The Ultimate Guide to Site Development During a Website Redesign

December 2, 2016

Congratulations, you’ve made it out of the visual design phase of your website project, and it’s time to put all of that development planning and preparation to good use! The development process is now beginning, meaning you should be creating a development site and installing your content management system (CMS). Once this housekeeping is in order, the fun can begin for your development team. Here are eight items your team must complete during web development to ensure you build a bulletproof website.

 

1.  BUILD OUT TEMPLATES IN CSS

At this point, the creation of the beta site has been completed and the selected CMS has been installed. Now it is time to build out templates based on wireframes and design standards. The templates will give structure to your pages, and through the stylesheets, you can design a structure that gives a cohesive look and feel.

 

2.  OPTIMIZE IMAGES, CSS, HTML, & JAVASCRIPT

One extremely important aspect to check on before moving forward is to ensure your site’s HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and images are all optimized. Users will have a much better experience with a site that is optimized, and your search engine rankings will be better when your pages load faster – as indicated in Google’s ranking factors External Link. Regardless of SEO benefits, a faster load time equals a better experience for your visitors overall.

In order to optimize your code, you should consider using a minifier, if you aren’t already, to optimize your code by removing comments, white space, and other unnecessary characters. GitHub External Link is a good minifier options. As far as your images go, you should make sure all images are compressed for the web, no larger than they need to be, and are in the proper file format (PNG or JPG depending on the use).

 

3.  ENSURE THE SITE IS SEO FRIENDLY

Ensure each page is optimized for on-page SEO by having relevant, accurate information with appropriate keywords and long-tail phrases. Your site should also have proper meta descriptions, optimized URLs, optimized images, an XML sitemap, and have proper coding in place for instances of duplicate content.

Want to know more? Then check out our post on nine ways to keep your search engine rankings during a website redesign External Link.

 

4.  CLEAN UP CONTENT

Despite best efforts, it is probable (and very likely) there will be some content issues to clean up before you launch the new site. But wait, didn’t you say we would be taking care of all the content during the content audit phase of the website redesign External Link?

While a lot of the content issues will be addressed in a previous stage, there will also be new content created for the site, and possibly multiple content contributors creating or editing content. With multiple contributors, you’ll want to ensure consistent, accurate, and error-free content. Catching spelling errors, broken links, SEO issues, accessibility issues, and more prior to migration will help save time and headache during the content transfer.

 

5.  MONITOR EDITORIAL GUIDELINES

In the same sense as checking your content for errors or issues, you should check your content against your style guidelines. Your team members should be aware of the editorial style guide for any future content they may be creating or adding to the site in the future.

 

6.  RUN TESTS ON TEMPLATES FOR USABILITY & ACCESSIBILITY

Now that you’ve built out templates, you need to test them for usability and accessibility. All site templates should be tested before any content migration occurs. Do your cross-browser and device testing to ensure Quality for potential users. You’ll want to make sure your HTML and CSS meet accessibility requirements, and are easy for content contributors and editors to use while migrating content (and adding content in the future).

If templates are not usable or accessible, discovering and fixing these issues now could save a considerable amount of time spent correcting issues post launch.

 

7.  CREATE CONTENT MIGRATION STRATEGY

We’ve gone in-depth on the topic of content migration in our step-by-step migration guides, both part one External Link and part two External Link, but it is worth mentioning again. Add high-level content first, then have editors and content contributors help populate the rest of the site. Depending on the amount of existing content to be migrated and new content to be added, this can be a very large undertaking.

To help manage the process, content contributors, authors, and editors should be trained in on the new CMS and understand there is an editorial style guide to follow. While the new site is being populated, 301 redirects should be created to ensure the new site retains SEO visibility (along with other important SEO factors mentioned above).

At this point, you can feel the excitement, and perhaps a few nerves. With all of your hard work and preparation, you want things to go as well as possible. Don’t worry, proper prior planning prevents poor performance! And regardless of how perfectly you plan your website redesign, there will always be some issues to clean up after launch. It happens!

As long as you are in constant communication with the main team members and stakeholders on the progress of the new site during site development, you will be on track for an epic website launch.

 

8.  LAUNCH

Make sure you have Launch plan, and a fall back plan. If you are replacing your existing site on the same server, make sure you keep a backup of your old site. If you are launching to a new server, you’ll likely be making a DNS change. Make sure you have access and an experienced team member to make sure this process goes smoothly.


Rachel Trampel is a Content Strategy Specialist at Siteimprove, a web governance company. Visit Siteimprove’s website to learn more.

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