Web Development Life Cycle (WDLC)

Recurrent Customer Involvement

First, recognize that optimal Web Design is a moving target. You go to bed and wake up in the a.m. and recognize one of your competitors may have eclipsed you while you slept so get busy.

Next it is important for designers to repeatedly involve customers throughout the design, development, implementation and maintenance process through rapid prototyping and continual iterative evaluation of designs. Note this is Joint Application Development (JAD).

This basic development process of recurrently designing, prototyping and evaluating closes the feedback loop ensuring the design meets the identified goal.  This process has been proven optimal by identifying problems early in the design phase avoiding the need for expensive radical redesign later in the development cycle, ensuring the site will have features and accessible functionality customers need.

This iterative process becomes even more critical when we consider iterative design compensates for incomplete information which characterizes our present dynamic global marketplace.  Additionally, it is well documented that the rate of technological change is accelerating thus intuitively; the only mechanism appropriate to remaining abreast of emergent and transitory technological, societal, cultural and business developments is through continual evaluation, design and development.

Now you all know the following information as this is your generation but know that your Web Design is Customer Service and CSM is changing radically to meet millennial expectations.

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The Web Development Life Cycle (WDLC) is very  similar to the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and must be iteratively under taken from the customer’s or user’s perspective (consistent with JAD).  As presented by Van Duyne, Landay and Hong (2007, ch. 5), the customer centered WDLC includes the following  phases:

  • (1) discovery
  • (2) exploration
  • (3) refinement
  • (4) production
  • (5) implementation
  • (6) launch
  • (7) maintenance.  

Again note this is an iterative/recurrent  process so the steps are continually repeated.

1. Discovery

The Web development process begins with the discovery or requirements gathering phase that seeks to identify and conceptualize the business and customer goals as well as identifying and understanding the present marketplace and the target customers and their needs.  This will facilitate identification of the design’s points of parity and points of difference critical to developing the site’s value proposition.  In summary the discovery process must specify: (a) the overall goals and role of website, (b) the website’s value proposition, and (c) the discovery phase’s deliverables.  The discovery phase’s specified deliverables include: (1) a customer analysis document that identifies the target customers and their needs, (2) a business analysis document that describes the business goals, and (3) a specification document that specifies the website features and functionality.

2. Exploration

During the exploration phase, several  structural designs and storyboards will be generated  and explored. The storyboard basis is necessary to demonstrate the  customer’s movement through the site.   These early prototypes should not include typography, color or images and therefore they only serve as a basis to communicate design and assess alternatives.    This phase’s deliverables include medium fidelity site maps, storyboards and schematics and note that the client should sign off on one structural design before proceeding.

 3. Refinement

During the refinement phase the selected exploration design is refined with respect to navigation, layout and flow.  This facilitates the construction of a more detailed prototype for the client to sign off on.   This phase is in its very nature iterative.  At the conclusion of this phase ,the design should have a consistent grid-based template that can be used across the site and across platforms (e.g. ios, Android, etc. if appropriate.  Note HTML 5 is making this much easier).   The design should be tested for clear 1st reads and  consistent navigation.   This phase’s deliverables include high fidelity site maps, storyboards and schematics.

 4. Production

The production phase produces a more detailed set of deliverables  in accord with the final design and includes interactive prototypes (e.g. RIA, etc.) , design guidelines and technical specifications and these components should be tested by actual consumers/users.   The deliverables of this phase include the design documents and guidelines, templates, interactive prototypes and other technical specifications.  Note that depending on the size of the project and other business decisions the production phase deliverables are often passed off to another company to produce the Web site.

5. Implementation

During the implementation phase the Web site’s content is constructed to include HTML, images, database and any other necessary interactive software resulting in a complete and functional website ready to be  launched.   This phase should also address optimization (e.g. caching, low number files, fast loading images and content) and persisten links to enhance Virtual Customer Experience (VCE).   this phase must also address security and  if necessary digital certificates.   The deliverable of this phase is the completed Website, the maintenance document  (when to update) and the the test plan documentation.

 6. Launch

The launch phase deploys the live website and only minor refinement should be required at this point.  Most important, it is time to measure and document as this provides ROI data to decision makers and facilitates continual improvement.

7. Maintenance

Maintenance is often the most neglected aspect of Web site design.  Maintenance not only includes changing code, fixing bugs and verifying links  and it must be reemphasized that all maintenance changes should should adhere to design guidelines.  The maintenance phase also includes Website backup and  continues the collection and analysis of usability and satisfaction metrics and SEO begun during in the previous phases.  An emergent area is also the monitoring of the Website’s social media connections.


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