Building a digital service or website is a complex task, with many risks. By breaking development into phases you minimise risk, learning about what works and what doesn't, iterating as you go.
As the project moves through development we find out more about users' needs, development requirements and the conditions a service will be operating in. The level of detail, complexity and risk will increase along the way.
This approach allows the team making and operating the service to start small, learn fast, and provide value to users as soon as possible.
A short phase, in which you start researching the needs of your service’s users, find out what you should be measuring, and explore technological or policy-related constraints.
A phase in which you start to prototype solutions for your users' needs. Testing will be done with a small group of users or stakeholders to get early feedback.
Beta can be done privately to a small group or more publicly. Here development is done against the demands of a live environment, understanding how to build and scale while meeting user needs.
The work doesn’t stop once the digital service or website is live. Iterative improvement, reacting to new needs and demands, and meeting targets set during its development will continue once live.
Even the best services may eventually reach retirement. That should be treated with the same care as went into building and maintaining.