So what is a “Website Development Process”? The quick definition is: the planning and process you go through to develop a website, from inception to completion and beyond. Why is it important when embarking on a web redesign project? The bottom line is a well structured web design process can help you deliver a more successful website faster and more efficiently.

The Website Development Process, just like any project planning, lays out the steps to follow so that you can be consistent in delivery. It is the key to having everyone on the team follow the same process, thus allowing you to communicate and plan more effectively, resulting in being able to convey specifically what each person is responsible for.

The Website Development Process encompasses many disciplines, including but not limited to, resource management (people, supplies, services), budgeting and time. A solid timeline helps layout the project progress and identifies time and resources.

It also helps with planning, managing deliverables, and setting client expectations. Thus helping all parties understand the timing and the potential repercussions if an item is delayed. By assigning tasks to resources, it keeps all interested parties accountable for their individual deliverable and for maintaining the overall timeline.

No matter how big, or small a project is, a timeline is an indispensable asset to any project plan and allows for a visual representation of resources, tasks and time. A strong timeline is granular, in that it should list out the individual tasks and resources. By being this specific, you can then see the finer details of a project, like when a specific task is to start, be completed, any dependencies the task is dependent on, or that it depends on.

Individuals often have different needs for a timeline, some want to know when a task is being worked on (project manager or developer) and others want to know when a resource frees up (manager) or when the project is completed and can be billed (accounting department). By having a detailed timeline, the project managers and developers have what they need, allowing a manager to take a step back and monitor progress. Accounting can also be in the loop to see when the project is scheduled to be completed and can confirm with the project manager when invoices can be sent.

A very important aspect of a timeline is that it should be treated as a living document, shared with all the stakeholders on a project whenever it is updated. It is best practice to create the timeline up front and have it set in stone. But as we all know, unfortunately delays happen, a resource is out sick, or there has been a delay in content production. That being said, changes to the timeline should be communicated and agreed upon, at the beginning of the project by all the project stakeholders.

By having a well defined Website Development Process, it makes creating a timeline template feasible based on the process with milestones and common tasks already populated. This makes customizing for each individual project a matter of updating the project specific tasks and anticipated duration. By setting task dependencies, start and end dates will automatically be calculated for you – a real time saver.

Once the timeline is generated, it is reviewed and shared with the project stakeholders. Everyone responsible can then agree upon the plan and know when they are expected to be responsible for their part of the project. With the timeline, for example, your QA team will know what projects are coming their way and then, allowing them to schedule necessary resources ahead of time with no surprises. Clients will know when they will be called upon for user acceptance testing (UAT), how long they will have and when they can expect all remediation to be completed. Having a timeline does not negate the need for regular status meetings, it helps clients understand progress, and works as a reminder for upcoming deliverables from them so they can plan and be ready. And most importantly, when they can expect their new site to be live!

Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite part of the website design process: When everything has been thoroughly tested, and you’re happy with the site, it’s time to launch.

The phase of preparation affects all subsequent stages, defining how productive the development process will be. Always remember that a website development timeline is a fluid medium that can change. It is extremely important to keep it up-to-date and maintained.