In this blog post, I’ll summarise my entire process of making a website, from start to finish. Please note, that as every project is different, this process is usually adapted to best suit a particular client and website.
Before any work on the website is started, I’ll want to learn as much as I can about the project and what the client wants to achieve. Here are examples of a few basic questions I might ask:
- Could you provide a short description of your business/project/etc.? Tell me about your product, message and target audience.
- What is the primary use of your website? Advertisement? Providing information? A specific function?
- What kind of functionality are you looking for?
- How much text/images/etc. will need to be on the website? Do you already have the content prepared?
- Do you have any brand guidelines to work with? Any design preferences?
The questions will be different project-to-project, but the idea is the same. Sometimes, a client will know exactly what they want and give me a detailed description, other times I’ll guide them through all the different things, provide examples and help them figure out the best course of action.
I’ll also always ask if the client has any examples of websites they like, either design or functionality-wise, as well as looking up some websites in a similar field myself. This helps me get a better image of what the client wants, as well as provides me with some inspiration. While I will never agree to copy another website’s design or create something exactly like that – as that is often against the copyright law and my overall morals – it helps to get a better feel and understanding of the project and the competition.
After I have an idea of what the client wants, usually, I’ll start by making a rather rough design draft or a few in Figma. I don’t normally do every page of the website – just the most prominent ones, for example, the landing page and one other page, so all the remaining pages can follow the same example.
During this stage, I can quickly try out different layouts, ways to present the information, and different designs for separate elements (like the menus, buttons and so on) to find what works best. I can also present a few different variations to the client so they can see and evaluate their choices.
After the client views the designs, they can tell me anything they particularly like or don’t like and would like to change.
While the design stage often makes further work go smoother and helps both me and the client understand what they want even clearer, it is not strictly necessary and I’ll offer to skip it for those on a tight budget.
Setting up the environment
Here, it can go multiple ways, depending on the client.
If they already have an existing website, I’ll create a development site and place it under a subdomain in my own hosting. That way they won’t have to do anything extra and their old website will be preserved for as long as it’s time to move. In this case, after the website is ready to go live, I’ll make a backup copy of their existing website and move the new one into its place.
For those who don’t currently have a website with hosting and domain, I’ll discuss two options:
- Working on my own subdomain until the website is ready to go live, then moving it. This is often the best case for bigger projects that will take longer to develop as the client won’t have to pay for hosting and domain for the time it’s in development.
- For smaller projects – purchasing a permanent domain and hosting and developing the website there, will avoid any complications that might come with moving it.
Base website development
As soon as I have an environment set up, it’s time to start the development process itself. I won’t go deep into this, as that’d be a wide enough topic for an article of its own, plus, it varies drastically from project to project.
Usually, I use WordPress Content Management System and one of many premium themes, which I then customize myself, but for especially unique projects, a custom theme development is always an option.
This stage includes the basics (needed theme and plugins installations, etc.), recreating previously decided on design, adding all the content and much more.
Once the major tasks are done and the website is close to looking like its final version, I’ll contact the client and ask them to take a look. We’ll discuss what changes can be made to make the website look even better and make them happen.
Sometimes at this stage, new ideas arise or some old ones need to be scrapped.
Testing, optimization, external tools
When the website’s looking good, I’ll once more go through the functions to make sure everything’s working well, from core functions to small things, like all links linking to the right destinations. I’ll also ask the client to go through the website themselves. That way it’s less likely I missed something. Moreover, it tests the overall usability and user experience.
At this point, I also do some base optimization for website speed and the technical side of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Finally, the website is connected to external services, such as Google Analytics, Search Console and more.
If the new website’s owner wishes to administer and make changes to the website themselves – they should be able to do it, even if they have no prior experience. That’s one of the reasons I choose WordPress as my choice CMS. More on that in this post.
Based on the client’s choice, I will either prepare a written and illustrated guide overviewing all the important things they need to know or schedule an online meeting to go through everything.
Afterwards, I answer any questions and help them get comfortable with administering the website themselves.
The launch and the future
The website is ready and set live.
After this point, I still encourage my clients to come to me with any questions, difficulties or new ideas. It is important to keep even a simple representative website up to date, and improvements can be made anytime – to make it even better.