What is Custom Website Development?
When it comes to creating a website, if you need something more than just an online brochure, chances are you need someone to develop a custom website for you. Custom Website Development is what you need when you can’t buy something “off the shelf” to suit your website requirements.
For simple websites, there are plenty of options for producing something quickly using tools like WordPress, Squarespace and Wix with a myriad of “ready to use” themes to get you going in next to no time. The drawback with these kinds of sites is that you can only do what the sites are pre-programmed to support. They also tend to look like other sites as the templates are often widely used.
When your requirements are more complex or if you want complete creative control of your online brand and functionality, then “ready-made” options are probably not going to be an option!
Built specifically for you
Custom websites are built exactly to your needs both in terms of the look and feel of the site, as well as the functionality it provides. Custom websites often solve complex problems or provide specific functionality to support your requirements. You have control over every aspect of the website from the colours, fonts and layout through to the features and functions of each part of the site.
Need customers to be able to register and upload documents to your site? You can do that. Need suppliers to update their inventory stock levels within your online shop? You can do that. Need a website that tracks tasks to manage your team’s productivity? You can do that! Whatever feature you need to support your business/organisation can be built within a custom website. This is where custom website development shines – you can go far beyond what is possible using pre-build tools and templates.
Stages of development (from concept through to post-implementation)
Product definition and specification development
Beginning a custom website development means taking the time to explore what the site needs to do, what problems it’s solving and how it should hang together. It often involves capturing requirements in a method called “User Stories” that are easy to read and give a clear picture of what the site is going to do, and importantly, why.
User interface, user experience and graphic design
The next stage of the development process often involves developing “wireframes” of each of the pages and areas of the website. A wireframe is like a sketch of the layout and lets you see how the design of the site is going to deliver the requirements. Once that is locked in, it’s generally time for the graphic design to be done. This builds on the wireframes and introduces branding features such as colours, fonts, logo’s and shows exactly how each page will look once built.
Once the page designs are done, the development team will take over and build the website code that makes the screen designs come to life and become functional. It’s often an iterative process where every couple of weeks you get to see the various functional components coming to life as the team builds out the final solution.
Quality assurance and bug fixing
As the custom website pages and features are built, the development team test each function to make sure they are working as expected. Bugs are identified and fixed as the development proceeds. At the end of the development process, there is usually a period set aside where you get to test the site and make sure it is working as you expected. It’s often called User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and it is a really important stage where you accept the work that has been delivered. Of course, you can report any bugs you might find for the development team to fix.
Technical and marketing support
When UAT has finished it’s time to launch your custom website. This is where it is important to have good technical support in place so that teething issues can be fixed quickly once your site has gone live. As users start to use your site you might also come up with new features based on their feedback. This is where having a technical support arrangement can help by feeding back into the development process to build out those new features as your budget allows.
Additionally, you need to think about marketing your site. Marketing is what will bring users to your site if your custom website is for general use (as opposed to being for a specific user group who you communicate with directly). Marketing your site might involve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Email Nurturing, Social Media or even print advertising. Usually, the planning for marketing your site starts right at the beginning of the project, and may often kick-off before your site is fully complete.
Your site grows with you
As your business grows and your needs change, your website can change with you. That’s the beauty of a custom website – you have the power to change it to suit the needs of your business as you grow and adapt to your market.
How big does a custom website need to be?
Custom websites can be any size. You might have a competition where users have to enter a printed code into a simple form to enter which only takes two pages. On the other hand, you might have an enterprise application with a hundred or more pages each with specific needs. There is no limit as to how big or small a custom website project needs to be.
The best place to get started is to have a workshop with a custom website developer (such as Spark Eleven!). Typically in the workshop you can map out a broad set of objectives and get a feel for the steps involved and even get a general sense of the likely cost of the project. Don’t feel as though you need to have all the answers to get started – even have a rough idea of the kinds of things you want to achieve is enough to get underway.
All the best with your custom website development projects!