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The Website Process - A Three Part Overview

January 23, 2012

Part One: Discovery

Exposing the clients vision, and establishing measurable goals.

A website serves a purpose in the business/organization for which it represents. A website is a tool created specifically to satisfy the needs and overcome the challenges a business may have. For these reasons, among others, it is vital to the success of a website project that there be sufficient thought and planning as to not only what these needs and challenges are, but also what tools are needed to create solutions that exceed the expectation of your businesses audience. We call this process the Discovery phase.

While each project is different, there are several building blocks within this process that work together to ensure thoroughness and remove potential surprises (not "birthday party" type surprises, but "flat tire" type surprises). The following is a list of core items our approach involves to capture a businesses needs and requirements during the early strategy sessions.

  • Analyze existing brand materials. We want to get to know a business from the public's perspective, and then learn more about the businesses intended brand messages. It is important for projects large and small to multiple perspectives on a brands market position, and use this information to help plan a path forward.
  • Establish a list of goals. The goals of different websites range as wide as the types of businesses they represent, let's talk about your business, what you want out of a website, and how we could create a system to measure it's success.
  • An important step in meeting online goals is delivering the content your audience is seeking. Together we will create a list of content that needs to be delivered to the website visitor to meet the businesses goals. Ideally, a first draft of content for different sections is also created in efforts to establish the general format and quantity of content on each page.
  • Create a website blue print. More often refereed to as Information Architecture, together we will establish a page by page outline of website content including page specific requirements, features and tools. We will use the site content to drive the website's organize, but also place emphasis on user experience and general ease of use.
  • Evaluate content management needs and any additional administrative tools.
  • Determine content migration needs and page population. This is a small time factor for websites under five pages, but can be increasing important in e-commerce or large websites.
  • Confirm what we have learned and draft a requirements document that sets expectations for the joint Level8 and client team.

This process yields two primary deliverables:

  • A site architecture document that includes a list of all site pages, features, and details regarding additional items such as security, administrative tools, and user experience. This document will act as the backbone of the website design processes.
  • A itemized fixed cost estimate that includes features, tools, and project specific items that are not included in the baseline cost.

Measure Twice, Cut Once.

For many clients, Level8 is involved in this phase from beginning to end, acting as a guide and knowledge base, ensuring that all aspects are explored and the best solutions are made available. However, for smaller websites, or websites that don't require the creation of custom tools, this process can be facilitated largely independent of Level8. In cases where the client takes on the responsibility of creating the site architecture, Level8 will provided a basic framework to help structure the formatting, and will then use the client generated document to configure a final budget to work from.

Discovering the details of a project prior to engaging in the labor intensive processes of design and develop is an important step in the success of a website. Acting to set expectations and guide future decisions, it is important not to allow a sense of urgency to rush the process of discovery.

Part Two: The Design Phase

This is when we take all that work from the discovery phase and create a graphical representation of the Information Architecture document. Look for a full write up in the near future!