Whether or not they say it aloud, clients are always thinking, “When is my web site going to be finished?” Or sometimes it comes out a little harsher as in, “What’s taking so damn long to make this thing?”
Assuming there is not a drop dead deadline, anyone who works with me knows I never answer that question because it can’t be answered with a reliable response. There are so many factors – known and unknown – that come into play. But dear clients and readers, here is the dirty little secret.
Usually delays in web site development and production are caused by the client. If it isn’t, it’s time to find a new web site developer.
Over the years I have learned that there are many factors which cause needless delay in producing a site. The common denominator is that not enough time was spent in the discovery, pre-production, and early design phases. This is usually because there was a rush to produce the site as in, “Let’s make pages so we can see it.”
Whether there are only two people or a big team that is pushing the site’s development forward, I urge the consideration of the following procedures. Performing them will expedite the production process and increase the likelihood of building a logical site architecture that works.
Develop A Common Language
In all cases, when people endeavor to build (or rebuild) a site, they do so coming from different experiences and expectations.
But what is often not expected is that members of the team (2 or more people building the site) may have a different “web site vocabulary” or maybe not much of one at all.
One person may say, “I want that part of the page to be fullwidth,” intending that the referred to section stretch only within a containing element, and not from side-to-side across the browser window. Or, another team member may refer to a landing page when a more accurate description would be an active page. Or I – as a web site developer – may say, “Let’s use an accordion for that UI rather than a toggle,” and forget that my audience may not know what I just said. (Let’s hope I don’t do that.)
What I’m getting at is do not assume that the terms you or others use are understood the way they were intended by the speaker. We need to precisely define what we mean, especially in the realm of web site design and development which is still new to many. I suggest that a glossary of commonly used terms (especially those unique to the project) be maintained as the project moves forward. This would be a reference for people working on the project to help everyone stay on the same page.
One could argue this will take a lot of time. It won’t. It will save time. It will reduce the chances of misunderstanding which will cause delay. Many projects develop their own vocabulary and this vocabulary is what should be in the glossary.
Create A Style Guide
Too often designers start designing a home page or an interior page to see how things might look and to get ideas going. That makes sense to a point.
An early step in site design should the establishment of a style guide. This can be very simple. Create a page and leave it in draft mode so only team members can see it. Then, think of all the elements you are likely to use, such as these…
Then define the font face, size, width, and style for all text elements – with examples. Do the same kind of thing for non-text elements like forms, images, and videos.
As you build the site, you should be referring to the Style Guide and making changes to it as needed. That way you will ensure a uniform design across the site.
If you are using page builders like Elementor, Beaver Builder, Divi, and the like, this will be pretty easy to do.
Your Style Guide can be as simple or complex as needed. Here are some interesting examples of Style Guides.
Perfect Your Templates
Web sites today are made with templates. Whether you use Elementor, Beaver Builder, or even the WordPress Block Editor (aka Gutenberg), templates will speed up the process of making pages, posts, and other content types.
Templates work in different ways. Some, when changed, update the content throughout the site. This is very handy when building sections of a page which are the same across the site, like headers and footers. Other templates when changed, do not change a page’s content.
No matter which type of template is used, it is critical that you (or your web designer or agency) perfect the template before it is used to build pages. This is especially true in cases where a template is used to create pages which will not change if the template is changed.
This is because updating the template will not fix or change pages already made. If the template is not correct, that will mean you or your web designer will need to go back and edit every page made with that template. This could mean a serious delay in launching your site and is always tedious to remedy.
Perfecting a template means making sure that all design and functional elements of the template are as you want them BEFORE it is used to make your pages. Here are some of the things you will want to check:
- How it works and looks in mobile
- All aspects of layout
Plan Your Taxonomies And Custom Post Types
One of the most powerful features of WordPress is the ability to group content using categories and tags. This makes it easy for users to discover your content, provided that categories and tags are used in a logical and consistent manner.
As part of your development process, decide how you will use categories and tags. Categories are the more useful of the two in that they allow for hierarchies (subcategories), while tags are “flat” in that no sub-tags are possible.
If necessary, you may need to decide which content needs to be created as a custom post type.
What Is A Custom Post Type?
Let’s start with what you may already know. WordPress has, by default, 5 Post types, 2 of which are Pages and Posts. (Yes, I know it’s confusing but Posts – the content for your Blog – are a Post type.)
What if you want something like a blog but not to be a part of the blog. (Remember, posts are the “pages” which make up the blog.) Think of this as having a separate blog for your site that is just dedicated to one topic. Say you have a site where you do Conferences and Events. You may want to organize the content into past, upcoming, and future events by having pages for each. You can also assign categories and tags for the content in your Conferences and Events section.
Depending on your site, you can create different “blogs” for Our Team, Testimonials, History of the 1960s, Podcasts, etc. You name it. Any group of similar content can be created as a Custom Post Type.
One huge advantage of creating content as a Custom Post Type is that you’ll be able to provide functionality and style to that part of your site apart from that of your blog.
How do you do this? With the fantastic and easy to use
Custom Post Type UI plugin.