This is our web development process checklist for a new WordPress site build. We created this originally for in-house use as an “SOP document” checklist (hence the writing style), but it has been useful to share with clients and prospective clients so they see the process we use.

This is specifically for a site build based on a pre-existing commercial theme or framework like Genesis, Thesis, etc. About 95% of our website builds are now based on these frameworks and commercial themes as they significantly reduce design and development costs.

Despite the sequential listing, we use an Agile approach to development projects.

Pre-Planning: Initial Contact & Proposal

We gather initial information on what the client wants to achieve with the project, start to define the project scope and establish suitability of us as supplier through ball-park budget discussion.

Related milestone: Project Proposal Submitted

  • Initial contact with prospective client
  • Send web design questionnaire(s) for completion
  • Review questionnaire content and schedule 20-30 minute phone conversation
  • Discuss website requirements with client
  • Discuss ball-park budget range to establish suitability
  • Define primary and secondary goals of the site
  • Define primary and secondary calls-to-action
  • Decide core content types
  • Establish schedule & timeline noting any hard requirements
  • Create initial sitemap
  • Schedule further discussion if necessary
  • Create and send formal proposal
  • Invoice initial deposit

Planning: Define Goals & Website Specification

We gather detailed information on how the website should work, including all required features, lists of pages, custom design work required, etc.

Related milestone: Project Basic Information Gathered

  • Open new project in Trello/Asana
  • Discuss website requirements in depth with client
  • Establish visual style and personality
  • Decide basic layout
  • Create high level sitemap and navigation menu mockup
  • Request text content in soft copy for each page from client
  • Request image content (either from client/photographer/stock images)
  • Optional: create low-fidelity wireframe of homepage, content page & any other key pages

Optional: Design & Production: Design Logo

Create a logo if good quality logo image cannot be supplied by client.

Related milestone: Logo Design Complete

  • Find out if logo design is required or if client can supply a logo image
  • Ask client to complete
  • Design first 3 logo draft variants based on questionnaire
  • Feedback on first draft
  • Design 2nd round of drafts based on feedback
  • Ask for client feedback on drafts
  • Design 3rd & subsequent draft logos as necessary
  • Ask for client signoff on logo
  • Ask client to download and backup logo image files for future use

Design & Production: Choose or Create Design WordPress Theme

We need to either create a new WordPress Theme, or choose a pre-existing theme to customise with the client’s logo, look & feel.

Related milestone: Design Template Chosen

  • Create 1-3 homepage mockups with client logo, colour-scheme, look and feel
  • Ask for client feedback on homepage mockups
  • Create further homepage mockups if necessary
  • Ask for client signoff on homepage mockup design
  • Create secondary (content) page mockup based on chosen homepage design
  • Ask for client signoff on secondary page mockup
  • Research suitable WordPress Themes on ThemeForest, WooThemes, & elsewhere
  • Decide whether to purchase & customise professional theme or create a new custom theme

Design & Production: Setup Hosting & WordPress CMS

Setup of domain, hosting & content management system.

Related milestone: Hosting Configured

  • Register domain if necessary
  • Change nameservers with registrar
  • Setup domain in our hosting account OR get Control Panel access details for external hosting
  • Create new or find out existing FTP username & password – put in KeePass
  • FTP WordPress files up to site
  • Configure SQL database & wp-config
  • Setup .htaccess file
  • FTP WordPress, Contact-Form-7 and Yoast plugins up to site
  • Configure Askimet with API Key
  • Optional: setup Gmail address for client website use
  • Configure all plugins (see WordPress Plugins SOP document)
  • Create base Pages in WordPress (Home, About, Contact, Blog, Service 1, Service2, Terms etc)
  • Verify Permalinks
  • Change Blog and Home pages in Settings
  • Add admin username & password for design team – put in KeePass

Design & Production: Customise WordPress Theme

Main design work based off existing WordPress theme.

Related milestone: Design Complete

  • Upload the chosen theme to hosting
  • Rename theme directory to client name
  • Select & activate theme in WP themes options
  • Import & edit theme demo content if available
  • Setup sidebar widgets
  • Customise graphics files and modify CSS with JetPack editor
  • Create horizontal navigation menu
  • Create vertical navigation menu if necessary
  • Get client feedback on current status
  • Further customisation
  • Get client feedback on current status
  • Further customisation of design

Design & Production: Add Website Content

Add the main content images and text to the site.

Related milestone: Site Main Content Entered

  • Setup page stubs for top level pages from site map
  • Add text to top level page
  • Add images to top level pages
  • Get feedback from client on main content & refactor
  • Show client how to add, edit and remove pages via SAS help videos
  • Ask client for sign-off on top level page content
  • Create 301 redirects for changed URLs

Design & Production: Optional: Setup Email Addresses on POP3

If the project scope includes email setup.

Related milestone: Email Setup Complete

  • Get a list of required addresses
  • Create addresses in hosting CP
  • Add usernames & passwords to KeePass
  • Send user/pass list to client
  • Send webmail URL to client

Design & Production: Optional: Setup Email on Google Apps / 3rd Party MX

If the project requires Google Apps for Domains email setup, or requires MX records to point at a 3rd party email provider either new or pre-existing.

Related milestone: Email Setup Complete

  • [3rd party] Ask client for MX record details from current email provide
  • [3rd party] Change MX records in hosting Control Panel
  • [GA] Change MX records in Control Panel
  • [GA] Have client send Google Apps admin login details (may require signup)
  • [GA] Find out addresses/password required from client
  • [GA] Add all addresses to [GA] account
  • [GA] Add usernames & passwords to KeePass
  • [GA] Email webmail URL to client

Testing & Feedback

Review site for development (functionality, SEO, etc.) and design issues particularly noting different browsers and devices.

Related milestone: Development Complete

  • Review homepage for content/text/image issues on mobile and desktop
  • Review other page for content/text/image issues on mobile and desktop
  • Review site for SEO issues
  • Get client detailed feedback (aka “snaglist”)
  • Complete all items in snaglist
  • Ask for client sign off

Post-Development & Launch

Invoicing, maintenance setup, site launch, post-launch clean-up.

Related milestone: Project Complete

  • Set up maintenance agreement or ensure client understands security issues
  • Add site to maintenance schedules if required
  • Send all login details to client via secure channel
  • Send final invoice for outstanding amount
  • Push site live on receipt of outstanding amount
  • Monitor for 48 hours for post-launch issues
  • Request client testimonial with 3 question form
  • Add testimonial to website
  • Backup and remove development site
  • Close project in Trello/Asana