We follow a proven method when developing your website
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Otherwise grab a cuppa, sit back and have a read about the way we go about building your business online…
Ten steps to building a successful website and accelerating your business online
After years, decades actually, we have distilled the process down to these ten steps. Doing each of these has proven to produce the best results. However, this is not a strictly sequential process. The first and second steps, the benefits/goals and scope need to be completed first. But the whole process generally flows in the order of these ten steps. For example, building and testing can occur in parallel. Having you (and ideally some of your customers) use and test the website during development will result in a site that will benefit you long term and one your customers will thank you for.
1. BENEFITS & GOALS
We first establish the benefits this project is going to realise for you. Talking this through with you also helps you crystallise your thoughts about what it is you require, set goals and together these help define the scope of the project which is the next step.
It also helps us so we can regularly review our progress against those benefits and goals to ensure we meet them.
Some of the questions we’ll explore are:
Is this to upgrade an existing website or create a new one?
If a new site, do you have a domain name already registered? If not, we’ll help you find a name. But what extension e.g. .com vs .com.au do you choose and why? We can help you with that decision too.
Are you going to sell products from your website?
Do you really need a website or are other forms of online presence like social media acceptable e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest. You might like to read our e-commerce page on why you really need a website.
Who is the website for?
Is it for your existing and potential customers and/or for Internal (often called Intranet) use in your business?
Do you need the website to integrate with any social media platforms? e.g. To have your Instagram or Facebook feed displayed on your website.
Does your company have an existing brand? If not, then we highly recommend involving someone that can help with this. We can suggest people to talk to or work with someone that you might have in mind.
Do you have any existing artwork, logos or style guides?
What is your timeline and budget?
It doesn’t help either of us if you say yesterday and are not prepared to at least discuss a ballpark budget. A typical website will cost between $1000 and $5000, plus the cost of hosting and domain name fees. See our hosting page for more information.
After an initial meeting, either in person or over the phone we’ll develop a draft project brief which we’ll share with you. From that, we’ll finalise a project brief for crystal clarity on what we’re developing, how much it will cost you and a timeline.
Every project done well requires a scope statement so it’s clear between you and us what we’re developing. This is not to say the scope cannot change throughout the project. Of course it can, and usually does. That’s a good thing. It means we are honing in on exactly what you need. We’ll make it clear about any extra cost or impact.
Agile or Waterfall?
If you haven’t heard of these terms, don’t worry. They are ways of running a project and the type of project, the experience of the project team, the preference of the client, in fact all manner of things dictates one over the other. We’ll decide on the best way in conjunction with you.
We want to make sure there is clear understanding between both of us what we’re developing, the cost and timeframe.
We’ll also include a section about what’s not included in scope, just to make it clear. It might be obvious to us but probably not to you so we let you know and can have that discussion up front.
Whether we are building a website from scratch or modifying an existing website, we are always considering design. How will your customers use the site? How are we going to give them an emotional connection, one they’ll remember and want to return to?
From the Scope defined in Step 2, we identify the main elements and core pages required of the site. What menu options are required? What forms are required e.g. Contact page? How will email subscriptions and newsletters work? What areas of the site will contain what information?
Depending on costs we’ve discussed in Step 1, to save costs we might be using a template based approach. In this scenario, together we pick a template that can be customised to suit your needs. An important factor in selection is: a) is it functional and able to be customised to suit your needs? b) is it supported and regularly updated by the developer? and c) is it responsive so that it displays nicely on desktop, tablet and mobile devices?
We used to design websites from the ground up. That was when Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress didn’t even exist. WordPress started in 2003 and we started developing websites in 1998 when there were few, if any real choices. So back then we wrote our own.
We now focus on building sites using WordPress. Sure, there are alternatives but the sheer size of the WordPress community, the huge number of sites that have been developed using it and the fact that it continues to grow in capability every year is testament to its strength and resilience. We also host exclusively with Lightning Base, a dedicated WordPress hosting company, using Melbourne based servers in an IBM Cloud Data Centre.
We don’t lock you into a proprietary solution. WordPress is a free and open-source content management system. You are free to move your site elsewhere and get them to take over supporting and developing your site. We hope you don’t do that, but you can. We believe in freedom of choice.
- It’s well known and used by millions of people in every country. This means there are instructional videos, online courses and many books on how to use WordPress. Not that you need that to maintain information within your site. We can show you how to do that in minutes!
- It’s constantly being enhanced, with new updates coming out regularly so it stays current with technology advancements.
- You are not locked into a proprietary solution.
Once we know how the site will be laid out, we can start collating and creating content. Depending on the scope agreed to, that generally involves you providing us with wording for pages, images, descriptions and attributes (colour, size etc.) of products. We can also write content too if you prefer. At this step we are cognisant that content needs to be optimised for the search engines, also known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and we’ll help you with that too.
This doesn’t have to be every single piece of information, but enough so we know how to fit information onto a page. We’re using WordPress here, so you’ll be able to maintain it yourself afterwards. We just need enough pieces of real information so we know it looks right in the end. Many developers leave this step out, build the site, then get the customer to enter their data only to run into problems like descriptions being too long or not knowing that a product comes in 5 different colours.
We develop on our servers which are in an isolated area that isn’t indexed by the search engines. We don’t want that yet. If we’re working on your existing site, we’ll duplicate your site so it can be worked on and tested separately to your live site.
A bit like building a house, we’ll start with the foundation first (installing WordPress), build the framework (the template along with any customisations). The roof is next (installing security and spam protection), then connecting the utilities (connections to third party sites like Facebook, Instagram, payment gateways etc.) and then all the final construction (images, menus, pages, content, shopping cart, email subscriptions etc.).
Throughout the build, we’re also ensuring the pages are responsive and render correctly on multiple browsers (Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari) and different sized desktops, tablets and mobile devices, using different operating systems like Android or iOS and vendors like Samsung, Apple and Microsoft.
We also ensure WordPress and any themes or plugins are using the latest versions and that there are no known vulnerabilities of using those. We also lock down WordPress and the database so only the required permissions are used.
Although we conduct testing throughout the Build, this step completes other tests to ensure the website is of the utmost quality.
The most important aspect is, does it meet (hopefully exceed), the goals we set out to achieve? If not, we have a good conversation about this. Did we set too lofty goals? Was the budget not in reality with the scope so we couldn’t build it to meet those goals? We make some decisions. It’s often referred to as the project management triangle or triple constraint (scope, time, cost). We think it should be called the quadruple constraint in the shape of a pyramid. You can’t change one of the sides of the triangle without affecting any of the other sides. Every time you do, you can affect quality, which makes up the body of the pyramid.
Depending on the size and complexity of the site, these tests might also include:
a) Load testing – Can the website handle 1000 people coming to your site at the same time? A nice problem to have really, but if we develop the right strategy and place ads that resonate with your customers, that can happen!
b) Performance testing – Do the pages load in enough time so your customers don’t close your page? This also affects search engine ranking as Google penalises slow sites. Another reason why you need to host on fast, reliable servers.
c) Disaster recovery testing – Ensuring backups of your site are in place and testing that we can restore it from a backup.
d) Acceptance Testing (also known as UAT or User Acceptance Testing) are tests you perform on your website to ensure it meets your needs. We also like you to get your customers to use the site and provide feedback, and not just at the end of development. It pays dividends to involve them up front as well, to ensure the site is designed and the right content is created for them to use.
We show you how to maintain your site. Everything from updating text on pages to writing new articles or blog posts and uploading images. This is where using WordPress is great, because there are loads of free, great sites and videos that can teach you how to use WordPress.
During this step, you also finalise adding all the final copy to your site, adding all your products and ensuring all is there before launch.
Things are getting exciting now. Launch day is approaching. If you’ve had a read of our Strategy page, we may have worked together to develop a strategy to launch your site.
That may mean simply doing a soft launch where we just upgrade or launch your site without any fanfare. This might be appropriate for information websites. For sites where your customers are accustomed to logging in and using your site this may involve sending them an email before the launch or even involving them in training depending on the size of the change.
The launch is always an exciting, but nervous time. It’s where we get to find out if our assumptions when developing the site are proven right. On larger sites, we may have already tested this.
Making the site live is a great achievement for everyone involved. High fives for the team and we all go and celebrate. But now reality sets in. Where is all this new business I was meant to get? Aren’t the orders all meant to start rolling in? Hopefully that happens, but we aren’t done yet. Google and all the other search engines like Bing and Yahoo might not know about your site yet. Your site is one of several hundred million others, so we need to be on our game to get noticed by Google. But don’t be depressed, this is actually the most exciting time!
You can’t improve what you can’t measure, so we install Google Analytics to track who is coming to our site, when, from where, how they found us and using what sort of device. There’s a lot of information to churn through, dissect and turn into meaningful, actionable things we can do to fine tune and improve your site. The best part, Google Analytics is free. Why, well can you imagine all the aggregated data they are getting from every site on the internet? They use this data to sell advertising back to us like Google Ads. In return, we get the use of a very powerful tool called Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Like any tool, used right and it can make a huge difference.
Have a read of our blog post called How do you find the ranking of your sites pages on Google?
10. CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
This is where we implement the strategy we’ve formulated.
We monitor the performance of our key search words or phrases in Google. We want to get on page one of someone’s search for your product or service. Far easier said than done. Expect emails to arrive in your inbox saying your site is not optimised and claiming to get you on page one. Just like a spam call, just delete them. Our best advice is to never reply to any of those sorts of scams. They’re usually automated anyhow without a person behind them who really cares about the performance of your site. Optimising your site takes time, persistence, strategic thinking, knowledge of your industry and lots of doing. This is why we need to work together on this. The answer is not to pay someone a few hundred dollars and move on. It’s why we call this last step Continuous Improvement. Your website will attract attention and rank higher in the search engines by providing useful information to your customers and be linked to from other sites. It needs to grow and change, showing Google it’s not just one of those millions of sites that never change. Yes, this takes effort and time.
This may involve placing social media ads such as in Facebook or Instagram. We’ll place ads and monitor their effectiveness to drive traffic to your site through Google Analytics and tweak where required. But getting people to your site is one thing, getting them to stay, read, click any call to action buttons or better still, buy from you is our ultimate goal. It’s all part of the strategic thinking we need to do to build a great website. Have we considered all potential customers, age groups, culture, country? If you’re selling outside of Australia, which countries are your largest markets? Can they purchase in their own currency? Google Analytics will give us important information like age group, gender, interest categories, what country they are in, what language they speak, are they a new or returning visitor and how often they visit if returning. Plus a ton more like how are they finding us and what keywords they’re using. We can make some great decisions about this and develop smart targeted advertising.
From launch to getting people to your site…now what?
We now move into the realm of Conversion Optimisation. How to optimise your site to move people from just browsing, not even knowing if they have a need for your product, to raising curiosity, to interested, to showing them how it addresses one of their needs to actually purchasing your product or service online. The nirvana of digital marketing.
How your site is laid out, what colours are used, what images and words are on the page. All of these need to work together to trigger a positive emotion. Not everyone is a buyer, but using these strategies is certainly going to set your site apart from the millions that don’t.
So how do we do this?
We need a way to understand how people are actually using the site. We can do this by installing software on your site that monitors where people click, how far down a page they scroll across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Over time, this builds up extremely valuable information and we can optimise the site from the findings.
You might have a Frequently Asked Questions page. We’ll find out which questions most people spend their time looking at. Are they on the top, middle or bottom of the list? A really important question you want people to read might not be getting the attention, either because the title isn’t written right or another reason and we can find out that reason by asking them. We are able to conduct live surveys on why people came to the site or ask them what do they want a FAQ written on?
Hopefully you’ve read this far (or just fast tracked and scrolled to the bottom) and can see there’s a lot to developing a complete website.
The key is to work with someone that is passionate and committed to doing all of this and helps you create a successful business online.
We’re here to help you do that, so please get in contact.