Step 1: Let's get acquainted!
Let's talk about you and your business! I like to conference with potential clients either by email correspondence or by phone. Through discussion we decide if I'm the right designer for you. In our initial contact, I will ask you to tell me a little bit about your business and what it is that hope to achieve with your site. I will ask you to tell me about different functions you may require for your site such as a shopping cart or forms. I will also ask you to send the urls (web site addresses) of several sites that you find appealing either in the way they are laid out, or the colors they use or any other factor that you like about a site. I will not copy sites, I will only get an idea of what you like by looking at sites that you find tasteful or like the look and feel of. Looking at what appeals to you will give me something to go on in order to create the site you have in mind . I can then suggest ways to improve on ideas you have seen to make your site customized to your needs and those of potential site visitors. We can then discuss how many pages your site will entail, what kind of features you want for your site, who your target audience and current customers are, after which I can give you a quote. If we both feel we have communicated well and can work together to create a site, we can move on to:
Step 2: Get it in writing
As a person in business, I'm sure you know how important it is for all parties in a business arrangement to understand what is expected of them. I do not begin a site design without a signed contract. A signed contract protects both parties involved. If after the contract has been signed and you decide you want more features on your site than was discussed for the quote, additional features may be added for an hourly rate above the cost of the original quote and contract.
Step 3: Your site needs a home/e commerce
If your site will be a new one, it will need to be hosted by a hosting company and your new domain name will have to be set up. Choosing a hosting company is just as important as choosing your designer. I will be happy to suggest hosting services that I know offer features you may need and offer excellent customer service. If you would like to find a hosting service on your own, do your homework. There are many "cheap" hosting services out there, but before you sign up for one, lets discuss what you will need for hosting your particular site. If your site will require special scripts, you may need a hosting package that includes a cgi bin.
Make sure the company provides good customer service and tech support. Try calling them. Do they put you hold and make you listen to canned music or endless recorded messages or do you get to talk to a real person who is interested in making your experience with them a pleasant one? Find out how often their servers go down. If possible, talk to or email some of their present customers to find out what they think of the service. Doing your homework now will save you aggravation down the line. If you have a business site, please don't consider it being hosted on a "free hosting" server. You will have no control over ugly flashing banners that these free services will automatically load onto your site.
If you require a shopping cart for your site whereby visitors can buy items directly from your site, you have several options. There are some very good free shopping cart services offered on the net. You may also purchase a shopping cart with features you require. If you need a shopping cart with very specific custom features, you may contact a programmer who specializes in programming shopping carts. For most ecommerce sites, a basic shopping cart is usually sufficient. In order for you to be able to accept credit cards orders you will need to have a merchant account. Check with your bank to see what they offer and/or do a search on the internet to view merchant account options. You want to make it as easy as possible for you customers to purchase your items.
Step 4: The mock up.
Since I now will have an idea of what you are looking for, I will then create a mock up or "rough draft" of your site. This is the time to decide if the layout of the site is what you had in mind, if the colors are correct, if you want to rename pages, go for a different look etc. I will then make the changes you request to complete a final template that we will use for your site. After the site template is exactly the way you want it, you will "sign off" on it , stating that this is what you want. Once you have signed off on the site, any MAJOR changes which involve changes to layout, and /or graphics to the site will be billed an hourly rate. For instance, if you decide after this point that you want to add more pages, causing the navigation to be reconfigured on every page of a site that is 90% complete, changes after the sign off will be billed at an hourly rate
(Of course if you only want to change some text here and there, or move a graphic, there is no extra charge for that. I will only charge extra for major changes to the design!)
Step 5: Your Turn!
After the template is ready to add content to , it's time for you to get busy! This is when you will need to send me the text for each page in your site and any photographs you want on the site. Text is a very important component of a web site. Text communicates what you want your visitors to know about your business and is a key in getting your listed in search engines once your site is online. Before you write your text, put your self in the place of a potential visitor. If you were a customer looking for your business by doing a search at a search engine what words would you use in a search box? Let's say you sell pet supplies. what do people search for when looking for those items? they may enter, pet supplies, dog collars, dog food, toys for pets etc. It is important that you use these words in your text , such as "Happy Doggy products will delight your pet! We are suppliers of accessories for dogs such as dog collars, squeaky toys, and chew dogs. Nutrition is an important part of keeping your dog healthy . Happy doggy offers dog food for puppies, overweight dogs.....etc etc. You want to work those keywords into your text. When a search engine spiders your site in order to see whether or not they will list you in their engine, many will look to see if your keywords are included in your text. I will be happy to make suggestions on improving your text to help optimize it for search engine placement.
Your Graphics (photographs) are also an important part of your site. They add to the look of your site and let visitors know what it is you sell. While you don't have to hire a professional photographer if it is not in your budget, keep in mind that photographs of your products reflect on you professionally and may influence how potential customers perceive your business. A fuzzy, dark picture of a product will not attract sales. A visitor may think "If they don't care how they present their products, do they care about the quality of their products?" If you cannot hire a professional photographer, either buy or borrow a good digital camera to photograph your products. Photograph them on a plain background such a in front of those white boards students use for school science projects. Keep in mind that customers want to see your products in as much detail as possible.
Step 6: When will it be finished?
In our initial discussion I will talk to you about what your anticipated launch date will be. I will do everything in my power to meet reasonable deadlines and will plan with you what it will take to make that deadline.
In order to make deadlines, I will need you to get site contents such as text and photographs to me in a timely manner. Don't wait until a few days before your launch and send the bulk of your material. Your site may not be ready in time. If you wait weeks to get the material to me after you have signed off on the design please don't expect me to drop working on another client's site to rush through yours. I schedule my time to give each client the personalized service they expect. Also please note in my contract that if after six weeks you have not supplied the remainder of content to your site, the final payment on the site is still due.
Step 7 : It's a Go!
When your site is completed and the final payment has been received I will then upload it to your server. Are we finished now? No! Now is the time to actively market your site and submit it to seach engines.
Step 8: Promote it!
We've all seen that commercial that shows a new site going online and 2 seconds later, the orders start pouring in and it's instant millions! It doesn't happend like that. That is TV world. In the "real world" it takes time and effort to promote your site.
Here are some links that may help in promoting your site:
It may take several weeks to several months to get listed in search engines. DO NOT EXPECT RESULTS OVERNIGHT!
Step 9: Maintenance of your site:
If you have a site that requires frequent updates such as adding new products to your site or updating schedules , you may choose to have me maintain and update your site for an hourly rate of $35, or you can choose to do it yourself if you are willing to take the time learn how . If you choose to do it yourself, I strongly recommend taking a class or tutorial at a local community college and/or studying on your own by taking online tutorials on using the software you purchase to make changes. If you or someone else in the process of updating the site damages your code or the files in your ftp directory are damaged , I can repair them for an hourly rate.
Step 10: Whew!
This sounds like a lot of work doesn't it? Having a successful on line presence IS a lot of work. If you are not committed to promoting your site, doing your homework, and keeping up with what is current on the net., you may not want to spend your money on a web site. A web site is a marketing tool that must be constantly worked in order to get results.
You have to be willing to learn how to use this tool to it's best advantage.