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Building a new website with an agency. Everything you need to know.

choosing-a-digital-agency-to-build-your-website

Are you looking for a new website but you don't know where to start? Would you like to commission the job to a digital agency, but you don’t know what they'll do with your idea? Are you looking at your quote, but the cost breakdown looks like it's written in a different language?   Here are the 11 steps that will take your website from its initial concept to the launch. Along the way we will help you to understand the jargon used in a digital agency:

Brief

The brief is basically your wish list. It’s a document where the agency collects all your thoughts and the info about you and your requirements since the preliminary meeting. Here is where you should answer some key questions... What is your business about? Who is your target audience? What would you like them to do on your website? Who are your competitors? What are the best online examples from your industry and parallel industries?

Time

Based on the brief document, every player (e.g. design team, development team, QA team) that will be involved in the creation of your site will make their own plan. This plan will be used to create a time estimate for the delivery of their part of the project. The union of all these estimates will lead us to timeline, with a launch date. This will often be presented to you in the form of a Gantt chart.

UX Exploration

In User Experience (UX) exploration the digital agency will analyse all of your competitor platforms and all of the exemplar sites that you have identified. From the interaction with these, they will list pro and cons, identifying all the pages, elements and functionalities that your site should include to achieve your target.

Wireframe

Thanks to the UX exploration, the design team will know what type of content each page should feature and in which order. With this in mind they will produce a sketch of the website in black and white that roughly shows where each element should sit in the page layout. We call this prototype a wireframe.

Design

The design is a totally realistic representation of the final look of the site, made on the basis of the wireframes adding colours, formatting, pictures, actual titles and latin filler text (you might recognise this as lorem ipsum dolor... As soon as you approve the designs, the development team will be ready to start with the actual implementation. TIP: In this phase you will be tempted to focus your attention on the copy for the site, asking for many content amendments. However, you should remember that you'll be able to edit all the text that you'd like once the website is finished, through the CMS, which is also a good opportunity for you to practice with your new administration panel. To keep momentum with this crucial stage of the project, it can often be better to sign off the design from a visual perspective, and give the content team time to work on copy with you while the site is under development.  

Infrastructure Setup

During this stage an engineer will prepare the environment that will host the code and the data of your website. They will provision at least two environments: 'staging' where you can see the work in progress during the build and 'production' where all the files will be deployed when the website is live. More complex projects will have more environments, such as dev and UAT to better reflect the review and approval processes.

Frontend Development

In this phase, the development team will build all of the visual templates, creating a copy of the design on a static web page using HTML, CSS and Javascript. In your staging link you’ll be able to see that all the pictures and the buttons are in place but they may not yet do anything when you interact with them.

Backend Development

During this phase, the development team will build the core functionalities of the site and they will customise the CMS (content management system) creating all the fields that will allow you to edit the content on each webpage. Once these are done, they will integrate the fields with the front end of the application, so that each field updates the correct element in the page template.

QA and Testing

In the Quality Assurance (QA) / testing phase, the QA team goes through each page of the website and verifies that:
  1. Each of the functions produce the expected output
  2. Each webpage looks good and compares well with the original design
  3. Each page looks consistent across different browsers and responds correctly when accessed from different devices (Mobile, Tablet, Laptop, Desktop)
Every issue detected by the QA team is recorded as a bug, for tracking through to resolution. TIP: some clients attempt to shorten the QA cycle, to bring a launch date forwards. However, you might consider it a commercial priority to ensure that the platform looks and works perfectly for every site visitor.

Content

When everything is working as expected, you will have access to the CMS in order to customise your own content and create all the extra pages that you'd like to have ready for your website to launch. TIP: you should always consider another round of QA testing after this phase, since some templates might not respond as you would expect when you populate them with actual content - particularly if the volume or nature of content has changed since the original brief.

Launch

Your website is finally ready; you have seen it, updated it and approved it. You can now ask your agency to deploy it to the live environment. TIP: Most clients will have Google Analytics or similar platform set up on their website. Its always worth checking that the analytics are being collected on the live site right after launch - just in case.

It doesn't stop at launch!

After your website has launched there are still a lot of things a digital agency can do for you. At this point you will most likely have already considered your short term and long term marketing plan. This might be to focus on traffic driving promotions, create a multi-platform launch campaign or to focus on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Whatever the goal for your site is, you are likely to need the expertise and experience of a digital agency. Discuss with your chosen agency the aims of your new site and how you see it supporting your overall marketing objectives. They will be able to work with you to create a tangible marketing plan, directed at achieving your goals. Looking for a premium digital agency to build your next project? Need an online marketing plan, or help with one? Drop us a line and let's discuss the possibilities.

Insights by Alessia Cavallaro

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