What to Expect From Your Web Development Team
Good Practices to Look For In Your Developers
If you’re looking to build a new website, systematize your digital marketing tools, or revitalize an existing website with an updated design, chances are you’re going to need to find a web development team you can depend on – a team that speaks your language. Your website is a business asset, and you want a development team that takes steps to understand your goals before building anything.
Although each web development team will have methods unique to their process – such as our use of Agile – having scheduled tasks, routine check-ins, and a period of collaborative quality assurance are all structural elements that any good development team should have.
The bottom line is that good projects come from good communication. After our experience completing hundreds of successful development projects ourselves, here's some unfiltered advice we hope will help your work go smoothly.
What to Expect During the Planning Phase
At the beginning of your project you’ll meet with your development team to help them understand your company and what your desired goals are for your project. Our approach to this is to have our technical Project Managers meet with clients, acting as a point of contact throughout the entire project. It’s likely that you’ll have a goal in mind – like making content management tasks on your website easier – but won’t have a specific idea how to accomplish it because you’re unfamiliar with the available technology.
In this case, your development team should provide you with a list of detailed solutions. Although they may offer you a recommendation, you should feel comfortable enough with the information provided that you can confidently make a decision. The initial planning phase is also when you’ll plan your website’s design and functionality with your web development team and your design team.
How your web development team schedules work may be unique to them – our team uses the task management system, JIRA, for creating project blueprints and scheduling tasks into two-week sprints – but ultimately it should be structured in a way that accommodates your schedule.
This is an example of how we schedule work during a sprint:
While this schedule indicates our ideal, ultimately we build to work around our client’s schedule. Most likely the web development team you work with will have a similar structure in place, ready to adjust it as necessary to support you.
What Your Web Development Team Should Do in the Scoping Phase:
- Meet with you to understand your company and your specific goals for your web development.
- Provide multiple solutions for you to choose from.
- Explain their process in a way that’s easily understood.
- Have a scheduled layout of the tasks needed to complete your project.
- They begin working on your project without having sufficiently met with you.
- They don’t include you in the decision-making process.
- Any explanations of what they’re doing aren’t clearly defined or are too vague and technical for you to understand.
- They don’t provide you with a schedule that breaks down the creation of your project into specific time frames that you can keep track of.
What to Expect During the Development Phase
Even during the construction period, your web development team should check-in periodically and update you on the status of your project. These meeting times, even after the planning period is over, are important because they allow you to notify your team about any features that you may want to change. Our team manages this by having our technical PM establish a weekly review meeting to go over the current sprint, the overall project schedule, site demos, and iron out any questions that you might have.
You should have enough access to your project that, if there are ever any issues, you’ll be able to spot them. It may be the case that you would rather check-in on your project when your approval is needed, and don’t want to have to follow the course of the project day-by-day. While that’s entirely up to you, you should still be able to see how your project is progressing, as opposed to a “big reveal” at the end. For example, we provide weekly demos, standups, access to the team, access to the sprint plans in JIRA, training guides, as-needed training for internal content managers and site admin, and access to the raw form of your website as it comes together in our staging environment (which is only accessible to you and our team).
What Your Team Should Do in the Development Period:
- Stay in contact with you throughout, periodically meeting for check-ins.
- Provide you a way to monitor your project as it’s being built.
- Your team doesn’t meet with you at all during the development phase, insisting on giving you the completed project all at once at the end of the period.
- There’s no way for you to monitor that everything is on schedule.
What to Expect During Pre-Launch
Your team should thoroughly test your website in its staging environment before it goes live. How this testing is done is unique to each project, but your development team should lead you through quality assurance as well as UAT (User Acceptance Testing) and inform you how they will be conducted. The level of involvement on the client’s side may differ in each case, but your development team will always QA projects before they launch.
What Your Team Should Do During Pre-Launch:
- Thoroughly QA, even if your team will also QA the system.
- If your team gives you a date for when the project goes live without involving you in quality assurance.
What to Expect During Post-Launch
After your website has launched, your team should be available for crucial issues or bug fixes. What happens post-launch often depends on the specific nature of the project. For many, the launch is the first step in a series of ongoing updates and improvements made to a site.
Assessing what kind of post-launch support you’ll need is something that should happen during the development process. For example, your website may require ongoing support one week out of each month to continue down your roadmap, performing ad-hoc updates and so on. This happens all the time with our clients, and we prepare by building in a two-week sprint a month after launch, giving our team a way to circle back post-launch and address any issues that might have arisen after real traffic and users are on the website.
What Your Team Should Do During Post Launch:
- Provide support for possible system malfunctions or bug fixes.
- Total severance of communication at the conclusion of your project
How You Can Help Your Team
Every website is different. Even an expert group of web developers will need your input in order to build anything according to the functionality that is unique to your case. Here are a few ways you can help your development team:
- Be Specific: As mentioned above, being specific about how you want your website to function will help us build the exact website that you want.
- On-Time Deployments: Giving us your final approval in a timely way will help us move your project along as efficiently as we can.
- Knowing What Needs to Be Prioritized: As your project is being built, you may notice some issues that you want us to change. It could be anything from disliking the font being used to your web-store’s cart malfunctioning. To keep your project within the time frame that was initially determined, giving tasks the right priority will help keep your project on track. (See how we recommend prioritizing issues and communicating to developers.)
- What Are Your Design Needs: Web designers will determine the look and feel of your website, but what they provide is static artwork. Interaction design (often called UX, IxD, or functional specs) is the intersection of usability, functionality, and front-end development. For example, you might want to send a webform to your ExactTarget marketing automation system when a user clicks on a button. Web designers will create a layout that features that button, but a web developer will integrate ExactTarget with your website so that the form is sent. This kind of work is best planned when you, your designer, and your developer are all together. (See how we partner with designers.)
Every website and every client relationship is unique, and how you work with your web development team will depend on your situation. That being said, there is a certain standard that you should expect from your web development team. The best way to evaluate that is by how well they communicate with you.
If you have any further questions about the web development process, finding a great team, or how we work, please feel free to contact us directly.