The first step is to define the purpose and scope of the website. As this is for a capstone project, define clearly what the intended purpose of the site is and who the target audience will be. Make sure to clearly outline the goals and objectives of the site – what do you want visitors to get from visiting the site? Common goals include providing information, selling products/services, building a brand or community, etc. You’ll also want to define the content areas or sections that will be included on the site based on its purpose.
With the purpose and scope defined, move on to user experience planning. This involves defining who your target users will be in terms of demographics like age, gender, interests etc. and gaining insights into things like their goals/motivations for visiting the site, pain points, frustrations with similar sites, device preferences, technical skills and more. Tools like customer interviews, surveys and persona creation can help with this. The user experience plan should also cover key aspects like the overall user flow and navigation of the site.
Information architecture and sitemap development should follow user experience planning. This is all about how content and site sections will be organized and interconnected. Create a sitemap that diagrams all the key pages and logically groups related content. Identify the primary navigation structure and determine if additional secondary/tertiary navigation is needed based on the breadth of content. Consider labels, titles and ways to visually convey the site structure and information hierarchy.
It’s important to translate the user experience and information architecture into visual design. Create style guide documents that outline specifics like color palette, typography, spacing/sizing conventions, icon usage and other brand touchpoints. Determine if your site requires a responsive design framework to accommodate different devices. Create low fidelity wireframes, preferably in an interactive prototyping tool, to sketch out and refine the conceptual page layouts and navigation before visual design work begins. Solicit feedback on wireframes from target users.
With the planning work complete, you can begin high fidelity page designs and front-end development. Select a content management system if the site requires dynamic updates. Begin designing and coding template pages that reflect the style guide, information architecture mapped out in wireframes and user goals identified earlier. Iteratively test pages with target users to validate designs are intuitive and make refinements as needed to improve the user experience based on usability feedback.
As sections are completed, fill them with meaningful and well-organized content. Consider engaging SMEs or subject matter experts to validate technical accuracy for certain types of content. Optimize content for on-page factors like readability, scannability and information hierarchy as well as off-page SEO factors to help the site rank well and drive organic traffic over time. Ongoing content governance practices will be important to maintain and expand the content in a consistent, high-quality manner.
Prior to launch, have technical developers perform rigorous quality assurance testing on pages, forms, multimedia and overall site functionality across various browsers and devices. Find and fix any bugs before launch. Create social media profiles and other online listings for the site and begin posting engaging, sharable content to build an audience in preparation for launch. Develop an analytics strategy and dashboard to track key metrics like traffic, leads, conversions and customer behavior that can be improved post-launch.
With all development, content, and promotion work complete, officially launch the website. But don’t consider the project truly done at launch – search engine optimization, content growth, and user feedback should continue to shape ongoing improvements and refinements to keep the site fresh, relevant and solving user’s needs over the long run as part of a continuous process. As part of a capstone project, reporting on the website performance and key learnings from the entire planning, design, and development process is important to demonstrate mastery of core competencies covered throughout the program.
Successfully planning and designing a website for a capstone project involves detailed blueprinting, user experience focus, information architecture thought, visual design execution, technical development prowess, content governance, launch promotion, ongoing optimization and reporting on outcomes. With diligent effort applied to each phase of this process, students can demonstrate full-stack digital proficiency through a well-engineered and insightful capstone website project that exceeds 15,000 characters in explanation.