice.
If you intend on selling products or services, then consider what channels you’re going to use to promote your website. If you want to showcase your services, research what information is helpful to know. Basically, get an understanding of exactly what content needs to be on your website and the key stages users need to take, and you will be confident moving forward.
Another key part of the planning process that links to the above is creating a draft of a sitemap to outline the structure and navigation of your website. This sitemap can also be used to keep track of what has been done and what needs to be done for different pages on your website. The basic level is deciding on what pages you need, but you can take it up a notch by showing the relationships and journeys between pages, as well as the different content types on each.
In addition to choosing what the platform that you want your website to be built on or what framework you’d like to go with, you will also need to think about hosting and your domain name. This can all be a bit intimidating to a web novice, so it’s best to speak to the experts about this.
Design the User Experience (UX)
User experience is a critical factor in website development – there’s no point in developing a website if no one can use it effectively. UX focuses on creating an intuitive and enjoyable experience for visitors.
The best place to start is by creating wireframes or prototypes that visually represent the website’s layout and functionality. From here, pay attention to elements such as navigation, content hierarchy, and call-to-action placement. These are critical for users trying to make their way around your website. This process can be quite technical, especially if you are developing for a meaty e-commerce site, so it’s always recommended that you make use of an experienced web consultant.
Achieve full web design and build with the experts in Bristol.
Planning user journeys and call to actions is all well and good, but why bother if it doesn’t look good? You will need engaging design elements and on-brand visuals to make your website stand out. Graphic design makes your website usable, on-brand, and, importantly, attractive.
From toggles, to mega menus, to pop-ups, there is plenty a non-web designer might overlook in terms of function too.
On such example is designing across devices. Traditionally, web design has focussed on desktops, but we are a mobile population, with phones taking over in popularity for surfing the web. Mobile-first design tackles any bias, ensuring your website not only looks good and works well on mobile, but also transforms well on any screen size. Some other benefits include prioritisation of content; with limited screensize on mobile, designers are forced to really think about what is important to say and show.
Learn about mobile-first design >
Similarly to design, content development is key to an impactful website. You will need to prepare written content such as lead-generation focused service pages and optimised blog content to make your website easy to understand for both users and search engines. It doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems; have a session with an experienced web copywriter, then let them do all the work (read: create great content!).
Content plays a pivotal role in engaging visitors and driving conversions. You should develop high-quality and relevant content that aligns with your website’s goals and objectives, your brand’s voice even. Remember to craft compelling copy, create eye-catching visuals, and optimise your content for search engines – then you’ll have a winning website.
Use relevant keywords, meta tags, and descriptive headings to improve your website’s visibility in search engine results. And if you don’t think you’re thinking “what even is SEO and why are search engines important” then you need to get a better understanding of it. Luckily we have a resource dedicated to SEO just for you.
At this stage, you want to ensure cross-browser compatibility and optimise the website for different devices, including desktops, tablets, and mobile. Just because a page looks great at one size, doesn’t mean it will at another.
If you want to go above and beyond, you can use semantic HTML tags and the right CSS techniques to enhance accessibility and search engine optimisation (SEO). Again, the web development experts can handle this for you.
Something that most mere-mortals will definitely need help with is back-end development. This phase focuses on the server-side functionality of the website. It involves implementing all the bits of a website a user would never know about: databases, server configurations, and server-side scripting languages such as PHP and Python.
In order to manage your website, you will need a content management system (CMS). A CMS helps to make the confusing elements of the backend that little bit more usable and approachable, so anyone of any ability could go in and make basic updates in the future.
We love WordPress. Not only is it the largest open source website platform, trusted by millions of users across the world and powering a huge proportion of the web, it’s very user friendly, something our clients truly value. When it comes to choosing the right CMS, usability, flexibility, scalability, and security should all be considerations – WordPress delivers every time.
Testing and Quality Assurance
Once you’ve built your website and you’re confident it looks good and functions well, you need to put it to the test.
Thorough testing is crucial to ensure your website functions as intended and offers an optimal user experience. Conduct comprehensive testing across different browsers, devices, and screen sizes to identify and fix any issues. Don’t forget website speed, functionality, forms, links, and compatibility.
Basically, you want to try as many different things as possible and spot any issues! Generally, it’s quicker, easier, cheaper, and far less detrimental to users if you find and fix issues before the new website is launched. This step really shouldn’t be skipped.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
As with fixing issues, it’s far better to launch a website you have already optimised than try and make fixes in the future. Before setting a new site live, you should research keywords, optimise your website’s on-page elements, create a link-building strategy, and have a content plan together.
If you want real results on search engines – which you obviously do – then engage an SEO agency early. To understand how your website is performing, you can use free tools like GA4 and Google Search Console, which need to be connected to your new website. This way, you can track visitor behaviour, benchmark SEO metrics, and identify areas for improvement, contributing to the long term success of your new website.
Launch, Hosting and Maintenance
You want to make sure you launch your website with hosting that can handle it. Cloud hosting is popular right now for a reason; it’s affordable, scalable and quick. It’s the final stage of web development, so you don’t want it going wrong now. Whether you want green hosting, scalable hosting, or hosting that works around the world with CDNs, there is a hosting solution for you – and if you’re not sure what you want, speak to web experts who can help you.
Once your website is up and running, that doesn’t mean you can just leave it alone. Regularly update your website’s content, software, and plugins (if your website has them) to maintain optimal performance and security. Website development is not just about the build of a website, and involves careful continuous optimisation and attention.
Design Your Website With Squarebird
This article should have lifted the curtain on the mysterious world of web development, but we weren’t just going to reveal everything here. You’ll have to do a project with us to really understand how it all works!
As digital natives, we can help you execute all stages in the website development process simply. With a dedicated project management team, paired with experienced designers, creative copywriters, development wizzes, and more years in combined experience than the age of the internet itself, we have the people, skills, and knowledge to drive your website from inception to go-live, and beyond. All it takes is a phone call to get started.
Ready to build a website? Talk to us.