Designing & Building A Website With Intuitive Digital [The Ultimate Guide]

Building a New Website — How’s That Work?!

Oooh, yah…such a valid — and common! — question. We’re not gonna lie. The process of designing and creating your new and vastly improved site can be a complex, multi-phased project. But, if you know what to expect — timelines, costs, scope, roles, and responsibilities — it doesn’t need to be a total, un-slayable beast.

Here’s how we tackle the website design and development process. Not only will you glean a general understanding of establishing a fresh web presence, but you’ll also have more clarity on what to anticipate when working with Intuitive Digital. (See? Outlining those expectations is already starting!)

Web Design Discovery Process

You’ve made the decision to explore the possibility of overhauling your old site or getting a professionally-built inaugural website. That’s a huge step in and of itself — so, congrats!

But now what?

When engaging with Intuitive, we like to start out on solid footing. To borrow an old saying, we don’t want to put the cart before the horse.

Getting to Know You

This means it’s absolutely imperative that we slow our roll and take a bit of time to learn about your company, your industry, your customers, and so on. In fact, through this discovery process, you’ll probably have some Eureka! moments as well.

At Intuitive, we encapsulate the discovery period as its own stand-alone mini-project. Its goal is to come up with a web strategy. It does not include the actual designing or building of a website.

This approach has proven to keep things manageable and less complicated — for everyone. It’s a great way to discern your business’s online presence and web needs without you having to commit to a design and build project.

After all, that’s why you’re doing a website strategy project, right? In order to decide whether or not building a new website is the right move for your business, you need to have some info and data to evaluate. The numbers and qualitative details help illuminate the appropriate path forward for your website.

Onboarding & Kickoff

We like to get things going with a formal Partner (← that’s you!) Onboarding and kickoff meeting. So, once you’ve signed the contract, we’ll embark upon a series of conversations and questionnaires to start establishing rapport and benchmarks.

During onboarding, an Account Manager is assigned to you. Your AM is your primary point person at Intuitive and will work with you to get necessary stuff like passwords to your existing website and analytics accounts, any branding materials (e.g., logos), style guides, etc. You will probably become fast and forever-friends with your AM.

The official kickoff meeting takes place with the partner and Intuitive Team. The meeting’s purpose is mostly for us to:

  • Learn about you
  • Identify your priorities and goals
  • Strategize
  • Explain our process
  • Set expectations

It’s also our first opportunity to broach the nitty-gritty of your website. We want to begin internalizing your vision for the site in terms of the kind of feel, look, design preferences, functionality, etc. ASAP. We’ll also discuss the sitemap and content needs. 

Research & Audit

Then comes the meaty part of the program. Intuitive conducts oodles of research and an audit of your current site (if you have one). The research we do may include competitive or market analysis. The audit allows us to determine technical requirements (features and functionality), content needs, SEO, user experience essentials, etc. for the new website.

If you need them, we can also create customer personas, user flows, and information architecture (part of the sitemap).

We can’t stress enough how important — pivotal even — this piece of the discovery project is. And, you should know that many web agencies either don’t offer research and audit services or give this portion of the process short shrift.

You’re probably already well aware of the gaping holes and consequential shortcomings of your site (or lack of site). Those are the low-hanging rotten fruits.

But, it’s from Intuitive’s deep investigation and analysis that hidden truths are found. Our intensive audit and research can reveal the less obvious hows, whys, wheres, whens, and whos of your underperforming website. This is the step that surfaces the 80% of the iceberg that’s underwater.

Bringing It All Together + Next Steps

By the end of this thorough investigation, we should have a clear picture of what you want and what your users need in a new site. With all this in mind, we draft another proposal that outlines and accounts for all the work necessary to build the website you’ve been itching for. This website strategy document includes a proposed sitemap, project costs, and more.

Intuitive formally presents the Website Strategy to you and provides a copy of it. If you sign the proposal, we move on to the design process. If you decide not to move forward with a website project, you take the work we did together (i.e., the strategy report and sitemap) and that’s the end of our engagement.

How long it takes: about 30 days (from the signed contract start date)

What you get: Website Strategy presentation that includes a list of functionality features, site map, and project proposal

Website Development Projects — Intuitive Style

We are like [wise] old chameleons. Having worked with scores of enterprises — ranging in size and industry — we understand the nuances of small businesses and the demands of national multi-location ventures. Due to our extensive experience, talented and dedicated team, and proven design/build processes, we can handle creating simple, straightforward sites as well as elaborate sites with custom features.

So, before we dive into the details, we want to mention some things about our in-house capabilities and lessons learned: 

  • WordPress for the win. We build most partner sites on WordPress because it’s almost too easy for you to do daily upkeep on your own. You just need some computer savvy to be able to do content updates, add new pages, publish a new blog post, etc. It’s liberating to not be shackled to a web dev for every little change!
  • Ecommerce, also in the bag. For partners interested in a different online retail platform, we also create Shopify sites.
  • A shell of a website. Our focus with website design and development projects is creating the infrastructure and setting up the content management system — all that back-end stuff you never want to see. We also include some amount of SEO and content creation in every project; the extent of this, however, depends upon the project scope.
  • Good for Google. Like it or not, the reality is that the Goog is a key stakeholder for your website. We create sites that will certainly delight your peeps — but also this most-influencial business and search ecosystem. We know which levers to press and the right way to do so.
  • CMS Training. We’re happy to train partners who’re already actively managing the content on their sites. And if you’re not, you might consider leaving it to us.
  • End-to-end project duration. Client engagements can vary radically and the scale/complexity of the final website impacts how long it takes to finish. A good rule of thumb, though, is that small projects (simple sites) usually take 3-4 months from signed contract to launched site. Larger, fancier sites with lots of bells and whistles often take 6+ months to wrap up. Often, the biggest delay is copywriting — so keep this in mind if you’re going to tackle that yourself.

Web Design Process

Your socks were knocked off by our revelatory and brilliant Website Strategy (We aim to amaze, in a good way.) and you instantly signed on to go ahead with the website project. The excitement is tangible, practically crackling in the air. Now, the fun begins: it’s Design time!

You’ll want to don your creative cap — like we do — for a deep dive into the look and feel of your site. More than just interesting colors and splashing some pretty pics on some rando landing pages, Intuitive’s objective is a comprehensive plan that addresses brand and copy style, layout, customer journey, and so much more.

We’ve been doing this for a while; here’s how we like to move through this phase.

Steps to Designing a Website

  1. Have a collaborative, in-depth design meeting 
  2. Create a style board
  3. Create homepage comps (one design, two layouts: desktop and mobile versions)
  4. Presentation of initial design 
  5. Get your design feedback
  6. Make design revisions
  7. Get your approval on the design
  8. Design additional pages and content blocks (repeat 4-7)

Steps 2 and 3 start in tandem. For each chunk, we do an internal review and then shuttle it over to you for review and feedback. Our standard contract includes one round of edits after each review cycle.

Our team will meet with you to present the initial design and solicit any immediate reactions. You then have 10 days to provide a written critique, indicating the changes you’d like made to the design. We usually hit the mark on the first draft, though, so revisions are few and minor. It’s been our experience that this format and cadence keeps the train moving.

Our team then completes these modifications and sends the updated design back to you for approval. Assuming you’re pleased as punch — you will be — you’ll sign off on the designs and we continue to the Content Development stage. If you feel the design is still a bit too wide of the mark, we do a second round of revisions. Remaining site pages are developed based on the sitemap and agreed-upon content blocks (modular blocks specifically designed to build interior pages).

How long it takes: 4-6+ weeks (depending on size and complexity of the site)

What you get: Style board, design mockups for the homepage and other site pages

Content Development

This part of the website project can really vary from client to client. Some come to us with content that’s ready to go or, at least, a dedicated resource with fingers already poised over the keyboard. Others need soup-to-nuts heeeeelp! with all or multiple aspects of content. It’s a continuum — your experience will fall somewhere along the line depending upon your unique content sitch.

That caveat laid bare…

To be as speedy as possible, we start in on Content Development while the Design phase is still underway. Working concurrently is ideal not only because it’s efficient, but it can be helpful to the build process to have something other than endless lorem ipsums filling your pages.

The Content Development phase is a whirl of SEO keyword research, copywriting, and image sourcing. You’ll have ample ops to review and approve all of these elements. The approved content will be loaded into the site as part of the website build.

How long it takes: 2-3 months

What you get: Depends on your content needs, but may include an SEO keyword report, webpage copy, imagery, video or other rich media assets

Building Your Website

Style boards, page and block design, and content are in full swing. We’re far enough along to really plunge into the nuts and bolts of site development.

Steps to Developing a Website

  1. Build the foundation of the site
  2. Style the site
  3. Code any custom development
  4. Load content into CMS
  5. Optimize on-site SEO

During this stage, we’re standing up the website infrastructure and configuring it. We’re coding style based on the style board and homepage design, installing plugins and themes, and working on any custom features or integrations. These components are what give your site its form, formatting, features, and functionality.

Once the site’s core is complete and the page templates and customizations are ready, we load the content into the backend. We also take care to add in the meta details (e.g., page description and keywords) to optimize your web pages for SEO.

How long it takes: 2-3+ months (again, depending on size and technical specs)

What you get: A website on a staging server that’s ready for QA

Web Development QA Process

Proper quality assurance measures are non-negotiable. We’re not fans of releasing junk sites into the wild! (Sadly not everyone holds testing as near and dear to their hearts as we do!)

Your site should perform properly and accommodate users as it’s intended to. Visitors don’t appreciate being directed to a website to complete an action and then have the website not work correctly. A suboptimal encounter with your site could turn them off temporarily or — worse — turn them away permanently. High stakes here.

Internal Review

Intuitive does a thorough sweep of the website with multiple team members for more sets of eyes. We’re looking for everything from functionality to content organization to weird UX issues to slow loading pages. Trust us, not a broken link will go undetected.

After our team has knocked several times, really hard, on your website — and we’re sure there’s no residual wonkiness — we invite your team to use and review the site.

Partner Reviews

You’ll have the opportunity to do two rounds of site review. This is known as User Acceptance Testing, or UAT. In UAT, you’re going through your site as you’d expect an average visitor to. You’re checking to see if there are any strange behaviors, images that need changing, or layout issues that we didn’t catch in our internal review.

It’s not uncommon for you to have changes. It’s not a reflection of a poor internal review, but rather because you’re more familiar with the content and the potential users. And, you’re seeing a functioning staging site versus a static design for the first time.

From your first review, your team will compile a single, comprehensive list of changes for Intuitive to resolve. We’ll fold your edits into the site and then volley back to you for a second review. Again, your team will test the site out and send us a final set of adjustments and fixes.

At this juncture, we’re not implementing copy tweaks (because you already sent us the approved copy). We’re only dealing with bugs or warranty items. Other refinements are doable but will be billed for separately.

With your formal launch approval, we can begin all the activities for deploying your new site.

Launch Prep

Believe it or not, like astronauts in a space capsule, we’ve got step-by-step launch plans.

Our protocols won’t have you orbiting Earth, but they will do two critical things:

  1. Inform you of what you need to know and do
  2. Queue up all the resources to make the site go live as smoothly and quickly as humanly possible

Launch preparation includes practical things like:

  • Ensuring that all hosting and domain credentials are accurate (Please, don’t change your domain password the week before we launch!)
  • Advising you to block your schedule on launch day for any questions or problems
  • Setting up form notifications

We also lay out a Day-Of Plan. It’s meant to have us all functioning like a superbly-choreographed dance troupe at curtain time in a packed auditorium. Everyone’s on their mark at the correct moment, doing all the explicit and proper movements and gestures.

How long it takes: 3-4 weeks

What you get: Pre-launch and Day-Of plans

Site Launch!

The big day is finally here!

Site Deployment

Assume it’ll take in the ballpark of 3-5 hours to deploy the new site on Launch Day.

Usually, we have no more than two hours of downtime during which your site is entirely unavailable. (Visitors will get a friendly message saying the site’s temporarily offline for upgrades.) Be forewarned, though, that downtime can vary on a number of factors. And, the more complex the website, the more downtime there’s likely to be.

After pushing the site to the production environment, we run through a bunch of checks and tests to validate the site.

We’re optimistic pragmatists. We’ve all been diligent, so we’ll presume that all the connections connect, all the pages load, etc. You have a fantastic new website! (Cue the confetti poppers!)

And now…

Breathe Deeply & Smile

Par-tay! You bring the snacks; we’ll bring the craft IPAs and artisanal kombuchas (We’re super Portlandy….) and we’ll celebrate.

How long it takes: 3-5 hours (plus however long it takes for the party to fizzle)

What you get: Finished and deployed the new website

Post-Launch

We know you’ll be in a loud and festive mood, but our recommendation is to keep your announcement soft. Limit your “tell list” to family, friends, staff for about a week, in case any wrinkles appear and need to be ironed out. (It’s rare, but can happen). The bigger the project, the more time you should allow.

After a suitable amount of time — broadcast it to the world! Your grand achievement deserves visibility and recognition. 

How long it takes: Varies

What you get: Esteem, accolades — maybe a Webby?, bragging rights, bandwidth for other projects…

Steps to Developing a Website: Key Takeaways

Designing and building a new website can be a big, complex, but totally-worthwhile endeavor. With the right mindset and commitment, a web agency that’s experienced in web planning and development, and proper budget and expectations — you can have a successful project and finished product.

At Intuitive, we expertly guide you through our proven framework. Honed to be efficient and effective, our website project flow encompasses:

  • Discovery
  • Design
  • Content Development
  • Website Development
  • QA Testing
  • Site Launch

All in, Not only will you get a stunning and incredibly functional new website, you’ll have a pleasant, collaborative, well-managed experience throughout our engagement.

We encourage you to reach out with questions or to get the conversation about your website rolling.

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