- Meet with or speak to the client to get initial information and feel for the project
Traditionally this would be a phone call or a meeting at Starbucks; in Covid times this is usually a phone or Zoom call. This is where we find out if your project is a good fit for the services I offer. We’re both excited to begin.
- Client fills out questionnaire for clarity on branding, business goals, audience etc,
A lengthy questionnaire is sent covering all aspects of the business. Often, these come back with huge pieces missing…people starting a business are sometimes unaware they even need goals, much less have them ready to present to me. They may lack knowledge about their branding, their customer, their marketing plan…all things that make building their site easier and more efficient.
- Possible meeting to go over questionnaire if necessary for clarity
We’ll jump on another call to go over what’s needed for the site. Often these conversations go off topic and cover where they want their business to go, the services (or products) they offer, consults about marketing and social media, and all manner of other things.
The client may often have a different understanding of the things I need, or not know how to do something (for example, optimize an image or know how to get an image in a particular size).
- Project is set up and client onboarded
Client is sent a contract and any other materials necessary for the project, and I start working.
- Research for competition, design planning, images
This step can take hours, especially if the site is in a niche I’m not as familiar with. I visit multiple competitor websites to get a feel for the niche, then I visit multiple resource sites to find images. This step involves looking through pages and pages of images using different keywords to try and narrow them down to what will fit the site and its branding.
Once I find images I think will work well I may need to add or remove things in the images (Photoshop) and, at the very least, I need to resize and optimize the images.
- Client purchases domain and hosting
- Client turns over logins for each
Sometimes I need to help people through this process if it’s intimidating or overwhelming (which is completely normal!)
- Client purchases third party plugins (If necessary)
WordPress (and WooCommerce if you’re building a site to sell products) are excellent at having most things you’d need to build a great site, but there are times when you need more functionality to accomplish your site goals, and they need to be in place before the build.
- Gather content from client:
- Copy for each page on the site
- Images for each page on the site (if they are to provide)
- Business details for contact page
- Articles, blurbs, testimonials
This is where delays often happen: as a matter of fact, most projects seem to take the longest at this point. There are back and forth emails and calls, partially sent content that doesn’t quite cover the page needs, written content but no images (or images with no written content), etc.
If a project is going to go off the rails and people are going to become frustrated, I’ve found gathering content to be the place where it happens. I’ll become frustrated that I can’t finish the project in a reasonable time frame; clients will become frustrated that the project drags on for periods of time with no results.
Many people don’t realize that websites simply can’t be built without content! And design and content go together – I can get a much better idea what the design should be if I know what the content is.
- Create basic design concept and custom designs
- Client signs off on design concept and custom designs
This is important so we know we’re both on the same page with design and branding.
- Gather content from client:
- All content that wasn’t gathered in #8 to fit in designed pages
- Links to videos
- Documents to embed
Not all sites will have these elements and other sites will have more, such as links to social media sites, PayPal information, Strip information, info needed to connect your POD account, etc.
- Build out site
- This includes installing WordPress and configuring it properly for the type of site, security, SSL, etc.
- WooCommerce settings and configuration if the site will be selling products. This can include shipping information, tax information, automated inventory tracking, etc. This can also include custom cart design, custom email design, etc.
- Home page includes sections like: hero header (this could be a large image, a slideshow, or a video), services section/what we do section, blog section, testimonial section, header and footer sections (throughout website), other informational and creative sections
- Custom 404 page
- If they want a blog the required number of designed pages is:
- One for the archive page
- One for the blog post itself
- Each category may have its own archive page
- Build in custom functionality
- This can range from installing and configuring plugins to creating completely custom solutions
- Build in security and basic SEO
From stages 4 through 13 I’m usually reminding the client to send the materials I need to build the site. Often, people don’t realize they have to gather these materials themselves, and expect me to get the content off their site, come up with images, etc. in addition to designing and building the site.
Each of these steps can take anywhere from 30 minutes to hours, depending on how much planning has gone into the design and branding, and how organized and complete the content is. And anytime there is more custom work – for example specialized images/designs/branding – it takes longer, because those things should be in place before the site is built or it holds things up.
Another thing that often delays the building of a site is when, during the build, the client will want changes from the original design and scope of the project. This can cause problems ranging from adding many more hours to completely derailing the project and having to start over. Unfortunately, this happens far more than people might think.
Every good designer wants to do a great job and make their clients happy, so we often find ourselves bending over backwards to try and accommodate these changes. As a result, we often end up working a ridiculous amount of hours (or months!) for a site that should have been relatively easy to build, had all the elements been in place and formally agreed upon ahead of time.
It’s for this exact reason I’ve changed my business model to a day rate model that I call VIP Intensives. By eliminating the delay points in a website project I’m able to build a custom site quickly and efficiently. I’ve also eliminated the confusion points by creating video walk-throughs that take people step-by-step over my shoulder and walk them through what I need and how to get it.
This way, the client is happy that they get a custom website in a day (for most projects), and I’m happy that I can concentrate on designing and building the site (and making the client happy!).