Website development in 7 simple steps

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Need to create a new client website? We’ve got your back! First up, you’re going to want to check out our website project template. This template is designed specifically for website projects — and as such, it’s laid out to take you and your team through each step of the process.

You can take a look at it here.

Now that you have your project arranged, how do you go about actually developing your client’s website? 

Turns out, you can create even the most complex websites in just seven steps — though keep in mind that more complex websites will need more time and expertise to develop correctly.

Either way, read below for a guide that will show you each step in detail.

1) Goals and milestones phase: Outline the web development project goals and gather information

Timeframe: Between one and two weeks

Your agency’s vision and client’s needs for the future website will guide this phase of the website development project. Get your project management skills ready, and start the information-gathering process by coordinating with the client and documenting the following:

  • Specific needs the site must fulfill

  • Target audience for the site

  • Goals to achieve with the site

Those three basic things will give you a good foundation. For example, an e-commerce site geared towards teenagers will look vastly different from a news site geared towards people in their 40s.

When you’ve hashed out these details, you can start the design process. You won’t be building pages just yet, but in the early planning stages, you should do these things:

  • Gather assets, including logos, product photos, fonts, etc.

  • Create a color palette.

  • Get your team aligned with the brand voice and vision for the site.

  • Secure your domain names.

When you’re ready to start building and designing, the things listed above will give you a starting point for your website development workflow.

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2) Planning phase: Build the sitemap and create an overall plan for the website

Timeframe: About two weeks

Now it’s time to really start planning. Use the information you gathered in the step above to create a sitemap.

Before things get confusing, let’s clear something up: There are three different types of sitemaps that can go into website creation. Two of them, the HTML and XML sitemaps, are typically something that web developers create as part of their search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for large websites — and we won’t go into the specifics on those here.

The type of sitemap you’ll create in this step is entirely different. It resembles more of a roadmap or a flow chart. You can create a basic one with a sheet of paper. Put your client’s home page at the top, then start filling in branches.

Depending on your client’s needs, you might have different subpages like an “about us” page, a “products” page, a “contact us” page, and so on. Some of these will have subpages of their own, like different categories of products beneath the products page, followed by pages for individual products.

Be thorough as you’re designing your sitemap. The idea is to illustrate the overall website architecture, showing the relationships between pages within the whole. This gives you not only a plan that you can work from, but you can also look it over to get an initial idea of overall site organization and how easy it will be for your client’s target audience to find what they’re looking for.

3) Design phase: Design and create landing pages and wireframes

Timeframe: Between two and six weeks

Now that you have an idea of the pages you need to create, it’s time to start designing those pages along with the landing pages that will lead to them. This part of the website development process involves creating a mock-up for each type of page, which is often referred to as a “wireframe.”

Wireframes are simple in concept, but be prepared to really spend some time on this step. When you start creating wireframes, here are some of the elements you’ll need to consider:

  • Website header

  • Navigation bar

  • Left and right sidebars

  • Dropdown navigation menus

  • Website footer

  • Body content

Some of these elements will likely stay the same on all (or most) of the site’s pages — like the header and footer. This means that once you’ve created the design for the user interface for these portions, you can reuse them across all of your wireframes. Other page sections (most notably, the body content) will likely differ from one type of page to the next. Product pages will have a different format from your “about” page or from blog posts.

As you work through this part of the web development process, it’s smart to create multiple designs for your client to review and provide feedback on. Remember that wireframes are supposed to be part of the brainstorming process, not necessarily the finished design. Experiment with different design elements, frameworks, and graphic designs, and pull in people from outside the project to test each design for usability and appeal. 

By the end of the process, you should be able to select a set of wireframes best suited to both aesthetic and usability needs for your client’s future website.

4) Content creation phase: Write SEO content, landing page content, and create custom visuals

Timeframe: Between four and 12 weeks (or more)

This step in the process can often happen concurrently with both the third and fifth steps. For this step, you’ll need to create website content for:

  • Landing pages

  • About, home, and other pillar pages

  • Category pages

  • Product pages, if needed

Content writing should be SEO optimized and made to fit the wireframes you’ve designed. For example, if your client’s product pages have space for two short paragraphs and a bullet list of key features, then make sure that your content writer knows this and creates content to fit the page.

You’re also going to need a lot of visuals, including:

  • Logos and branded graphics

  • Header and background images

  • Animations

  • Images to accompany your pillar pages

  • Visuals for product category pages, if needed

  • Visuals for each product

In truth, you can start sourcing designers as soon as you have a rough idea of the types of visuals you’ll need — like a logo for the site header, or images that show products in use.

5) Development Phase: A combination between back-end development and front-end development

Timeframe: Four to 16 weeks

Now you can start putting the pieces together to develop the website itself. To do this, you’ll likely need to combine front-end and back-end development.

Think of front-end development as the storefront, even if you’re not precisely developing a web store. Front-end development focuses on all of the customer-facing elements of the website design. That means not only the page designs but also things like dropdown menus, embedded web apps, graphical elements, and plugins — everything the end user will see or interact with.

For simpler websites, back-end development may not be necessary. For example, many small businesses use pre-made content management systems (CMS) like WordPress to create basic websites to provide company information.

However, if you’re working with a client with a large, complicated website (like a webstore with dozens of products and a large target audience) or anticipating heavy traffic, you’ll probably need back-end development. This is so that you can develop infrastructure capable of handling these more complicated workloads. This type of development includes the behind-the-scenes software development and architecture that allows the website to work.

6) Quality assurance phase: Speed testing, responsiveness, and security testing

Timeframe: Two to four weeks

You’re not done yet! Once the website is functional but not necessarily public, it’s time to put it through a battery of tests. At a minimum, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Test to make sure it’s user-friendly and offers a good user experience.

  • Check embedded web applications, navigation menus, and other elements.

  • Load individual web pages to test for speed and responsiveness.

  • Test across a variety of mobile and desktop platforms.

  • Test in different web browsers.

  • Use code validators to ensure your code follows current standards.

  • Run comprehensive security scans to ensure you secure your website thoroughly

  • Check apps, browsers, and operating systems for compatibility.

Once you test the website backward and forward, it's time to move on to the final step.

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7) The launch process phase: More QA, and website is pushed to live

Timeframe: Two to four weeks

You’re almost there. After the exhaustive testing above, it’s time to go live. That means uploading files if you’ve built the website offline, or removing gating and viewer restrictions if you’ve built it online.

After that, get ready for more testing. But don’t worry because this next round of testing isn’t as intense as the last one. Browse the site and test its features and functions to put it through one last round of usability testing so that you can ensure that everything is loading properly and working as it should.

From this point onward, the building and development phases are finished. Now you need to transition into ongoing maintenance to keep the client’s site fresh, updated, and in good working order.

Understanding the different types of web development

We’ve touched briefly on front-end and back-end development already, but now we'll go a bit more into detail on what they entail, plus some of the other types of web development you may need to create functional sites that suit your clients’ needs. Depending on the type of website you’re creating, you may need to pull in experts in some of these types of development to fulfill key roles in your project.

Front-end development

As discussed above, front-end development is all about the customer-facing aspects of your client’s website. That includes not only the overall design of each page, but also the navigation menus, buttons, embedded apps, and other things you’ll need to convey information or sell products.

For front-end development, you’ll rely on HTML, cascading style sheets (CSS), JavaScript, and other programming languages. The simplest sites will use HTML and CSS while more complex sites might require JavaScript or even programming languages like Python.

Back-end development

Back-end development includes the things customers can’t see — the behind-the-scenes aspects of the website. This is sometimes called “server-side” development because back-end development means setting up server space with databases for the website and an application programming interface (API) that allows the website to work.

Here, you’ll need to use programming languages like Java, Ruby, and Python to build applications that power the website. You’ll also need experience with tools like Oracle and SQL Server so that you can store, organize, and manipulate data.

Full-stack development

Full-stack development isn’t necessarily web development — but depending on the complexity of your website, you may need a full-stack developer. Full-stack developers can program browser languages, servers, and databases, which means they can do it all. That includes customer-facing website languages like HTML and CSS, plus server and database software like PHP, Python, or SQL.

Mobile development

Similarly, mobile development isn’t necessarily involved with web development, but it can be. Some mobile developers create things like mobile games. Others specialize in creating mobile-friendly versions of websites or mobile apps that are based on websites.

Website development

Website development is a catchall term that encompasses developing all sorts of websites, from simple company sites to massive online stores like Amazon. At the smaller end of the spectrum, you’ll need to learn about HTML and CSS so that you can create a basic client website using a content management system like WordPress or Drupal.

At the more complex end of the spectrum, you’ll need a full-stack development team who is capable of building website architecture from the ground up.

Desktop development

Desktop development is another type of development that doesn’t necessarily coincide with web development — but it can. Consider some of the popular desktop apps you use today, for example, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. These apps have both browser versions and desktop apps that you can use interchangeably. 

To create this type of interchangeability, web developers and desktop developers work together to create both the browser and desktop versions of these apps, plus make sure that users can switch between them easily.

Security development

Security development usually refers to the process of securing servers, websites, and other architecture using a mixture of tools, practices, and approaches that limit security vulnerabilities. 

This type of developer actively searches for weak points and blind spots, then uses the tools and knowledge at their disposal to bolster security. For major sites, it’s a crucial part of the process that helps you protect sensitive information like customer data against hackers, malware, and other potential problems.

Try Teamwork's website project plan template today

Building a new website for a client? Whether you’re creating a simple company page or a complicated web store, your agency will need solid organizational tools to keep your team on track.

Try the Teamwork website project plan template. It’s designed with website projects in mind and will take you through each of the project phases, from planning to launch. Click here to check it out!

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