Website Design and Development FAQ: Development

Posted: February 27, 2014

Carissa Hoel Web Account Director

Development is the final, and often the most time-consuming, phase in website projects. Our development phase typically includes front and back end development, content migration, website review/quality assurance, launch and live review.

Unlike those earlier phases, information architecture and design, development is nowhere near as visual of a process. While our developers are busy immersing themselves in code, content management systems, content migration and more, there’s not really a whole lot for the client to review until the phase is complete. It’s a fact that can be challenging for clients who like to see visual evidence of how a project is progressing, but we try our best to keep our clients in the know with regular updates.

Naturally, without a visual aid, clients can end up with a variety of different questions about what’s going on with their website. We took a look at some of the questions we’ve heard most over the years and did our best to answer them below:

Building the Website

How long does development take?

Every website is different. Differences in the size of a site, technology employed, design and functionality all factor into total development time. The amount of content we’ll need to migrate from the old site to the new one also affects the project timeline. Your project lead will provide you a timeline towards the start of your project that will give you a solid time estimate.

Where is the site built?

As a way to make sure the project sticks to the established timeline and budget, we prefer to start the website build on our own server and move it to the client’s server for migration and review. By constructing the site on our own server, we can work faster without worry of any potential external technological hiccups.

When will I be able to see something?

Development is very different from the other phases of a project. Most phases allow clients to see the progress and provide feedback. Because development deals with coding, there isn’t much to see until the build is complete.

Will the developed site look exactly like the design?

We always do our best to create an exact match with what was agreed upon in the design phase. However, there are occasionally times when the design needs to be tweaked slightly during development because of unforeseen limitations in functionality imposed by the site’s content management system.

Examples of this include:

  • Assumptions made about external data that is out of our control (we can’t include an image if the database we’re pulling content from doesn’t have one.)
  • Issues with overwriting the default styles to third party widgets (Twitter, Facebook, Google Search)
  • Functionality of the CMS requires a different layout or ordering of content pieces
  • Changes or additional needs of design/content made by the client between the end of design and beginning of development.

The development phase is just as collaborative of an effort with the client as the design phase. When issues like this come up, we do our best to communicate them to the client and find the solution that works best for both design and development. We make sure the client is on-board and aware of any changes that are made, as well as the reasoning behind them.

What browsers do you typically build for?

The scope of work will clearly identify a list of supported browsers. Here is an example from recent projects:

Desktop browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 8+
  • Firefox 15+
  • Safari 5+
  • Chrome 23+

Mobile browsers:

  • Safari (iOS 6+)
  • Android Chrome (Android 4.0+)
  • Android Stock Browser (Android 2.0+).

Do you develop with SEO in mind?

We stick to SEO best practices when we develop a website. While content and user experience are now the primary determinants of search ranking, we also code the website to be search-engine friendly.

Will my website meet accessibility standards?

There are different levels of accessibility. At a minimum, we always strive where possible to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level A. Beyond that, we ask the client what level they require and incorporate that into the scope of work.

Content Management and Migration

When can content be added?

Depending on the CMS, content can be added during development. However, we find that adding content after the site has been built and reviewed makes for the smoothest experience. Adding content before the site has been styled usually means the content can look off.

If the client is adding content before the website is completed and reviewed, we ask the client to hold all feedback until the site is complete. Otherwise, development slows down drastically as we jump around from task to task trying to accommodate the questions with solutions. This could mean breaking from our standard development process, increasing the likelihood we could miss something.

How long does content migration take?

With an average of anywhere from five to 20 minutes to move content on each page, migration can be challenging to estimate. Text-only pages take less time, but once you start adding in headers, links, videos, images and other elements, the minute count increases. Multiply that time by the number of pages of content that need to be migrated and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how long things might take. Keep the amount of time you’re able to devote to migration in mind if you plan on transferring your own content as well.

What if migration isn’t part of the scope of work and I decide we need a hand?

Content migration can get overwhelming quickly. Should you decide you need assistance, your project lead can help you get a change order with the cost and time estimate.

Who owns the software for the CMS?

Clients own their website and all licensing and software.

Will there be workflow and permissions on the new website? Will this prevent people from publishing content that isn’t brand-friendly?

Depending on the scope of work, workflow and permissions might be built into your new website’s CMS. Generally, we recommend having a few different roles with different permissions. Those roles should also correspond to a workflow model. This may not prevent every brand breach but it certainly limits the opportunities.

For example, you may have admins who have full access. You might also have creators who only create content, editors who only edit and owners who push content live. Some users might be a combination of one or more of these things.

When can I be trained on the website’s CMS?

We like to train after the website has been completed and reviewed, but before we hand the site over for migration and launch.

After Approval

What if I want to make changes once I see the website developed?

After the design has been approved, our developers move forward and build the site to match the design. If a change is requested, the developers will have to duplicate their efforts which increases timeline and budget.

Typically, if a change is requested, we put together a change order. If the change is time consuming, the project lead will also provide you with an update to the project’s timeline.

What happens if I have questions after the project is complete?

If you have questions after project approval that you can’t quite figure out, reach out to your project lead. Your project lead can help guide you through the next steps. If it is a simple question, you may get the answer back fairly quickly. If it is more complex or requires additional resources to step in and lend a hand, then your project lead can provide a time and cost estimate.

Did We Miss Something?

The answers here are answers to just some of the many questions we’ve received from clients about website development. If you’re thinking about embarking on your website redesign project or have a question you’d like answered about any part of the process, reach out to us today. We’d love to hear from you.