Abby Consulting

Getting You On The 'Net

Your Web site is a collaboration. I believe we will be most successful, if you and I work closely together as a team.

Call me at

210.490.6513

or email

whudson@imstx.com

building your site...

Since we are, essentially, coding a unique Web "application" that will be your site, I follow an industry standard approach to software design in order to match your requirements to the final product.

This process has been proven to provide a consistent, high quality match to a client's needs in the quickest, most economical manner. The process starts with a thorough examination of your requirements and ends with tested product that is easily maintainable.

What are requirements?

Web site requirements describe the features, functions, and content of the site. They are a list of what the site must have and what it must allow users to do. Requirements might be general features and functions, such as:

  • search
  • contact us

Requirements might be specific features and functions for your site. Perhaps your Web site must allow users to:

  • apply for grants online
  • sign up for email alerts or events
  • purchase products
  • get data from a database

Requirements might also be specific content or content areas that your site must cover, such as:

  • reports of research articles on specific topics for the general public
  • lists of funding opportunities
  • links to other related sites
  • reports of meetings
  • press releases

How detailed should requirements be?

Often, requirements can be a phrase or one-sentence description of what the site must have or must allow users to do. As you move through the process of designing the site, you may develop the requirements further with more detail.

How do you use requirements?

Requirements only tell you what the Web site must have and what it must allow users to do. Requirements do not tell you how to design or develop the site to have those features, functions, and content. The other design steps help you figure out how to make sure that the site is organized, written, and designed to satisfy the requirements.

How do we determine your requirements?

We can start by sitting down together and coming up with answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of your site? What are your goals? Are you just providing information to your site visitors or are you trying to sell a service or a product? What do you want visitors to take away from your site?

  2. Who is your target audience? This question is closely related to the one above. Your site's purpose should focus on the needs or interests of your targeted audience. You should explicitly understand and be able to describe as best you can the makeup of your key site visitors. For example, you might design a different look and provide different functions for your site for a population of senior citizens or of the parents of disable children, than you would for professional web designers interested in the latest imagery or web display technologies.

  3. Will the site be "static" or "dynamic?"A static site is often fine if you are just providing information that won't change often. If the information changes often or if you require visitor input to the information process or to purchase your service or product, then you will need a dynamic site with hooks into a database.

  4. Create "Scenarios". Finally, site requirements should reflect your visitor's or customer's needs. The most important step in developing requirements might include listing "scenarios" that describe the 10 to 30 most important and most frequent tasks users will want to do on your site. Begin by extracting the requirements from each scenario. What features, functions, and content must the site have for users to successfully complete each scenario?

The more completely and clearly we can nail down your requirements, the faster we can finish your site. This phase of web design usually entails several meetings, often depending on how fully you have defined your needs to yourself. It is often the most challenging phase of a Web site's development.

At the end of this phase, I should know what you are looking for in a web site and I'll be able to completely cost the effort for you.

The design phase is often the most fun.

For example, this is where we explore possible "looks" or styles for you site. Design includes determining:

  • color schemes - for backgrounds, buttons, text, etc. and often based on the colors used in your logo.
  • site structure - number of page columns, header, footer. home and interior page designs.
  • menu type - horizontal or vertical, placement, submenu methods.

This is an iterative phase.

We can go back and forth as much as time allows us, until we get the design look you are happy with. There are two main approaches I like to use:

  1. Review existing web sites. I will ask you if you have seen web sites whose appearance you like. Maybe you like a background in one site, or a logo from another. I will also find sites to show you that seem to have the same purpose or focus that you propose for your site. Looking at what others have done - good and bad - will help us refine what you like and dislike about web pages.
  2. Prepare options. I will prepare "comps," or draft designs based on our requirements discussions and on our web site reviews. You can pick from these drafts for your site.

When we are finished with this phase, we can be confident that the final site will have the design best suited to your purposes and tastes.

At the end of this phase, I will prepare a Design Document that captures your requirements in sufficient detail for any web designer to implement you site.

This is where I actually code your site.

I'll prepare a complete set of files, with appropriate code for the content, text, and images. I will also develop the code needed to implement navigation and other functional capabilities like a email forms, a forum, photo albums, a search functions and even "shopping carts" and payment methods.

If a database is required, I will provide a suitable one and provide a suitable table design, forms and reports, and the necessary connections to the site pages. For dynamic sites, I work with the "Cold Fusion" coding language.

I can also provide any outside connections like finding a site host, if necessary, or setting up your domain name and arranging for additional services like secure bill paying.

The test phase is the part of the process that determines if all site functions perform as they should.

In this phase, I move your site directories and files from my developmental environment to your site host provider and you will be able to view the site and participate in the testing process. In fact, the test phase works best if you lead the effort by acting as a simulated "visitor":

  • try all the menu and other internal site links
  • register for events or activities
  • pay for goods or services
  • request information
  • search the site or database
  • use site functions, like email forms, calendar entries, etc.

You can comment and request appropriate modifications at this point, before we take your site "public".

Once your site is complete and running on the World Wide Web, it will require regular maintenance.

Site maintenance may be as simple as changing your contact address when you move, or regularly checking to ensure your "links" to other sites are still good.

Often, however, your site will require more active and technically involved maintenance, ranging from regular updates of page content, to changing a product database or updating a calendar.

I can implement a regular maintenance program for you. You will inform me of needed changes and provide the guidance and content required. I will code the updates and upload the revised files to your site. This is the quickest and easiest solution for many and probably the best way to go if you don't have many or frequent changes.

On the other hand, I can work with you to show you how to maintain your own site.  I recommend a product called Contribute, from Adobe.  This inexpensive application is designed to let "non-geeks" update or change their own Web sites. 

In any case, we will ensure that your site continues to meet your original purposes or grows to meet new goals and objectives that you may decide on later.