At Home with Website Design and Development

Posted: May 12, 2015

Carissa Hoel Web Account Director

If you’re new to website design and development, understanding the process of a redesign can be confusing and overwhelming. There are multiple phases to complete and countless decisions to be made.

Recently, a few of our VisionPoint team members have taken on the exciting challenge of shopping for a new home. As I went through the process of evaluating floorplans, picking out paint colors, conducting inspections, negotiating prices and coordinating movers, I realized that a home is a lot like a higher ed website. This may seem like a strange comparison, but stay with me, it just might help put the daunting process of website design and development into a more understandable context.

After years of renting apartments and looking for a home that fits your needs, you’ve decided it’s time to build the dream house. The house that actually has a functional layout, enough storage space and reflects your personal style. The first step in the new home-building process is selecting the lot. In the website world, you’d be selecting the right CMS. In the same way that you need to pick a lot in a neighborhood with the right amenities that is also the right size for your house and family, you need a CMS that allows for your governance plan, fits your budget and gives you the right tools based on the people who will be using it on a daily basis.

Next, you’ll draw up the blueprints for your home. Deciding what rooms you want, where they should go and how it will all flow together. The website Information Architecture does the same thing. It determines what information you’ll use, where that content should be located and how it will all work together.

Now it’s time for the fun part. Picking furniture, paint colors, decorative pillows, artwork, etc. You’re envisioning an empty house and giving it a personality that fits your lifestyle. Design is the phase of the website process that brings life and visual interest to the structure. You’ll decide the colors, fonts, styles and graphics that will be used throughout the various pages of the site.

You need your house to function, not just look good. Plumbing, insulation, electricity, heat, water, internet. Your home will not serve it’s purpose without all of these things working properly. Back-end Development  creates the inner workings of your website. From CMS set-up and template creation to forms and navigation, all functionality needs to be in place for the website to provide the optimal user experience.

Once the structural elements are in place and you’ve finalized your interior design, it’s time to set it all up. Your team will prime, paint and set up everything that you’ve chosen to make your home unique. Front-end Development involves adding all of the approved visual elements to the website structure in the form of HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Now that you’ve got this beautiful new home, there are things from your old house that you’d like to move over. Migration is the moving team. They’re talking all of the stuff (think of rugs and couches as text and video) from your old site and moving it to the new site.

Before you can finalize the move, you need to have the house inspected. Quality Assurance (QA) is the time to check the site and fix any bugs or content errors. The first round is just a chance to find the issues. Once everything that needs to be fixed has been established, the work begins. After these fixes are made, the website owner does one last sweep before giving final sign off that everything has passed.

Congratulations! You’re all moved in and excited to start your new life with a home that’s decorated and filled with your belongings that give it that personal touch. Launch is when the new site goes live and is ready for users to visit and explore.

Even after you’ve moved in, you’ll want to make some minor adjustments before the housewarming party. Although you’re still living in the house, these small tweaks will make it work better for you. Live QA is the time to make any other small fixes and adjustments to the website now that it’s up and running.

In order to keep your home clean and presentable, you need to vacuum, dust and straighten up every once in a while. Maintenance is also required on your website. From CMS upgrades to added functionality, the goal is to ensure that users are able to find what they need and have a great experience on your site.

I’ll use the home building example conclude with one final thought. If you just don’t have the budget for a full redesign, we suggest starting by prioritizing your needs. For a website (much like a home) you’ll want to focus on the most high traffic areas of your site, like the homepage and admissions section (think kitchen and living room) and save the 4th level pages (think attic and basement) for later.

Hopefully this comparison has provided some clarity to the website design and development process. Both building a dream home and constructing the perfect website require planning, time, knowledge and support. When done correctly, both projects will be well worth the investment.