Before starting work on a website project, the Aptitude 8 team will first hold discovery sessions with the client to determine goals & objectives, set the brand & visual languages, set the voice & tone, and select the CMS that makes the most sense. We also use this phase to gather all assets like iconography, imagery, copy, links, etc. All of the steps in this phase, inform the following phases of planning and content mapping.
2. Planning & Strategy
The most important part of the planning and strategy phase is mapping out the user journeys. Once a visitor lands on the site, identify the ideal journey and then map it out, step by step. Start with building out a sitemap of pages, then the navigation, menus, and footers. Each journey will contain conversion opportunities that need to be plotted on your user journey map.
3. Content Mapping
Before any of the design and development can begin, the content for each page needs to be created. Pro Tip: it is critical that the content has been written strategically, for two major reasons - it must be written in a way that answers the questions of your target audience (that you’ll drive to your site), and answers the questions posed by folks leveraging search engines. Aptitude 8 will leverage the way the content is written and laid out to inform the design and functionality. Pillar pages, topic clusters, and overall user journeys also inform the design and development.
The design phase begins with the home page alone. We do this because it is the most important page of a website and because the look and feel of it will inform the design of the rest of the pages. Aptitude 8 offers 3 full revisions of the homepage design, so you can try on a few different options before making the final decision. Once the home page is approved, the rest of the pages are designed in a batch. And each batch, no matter how many pages included, gets 2 revisions so that your interior pages work seamlessly with your homepage.
5. Feedback & Approvals
The feedback phase is one of the most important phases because when we don’t receive clear, consolidated feedback it creates the potential to increase the time it takes to finish the site. We use Figma as our web design tool and leverage their robust comments tool to capture all client feedback right at the exact part of the design where it’s needed. In addition to feedback provided via Figma, we are also constantly collecting feedback provided by the client during our weekly calls. However, once the feedback window closes and the pages are pushed to development, no changes can be made beyond that point. Additionally, we use a tracking sheet to track the progress of design, development, feedback, and approvals so that no page goes unapproved.
Because we follow such a rigid process for the front end of a website engagement, the development of the site tends to be one of the faster parts of the entire process. The reason for this is because the strategy has already been laid out and most importantly because the designs are complete and approved. This means that there are no changes that can happen mid-flight which is the source of slow-downs. We build the site with the end user and content editor in mind, so we can build it to be as flexible as you’d like. We can build themes that encompass all the templates and modules, or we can build each page custom, it really depends on the team who will ultimately be managing the site. Everything is also built in a way that is fully responsive, so your content will also fit into the screen it’s being viewed on.
7. Quality Assurance
In the quality assurance phase, we take extreme measures to ensure that the site’s functionality, responsiveness, readability, accessibility, and overall look and feel are all working as expected. The QA checklist that we follow is thorough, detailed, long and followed to the T. The Aptitude 8 team QAs the site internally twice - once by our developers, then by our associates and solutions consultants. Once it pases internal QA, we then hand it off to the client to perform their own external QA, and when that passes, we prep for launch!
The launch phase is the final step before getting your brand new website LIVE. But this step is the most important and most technical because it involves other tools and likely, other teams. The most important parts are ensuring that the DNS (domain host) is setup to point to new content and that the new content is being hosted on the CMS. Other critical items include setting up any integrations to your site that were previously connected and applying site tags, analytics tags, ad pixels, event pixels, meta tags, etc. From here, we train our clients on how to use their CMS and then hand the site off to them. In the event that Aptitude 8 will continue maintaining the site under a separate retainer, we then set up a working schedule and regular check in meetings.
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