This is the second of a four part series on web development best practices we have used as one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing web development agencies. These practices have consistently delivered prosperity to regional, national and global clients for the past 30 years.
Our first crucial web development best practice is to begin with a good plan. The key components of this include succinct articulation and thoughtful mapping of the following:
1. Purpose, Goals and Objectives – Always begin with the why. The list could include:
- realizing the goals outlined in the strategic plans
- generating leads
- growing revenue
- expanding market reach – to new geographies and new markets
- building reputation
- securing top Google rankings
- growing donors and donations (for non-profits and colleges)
2. Project Plan – To establish expectations with project stakeholders, include:
- progress meetings
3. Features and Requirements – To ensure clarity and alignment, and to provide a roadmap for development, these lists will help.
Features can be derived by knowing the answer to the following questions for each website audience (users, content administrators and business units):
- what are their needs
- what tasks must they be able to perform
- what key message should they be able to hear
- what features must they be able to enjoy
Requirements could include:
- desired user experience
- the variety of calls to action a website must support
- merchandising of various programs, products and services
- content reuse with COPE (create once, publish everywhere)
- domains and subdomains for marketing and promotions
- landing pages for promotions
4. Website Architecture – To map out a rational user experience, define:
- wireframes – with both persuasion and conversion architecture
- navigation and sub-navigation system
- workflows and interaction maps for applications
5. Technology Stack – To help future-proof your website, pick front-end, back-end and CMS technology stack with:
- the ability to support features that need to be built
- the right scalability (program, department or enterprise)
- the right security
- ease of maintenance
- the right mechanisms to support integration requirements with third-party applications such as Google Analytics, marketing automation software, CRM system and more
- support for page speed because people are impatient and Google bot rewards fast-loading websites with higher rankings
6. Content Strategy and Migration Plan – Since content poses the highest risk to website completion, it’s good to:
- develop a content inventory – pages that must be rewritten, merged, migrated, retired, archived, etc.
- map URL redirects – to retain your current SEO rankings and so that new ones can built on top of them
7. Website Maintenance Plan – Since websites are now mission critical assets and Google rewards a stable website, deploy:
- a content governance plan – for both planned and opportunistic content needs
- a new features roadmap
- uptime monitoring
- software upgrades
- security patches
- backups and restoration
8. Hosting Plan – Because websites are mission-critical, people are impatient and Google penalizes slow websites with lower rankings, hosting matters a lot, and websites need a hosting plan that:
- ensures your website is hosted securely on a high-speed Tier-1 environment, and weekly software and security patches are deployed.
- protects your website hosting environment from ever-evolving malware and attacks.
- keeps your uptime high with 24×7 monitoring and daily backups.
- automates infrastructure configuration and code deployment.
9. Test Plan – Since accuracy, functionality and predictability are such an integral part of brand trust, it’s best if you, rather than your website users, find the problems and fix them with:
- unit testing, functional testing and system testing
- devices and browser testing
- ADA compliance testing
- speed testing
Despite all the planning, be prepared for some surprises along the way especially with third-party integrations and unanticipated new requirements. Nevertheless, plan on delivering joy, brilliance and satisfaction for all stakeholders.