Fortunately for myself my career up to this point has been immersed in building websites. I originally started out building very small static websites for local provincial retailers over 15 years ago. More recently I was fortunate enough to be let loose on developing web platforms for some of the world’s largest technology and media brands. Along the way many valuable lessons have been learnt, sometimes through skill and dexterity (or so I think), sometimes through luck and perhaps the most important lessons I have learnt has been through failure.
Drawing on these experiences we set about building the website presence for Cure and Simple over the summer of 2013. If you are new to building websites these are the steps we went through to build cureandsimple.com and can be utilised to build your website.
Commercial Specification – are you retailing one-off products, or doing a subscription based model with recurring billing. How do you collect your £££. How you manage the supply chain, are you going to automate this or make this a manual process. This includes fulfilment, stock management and payments. Lots of questions you probably already have the answer for. The purpose of this is that the developers can start to get an idea of what sort of tech / systems they can use. Are we going to build something from scratch or buy something off the shelf?
Flow Chart – What is the journey for the user from finding you, right through the process of seeing your offering to signing up? The below is what a basic flow chart looks like.
Application Specification – This is what you actual want your website to do this will be a document which outlines every process and requirement, this will be the benchmark for the guys building the platform. Remember to ensure what devices you want your website to be viewed on. Not to include mobile is a very dumb thing to do unless there is a very good reason.
Wireframe Generation – A builder uses architect drawings, a website developer uses wireframes. The link below is the first set of wireframes we used for Cure & Simple, one of the most important aspects to website development is to get this absolutely nailed http://internal.fieldshires.com
Design – The creative aspect of the website development with all the design / graphic elements. Some of the early designs we did not use, are below:
Build – Building the website, now the developers have all the information they can then set about putting the site together.
Test – Make sure the website works it works across and performs how it is expected to across multiple devices and is running on your hosting environment
Launch – Get the website out there
By following this process we managed to get the website launched and taking orders in the very first hours.
In regards to who should do this work for you if you don’t have the required skills, there are three schools of thought. Get a company to do this for you, lots of very good companies out there, get a freelance web developer, where there are also plenty or finally build your own team. The benefits of using a company is that they will have all the required skills to deliver the outline above, however you will be paying a minimum of £500 / day for a web developer through this, as well as all the other associated fees, Account Managers, Project Managers etc. If you are well organised and want to jump in at the deep end then you will be able to secure and experienced web developer for as little as £300 / day, unless you find a real gem you will also potentially need to find additional freelancers to project manage or creative design. If you are going to build your own team this is by far the most expensive but will give you the most flexibility and the ability to make changes and adaptions as you grow remember if you are a dotcom your web site requires constant nurturing and development.
For the technical bits or for those who are intrigued, our site utilises the following technologies: php / MySQL we use Codeigniter which is a PHP MVC framework (unfortunately support for this framework was dropped after the website was developed), not that this will stop the site from running but advice would be to look elsewhere, we hear Cake is very good. Client side nothing revolutionary jQuery and twitter bootstrap for the responsive aspects (responsive design means the design of the website changes depending on device and screen size)
We also have multiple API services running built in Codeigniter that interact with 3rd party applications, including MailChimp for email handling, Royal Mail for deliveries, Chargify for subscription management and our merchant services provider for dealing with credit cards
We use Windows VMs for our hosting, which are managed for us by our friends at Zsah.
We have learnt lots on the way and more than happy to share our experiences with you, simple drop us an email at email@example.com if you want to know more.