OPC IT. Managed services and web development in Canberra.

How to save time and money on website development

Date: 
14 July 2014
Authored by: 
Le Tong

When developing a website, giving as much information as you can to the web developer, at the start of the project, is really going to save you time and money in the end.

Providing as much information as you can makes sure that the designer, developer and you are all on the same page to produce the site that you want.

Making sure you get this early step right reduces the risk of there being issues at the end. Issues at the end, after the project is completed, which need fixing, can often cost more than if the functionality was included in the initial scope. Also, retrofitting something may not be as good as building that functionality from the outset of the project.

Below are a few points to consider in your web development projects to help you save time and money as well as helping you realise the site you want.

Functional Specifications

Developing a complicated website in Drupal is a big job. That’s why it is important that you know, from the start, what you want and don’t want and that you provide adequate information to the developers.

Unfortunately, brief information on what you want the overall website to do and what it looks like is not enough information for the developer to go on. You really need to go into the nitty gritty bits.

As such, a functional specifications document is what you should invest time into developing before anything else. This will eventually save both you and the web developer’s time and get your new site live quicker. Functional specification documents are especially important for complicated website builds.

A functional specifications document will detail things like:

  • what fields types are needed in web forms;
  • validations required for mandatory fields;
  • messages for user error or required input; and
  • what happens to the information once it is submitted.

Web Requirements

If you are just building a simple site then a functional specification document might be overkill. Instead, you should provide an outline of what you want out of the website.

This can be in the form of a wish list of features and attributes and can include:

  • Meet web accessibility standards such as WCAG 2.0 up to Level AA (especially for government agencies where this is a mandatory requirement).
  • The website needs to be a responsive design and should look and function well in smartphones and tablets.
  • Web functions like photo galleries, slideshows, embed YouTube videos, resize images in the browser.
  • User input with web forms.
  • Search content.
  • Custom functionalities.
  • Print pages to PDF.

Those are just some of the common things a site will have but they all impact on how a developer will approach the project from the outset and their need to install and configure Drupal modules accordingly.

The developer will also be able to advise if a function is not possible and provide an alternative solution.

Design requirements

If you are getting your website redesigned then a mock-up of what the website will look like in terms of the layout and positioning of information components is ideal.

To do this, provide a graphic design brief to the web/graphic designer of how you want your website to look including colours, layout and branding. Providing examples of existing websites will help set the designer in the right direction. Examples don’t have to be from your industry and even examples of what you want to avoid can be very helpful.

Once the graphic design mock-ups are agreed, the graphic files should be provided to the developer. The best option is a layered Photoshop file so that individual graphic design elements can be extracted. If this is not achievable then individual graphic files may be sufficient.

Also, a developer will find it really handy to have a colour palette with RGB values for your link colours, backgrounds and headings along with detail about where they should be used. Any non-standard fonts should also be specified.

Information Architecture

Do you find it tough sorting through bits of papers in a filing cabinet that has no folders or no sense of order? No doubt you will find it difficult to find anything without some sort of organisation whether it be grouped by topic, alphabetical order, etc.  That is where information architecture really helps everyone in the process.

Information architecture is the structural design of your website. It organises and labels the information in a findable and useable format. Imagine the information in a hierarchical tree where child information pages are grouped under a parent topic. A child page can also be a parent topic and have other child pages under it. A typical Information architecture example could be:

  • About Us
    • Company Overview
    • Careers
    • Staff Profiles
  • Products
    • Product Support
    • Product Types
      • Product A
      • Product B
  • Contact Us

Often, a simple website can be represented by a site map, as above, and can form the basis for navigation menus, breadcrumbs and URL paths.

Set The Foundation

All of the above sets the foundation for a great website for your organisation. It is definitely worth the time to do it properly as you will get a site that realises your vision, meets your needs, goes live quicker and probably saves you money.