The construction of a site goes through several phases:
- During the preparatory phase, the site's objectives are defined and agreement is reached between the various stakeholders. This results in a detailed site specifications concept plan for briefing the web designers.
- Follows an iterative phase of prototypes production, resulting in a final design of the website.
- Next the site will be filled with its initial content.
- Before launch, a final quality control is done on the site.
- Once operational, the site must continuously be updated and improved in order to keep the interest of its visitors alive.
First step: definition of the project
As explained in the chapter 'Objectives and planning', during the preparatory phase the various stakeholders will have reached agreement on the site's objectives and on the resources that will be allocated to the project.
This agreement must now be detailed and must result in a brief to the web designers, a document including:
- the aims and objectives of the site
- the audience/s it is to address
- the criteria on which their design will be judged
- timetable for site design
- navigation, content hierarchy and content structure
- alternative navigation systems and transaction services such as search facility, site map, FAQs, feedback, automatic notifications, etc.
- the EUROPA templates
- the existing presentation style guidelines for EUROPA
- the legal requirements such as legal notices, data protection and accessibility
- the technical requirements
Second step: site design
1. Rough structure of the site
2. “Storyboard” of the site (i.e. interaction of the potential user with your site)
3. Graphical mock-ups of the Homepage and other representative pages
4. Creation of an interactive prototype (where some relevant links and buttons work) if needed.
Web designers should develop a few ‘look and feel’ ideas to consider. These can be wire-frames, storyboards or mock-ups underlying the information design of the Homepage and the various page types. Once the logical approach has been approved, then web designers will create a few graphical prototypes either as images or as HTML pages. All stakeholders should evaluate these proposals. Getting user feedback will be also very useful in order to assess the efficacy of a particular web design.
Validation by ALL the members concerned (also and especially at political level) of the prototype after the necessary feedback and eventual modifications.
5. Creation of the site’s own graphical chart and set of HTML templates. Creation of images or illustrations.
Prototype designs should evolve until a final decision has been made on one specific design. Web designers should provide then a complete site graphic design specifications for all page types. Finished HTML templates, examples of key pages and illustrations, photography or other audiovisual material will also be provided.
At the end of this step, the resulting design must be submitted to the EUROPA team for validation.
Third step: initial load
The workload associated with this step will vary widely according to the nature and type of site. In some cases only minimal content must be loaded (e.g. a news site). Sometimes a complete set of new content will have to be created and loaded, resulting in a very long initial load phase. In case of redesign of a site, migration of existing content will be necessary, in which case an in depth 'cleaning up' exercise should be envisaged.
Fourth step: check and quality control
Before launch, you should perform a final check of the site. Make sure that all remarks put forward during quality control by the EUROPA team have been taken into account. Use the checklist and add your own specific controls to it so that it can be used for controlling new additions.
Fifth step: Maintenance
1. Update your website regularly in order to ensure that content is always up to date and remains attractive. Don’t change the essential parts of the design; let the user become familiar with the look, navigation, interface of your site.
2. Collect effective images to illustrate the themes, especially in the portal pages. (While being aware of copyright issues, of course).
3. Adapt the graphical style of the interface to meet changes in the structure (i.e. making new buttons or icons matching the existing).
4. Encourage people who supply written content to include illustrations in their manuscripts. Don’t allow ad hoc changes to essential parts of the site (navigation, interface, typography …). Fix a graphical charter for your site and stick to it - until you decide to change it.
5. If the structure of information of the site changes substantially, then a complete renovation is needed, and you should return to the first step.
- Site specification/Concept paper/ Project description
- target audience
- subject of the website
- navigation/organizational structure of the site
- Relevant standards (IPG, technical standards)
- Relevant contraints (Data Centre, DIGIT, etc.)
- EUROPA templates
- Illustrations, photography, audiovisual content
- Standard central images