Getting Started

Basic information about websites and the web design business

My Web Development Process

Getting Started,Web Design

When I put myself in the shoes of someone who is looking for a website, I feel like the process of finding a person, company, web designer, developer, whoever, to make a good website could be a little (or a lot) confusing. How does it all work? I pay you, then what happens? How do I end up with a website I’ll be happy with?

I’ve worked out a general outline of my web design and development process below to explain “how it all works.” Not all designers or companies will do it the same, and it may vary a bit from client to client even for me, but this is pretty much what you can expect if when you work with me. No matter where we are in the design process, I always make it an absolute priority to keep my clients informed of what’s going on. I’ll give you periodic status updates, so you’ll always know what I’m working on and when you can expect to hear from me next.

Step 1: Consultation

If you’re interested in working with me, the first thing we’ll do is chat. E-mail or on the phone, we’ll take some time to discuss your project. I’ll get a feel for what you need, you’ll have a chance to get to know me a bit and ask any questions you might have, and we’ll be able to start deciding if we’re a good fit. This is free.

Step 2: Free website evaluation

If you’re in the market for a website re-design, I’ll do a complete evaluation of your existing website, for free. I’ll check out your site from top to bottom, including design, structure, search engine optimization, functionality, layout, performance, validation, content and more. Once this is done, I’ll e-mail it to you and/or we’ll get on the phone to discuss my findings.

Step 3: Proposal

Once we’ve discussed your website and my findings, I’ll create a proposal. Taking into account your budget (or the general prices we’ve discussed), your priorities and needs, my evaluation of your existing website (if applicable), I’ll write up a detailed explanation of what I would like to provide for you and at what cost. If we’re talking about setting you up with a content management system (CMS) or e-commerce platform, I’ll provide you with a test site and admin panel to get an opportunity to thoroughly test it all out. This will be a chance for you to see what you will be getting, why it’s the best solution for your budget, and you’ll know how much it will cost.

This is a relatively informal process and we’ll discuss the proposal, giving you a chance to ask any questions or make suggestions for changes to the proposal.

Step 4: Finalized agreement

At this point, we’ll have gone over everything in great depth. You’ll have explained to me what you’re looking for, I’ll have offered my suggestions and input, we’ll have discussed it all, developed a plan, worked out a price point and made a list of what you will be getting for your money. I’ll finalize this list and make it into an agreement that we’ll both sign, along with some other paperwork, so you’ll have, in black and white, what you’re getting for your money.

Some web designers leave room for ambiguity, largely due to inexperience and not knowing how the design and development process works in general. I find this lack of structure is bad for both the client and the developer in the long run. Clients often end up asking for umpteen changes of relatively unimportant details (which wastes time and keeps the develop from creating a strong website) and the developers end up frustrated and/or arguing about what is reasonable or too much work. I find that challenging myself and my clients to work out a quality plan (built on the foundation of my own experience in the development process) allows us both to stay focused on the important aspects of the website design process (while still leaving some breathing room for changes), which raises the likelihood of ending up with a quality, attractive, functional final product we’ll both be pleased with (and not have pulled out our hair to achieve).

Step 5: Deposit

Once we’ve worked out the finalized agreement, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for your money. You won’t have that uneasy feeling that you just paid someone you don’t know that well 1000 bucks and you’re uncertain of what’s happening next or what you’re getting for your money. Everything will proceed according to plan, and in the event major changes to the plan are needed later on, we’ll simple negotiate a fair price for those just like we did in the original agreement.

At this point, I’ll accept a deposit for 1/2 of the total agreed-upon price of the project.

Step 6: Website concept design

Once we’ve worked out all the details and the deposit is taken care of, it’s time to get to work on building your new site. I’ll likely begin drafting up a concept design for your new site, and will share this image of the proposed layout with you for your input. Once we talk it over and you give your feedback, I’ll make any necessary changes to the concept design and we’ll finalize the design.

Step 7: Website development

Once you’re loving the design for your new site and we’ve finalized it, I’ll start taking apart the design and coding it from just a pretty picture into a real website (using semantically-correct, valid xhtml). If we’re re-designing your existing site, I’ll set up a test server for developing the new site so your existing site is undisturbed until we’re completely ready to launch the new site.

Once the design has been coded and set up, I’ll proceed to integrate it with a content management system (CMS), perform SEO customizations, set up pages, content, menus, sitemaps, and whatever else we’ve agreed to. We’ll be in touch throughout this process so you can check out the work and discuss any concerns you may have.

Step 8: Website finalization and final walk-through

Once the website is finished, we’ll do a final “walk-through.” You’ll already have been checking out the website as I’m working on it and making necessary tweaks here and there, but this is the chance to go over the whole package and make sure everything is done just right and gets both of our approval. If any issues arise, we’ll discuss them and I’ll make any necessary corrections or alterations.

Step 9: Instructions

Though at this point you’ll probably already have tested out the admin panel to whatever platform your new website is being built on, I’ll provide you with the login and other information and detailed instructions for operating your website. I’ll help you learn to use the new system and will help answer any questions you have. My goal here is to leave you fully in control of your website, feeling comfortable you can use it.

Step 10: Final payment

Once your new website is up and running, everything meets your approval and you’ve received the instructions and information you need to operate the site, I’ll take the remaining 1/2 of the total project cost.

Hopefully the process doesn’t sound to complex. In reality, it’s a pretty smooth and straightforward process and we communicate about the status of the project the entire time. If you have any questions about any of it, as always, feel free to e-mail me or give me a call.

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