Nashville Website Design and Development Agency - Astute Communications

Most modern businesses require a fast-loading website with an eye-popping design and an intuitive user experience. Users expect it and won’t settle for less. Far too many businesses treat their websites like nothing more than a place to tell customers about company history while pushing their products and services. This limited approach misses a huge opportunity to build a connection and learn about your audience.

The purpose of this page is to demystify the process we use when undertaking a web development project. It is a multi-faceted process that requires careful planning, meticulous attention to detail, and interdepartmental collaboration.

Web Design & Development Agency in Nashville, TN

We are Astute Communications — a digital marketing agency in Nashville that provides web design and development services to a diverse client roster. Our development team uses the latest technologies, platforms, and practices to build custom websites that will engage your customer base while fulfilling your unique business requirements.

We conduct thorough industry research, competitive analysis, and develop customer personas to build success into your site’s architecture. By hiring a professional web development agency, you can ensure that your business is well-represented and your customers are carefully considered.

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If you’re not interested in reading about the web development process and want to skip to the part where you contact us about building your dream website, use the form below to get in touch. We would love to chat!

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What is the Purpose of a Website?

Before we dive down the deep rabbit hole of web design and development, let’s first consider a simple but often unasked question:

What is the purpose of a website?

A website isn’t about the products or services you offer. It is also not merely a presentation of information about your company and how it’s different from all the other companies doing the same thing.

In fact, it isn’t about you at all. It’s about the needs of your prospective customers. Every aspect of your website must be carefully considered to deliver clear, consistent, and persuasive messaging directly to your audience.

Have you ever arrived at a destination while traveling and connected with it so deeply that you felt like you belonged there? This is the aim of web design and development — to give your customers the feeling that your business offers solutions that are meant for them.

Who Are Your Customers and What Do They Want?

At the onset of the design and development process, it is important to take a step back and view things through the lens of marketing psychology. Let the needs of your customers be the driving force behind all decisions. Consider the following statements:

1. More than one type of person will be visiting the website.

2. People have different needs and want to solve different problems.

While these astute observations may seem obvious (ahem), witnessing their impact on the web development process is as rare as hen’s teeth. It is absolutely essential to identify the different types of users you expect to visit your site and address the various problems they are attempting to solve.

Alright, enough high-level musing. Let’s dig into the nitty-gritty process of professional web design and development.

Website Design and Development Process

Excluding plug-and-play website builders such as Squarespace and Wix, it’s a common understanding that custom web development requires a deep understanding of coding languages and technologies. Being well-acquainted with JavaScript, HTML, and CSS is a given.

These “programming languages” and formats shape how we consume and interact with information on the web. Any decent web developer has a deep understanding of how to wield these tools when building a website or application’s front-end and back-end architecture. It takes intense study and consistent practice to master JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. This page is not about that.

It may sound strange, but actually building the website is a piece of a grander puzzle. This page is about the process that informs development. Preliminary information gathering, detailed planning, wireframing, design, and post-launch maintenance are vital to the entire process.

What is Web Development?

Web development is a broad term that encompasses every aspect of designing and building a website. It includes everything from designing site architecture to selecting font color. If it is related to designing or developing a website, it’s safe to say that it falls under the general umbrella of the web development process.

Clients are generally and understandably interested in knowing how long it takes to build a website. The short answer is, “It depends.” For Astute, web development is an all-hands-on-deck approach that requires collaboration between different departments and disciplines. The process takes months. But the result is an interactive marriage of form and function.

Two Types of Web Development

The two different aspects of web development are front-end and back-end development. If a website were a physical building, you could aptly think of back-end development as the hidden architectural components and front-end development as the facade. Another way of putting it is that the front end is user-focused while the back end is structurally focused. These two types of web development work in tandem to deliver a compelling experience to the end-user.

Front-End Development

Front-end development focuses on user experience. It includes the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that visitors interact with. This is what most people think about when they think of building a website. Every aspect of front-end development is geared towards how users interact with the site.

Back-End Development

Back-end development is the essence of the web. It connects the web to the database, powers the application, manages users, etc. Essentially, these components make the website function properly. Without back-end development, websites would basically be pictures that you couldn’t interact with.

Who Works on Websites?

Web developers, for one. But web development also requires account managers and project managers to extract information from the client and assess the scope of work. Timelines must be created. Deadlines must be set.

Depending on scope and budget, it also often involves an SEO specialist to conduct keyword research and make recommendations regarding the sitemap and URL structure. Copywriters write double-edged copy designed to entice customers while ranking in search engines. Web designers map out user flow and design individual pages that seamlessly guide the visitor’s attention. They select color schemes, fonts, photos, and even custom-design icons and logos.

As you’ve probably gathered, building a website from start to finish is no walk in the park. However, our team is experienced in planning and executing stunning websites that will improve the way your business presents itself online. Working with Astute Communications ensures that you get exactly what you need to elevate the online experience you provide.

7-Step Web Development Process

Step 1: Discovery and Information Gathering

The information-gathering process largely determines how the rest of the project will unfold. The single most important part of this stage is establishing the needs of the client and their customers — both now and in the future.

Different businesses require different functionalities in a website, which in turn, require different technologies. What are the business goals? Who is the target audience? What problem(s) are they trying to solve?

Taking the time to thoughtfully answer these questions at the onset of the project will make everyone happier in the long run. At Astute, we employ an extensive onboarding process to ensure a comprehensive exploration process. This makes project management more efficient.

Step 2: Sitemap Creation and Wireframing

In the second phase of the development process, we conduct a complete site audit and scour the existing site’s navigation, content, and user flow. We also research competitor sites to gain industry insights. This information is used to create a refined sitemap for the new site.

A sitemap is essentially a visual table of contents showing the structural relationships between the various pages and site navigation. It is the first visual touchstone in the web development process. It is used to create wireframes for individual pages and, later, inform in-depth designs.

A wireframe is a visual representation of the final page design. It doesn’t contain colors, logos, or photos, just placeholder areas blocked off where these design elements will ultimately go. The wireframe is basically a sketch that ensures the project is heading in the right direction before being passed along to the design phase.

The sitemap creation and wireframing stage is all about discovery and decision-making. The flow of each individual page has been determined. Photos placements, colors, icons, and any other design element that enhances user experience, have been solidified. Typographical decisions, such as font selection and the hierarchy of text styles, have been made. Once the client signs off, it’s time for design.

Step 3: Designing Page Layouts, QA, and Approval

The web design phase serves to visualize the homepage, subpages, and the navigational interaction between the two. This is usually when the client really starts getting excited. From this point on, progress leaves less and less to the imagination. Images, photos, icons, and videos are created and begin to give shape to the initial vision. All of the careful research and planning started to pay off.

Designs must be responsive so that they play nicely on mobile, desktop, or tablet. The ultimate goal of web design is a seamlessly integrated user interface that empowers the client and the end-user. Appropriately used space with nice amounts of padding and well-chosen fonts goes a long way. The best websites say a lot using very little. All of these details are fleshed out during web design and are passed along to the client for review.

The review process is paramount. It ensures that every last detail is brought to light in order to arrive at the best possible finished product. The client reviews the designs to make sure that anything they were expecting hasn’t been missed or to correct miscommunications.

Thanks to the strict adherence to step one (see above), these changes are usually minimal. However, designers are creative risk-takers. These risks aren’t always aligned with the client’s vision. For this reason, a collaborative internal and external quality assurance check is of the utmost importance. Don’t skimp on this step.

Step 4: Copywriting, Editing, and Review

Content writing is an important part of the web development process because it hones actionable messaging while providing search engine ranking opportunities. This stage typically overlaps with earlier stages because researching, writing, reviewing, and editing enough content to fill out an entire website is a time-intensive process. The purpose of this step is to put the essence of how you communicate with your audience into writing. Additionally, it’s imperative to write engaging headlines and calls-to-action (CTAs) that will aid lead generation once the site goes live.

While content writing, it pays to have an SEO expert around. To make great content, it isn’t enough to present web copy that strikes the perfect balance between emotion and action. It has to be research-driven. There is often a disconnect between how businesses talk about their products and services internally and how customers talk about them. Keyword research is a smart copywriter’s GPS.

Finally, like all production work that goes out to clients, it is important that all of the web copy be reviewed and QA’d both internally and externally. The last thing you want is to launch a site with half-baked copywriting or, worse, text blocks of lorem ipsum. Always check and double-check the work. Editing is the difference between good and great.

Step 5: Front-End and Back-End Development

We have finally arrived at the front lines. Coding is the trench warfare of the web development process. One mistake can ruin everything. Ok, it’s not that dire. But coding is the meticulous process of turning images and words into a fully-fledged, interactive website that can be accessed by anyone near a router. This is no small feat.

The developer begins back-end development, connecting the database to the web and coding the architecture of the site. This is the hidden work that makes the whole process possible. The site needs to be coded for high-speed performance. Much of that battle is won or lost during this step. WordPress is our CMS of choice, but we’ve been known to make exceptions based on the client’s needs.

Once the back-end is structurally sound, the developer moves on to front-end development, building out the forward-facing elements of the site that future users will no doubt find engaging. The homepage is usually created first, as it is the fountainhead of the sitemap that flows to the other parts of the site. During this process, all of the static images are brought to life using CSS, JavaScript, and HTML.

During front-end development, the developer works closely with the web designer to ensure that the client’s needs and vision are met. Animations and other refined flourishes are discussed and brought to life. It also serves as a time for the developer to bring any design oversights to light. It is absolutely crucial to get everyone working together in collaborative harmony. This can’t be overstated enough.

Step 6: Reviews, Revisions, and Launch

Are you seeing a theme here? Each step requires thorough review and quality assurance checks. If the web development process were a song, the review would be the chorus. It’s a recurring part of the process. Once coding is complete and the designer and developer are in agreement, there needs to be a meticulous review.

Every link should be tested to ensure there are no broken links. Every copy block should be checked for any typos that may have slipped through the cracks and to ensure that everything was properly populated. Make sure page sections have the right amount of padding and are responsive across different devices. Contact forms should be tested.

You get the idea. Test, test, test…

After going through every aspect of the website with a fine-toothed comb, it’s time to get a final sign-off from the client before uploading it to the server (via FTP). Perform a final check to ensure that every file was uploaded. It’s launch time.

Step 7: Maintenance, Updates, and Growth

At this point, the web development process is finished. Kudos all around. However, an effective website is never really finished. It is a constant evolution that requires refinements, updates, and new additions.

Creating new pages, updating the CMS, updating plugins, monitoring user flow and making subtle adjustments, creating redirects for deprecated pages, fixing technical SEO issues….these types of tasks are ongoing.

Remember, it’s all about discovering the problems your customers are trying to solve and providing streamlined solutions.

Custom Web Development in Nashville, TN

Custom web development is an intensive process that requires collaboration, experience, and knowledge. Astute Communications is a full-service digital marketing agency in Nashville, TN. We have a proven track record of building cutting-edge websites that wow our clients while promoting deeper customer engagement. Get in touch to learn more about what we can do to help you zero in on your marketing goals and establish your online presence for your business.

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