The web design process

Clients ask “Why is my web design so expensive?” or “Why is it taking so long?” “Why do you need all of this now?”

Unfortunately, the extent of what is involved in a new or re-designed web site is hard to visualize for someone who has no knowledge of web design.  There is no such thing as “Just throw something together for us to look at and we’ll go from there.” Without all the information on what you want included this task is impossible.  Even a simple mock up is time-consuming. 

I have outlined what is involved in getting a web design from “your mind” to a website that is fully functional and ready to do business on the internet.

  1. Get all the paperwork done.  Without this a web developer cannot even start. If you don’t have a server yet, let me recommend Hostmonster.  They have great service.
    I recommend Hostmonster for hosting service.  Great service and great prices or if you just want a small personal site I can host your site myself at a reduced rate.Per FCC requirements – While my endorsement of Hostmonster is real, I am required to inform you that I do receive a commission from them if you click on any of my links. Thank you if you do, because it is how I keep my costs lower, as I pass them on to you.
  2. Information — the more information you provide at the beginning, the easier and faster the whole process will be.
    • If you already have an idea of what you want as far as layout and color of your site let me know what your ideas are.
    • Who are you competing with?
    • What is the main purpose of your site — Information only or will viewers being buying something?
    • All the content and images with descriptions (for SEO) and all contact information.
    • Who is going to be viewing your web site? If I know your intended audience is, I can design a better site for your viewer.  Answering this with “Everyone” is a not a good answer.  If I am designing for teenagers who are very tech savvy and love bright colors and lots of gadgets, I will design the site one way.  If I am designing for a 50+ crowd I am going to design very differently.  If I am designing for “everyone” I am going to be more conservative with a design that “everyone” will be able to use whether they are tech-savvy or not.  So please take this into consideration when you answer this.
  3. Research time —  I go to your competitions’ websites and see what is working for them.  Also what is not working.  I am not copying here, I am researching so that I can make your site better.  I will be able to understand your business better if I understand who you are competing with.
  4. Idea Time — now I have all the information I need, I sit down and start thinking about how I am going to assimilate all the information and images into a cohesive design.  This is all about generating free-flowing ideas and putting them on paper. This process alone can take a couple of days.  Everything you have given me and all my research to this point is being taken into consideration. Any and all info you need to be in the web site – needs to be in my hands at this point.  Giving me more info or images after this step only makes the idea process longer.  I will have to start the idea process over to add new information.
  5. Sort through all the ideas — I have got a lot of ideas on how to proceed.  These are gone through and I pick out the ideas that will work together and make your web site work.  This is a time consuming task as I can come up with multiple approaches and alternate design options.  I sort through them again and get down to 2 -3 solutions that will work for you.
  6. Refine solutions — I have two or three design concepts at this point.  I pick the one that best suits the information you gave me. It is time to start sketching my ideas out on paper.  Once I have done this, I open up Photoshop and start making a design layout.  Some designs can have 100’s of layers and some may only have 25 or 50. The complexity of the site determines how long this process can take.
  7. First review from the client — I send you an image of your template(s).  I ask for feedback from you, the client.  This is not a working site at this point.  I need your feedback on the general layout and color of the site.  Now is the time to make any changes, before I start coding this into a functioning website.
  8. Feedback changes — I have received your feedback and if they are minor changes I can change them in Photoshop.  If they are major changes, I will have to start a new mock up and get new feedback.
  9. Coding your website — The creative process is done and I am ready to code your website in HTML and CSS with maybe some javascript added for the bells and whistles. This is a culmination of days of creative dedication. At this point you have agreed that this is the design we are going to use.
  10. Breakdown the different pieces of the Photoshop puzzle into useable  images for the web. Each image piece has to be saved into a web-optimized image, named appropriately and a description added for seo purposes.
  11. Transform all these images and text content into a coded html/css design that works in all the major browsers (IE7, IE8, FF, Chrome and Safari). Make workable navigation with working dropdowns or flyouts (where applicable), add javascript (where applicable), buy buttons coded for the PayPal or whoever your payment provider is, and any other links.  This process can take days to complete.
  12. Upload to a temporary site for review — I upload to my server in a special folder for review and I ask you to review the entire site including links (some links such as payment providers may not work at this point). If you find anything wrong you let me know and I will fix or explain why it is not working. (Example: Paypal setup may not allow use on another server but your own).
    Note: At this point I am fine tuning the approved design only.  Some links as explained above may not work until it is moved to your server. I will make sure all links work once I have the website uploaded on your server.
  13. Final Step — you have approved everything and you have a server and domain name purchased either through me or a host provider/server (see hostmonster above) and I have the necessary information to upload the files to your site.  This can take 2 – 3 days depending on when you purchase your server space and domain name.  If you rent server space from me its available immediately.  If you already have a domain name purchased from somewhere else changes can take 1 – 2 weeks depending on the registrar.

Payment time — I send a Paypal payment request to you via email and I receive your payment.

I upload your site and make sure that everything is working. Once I have done this I will notify you and ask that you perform a usability test and make sure everything is functioning as it should.  If you have any problems, tell me where the problem is and give me details.  Telling me one of the 100 buy buttons isn’t working on a page isn’t helpful. This is one of the reasons I work as cheaply as I do, I require that you, the client, be involved. This is a joint project. At this moment nerves are a little frayed, so let us all be nice and get things done as quickly as we can. We have both worked hard to get this project up. A little patience goes a long way.

Ask a couple of friends to review your site and see what they think about how easy or hard it is to use your site. Sometimes what works for you and me may prove to be too complicated for someone who doesn’t use the internet often. I am not talking about a re-design here. If a button is not easy to see (color-blind people cannot see certain colors) maybe we need to change the color or the size of the text. These kinds of minor changes on 1 or 2 items I do not mind doing. Major changes will cost extra at this point.

The quicker you relay your feedback to me and the more detail you provide, the quicker I will be able to fix any problems that arise. (This does not mean they will be fixed in an hour!)

As you can see the development of a functioning web design is time consuming and complicated. It requires dedication and effort on both mine and your part to get your website up and running.  It’s easy to look at a design and say “Oh, that shouldn’t be too hard.  It should only take you a couple of hours (or a couple of days if its really complicated).”

It is easy to under-estimate the time involved in making a web design come to life.  Hopefully this sheds a little light on exactly what it takes, from start to finish, to get a website up and running.

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