Today, website development is one of the most well respected capabilities an IT consulting organization can possess. It can be thought of as both a science and an art. It is a science when you think about all the technical capabilities a team must bring together in order to produce the kind of website they want. Often, that is the most effective and efficient website you can you can imagine. And yet, every project is limited by its available resource; eg., computer hardware and skilled personnel. At the same time, it can also be considered an art. What business processes can be, or should be, automated? What kind of customer transactions can be handled effectively, efficiently and securely? What data must be maintained to support all this work?
Depending on the nature of your business, inventory management, accounting, payment processing, customer support and customer relationship management are the processes that must all swing into action once the customer transaction is initiated and completed. The fact that a number of these functions must now be processed over the Internet only makes the website development all the more difficult. The website is vital to the management of all your business activities. Your company must have a strategy for integrating the business processes with the website technology that initiates each of these internal functions.
Given this environment, your website development project will deliver the expected, hi-quality results if 5 key outcomes are delivered. Website development has become a task that many individuals have come to believe is relatively easy. For instance, the introduction of development tools, such as WordPress and Joomla, has made it relatively simple and straight forward to develop a website. However, these tools only make it easier for experienced developers to quickly deliver a fully functional website.
The website development process traditionally involved meeting a set of milestones loosely referred to as design, development, testing and implementation. Completed sequentially, as they often were, this process could easily take several months to complete. Today the website development process is characterized by processes and activities that are completed rapidly and more simultaneously, as opposed to sequentially. Ultimately, the standard results have not really changed. Following is a list of 5 key performance results that must be met by every website development project, if it’s to be considered a hi-quality success.
1. User focused design – The success of your website is often judged by how well it is ranked in the search engines; eg., Google, Yahoo and Bing. A major factor in the search engine algorithms that determine rankings is the time users spend on the website. Users spend time at websites that are designed to answer at least 2 significant questions. Is the user interface acceptable and is the website content compelling? To achieve these requirements, the designers of the website must be ready to adopt a customer/user focus. This means spending time with the user community; getting to know what excites and maintains their interest.
2. Quick functional development – Once aspects of the user focused design are determined such as webpage design or its functionality, it’s vital to get these ideas to the developers. They need to be able to have something executing in a test environment that users can quickly review and provide feedback that can be actioned by the development team. For example, one website developer sets up a “prototype” sub-domain for the development of the client’s website. Clients are encouraged to review the progress of their website development by reviewing the website defined to the “prototype” sub-domain. Once the “prototype” version of the website has passed all reviews, it is an easy upgrade to the live environment.
3. Flat project management hierarchy – The success of the previous point depends on excellent communication between ALL project members, especially the communication between the user community and the development team. To achieve this, it is better to have a project management structure that is more akin to a social network rather than a top-down hierarchy. This will promote open communication at all times. Leaders of the functional and technical designs will emerge naturally in this environment based on the expertise and outcomes that are achieved.
4. Version control is vital – In an environment where any component can be undergoing construction, review or modification at any particular time, keeping track of module versions and their integration with other specific module versions can be the “make or break” determining factor for the website development. You definitely DO NOT want to wast time and money wading through incompatible software modules during the development and testing of the website.
5. Don’t minimize testing of external components – Websites have never been functional silos. The Internet is a worldwide network of computers that must effectively and efficiently work with each to each valuable objectives. Don’t ever assume that what works in the development environment will work when the website “goes live”. That’s a major benefit of developing in a prototype environment. You are using a protected area of the exact network on which the website will ultimately be released, to complete the construction and testing of the website.
The 5 factors of website development success discussed here are certainly not the ONLY factors that could impact a project’s success. However, if you can faithfully say that your website development successfully achieved these 5 objectives, your company website has a very good chance of meeting its overall business goals and objectives.