Editorial

Building Websites. Pre-Production: Brief And Research

Paweł Durczok on the

The pre-production phase of any web project is the most important one. I would even say that it’s far more important that the production itself, as production hinges on how thorough the pre-production is.

Building Websites - Brief & Research

Source: Unsplash, Author: Galymzahn Abdugalimov

What is interesting though, is that many companies and freelancers either drastically diminish its importance and in turn its place in the production pipeline, or cut it out entirely, which not only doesn’t save much time, but can, in fact, significantly increase the length of the design and development phases. It’s also important to realize that without the pre-production a website will ultimately be much less effective.

Remember, the quality of any website is measured not by how many likes and appreciations it has on the social media, or how many awards it wins, but by how well it does the job it was designed to do.

The pre-production phase should always be started with a brief. I can’t stress this enough. The brief will give answers to question that will serve as the basis for the design, the development, the site’s architecture, the user experience, even SEO and marketing. It will be the first and fundamental source of information that will affect the entire process from the technology used to the number and type of specialists involved in the project.

A well prepared brief is invaluable not only to the creators of the website, but to the client as well. Very often it will provide questions the client simply didn’t think about, but answers to which may be significant to the design, content modeling or even hosting.

The brief typically includes questions about the client’s branding, their background and expectations. There will be questions about their current website, goals for the new one, target audience, and key competitors. Questions about the website design direction and requested functionality must also be included. There might me a section devoted to marketing strategy and SEO requirements and a multitude of others, depending on the complexity of the project and the client’s needs. 
The more robust and detailed the brief, the more successful and effective the site will be in the end.

See the Pen Website scroll animation (SCSS + HTML only) by Paweł Durczok (@north-of-rapture) on CodePen.

It’s in the client’s best interest to be as specific as possible when answering the questions and it’s in the website creators’ to be inquisitive.

After the brief is completed the next thing to do is research. This is the element that is most often omitted during pre-production, but its value should not be underestimated.

Research gives insight into the industry the client is operating in, their key competitors, the competitors’ websites as well as the profile of the user base – their habits and expectations.

During the research the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in regards to how they use their website to reach their audience will be established and a strategy will be developed to capitalize on the findings, possibly sidestepping the mistakes they might have made. It will also help to distinguish the client’s website from the competition and better cater to the target audience.

It’s surprising how often research is neglected, especially for smaller projects, where it is deemed unnecessary not only by the creative team, but by the clients themselves.  It’s worth investing the extra time to do the research properly as it will greatly benefit the finished product in the long run.

 

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Pre-production:
    1. Brief and research
    2. Technical and functional specifications
    3. Sitemap and content architecture
  3. Production:
    1. UX Design and Wireframing
    2. Design Concept
    3. Design Proper
    4. Front End Development
    5. Back End Development and Content Modelling
    6. Optimisation and Testing
    7. Hosting and DNS Propagation
  4. Post-production:
    1. Launching the Website and Training
    2. Post-Launch Support

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