The Process

tl:dr Version

You tell me about your business and what you want to achieve with your web site. I tell you how I think we should do it, how long it will take and how much it will cost. We tweak things until we agree. We sign a contract to that effect. You make a first payment. I do the work in stages getting your approval along the way together with further staged payments. We launch the site. Everyone cheers. We tweak a few things as you get used to the site post launch. I do long term support and maintenance. Tea and chocolate biscuits are liberally interspersed throughout the process. Read on for more detail.

“Designers are usually hired for their design skills, but they are nearly always fired for their lack of project management skills.” – Fiona Robertson Remley

First Contact

I like to keep the initial discussions very loose and informal. The aim here is not to come up with any detailed designs. I’m looking to find out whether we’re a good fit for each other. Can I offer you the skills you need? What are you aiming to achieve with the project? What’s your business about? What’s your budget? What’s your time frame? What’s the rough scope of the project? What’s your knowledge of web design and development like? How do you like to run a project?

The Brief

I’ll follow this initial discussion up by sending you a tailored project brief for you to fill out. There’s a sample here for you to look at. Leaving you to your own devices on this allows you to mull things over without feeling pressured into giving immediate reactions to questions which really require some consideration. After our initial chat this brief should be asking you the right questions and after you’ve completed it I should be in a position to put together a detailed project plan and quotation; otherwise known as:

The Proposal

This is a pretty detailed breakdown of the project. What static pages we’ll produce, how the site navigation will work, the initial design ideas, what domain name we’ll buy, what long term support and training you’ll need, the time-scales involved including deadlines, the overall cost broken down into instalments with due dates. Here’s a sample proposal. Once we’ve done tweaking things we’ll both sign it as a commitment to proceed.

The Contract

If the proposal is the plan specific to your project then the contract is all the generic admin stuff that backs it up. It’s where we define our rights and responsibilities to each other. I’ve cut mine down to a bare minimum and I’ve tried to make it as user friendly as possible. Broadly speaking it’s not project specific but it’s intimately tied into the proposal. The two together give us the confidence to proceed in what is usually only a fledgling relationship by this stage. Take a look at a sample contract here.

sprezzatura /sprettsa’tu:ra/ Ease of manner, studied carelessness, nonchalance – Shorter Oxford English Dictionary

Initial Payment

This is the point where you get to cough up some cash. For most projects, the up-front payment is 30% but on very large projects there may be more payment stages to spread the load a little more evenly. Once I’ve received the payment I’ll start on the real work.

Wire-frames and Designs

The absolute best way to de-risk a web development project is for you to see what I’ve been up to. The more frequently you see progress, the less chance there is of me falling down a rabbit hole and wasting my time and your cash producing something you don’t want. Initially that means two things. Wire-frames and designs. Producing these in isolation is much quicker and cheaper than trying to integrate them into a functioning web site which is evolving rapidly at the same time.

Interim Payment

All the way through the wire-framing and design stage you’ll be able to see the progress and provide feedback. Once these are complete you should be confident enough to make the interim payment. Again, this is usually 30% of the total project cost but larger projects may vary.

Coding and Testing

At this stage we should both be comfortable proceeding to code and test. This is where I take everything we’ve produced so far and integrate it into a beautiful feast of shiny. The wire-frames will become a solidly coded foundation. Copy, images and user interface elements will be layered on top. And the whole thing will be styled using the ready and waiting design elements. All the interaction elements get tested, the copy is proofread, the site is checked across a suite of browsers and devices and everything gets a final buff and polish.

Approval and Final Payment

Once you’re happy with the final product you make the final payment to cover the remaining balance of the project cost and I hand over all the assets we agreed as part of the contract. You’ll get passwords and anything else you may need to keep the project going should I be abducted by aliens. Once everything’s approved, paid for and handed over, that’s my cue to go live.

“When I have a ‘concept’ and people smile, I take the next step. When there are questions, I go back and try harder.” – Hartmut Esslinger

Launch

Quite often a web site launch will be accompanied by press releases and the like. It’s important to realise that a web site launch is a process in itself though. It’s not simply a case of flicking a switch (although it can be made to seem that way to your users). It takes a little time to upload all your site content and set up the databases etc. And of course you’ll want the live site testing before launch just to make sure no gremlins crept in during these last crucial stages.

Ongoing Support and Maintenance

Once the site is up and running, I’ll set up and test backup routines, start any site analytics packages we’ve put in place and then monitor the site for a week or so. If you’re signed up for ongoing maintenance then over time I’ll be running backups and updating plug-ins etc. After a month or so, you should be pretty comfortable with your new site but just like a move into a new house, you’ll probably start finding a few things that you want to change around.

Follow Up

I’ll always be in touch a few times during the post launch period. Both to make sure that you’re happy with everything and to see if there’s anything else I can do for you.

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