A solution begins with a problem. The first steps are planning and designing, then development and execution. The solution is then evaluated against the stated objectives and refined. A successful initiative is then maintained and kept up to date.
This first step is the most important as it will inform the rest of the process. The scope, target audience and metric of success hinges on this step. The information gathered here must answer some important questions such as "What are we doing here?", "Who're we trying to talk to?", "What message do we want them to come away with?".
Here we develop an idea of who we're trying to reach and establish their needs, expectations and the best means of communicating with them. The most important byproduct of this step is use case scenarios. These are narratives of the users experience as he or she navigates and explores your website. If your site hopes to service more than one class of user (perhaps carpenters and those seeking carpentry services), we will develop a use case for each. These narratives are invaluable in planning the layout, sequence of information, and functionality.
Once a clear and logical purpose and direction have been defined, we begin development. This generally starts with the creation of rough drafts and prototypes subject to your approval and feedback. This step more than any other depends on a back and forth dialogue. When all parties are happy and project objectives appear to be met, we move on to the next step.
The first part of this step asks if the solution looks and behaves as we expected it to. The second and more important portion asks if it looks and behaves as our users expect it to. Users will always surprise you. Always. They will find a way to break something that was rock solid and they will find a cool innovative use for a feature that you never imagined. Quality assurance and user testing is a valuable process that not only ensures that you don't make an ass of yourself, but also provides invaluable insight and feedback. Once our ducks are all in a row, we launch.
A project doesn't end with go-live. Think of the time after the launch as an extended user study. Google has one of the most successful internet search applications on the market, yet is continually tinkering with the logic that selects and orders the search results, as well as how the information is presented.
Additionally, new and emerging technologies should be evaluated and possibly incorporated where they can add value to the project.