Create A Website: Development Steps From Concept to Profits

Are you ready to learn how to make a website that can generate revenue as soon as it gets launched? Learn from our expertise that comes from over 500 websites built, and count on knowledge that most web developers and designers overlook in the website creation process: the website strategy and a workflow that ensures adherence to the company goals. Let’s dive right into it:

The success of a website is mirrored by its potential to attract visitors (primarily through organic means such as search engine optimization) and help them understand the product, company, and branding through encompassing visuals, engaging content, and a variety of interactions. This is best achieved by putting together a website creation process that aligns with an overarching strategy making each element of your website work towards a defined goal.

In today’s article, our web design agency in Chicago presents our own website creation process. Throughout nearly five thousand words, we’ll reveal how following a structured path can help you deliver a more successful website experience faster and more efficiently.

Website Creation Process Summary

Alpha Efficiency website creation process is composed of the following steps:

Let’s explore each of them as we keep navigating down the path to the perfect website.

Step 1: Market research, persona development, competition benchmarking

Conducting comprehensive market research for website design is vital if you want your website as well as your brand to stay competitive online. It will help you understand the needs and concerns of your target audience and gain maximum insight into the motivation behind their online activity. This way, you put your brand in the position to feature the type of design and content that will keep your users engaged. Here are the main benefits of market research for website design:

  • Market research helps you stay focused.
  • It highlights the opportunities for a better ROI
  • It helps your website and business evolve
  • Market research guides the decision-making process

Market research precedes one of the most important elements in getting familiar with your audience – user persona development. User personas allow you to make informed decisions when designing a website that appeals to your ideal customers both in terms of visuals and functionality. It also helps you develop an encompassing user flow. User flow is a journey your website visitor takes from the moment they enter your web pages until the moment they leave the site. By creating a user flow, you have a chance to guide your visitors toward the most important sections of your website in order to help them convert.

Besides getting familiar with your own audience, you also need to look at your competitors and the things they are doing to attract customers. That is called competition benchmarking and includes identifying the similarities and differences between your own and your rivals’ websites. You can use tools like Google Analytics to measure your competitors’ website performance and compare the data with the way your website performs. More often than not, this practice reveals overlooked previously overlooked optimization opportunities.

The data gathered throughout the initial step of our website creation process combines to create a comprehensive repository of information we can put to use along the entire path.

Step 2: General Website strategy and feature documentation

Step 1 is followed by charting out a general website creation process strategy. During this step, we outline the following:

  • Website’s primary goals: Will the website serve to generate traffic or to collect leads and boost sales? How do we want the audience to use the website? What do they need in order to convert?
  • Content inventory: Blogs, videos, imagery, web page copy. How do we structure and organize information on web pages?
  • The message we attempt to communicate on the website: How do we present the products or services? How do they make customers’ lives better? How do we want customers to get a hold of the product?
  • The way new content will be added and presented: What is the most user-friendly way to add and present new content?
  • A technical setup and launch plan:
    • Integration between various tools
    • eCommerce support
    • Interactive functionality
    • Forms and contacts
    • Subscription and email followup
    • Video hosting platforms and tools
    • Database functionality

Once we have the general website creation process strategy put in place, we proceed with assembling feature documentation. Feature documentation is a detailed outline of every page of the website. Its primary purpose is to bring all the team members on the same page by making the idea of the future website clear to everyone involved in the website creation process. Our feature documentation is the result of a collaborative effort of our developers, designers, and copywriters and can be broken down into three vital segments:

  • Website architecture: Navigational structure, front-end functionalities, and back-end functionalities.
  • Website design: The look, feel, and website layout.
  • Page copy: The type of content we plan to include on each page.

By taking our time to compose this documentation, we can provide our clients with a much higher-performing and user-friendly website. It also saves our clients’ budget in the long run since sites planned out this way rarely require rebuilds and significant changes.

Step 3: Wireframing and UX strategy

Step 3 includes creating a UX strategy and wireframing. User experience strategy guides our team through the process of conceptualizing and designing a website. It brings UX design and the business strategy of a website closer together by allowing us to prioritize tasks, so no resources are wasted on non-essentials.

While creating a UX strategy as part of our web design services, we first need to define how we want users to experience the brand and interact with the website. We do this by considering both the business and user side of the brand as we brainstorm the following vital points:

  • The way our client defines user experience in relation to their brand
  • The way UX design aligns with our client’s product strategy
  • The way UX aligns with our client’s business objectives
  • Qualitative and quantitative data on user personas regarding their behaviors, needs, and expectations
  • The way trend shifts in our client’s industry influence UX
  • Our client’s competitors’ analysis
  • How client’s current website performance correlates with their future business goals
  • Defining, prioritizing, and executing website goals, objectives, and key performance indicators
  • User research process
  • Familiarizing the client with our findings

After researching and acting upon all of the previous points, we finally get the chance to put our hand on the website’s first contours. The website begins to take its shape through mockup design and wireframing.

Wireframes act as website blueprints. At its core, a wireframe is a static low-fidelity presentation of the various screens and pages that form a website. Being a static blueprint, a wireframe usually doesn’t contain clickable and interactive elements. Instead, it communicates how various elements such as imagery, written content, and links combine to create a web page, as well as how the interface will work from the user’s perspective.

While we do try to bring the wireframe as closely as possible to the way the website is supposed to look like once it is done by including the intended content when available, wireframes often feature placeholders and lorem ipsum text, allowing our design team to focus on the page layout and structure.

Step 4: SEO strategy documentation

To accomplish our client’s business goals, we need a roadmap to successful search engine optimization. That’s why our SEO company in Chicago tailors an SEO strategy unique to each of our clients that shows us their current SEO state and informs us about the actions we need to perform in order to improve it. Our SEO strategy documentation includes the following steps:

  • Benchmark the current SEO performance
  • Analyze competitors’ SEO strategies
  • Set goals and KPIs (key performance indicators)
  • Define primary keywords and pillar pages
  • Find long-tail keywords and define cluster content
  • Audit the website’s existing content
  • Build topic clusters
  • Get the on-page SEO right
  • Discover and fix technical SEO issues
  • Do off-page SEO
  • Analyze and refine SEO strategy

Let’s briefly explain each of these.

Benchmark the current SEO performance

We need to know how the current website is performing if we want to take the SEO to the next level. That’s why we benchmark the performance across:

  • Organic visibility
  • Keyword rankings
  • Branded vs. non-branded split

Analyze competitors’ SEO strategies

Next, we need to analyze competitors’ strategies to see where our client has the upper hand and where there is still work to be done. Again, there are multiple steps to be taken to accomplish a thorough analysis:

  • Compiling a list of competitors: This is where competition benchmarking done in step 1 comes in handy.
  • Discovering competitors’ web pages that drive the most traffic: We use this knowledge to identify the type of content our client should be using to rank.
  • Identifying keywords that competitors are ranking for and those that they are not: Here, we also gain insight into how each competitor performs across certain keywords compared to our client as well as how they are building links.

Set goals and KPIs (key performance indicators)

This is the most critical part of creating SEO strategy documentation since we need to know where our client wants to end up and measure the success along the way.

Define primary keywords and pillar pages

Here, we must define the website’s primary keywords and target them through topic clusters built around pillar pages.

Find long-tail keywords and define cluster content

Once we have established main topic clusters and keywords for pillar pages, it is time to start working on cluster content strategy. We do this by brainstorming subtopics and supporting pieces of content that add depth to a topic. While pillar pages focus on keywords with higher search volume, topic clusters are oriented toward more specific long-tail keywords.

Audit the website’s existing content

Content audit helps us identify the content that our client should either:

  • Keep
  • Update
  • Delete

Build topic clusters

Upon identifying pillar pages and topic clusters, it is time to build those clusters by creating cluster topics. When creating content, it is essential to keep the following elements in mind:

  • Searcher intent
  • Topical depth
  • Topical breadth

Get the on-page SEO right

On-page SEO above all involves optimizing:

  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • H1, H2, and H3 tags
  • Internal links
  • Images

Discover and fix technical SEO issues

Technical SEO issues can hold back website performance and even stop it from ranking altogether. While doing technical SEO, we dedicate special attention to:

  • Website loading time
  • Crawlability
  • Mobile-first web design
  • Fixing duplicate content
  • Discovering 404 errors
  • Website security
  • Structured data
  • XML sitemap

Do off-page SEO

Backlinks are one of Google’s top three most important ranking factors, so it is mandatory to establish a plan that helps our clients earn quality backlinks. The most usual backlinks tactics include:

  • Digital PR
  • Resource link building
  • Broken link building
  • The Skyscraper Technique
  • Creating link bait and promoting it with outreach

Analyze and refine SEO strategy

SEO professionals’ work is never done. There are always opportunities for additional growth, so it is essential to take time to analyze the SEO strategy documentation and refine it regularly.

Step 5: Website copywriting

Writing a website copy requires a great deal of experience, effort, practice, and inspiration to address the readers appropriately. Still, many copywriters fail to bond with the audience, conveying the message from the business perspective instead of from the readers’ point of view.

While figuring out how to write a website copy, our copywriters look for ways to make deep emotional connections with our audience and leave them enthusiastic about taking action. Let’s check some of the main points our agency considers when writing a website copy:

Getting to know our readers

Learning about our client’s audience’s pain points and being able to position the client as a problem solver is vital for writing an engaging website copy. There are two crucial elements in understanding the audience:

  • Buyer personas
  • Speaking in customer language

Emphasizing benefits over features

Undoubtedly, product features are very important. However, it is often even more important to stress the benefits that our client’s product brings to people instead of highlighting the raw specifications. One of the most effective ways to engage the audience is to create video content and use compelling narration to communicate a message in a more meaningful way.

Being concise

The attention span of modern readers tends to be very short, so they are reluctant to read long textual paragraphs. That’s why failing to keep your copy concise can increase your website bounce rates. To increase the readability of the content, it is important to:

  • Use headers and subheaders
  • Use bullet points
  • Use shorter words and sentences

Brainstorming a bold headline

A headline is a crucial part of copywriting and the best way to allure your audience to read the text. With that in mind, we never use click baits, and neither should you. Your audience won’t appreciate it, and it won’t do your conversion rate any good.

A clear call to action

A shorter copy with a carefully placed comprehensive CTA button will leave a sense of urgency to take action.

Know your keywords

You need to include the phrases you wish to rank for in your copy. However, we are always careful not to overuse keywords so our clients’ conversion rates wouldn’t suffer.

Internal linking

Internal links to other pages keep visitors engaged and help search engines crawl websites better.

Step 6: Client wireframe and content approval

Wireframing is yet another crucial aspect of the website creation process. While we as designers can easily visualize and conceptualize solutions as well as extrapolate what a website may look like once it is finished, it is often hard for an uneducated eye to see beyond wires. That’s why when presenting the blueprint to our clients, we start by showing the examples that inspired us and those with similar functionalities. Once the client understands the potential for what the website will look like, we highlight the reasoning and ideas for navigation as well as show examples of certain functionalities.

Presenting the client with the website wireframe is a perfect opportunity to showcase the content we aim to include and the sections of the website where it will be displayed.

Then, we ask the client to decide whether the overall look and the feel of the future website reflect their brand message and fit their prospects’ customer journey. Once our client approves the wireframe and the content, we proceed to the next step.

Step 7: Hero section mockup

Our mockup website design includes:

  • Main layouts
  • Various page elements
  • Branding
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Text
  • Images

The mockup version of the website simulates the way the website looks, but not the way it behaves since it features no transitions and usable functions. However, it helps us define the essential UX factors such as:

During this phase, we turn the wireframe into a polished website design by adding content, branding, and styling on top of layouts. Creating a mockup allows us to efficiently deliver our product to the client, reduce development costs, and increase the chance of our client’s website’s long-term success.

We also design a hero image section during this part of the website creation process. The hero image is usually the first visual the visitor notices and presents an overview of the most important content on the client’s website. The hero section usually includes images and text and can be static or dynamic. Here are some of the advantages of the hero section:

  • Visual appeal
  • Text readability
  • Interactivity
  • Storytelling
hero section

Step 8: Homepage design

Besides being visually appealing, for a homepage design to be effective, it needs to accomplish our clients’ business goals and communicate the value of their brand. To choose the most relevant images, headlines, body copy, icons, and functionality, it is essential to know where to start.

We start with the customer in mind

This is where we yet again use the research conducted in the first step of the website creation process.

Considering the theme

As an agency that mastered the art of creating websites from scratch, we prefer to have full control over the website’s underlying platform. Sage WordPress theme allows us to create entirely SEO-optimized, fast-loading, and mobile-friendly websites that perform great in Google and search engines alike. Of course, if our clients have other themes or builders in mind, we are more than willing and able to indulge their wishes.

Determining the layout

Homepage needs to support findability (how easily a user can find what they need) and learnability (how rapidly the user learns how to navigate the website). According to Chao Liu, Ryen W. White, and Susan Dumais, websites have a 10-second opportunity window during which users decide whether to stay or leave. The way you design the user interface can determine the success of the website. If step 3 is done right and later approved in step 6, you are on the right track.

Here are the three crucial elements to keep in mind for layout design:

  • Typography: Here, we need to take care of the size, placement, weight, and color, as well as make sure that the text is legible. That is why we avoid using decorative fonts but instead choose a simple and more contemporary one with varying weights (bold, ultra tin, black, light, regular). We also ensure to create a high contrast between different content sections, such as using a much larger font for a headline than for a supporting text.
  • Images: We aim to use images our client’s target audience can relate to and connect with. They need to tell the story that supports our client’s business goals, such as a user purchasing a product. Regarding eCommerce websites, images should be of high quality and reflect what the customer would typically see if they were to enter a physical store.
  • Composition: Once we decide on the images and typography, we need to find a way to put it all together. We always try to walk the visitor through the homepage and tell them the story about the brand along the way through text and images. Also, by carefully placing CTAs, we make it clear what we want them to do and want them to interact with the homepage.

There is a significant difference between a landing page and a homepage, so our approach also differs. Landing pages are:

  • Campaign-based
  • Narrowly targeted
  • Action-oriented
  • Siloed

That is why we take a different angle in terms of:

  • Message
  • Content
  • Target audience
  • Call to action
  • Linking

It is extremely important to avoid the paradox of choice on landing pages, which suggests that the more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. That’s why, for example, we never include more than one CTA per landing page. If there is a secondary CTA button, it is always in the form of Learn More button and designed in a way that doesn’t divert too much attention from the primary one.

Step 9: Designing the rest of the website

We dedicate this step to designing secondary website elements. By secondary, we are not saying they are less important but less prominent. These are usually:

  • Sidebar: An area of the website whose primary purpose is to display information that is not part of the main content. It often includes an opt-in button, links to other website pages, popular or recent blog posts, ads, social media links, or a brief About paragraph.
  • Footer: The website footer is the last element the user sees on the website, and its potential often remains untapped. However, footers have exceptional importance for a website’s ROI. These are the elements that you can include in website footer design:
    • Copyright
    • Sitemap
    • Privacy policy
    • Terms of use
    • Contact
    • Navigation
    • Social media icons and widgets
    • Newsletter sign-up
    • Login
    • Press
    • Site search tool
    • Awards and certifications
    • Association members
    • Testimonials
    • Latest articles
    • Upcoming events
    • Videos
    • CTA
    • Logo, mission, vision, value
    • Keywords
    • Sliders: The narrow vertical column next to the content usually includes ads, links to other content, CTAs, or a search box.
    • Forms: A form is a page where users enter their personal information. Stuff like surveys, email opt-ins, or shipping updates is processed via these pages. Forms need to be short and precise and display a statement of how the user information will be used.

Step 10: Applying client feedback

Client feedback helps us remain on the right track along the way and assures us that we are getting closer to meeting their business goals. While asking our client for feedback on the work done by that point regarding the look, feel, and functionality of the website in development, we aim to ask open-ended questions and carefully listen and take notes on all of the answers and suggestions.

Sometimes, a client wants to add functionality to a website that was previously not part of their plans. That’s often the case with clients that need to adjust all, even completely change their website’s primary purpose. Also, sometimes the features and visuals don’t look the way the client envisioned them.

In step 6, we gathered the client’s feedback on content and website wireframe design, so it is time to apply the feedback before proceeding to the next step.

Step 11: Requesting client design approval

Similar to step 6, where we ask the client to approve the website wireframe and content, in step 11, we seek approval for our design choices. If the client agrees that the design communicates the brand message in an intended way, we proceed to step 12. Otherwise, we take notes on their suggestions before moving on to website coding.

Step 12: Coding the website

The time required to code a website depends on the overall complexity of the website in question. Website complexity, in turn, depends on the client’s business aspirations. The emergence of various drag-and-drop builders made the website creation process simpler and faster. However, in those times, search engines lacked indexing capabilities, and their machine learning systems left much desired. Nowadays, search engine AI can efficiently crawl websites, putting business sites built on themes and plugins in an unfavorable position.

Here are the main problems with themes and website builders:

  • Slow page speed: Themes and builders are filled with unnecessary code that slows down your website, thus directly impacting:
    • Your organic search rank
    • Cost per click
    • User experience
    • The amount of time spent on your site
  • Vulnerability to hacks and malware: Third-party themes and plugins require constant updates to remain secure. However, many were created as developers’ side projects and lacked regular maintenance. Hackers are aware of this and attack those weak points.
  • Not ready for Core Web Vitals: Core Web Vitals is Google’s algorithm update that evaluates user experience and consists of three elements. The lower your website scores for each of the following elements, the lower it ranks on SERP:
    • Largest contentful paint (LCP)
    • Cumulative layout shift (CLS)
    • First input delay (FID)

That’s why our web development agency in Chicago suggests building a custom-coded website for your business. We aim to back up our eye-catching front-end with meticulously executed code. All the things that builders provide require tens of thousands of lines of code to execute, while our developers achieve better results with just a few hundred techniques. This way, we manage not to overcrowd websites with redundant elements that slow down web pages. As a result, websites created from scratch score higher in search engines, check every Core Web Vitals’ box and provide a better user experience.

With over a half of website traffic coming from handheld devices, another critical thing to ensure is mobile-friendliness, so our clients’ users would enjoy a consistent experience across all platforms. 

Our custom code also allows us to provide a higher level of SEO optimization since the website created this way can attract increased quantities and better quality organic traffic.

As a final touch, we add an extra layer of security, virtually eliminating the chances of cyber attacks.

Step 13: Quality assurance audit and execution

In this step, we review our visual design, micro-interactions, and copywriting by cross-referencing the developed design with our client’s handed-off design and aim to spot if there are any inconsistencies. That helps us deliver the product within the set timeframe as we can detect issues that may prevent the website from functioning correctly and harm the user experience. The number and the order of activities included in our design QA checklist vary depending on the extent of the work and our client’s business goals.

Our quality assurance process includes several stages:

      • Analyze requirements: It is more cost-effective for our clients when we fix bugs detected during testing than when we attempt to prevent them later. That’s why our staff that works on the QA process is also involved in analyzing and defining software requirements. When our tests are designed specifically for the software we are testing, the entire process becomes much more manageable.
      • Plan the test: We use the information gathered during the previous stage to plan necessary tests. The plan includes testing strategy, scope, budget, and deadlines. Our professionals also highlight the required types and levels of testing, methods, and bug detection tools, as well as dedicate resources and responsibilities to each team member.
      • Design the test: We create test cases and checklists according to software requirements during this stage. Test cases include:
        • Conditions
        • Data
        • Methods for validating functionalities
        • Expected results

We start with exploratory testing that mimics user behavior to discover bugs our client’s visitors may encounter. In case the test scope requires an automation strategy, we also craft related scenarios during this stage.

We also prepare the execution for the staging environment, which is the exact copy of the production environment and includes everything from hardware specifics and software configurations to network configuration and databases.

      • Run tests and report defects: The development team starts by performing unit tests, followed by tests at API and UI levels performed by the QA team. The QA team runs tests either by manually executing previously designed test cases or by automating test scenarios with the help of automated test frameworks.
      • Run re-tests and regression tests: Once we fix each bug, we test all the functions once again to ensure no anomalies slip through. Regression tests follow that to verify these corrections introduced no unintended breaks.
      • Run release tests: Developers first issue a release notification which is a list of implemented features, fixed bugs, recurring issues, and limitations. Then the QA team identifies reworked functionalities and creates modified tests to cover the scope of the new build. The new build is subjected to smoke tests that check its stability before modified tests are executed.

Once all the stages are completed, our quality assurance team generates a report, and we proceed to the next step.

Step 14: Client feedback and final updates

Once again, we ask our client to give us feedback on the work done so far. In case there are any additional requests or suggestions, our team will make the final updates and pushes the website to live.

Step 15: Website push to live

Each of our websites has a staging environment that allows us plugins or code modifications before we push them to live. Since the staging website doesn’t affect the live version, our WordPress maintenance company can also make subsequent changes. Once we make sure that everything is in order, we proceed to push the website to live.

We aim to push the website during low traffic times and have our developers ready just in case. It is essential to create a website backup that we can revert to if needed, double-check the staging version, and resolve any errors. Once the push is executed, we purge any built-in cache in the plugins, clear the browser cache, and test the website.

Final thoughts

Our website creation process is the product of experience gathered throughout the years of delivering top-quality websites within the agreed time frame. We can proudly say that it brought us much success and helped create meaningful relationships with our clients. Our secret is out, so you are now free to use our blueprint to your liking or tailor it to suit your specific needs. We genuinely hope this scheme will serve you as well as it serves us.

Brian Djordjevic
About The Author

Brian Dordevic

Brian is Marketing Strategic Planner with a passion for all things digital. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or schedule a consultation call with him.

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