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Specify how it should be — Project Management

If an IT project works the first time, it was a very small and simple project.
-- Cornelius Fitchner

"Come on already! Can you not just do that 78-page website we need and add a few interactive features this weekend?"

Constructing a website, is a project

It takes a considerable amount of paperwork even before typing the first code and even a typical small project generally recruits, oftentimes consumes, more than one developer. This is the step-by-step development process with real-life examples. Takes at least 3 to 12 months depending on its size.

Here is how I work.

  1. RESEARCH
    Acquire some general knowledge about the client's industry and analyse the leaders' websites. Submit a detailed document I call INITIAL RESEARCH to the client. This usually takes a week.
  2. PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS
    Author a document that specifies what features the website will incorporate in detail, which is called a REQUIREMENTS DOCUMENT. It is a sort of agreement and may take up to one month or even longer to get it fully approved. Also draft a document to be undersigned by all parties that defines legal boundaries and that limits the developers' liability exposure.
  3. SKETCH of the home page
    Draw 2-3 simple black-and-white layouts made up of geometric figures with no design elements (such as colour schemes, images or fonts) to produce a visual example for the customer. This eases the first decision making stage about where main elements will be located and how. These drawings are called WIREFRAMES. Takes no more than a few days.
  4. TIMELINE
    Submit another document specifying when each single task will be handled, and whose job it will be, which is called PROJECT MANAGEMENT PLAN.
  5. LAYOUT

    Create a static image file to show how the layout will look, which is the MOCK-UP of the home page. Takes about 2 weeks to have a fully approved design. It is worked-out as a .psd file, thanks to which layers are preserved, and submitted as a .jpeg file. Should any changes be required, the .psd file is easily edited and then re-submitted as another .jpeg file.

    Here is a landing-page study package:  The .jpg MOCK-UP   The .psd MOCK-UP   Its HTML version

    Hover the icons to view 2 other mockups     

  6. CONSTRUCTION
    After making the requested changes, begin the CSS-HTML coding if the website will be hand-coded. Otherwise, start customisation of the CMS chosen. Discuss the navigation system. Then start installing the required add-ons or modules. This stage is expected to take the longest time: roughly 2 to 6 months.
    (All construction work and experimentation take place on our own servers using temporary domain names/subdomains and the index under that name will be closed to search engines by robots.txt file that simply says   User-agent: * Disallow: / . As the URL of it is not publically announced, no users are expected to peep what is going on. However, all changes are readily accessible by the client at all times. Since nothing takes place on the client's server, the existing website of the client remains untouched by us. We do not even know the client's server credentials until the end of this stage.)
    Receiving continuous feedback from the client is the key here. Have routine Skype meetings preferably on a weekly basis. This stage is aimed to create the skeleton of a fully functioning website, but not necessarily including the actual content.
  7. TRANSFER
    When the fully-working dummy website on the test server is approved, the whole file system is uploaded on clients server, on a newly-created subdomain. Importing the .sql file, editing it, and then running it on the database is the trickiest part. Make sure the new subdomain successfully displays everything created so far.
    This is a wonderful opportunity and the correct time to provide training for the usage of the admin part to the client.
    At this point, the client's old website is still the main website and no one still sees the construction work.
    Make sure everything is all right by conducting a black-box testing. This may take another month or more.
  8. LAUNCH
    Finally, back-up the old website and delete it. Transfer all files from the subdomain to the actual domain. This is expected to happen within hours on one Saturday night while hopefully nobody will be trying to visit the URL which will be redirected to a temporary subdomain that displays a brief explanation reading something like "new website coming within hours".
    The website has just been launched!
    Do not forget to get an XML sitemap generated and to upload it.
  9. SEO
    Submit the URL to major engines, install and setup all the necessary tools. One week.
    Keep it under surveillance for a week.
  10. BILL
    Charge the balance and go to a bar to drink the money.