I am the kind of person who needs clarity as much as possible when working towards any goal or mission, so I like things in neat, concise packages.
In my 14 years of working on the Internet, website initiatives are much more successful when we connect the dots and create clarity around the processes and structure that get us there.
With that said, I have found that this is the most natural and effective way I have found to explain the elements of a solid web infrastructure.
- Strategy. Includes site goals and measurements, SEO tactics, social media strategies, content strategy, etc. This strategy is in direct alignment with the overall organizational strategy. Thinking through audiences, goals around customer interactions, content delivery, and visibility are all part of this area. This becomes the blueprint that drives criteria for all other decisions.
- Content development & management. As an outcome of the overall strategy, content is developed and maintained, with editorial guidelines and process in place. It is essential to have appropriate resources dedicated to this area – without great content, your website will be just a pretty picture!
- Design/usability. Once you understand the overall strategy (which includes your content strategy) it is time to get to work. A good web designer understands best practices for web design, usability, Information Architecture, Audience-specific design, as well as site optimization, etc. A good designer takes in to consideration the long-term approach for site management, maintenance etc., in order to produce something that your organization can support.
- Back-end Development. Programmers make complex functionality happen on your website. Typically these applications have some sort of database on the back-end, and are riddled with complex logic. This stuff makes my head spin – my hats off to those programmers who can take my ideas and work their magic to create flawless functionality on the web.
- Hosting/Infrastructure. Having a hosting infrastructure that includes both a development and live server is paramount for ongoing site success. All changes, upgrades, additions are completed on a development server which should mirror the production server – then approved and deployed. Using some sort of source control where site managers and developers are required to check out files prior to making changes works well. This way, versions of the site are kept in a database (this is also great fro disaster recovery) and can be rolled back if need be. Finally, the hosting environment must take into consideration the overall strategy of the site, the expected traffic, and type of activity going on – in order to accommodate with bandwidth, processing power, and support resources.
- Site ownership and ongoing management (non-technical). It is my opinion that every successful web initiative must have a champion – an inspired individual to oversee its success, measure activity against goals, write annual plans, and make sure the support structure is working effectively.