Over the summer I did a good amount of web design. I have been developing websites for almost 7 years now and have been inventing and reinventing my process as I’ve gotten older, more mature, and a better developer. This summer I got to evaluate my process to see what I should change about it- how I can make it better. I’ve come up with a five step process to take me from start to finish. Number one, Planning, is by far the most important part.
A problem I often run into is that user requirements, what a client defines as necessary for their website, change a lot. Recently one client I was working with changed the entire scope of the site, changing the necessary information being posted on it and thus changing just about everything about the site. That is why it is critical to nail down the details as much as possible before any coding starts. Sit down with your client, face-to-face when possible, and ask them to describe in as much detail as possible what they want their website to accomplish. Take down notes and write any of your questions or thoughts down. Then try to formulate something for them. This doesn’t have to be on the spot, and probably shouldn’t be. Schedule a follow-up meeting to make sure you interpreted what the client said correctly.
At the follow-up meeting, propose something. Most clients will not be computer savvy and will rely on your input. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions as to what you think will work or more importantly, what won’t. They see you as the expert (because you are) and the input is usually welcomed and valued. It’s also important at this follow-up to make any final pre-development changes and tie up lose ends. Add the proposed website/requirements to a contract and both of you sign it and initial each page.
Once this happens, and you have requirements nailed down and decided on, it’s time to move to part II- the mock up.