My primary goal as a web designer is to create a website that best displays your content. In other words, your content determines the design I create. To accomplish this goal, I use a process that has four stages. These stages are: preliminary meeting, test site, content, and maintenance.
- Potential client brings promotional materials and questions
- Discussion of website desired by potential client and website services I offer
The first stage is a preliminary meeting with a potential client. This meeting is akin to a job interview. It is helpful if the potential client can bring any promotional materials, such as business cards, to this meeting. During this meeting, I ask questions like: "Tell me about your business, in your own words;" or "What's the purpose or goal of the site?" If the potential client and I agree to work together, I then ask questions about the site's content: e.g., how many pages and what kind of content (graphics or text). At this point, I also offer a basic design idea to the client, based on the information received during this meeting. Near the end of the meeting, I share with the client information about my fees, go over billing options, and explain my basic process and what the client can expect over the next weeks.
- Client prepares content
- I create a test site
During the second stage, the client begins preparing content for the website while I create a test site based on the design idea shared with the client in the Preliminary Meeting. This test site consists of one page, usually a sample index page. When the page is first created, I email the client, so that he or she can follow my progress. The first purpose of the test site is to create the HTML and CSS that go along with the design idea. The second purpose of the test site is to tweak the design idea until it can function as a website. Once I have the test site design done, I then test the design with a variety of browsers and browser conditions. These tests often reveal aspects of the design or the HTML and CSS that need to be modified. This is one of the many challenges of web design: to create a site that is adaptable to many different browsers, screen resolutions, and accessibility requirements.
When I'm satisfied with the test site, I have another meeting with the client. At this point, the client can suggest any changes to the design (stage two is repeated) or approve it as is. If the client changes his or her mind completely, I start over again. If the client accepts the design, we discuss content and move on to the next stage.
- Client provides content
- I add content to test site
- Final meeting to approve website prior to launch
In this stage, the client has the most responsibility, for it is the client's responsibility to provide me with the content for the website. Once I receive the content, I edit it as necessary and put the content on the test site. Once all the content has been put on the test site, the client and I have a final meeting. During this meeting, the client can approve the content and the design or offer small changes to either. After the client approves all the content and design on the test site, the website is launched.
- Content updates as requested (Yearly Maintenance Plan recommended)
- Browser testing
Now that the website is created, maintenance work begins. For example, after a few months, content can become outdated and need to be changed. Another aspect of this stage is browser testing. For example, when a new version of Internet Explorer comes out, the design often needs to be tweaked to accomodate the changes.
For clients in this stage, I recommend the Yearly Maintenance Plan. Clients pay for either 30 minutes or an hour's worth of monthly updates for the year, usually due by February 1st of that year (extra work is billed monthly). This package encourages clients to keep their websites regularly updated and clients can benefit from paying for a year's worth of work in advance.