A Website Design & Development Project Checklist

Here’s 10 examples, off the top of my head, of conversations i have actually had when I have had to postpone a website launch and the client has asked why?…..

My answers:

  1. The changes you sent to the design brief on Wednesday
  2. The 150 images you sent to us yesterday to be included on the site
  3. The 50 pages of text for the website you sent to us Tuesday…. in the post….. er, on paper
  4. This is the first time your boss has seen it?
  5. You never told us all your organisation used IE4
  6. Yes, as we mentioned, 1024×768 won’t fit on your bosses smaller screen
  7. What do you mean your logo is changing
  8. So you’ve actually not got any content ready for sections 3,4,5,6 and 7?
  9. Ah….. so you want sections 3,4,5 and 7 removed from the navigation….
  10. The guy who controls your domain is leaving early today?

The list could go on…… what I’ve learned to do is take some responsibility on to ensure I don’t repeat mistakes I should have learned from.

Things that can slow down your project

What I have learned is good communication is paramount when developing any website. It’s a learning process, and you hopefully can only get better at it with time and experience. There’s always unexpected challenges, but there’s some stuff that needs to be discussed from the outset to avoid the vast majority of headache.

I loved being a web designer and developer. I love the thought process and the finished product, but there are so many other factors out off a web designer’s control that make being a web designer suck sometimes.

I’ve came across a lot of situations….

  1. Domain Name Registrars who for some reason don’t release domains
  2. Hosting companies that take your site down and don’t tell you until your client spots it
  3. Other web design companies you win clients from who make it a difficult transition
  4. 3rd Party IT people (who manage client internal PCs and email) who are as useful as a chocolate candle
  5. Clients who think a CMS comes with free lifetime CMS training or telephone support
  6. Clients who don’t know how to cut and paste
  7. Clients who think it’s your responsibility to get them website sales… from this point on
  8. Clients that want a blog, but don’t want to write anything in it
  9. Clients that think their $300 job is the only website your  team is working on
  10. Clients who don’t supply content in time, but still want the website launched on time
  11. Clients who don’t supply content
  12. Clients who think it’s your job to update their Joomla or WordPress installation for life
  13. Internet Explorer and MS Edge browsers

Ive been designing websites since 2006 – so I have made a lot of mistakes.  Here’s a quick web design & development project checklist for clients and designers – a collection of some of the more important stuff I’ve learned – that might save us time and money in the future.

Managing your Expectations

If you’re looking for a fixed price for the development of the website, as we often do, ensure the project goes smoothly before you start, by communicating with us at the outset.  You'll enjoy the process much more because there will be fewer surprises.

Here’s stuff that needs to be discussed:

  1. Prices can change even for a fixed cost website
    • Web Design Costs are dependent on how many hours is spent working on a design and how many times the you ask for changes to it
    • As you review our portfolio –be sure you like what you see before choosing to hire us.
    • Supply samples of the types of website you are looking for.
    • Estimate a cost for a job, based on early discussion.
    • Just remember, we can quote for a job only on the information we have available at the time
    • We start the project with 60% of job before start, 20%w hen website layout is approved and 20% on completion( required to go live )
    • Don't forget that you are hiring us to do the job by hours.  We do have other clients and you work will scheduled into our production pool. 
  2. It’s impossible to make a site that will look the same in all browsers;
    • Specify which Resolution / Screen Size the Website Should Be Designed to
    • Specify a fixed width or fluid layout
    • Inform the client which browser versions you support
    • Ensure the client is aware of website font restrictions or recommendations and web page download considerations
    • Ensure the client is aware websites look different than on paper
  3. Content should be supplied by the client in a form easily used
    • Who is supplying the text?
    • Who is supplying the images?
    • Get the client to supply all text, photographs and content in electronic format
    • Make sure text supplied, if formatted, is in a web-ready format
    • The client should supply an example site-plan, in a bulleted list
    • The client needs to specify any specific functionality required at the outset
  4. ‘Milestone’ dates for the project should be agreed
    • Communicate missing any milestone date for supplying content / adding new content will have an impact on launch commitments and costs 
    • Agree to content delivery date
    • Agree to Site Architecture Freeze Date
    • Agree to Site Functionality Freeze Date
    • Agree to Design Freeze date
    • Agree to Launch Date
  5. Changes to the brief should be communicated and costs agreed / timings considered in electronic form
    • No Favours – The road to hell is paved with good intentions and the bodies of well meaning web developers
    • Everything should be charged out, agreed and accountable
  6. Websites can go down every now and then
    • Who hosts the current site?
    • Get Contact Details
    • Hosting is a recurring annual charge
  7. Domain transfers sometimes go a bit long
    • We are at the mercy of third parties
    • Who controls current domain(s)?
    • Domains need registered every year
    • Get Contact Details
  8. Emails might go down for a period of perhaps 24-48 hours
    • Who controls current email(s)?
    • Get Contact Details
    • How many email accounts to you have/need
  9. Launching a website can be about pressing buttons and waiting
  10. Websites Get Hacked
    • All CMS needs kept up to date
    • In most cases hackers seek to deface the site
    • A hacked site can mean disaster in Google
    • A site that has been hacked can be rescued
    • Who’s in charge of security / CMS updates
    • Agree maintenance fees
  11. A Winning Website Is never ‘Finished’!
    • The client should keep his site up-to-date with news if he has a CMS
    • Training for the CMS should be costed if required
  12. A website is subject to Laws of The Land and the client should investigate these
    • US Corporate Law
    • Business, Sales and Distribution Licenses
    • Website Accessibility Recommendations
  13. Agree to ongoing responsibilities
    • Who is responsible for the client's email, hosting and domain management
    • Do we guarantee’ a website is fit for purpose for say 1 year?
    • When will annual billing start and occur


Take responsibility, agree the scope of the project, recognise the requirements to meet the brief within allocated time-frame, and be mindful that time is billable.


16 Tips for a Better Website

1. Condense your menu
Do you have twelve items under one heading on your navigation bar? If so, you might want to look at tidying up. A cleaner navigation makes things easier to find. When things are easier to find, it creates a better experience for your site’s visitors. Plus, they’ll be less likely to hit the back button because they won’t be frustrated trying to find what they need.
17 Tips for a Better Website
2. Have a call to action on every page
Every page on your website should be making your visitor act on something. Maybe it’s to get them to purchase your ebook, view your credentials, or watch a demo video. Whatever it is, make it known to the user. Remember, they don’t want to think when they’re browsing your site. Whether it’s a button or a hyperlink, but something on every page that leads them to the action you ultimately want them to take.
3. Put your phone number on your homepage
Every website should have their phone number. Seems obvious, right? But, many don’t. It’s often buried on a contact page or not on the site at all. Big mistake! Many visitors head to your website just to find your phone number, so make it prominent on your homepage. The top right corner is usually best – or, I’ve also seen it down in the footer. Regardless, put it up there!
17 Tips for a Better Website
4. Add business hours
Similar to the phone number above, when is your business open? Can I call you at 6am? What if I’m bringing my parents to your restaurant and it’s 10pm – will we be able to eat? These questions are inside the head of your customers more than you think. Making your hours known solves this, so put them up for all to see.
5. Add an about us page
Who are you? Do you work with a big team? When a business person – or consumer – selects a company to do business with, they often like to know who they’ll be working with. Add pictures of your team with real bios. Sure, professional experience is awesome, but list your hobbies, family life, and things you like to do for fun. Bottom line: show you’re a real human being.
17 Tips for a Better Website
6. Use big, bold images
This seems to be a pretty big trend in web design, but it’s because images speak louder than words. Capture your visitors with beautiful imagery. Take pictures of your team in action, shots of the local area, or recent projects you’ve worked on.
7. Add a directions widget
For those without a GPS, directions are convenient for just about anybody. Google has a free map widget you can add to your site. Just enter your address
and you’ve got directions right to your front door. It shows prospective customers you care about the whole experience.
17 Tips for a Better Website
8. Make your site mobile-friendly
Mobile is huge right now. With over 50% of Americans owning a smartphone, your new customers are likely to come from mobile browsing. But, it’s tough to navigate a site not optimized for a tiny screen. There are plenty of inexpensive tools to create a mobile website from your current site. Explore those or get a designer to make your site mobile-friendly.
9. Match your company branding
Did you just update your logo or change your company colors? Make sure your brick and mortar experience matches your online experience. It helps to create brand awareness so customers recognize your company when they’re on the road or describing it to colleagues.
10. Cut the distractions (ie. music and splash pages)
Do you have Frank Sinatra playing on your site, or a splash page that blocks people from getting to what they need? Remove it all. Why? Not only is it annoying for many visitors, but it distracts them from doing what you want them to do.
11. Get social with your customers
Haven’t hopped on social media yet? These days, it seems like the entire world is on social media in some way. We’re social people who like to interact with friends, family members, and even strangers. Plus, we listen to their recommendations. You want in on this community building. Get started with a Facebook page or Twitter account and focus on mastering one of them. Then move to the next network.
17 Tips for a Better Website
12. Add industry resources
Want to establish yourself as the company to go to in the industry? Then add some resources to your website. This could be reports, surveys, white papers, or helpful links. This material demonstrates to prospective customers you know your stuff. So, get writing!
13. Put your customers to work – add testimonials
Your current customers are a huge asset to your company because they can provide real-world case studies – and testimonials – as to how your company has helped them save time, save money, etc. Reach out to your best customers and ask for a testimonial. Here’s a tip: have it pre-written, so all your customer has to do is approve it.
14. Figure out your site’s main goal
Why do you have a website? What do you want your site to do? After you figure out these two questions, make sure your website accomplishes the goal: add or delete pages, restructure your site, make a new landing page, etc. Make your goal a top priority. And let your team know what that goal is so they can help out too.
17 Tips for a Better Website
15. Start from scratch
While this isn’t recommended because it takes a lot of time, money, and resources, it may be worth it. If you’ve got an old website, starting over with brand-new technology would be smart, rather than trying to patch what you already have. Start with a pencil sketch of what you want and assemble the best team to make it happen.
16. Hire a professional
This leads me to hiring a professional. If you’ve kept your web work in-house, it may be worth looking at bringing in the big guns. They’ll not only move the project forward, but they’ll bring their own experience and expertise to the project.
17 Tips for a Better Website

Original Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design


1. Using Frames

Splitting a page into frames is very confusing for users since frames break the fundamental user model of the web page. All of a sudden, you cannot bookmark the current page and return to it (the bookmark points to another version of the frameset), URLs stop working, and printouts become difficult. Even worse, the predictability of user actions goes out the door: who knows what information will appear where when you click on a link?


2. Gratuitous Use of Bleeding-Edge Technology

Don't try to attract users to your site by bragging about use of the latest web technology. You may attract a few nerds, but mainstream users will care more about useful content and your ability to offer good customer service. Using the latest and greatest before it is even out of beta is a sure way to discourage users: if their system crashes while visiting your site, you can bet that many of them will not be back. Unless you are in the business of selling Internet products or services, it is better to wait until some experience has been gained with respect to the appropriate ways of using new techniques. When desktop publishing was young, people put twenty fonts in their documents: let's avoid similar design bloat on the Web.


As an example: Use VRML if you actually have information that maps naturally onto a three-dimensional space (e.g., architectural design, shoot-them-up games, surgery planning). Don't use VRML if your data is N-dimensional since it is usually better to produce 2-dimensional overviews that fit with the actual display and input hardware available to the user.


3. Scrolling Text, Marquees, and Constantly Running Animations

Never include page elements that move incessantly. Moving images have an overpowering effect on the human peripheral vision. A web page should not emulate Times Square in New York City in its constant attack on the human senses: give your user some peace and quiet to actually read the text!


Of course, <BLINK> is simply evil. Enough said.


4. Complex URLs

Even though machine-level addressing like the URL should never have been exposed in the user interface, it is there and we have found that users actually try to decode the URLs of pages to infer the structure of web sites. Users do this because of the horrifying lack of support for navigation and sense of location in current web browsers. Thus, a URL should contain human-readable directory and file names that reflect the nature of the information space.


Also, users sometimes need to type in a URL, so try to minimize the risk of typos by using short names with all lower-case characters and no special characters (many people don't know how to type a ~).


5. Orphan Pages

Make sure that all pages include a clear indication of what web site they belong to since users may access pages directly without coming in through your home page. For the same reason, every page should have a link up to your home page as well as some indication of where they fit within the structure of your information space.


6. Long Scrolling Pages

Only 10% of users scroll beyond the information that is visible on the screen when a page comes up. All critical content and navigation options should be on the top part of the page.


Note added December 1997: More recent studies show that users are more willing to scroll now than they were in the early years of the Web. I still recommend minimizing scrolling on navigation pages, but it is no longer an absolute ban.


7. Lack of Navigation Support

Don't assume that users know as much about your site as you do. They always have difficulty finding information, so they need support in the form of a strong sense of structure and place. Start your design with a good understanding of the structure of the information space and communicate this structure explicitly to the user. Provide a site map and let users know where they are and where they can go. Also, you will need a good search feature since even the best navigation support will never be enough.


8. Non-Standard Link Colors

Links to pages that have not been seen by the user are blue; links to previously seen pages are purple or red. Don't mess with these colors since the ability to understand what links have been followed is one of the few navigational aides that is standard in most web browsers. Consistency is key to teaching users what the link colors mean.


9. Outdated Information

Budget to hire a web gardener as part of your team. You need somebody to root out the weeds and replant the flowers as the website changes but most people would rather spend their time creating new content than on maintenance. In practice, maintenance is a cheap way of enhancing the content on your website since many old pages keep their relevance and should be linked into the new pages. Of course, some pages are better off being removed completely from the server after their expiration date.


10. Overly Long Download Times

I am placing this issue last because most people already know about it; not because it is the least important. Traditional human factors guidelines indicate 10 seconds as the maximum response time before users lose interest. On the web, users have been trained to endure so much suffering that it may be acceptable to increase this limit to 15 seconds for a few pages.


Even websites with high-end users need to consider download times: many B2B customers access websites from home computers in the evening because they are too busy to surf the Web during working hours.

See Original Article Here

4 Tips on How to Decrease Your Website's Bounce Rate


Occasionally, I would mistakenly click on a wrong link, and I would immediately hit the back button on my browser. Of course, not every visitor that bounced on your site behaved like me. This post focuses on the experience of your website visitors to prevent bounces from those that are actually searching for contents like yours.


Brief Definition of Bounce Rate


Bounce rate is the percentage of people who lands on your site and leaves without visiting a second page. Your visitor may leave your site by:

  • Clicking the back button
  • Closing the browser
  • Visiting another site
  • Doing nothing (session time-out)

(To learn more about bounce rate, I suggest you read What is Bounce Rate.)


The Typical Website Visitor’s Experience


Now, let’s try to understand a typical website visitor’s browsing experience so we can better understand why your website visitors might be opting out from your website.

The process flow of your website visitor can be broken into two big phases:

  1. When visitors see your link (social media, blog, search engine, etc.)
  2. When they click on the link and enter your website

Here are the questions: What were they expecting to see when they visited your site? What compelled them to leave? The 4 tips listed below will answer these two questions so you can decrease your website’s overall bounce rate.


Tip #1: Have a clear and concise title statement


Ever visited a website that you have no idea what they do or what that website is about? Do you try to figure out what they do or do you go to another website?


Your website or landing page should have a headline that clearly states what you do or what you’re all about. For example, if you have an Ecommerce website that sells computer accessories, your homepage positioning statement can be “We Sell Computer Accessories at Bargain Prices.” The statement should be simple and concise with a font size that shouts out to your website visitor, similar to how Servora uses “online accounting software with CRM” as their positioning statement.


4 Tips on How to Decrease Your Website’s Bounce Rate image Servora Positioning Statement


Remember: a new website visitor that lands on your page only has an average attention span of 0 – 8 seconds. Thus, make sure your title statement (1) shouts out to your audience, (2) is not too long, and (3) is easy to understand.


Tip #2: Traffic source and title statement MUST match


Ever clicked on a link and felt like you were taken to the wrong website or webpage?


Similar to how Google AdWords uses quality score to rate your PPC ads, the referral sources and hyperlinks that you put out on the web should match the contents and title statement of the landing page. For instance, what do you think a website visitor when he clicks on this link:


4 Tips on How to Decrease Your Website’s Bounce Rate image Adwords Example


and lands on this page?? (This is what really happened)


4 Tips on How to Decrease Your Website’s Bounce Rate image Expectation Mismatch


Even if your landing page has a clear title statement or image, they will still bounce if the content is not what the visitor was expecting or searching for. Thus, it is important that your inbound links (social media, blogs, search engine, PPC, etc.) convey consistent messages so you can get relevant website traffic that does not bounce. If you have multiple marketing messages to convey, you can create multiple landing pages, each tailored to a unique interest to a unique audience.


Tip #3: Avoid clutter at all costs


Ever visited a website that has text ads, flashy ads, products, links, text, and images all condensed on the homepage? How did you feel? Did you bother digging through those clutter or did you move on to another site?


Even if you followed Tips 1 and 2 above, your website visitor is still likely to bounce if they find your website contents hard to digest.


When you need to communicate lots of messages, you can break up your contents into digestible chunks using slideshows, interactive contents, images, videos, etc., each with its own headline. Or, you can have 2-3 different call-to-actions for your website visitors to choose from, like how Workday links demo, webinar, and blog on its homepage.


4 Tips on How to Decrease Your Website’s Bounce Rate image Workday CTA


As mentioned earlier, an average website visitor has an attention span of 0 – 8 seconds. An easy to navigate landing page can engage your audience within that time frame and reduce your bounce rate.


Tip #4: Optimize for Mobile


Have you ever encountered a website on your phone where the text and navigation buttons are is just too small and hard to browse? Do you stay on the website or do you visit somewhere else?


More and more websites are browsed through phone or tablets, and this trend is only going to grow. A website optimized for mobile devices gives people a better browsing experience so they don’t bounce to other mobile-friendly sites. Adaptive web design and responsive web design are two ways that you can optimize your website.


The image below shows that American Airlines uses Adaptive Web Design:


4 Tips on How to Decrease Your Website’s Bounce Rate image adaptive design


Whereas Inflexion Interactive uses an Responsive Web Design:


4 Tips on How to Decrease Your Website’s Bounce Rate image responsive design


Both designs can greatly decrease your bounce rate from mobile devices. Implementation of either design will depend on how you want your mobile visitors to interact with your site.



Tip #4.5: Improve your website’s load time


The most overlooked aspect of bounce rate is your website’s load time. According to data provided by KISSmetrics, for every additional second of load time, your bounce rate will increase by as much as 6.25%. To check your site’s page load time, you can use free services like pingdom tools or GTmetrix.




Not all bounce rates are bad. To determine whether you are using bounce rate metrics correctly, I suggest that you read my post: Do’s and Don’ts on Using Bounce Rate to Evaluate Your Website.


Keep in mind that the key to reducing bounce rate is how you manage your website visitor’s experience and expectations. If you follow these four tips, your website bounce rate should be reduced to the average benchmark rate within your industry, if not better. However, reducing bounce rate is just the first step to achieve what you want your website to do. The next step is to optimize your website for conversions so your website can be a true asset for you.


Do you know of any other ways to reduce your bounce rate?

See original article here

4 Tips From Google To Make Your Website More Compelling

4 Tips From Google To Make Your Website More Compelling

Guest author Mark Tobias is president of the online consulting firm Pantheon.


Most organizations are constantly adding material on their website—new sections, new toolbars, updated information and more. But how do you make sure that all the time and energy that goes into producing useful information doesn't go to waste because it's not arranged in ways that sync up with your visitors' needs?


Many organizations in this situation end up with confusing, cluttered websites that turn away frustrated visitors instead of drawing them in. This is particularly true when they select web designs based on aesthetics instead of focusing on how well they meet the needs of the target audience.


The Ghost Of Melvil Dewey Haunts The Web


Unfortunately, far too many websites feature an information architecture and content strategy more akin to the Dewey Decimal System then to today's users needs. Dewey's classification of books into searchable sections of the library was an excellent service for researchers and library lovers, but it's a poor match for the online organization of information.


The categorical approach inspired by the Dewey Decimal System forces website visitors to spend more time and effort trying to figure out how what they want to learn fits into pre-assigned categories. Let's face it—patience isn't much of a virtue online. Web users want what they want, when they want it. There is no tolerance for designs that force them to forage from section to section. If users can't get their questions answered quickly, they leave.


Yahoo learned this lesson the hard way. Consider this screenshot of the 1999 Yahoo homepage design, which is obviously dated, messy and vastly different from today's Yahoo—which, by the way, still struggles for user attention long after abandoning the site's original "catalog" design. The ideal way to feature your website's offerings should be entirely dependent on the audience and how it seeks information, and Yahoo's portal design only worked so long as there was no better alternative.


Soon enough, there was.


No one better understands how to serve up online information than Google. Its dependable homepage design has remained largely the same for roughly 14 years. While the algorithms that power Google's search function are constantly tested and tweaked, the only significant design change in the past ten years is a larger sized search box, which each day answers more than a billion questions in 181 countries and 146 languages.


The Google experience is intuitive, highly personalized and user driven—no two searches are alike. Search results are a combination of the user's logged search history and Google's own automated daily crawl of 20 billion websites in search of data that can be turned into results. Thanks to Google's immense "Knowledge Graph," only 15 percent of searches are new to Google and haven't been seen before.


What You Can Learn From Google


Google retains its prominence among competitors because it knows and responds to user experience. It's a great model for nonprofit, association, and government websites that face enormous challenges keeping their target audiences informed and engaged. Here are four guiding principles to help guide your website content organization strategy:


1.WWUD. Make "What Will Users Do" your organization's watchwords when posting new material. Sure, you think it's important, but will your target audience? How are they finding it? Where do they go after reading it? Think about your audiences' interests, but also their level of experience. Is there a way to present things differently for first time visitors and experienced veterans?


2.Question taxonomy. Website architecture persists from inertia and lack of awareness about how (and whether) users are finding and getting the information they need. Smart organizations challenge assumptions and "the way it's always been" and are perpetually curious about their target audiences. Like Google and Amazon, the websites that know their users and tailor their presentations accordingly are able to draw users from page to page to learn and do more. They attract more visitors, impart more information, clinch more memberships, and drive more action and purchases. Not coincidentally, these websites tend to be cleaner and offer users more relevant material suited to their needs and experience levels.


3.Answer questions. Like Google, websites should be organized and tailored to answer user questions. Users come to the Web to learn and get answers—often to questions they didn't even know to ask. The notion that websites should be serving up modules of learning tailored to users is alien to most organizations. That kind of unwillingness to adapt to the audience is why Yahoo, Infoseek, Altavista and other search engines failed while Google lives on.


4.Test and refine. Knowing how to answer user questions requires knowing your users and how they navigate your website. Website analytics tools can help you dig in to learn about where visitors are going, how long they're staying and when they leave. Experiment with placement and wording of information. As we build each website, every step along the way is an opportunity to get feedback from the client's target audience to shape the most effective architecture and navigation tools. Incremental and continuous testing keeps us honest and stops us from making both big and little mistakes that result from faulty assumptions.

If your website more closely resembles the rows and sections of a library than a user-friendly online learning expo, consider a new approach using these four principles to guide your strategy. You will be rewarded with an increase in quality Web traffic and a productive relationship with your target audience. In the high stakes world organizations, governments and companies live in, that's well worth the effort.

See original article here.