Four-Step Development Process
IDS uses a four-step development process in executing a web strategy:
The development process begins with a discovery session, the purpose of which is to examine the website concept in detail. This discussion typically encompasses:
- Defining goals and how the site will benefit the company
- Discussion of design parameters and branding
- Creating a site map
- Determine the nature of the content and how it will be produced
- Describe functional elements and how they will work
Goals — What is the site designed to accomplish? Who makes up the site’s primary audience? What value should be provided to this audience so that the site is useful to them?
Design parameters — We look at the strengths and weaknesses of websites with similar purposes including sites from other industries. We also look at the client’s marketing plan and existing marketing materials. We then discuss how the website will relate to existing branding. Finally, we determine what preferences the client may have regarding how the organization should be presented online.
Site map — “Information architecture” refers to the organization of information that is presented on the site. This architecture is developed as a site map, which is a high-level outline that serves as the basis for all further development. The site is divided into major sections, sub-sections, and individual pages and then examined to ensure that visitors’ needs are being met and relevant information is easily accessible and achieves the desired results.
Content development — Content (text, images, promotions, and media) for individual pages and sections is assigned to the site map. Content can be developed by the client, IDS Interactive, or a third party. As with all elements of the site, content development should be driven by the visitors’ expected needs and provide them with the information and direction they’re seeking when they come to the site.
Functionality — Functions that the site will perform are identified and mapped to individual pages. Database requirements and program flows are discussed and schematics are developed. These are then used to create a technical specification from which the functional elements are programmed.
After the site map and technical specification are created and approved the design stage begins. Initial designs for the new website interface are created and displayed online for approval. Two rounds of revisions are typically performed in the process of creating the new design.
Also in the design stage, the technical specification is turned into a technical design, which includes outlines for database tables, initial coding schematics, and programming flow charts.
Once a design for the new site is approved, the development stage begins. The approved design is turned into fully optimized and linked HTML pages and templates, including any animations and page effects. Code for functional elements is also developed at this time.
Content (text, photographs, and media) is added next. Any promotional items (banners or column ads) are also added. Finally, functional elements in their completed form are added to the site and tested.
After final QA and approval by the client, the new site is made live on the Internet. The site is now fully functional and available for use by the public.
Coordination with the Client During Development
A web-based project site, branded for the client, enables all participants to be kept informed of project developments, regardless of time or location, throughout the life of the project. This site is updated regularly and includes contact information for all stakeholders, the project timeline, the site map, links to all design comps, works in progress, test modules, and staging areas.
The project site allows all participants, especially those involved in feedback and approval, to follow development throughout the process. Project updates from IDS come via email with links to appropriate areas on the project site for review.
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