Journal

There’s no single process to a successful web project.

Posted: 5th January 2016 | Filed under: Business, Design
Author: Matt Keogh, Designer

At CST, we’re always happy to adapt to a client’s need as every client and project is unique...

...However, broadly speaking a web project can contain any or all of these parts depending on the requirement. Often these are undertaken concurrently involving the whole team.

Please Feel free to contact us if you’d like to discuss any requirements for your web project.

User/Business Needs

A clear set of goals or a single strategic imperative for the website is useful as reference throughout the rest of the process. This generally takes the form of stakeholder interviews. Then, throughout the remainder of the project, we can (with the client) judge any new ideas against the original goal(s), allowing us to focus in on those ideas which really bring strategic benefits.

Analysis / idea generation

Once the goals have been defined, we need to analyse what is currently being done to meet those goals. This can take the form of user research as well as current website, competitor and visitor statistics analysis. It’s also one of the places throughout the process where we can demonstrate our special CST magic, coming up with novel and creative ideas.

Content Strategy

A content audit can be undertaken to highlight not just what content is missing but also what content isn’t essential. Ideally, if the content does not serve the goals of the website it should either be removed, or moved to layers within the site that have lower prominence.

Information architecture

Here the website hierarchy is decided upon across the whole of the website and also on a per page/section basis. This often starts out as scribbles on a whiteboard or a huge stack of Post-It notes, but will eventually take the form of card sorting, wireframes and sitemaps.

Visual Design

An atmosphere should be created by the use of spacing, typography, colour and visual effects that support the goals of the website and to reinforce the brand. This is entirely divorced to layout which shouldn’t ever be relied upon as the layout will change with screen size. Mood boards, style tiles and sketches are useful here.

Layout Design

Here we’ll use grids to organise content, create harmony and add a sense of structure across different pages. The layout needs to support the content, work well with the visual design, and be flexible so that the site can respond to various devices. We pay particular attention to the layout of CMS generated pages, as generally these won’t have ‘designer’ input when the content is added.

Prototypes

A way of truly understanding site structure, interactions, how layouts adapt to screen size (etc.) is to build a HTML prototype. This is a quick iterative process supplemented by good communication and sketches and allows us to spot problems early as well as explore new ideas that are naturally generated as a project progresses.

CMS Integration

The content management system needs to serve the content and the information hierarchy. Never bend your content to the CMS’s limitations – something that can happen with “off the shelf” software. Although we have a common CMS framework (of our own design), every website that we create will have a CMS that’s tailored specifically to the needs of that site. We’ve yet to find a commercial CMS which gives the flexibility that our clients need.

Visual Design Implementation

The part where it all starts to come together. Style guides and pattern libraries can come in useful here to ensure that there is consistency across the site.

Standards and Accessibility Testing

From the initial stages of the project we’ll have been building things in a standards compliant and accessible way, but prior to launch we’ll put the whole production through a suite of tests looking for any issues that might have sneaked through the net. We’ll use a combination of online tools such as the ‘official’ validators, those which dig down deeper into pages and documents such as Sitemorse, and extensive manual testing too.

Browser and Platform Testing

Again, right from the start of the prototype phase we’ll have been testing the site across all of the major browsers, operating systems, and on mobile devices of various kinds. But prior to launch we’ll have a final and thorough test. Knowing that our HTML and CSS are fully compliant with the latest standards goes a long way towards ensuring that this usually quick and painless.

Performance Testing

A slow loading site will negatively impact on a user’s experience of a website and therefore the perception of the brand. This is why, in general, we prefer to host any sites that we build ourselves – not only does it allow to check for problems prior to launch, it also means we can continually evaluate the site’s performance and allocate additional resources if required.