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The Web Design Process

I've broken down the website design process I follow into steps to make the experience easier to understand and less daunting.

----------------------------------- PLANNING -----------------------------------------

1. Look at your competition & think about your customers . Note what pages your competition has and doesn't have. Also notice what features their websites contain (ie: ecommerce, forum, blog, client login area, etc). Think about your customers and what the purpose of your website is - what are you trying to get humans to do to once they arrive at your home page?

2. Develop an outline of your website. An outline shows your main pages as well as subordinate pages that help determine possible navigation strategies. An outline will also help determine the total number of pages needed.

Here's an example of an outline for a 6 page website:

  • Home
  • About Us
  • Services
    • Service 1
    • Service 2
  • Contact Us

3. Collect examples of websites whose appearance you like. These can be either companies from your industry or otherwise. Try to get an idea of what kind of color scheme you prefer, what kind of navigation you like (across the top or down the left hand side), and what kind of general layout you prefer.

4. Get an estimate. Send me your website outline and websites that you like, and I'll provide you with a cost range.

5. Read over my Terms of Service carefully.

6. Hire me and get into my work queue. If you want to hire me, please go to my payment page and make a 4 hour ( $400 ) pre-payment to get into my work queue.

----------------------------------- PREPARATION -----------------------------------------

7. Pick a domain name that's available. Read my article on strategies for selecting a domain name. Go here to check domain name availability.

8. Sign up for Web Hosting Services and Register your domain name. Read my article on how to select a web hosting company or go here for instructions on how to sign up with DreamHost.com, the hosting company I use for my own website hosting and domain name registration.

9. Give me access. Send me the username and password for either your hosting company or your website's FTP.

10. Start writing content. Begin writing content for each of your website's pages. This is what usually takes clients the longest time and will drive the project's overall cycletime - so it's advisable to get a head start while you're waiting in my work queue.

----------------------------------- DESIGN -------------------------------------------

11. Pre-Design Consultation. When your time in the queue is up and I'm ready to start on your new website, we'll schedule a phone consultation and review all of the information you've sent in detail. I'll typically give you a week of forewarning that your time is coming. Review my policy for consequences for delaying your start date.

12. I develop a mock-up. I first develop a mock-up, an image, of what your new website might look like, based on the information you've sent and preferences you've expressed during our conversations/correspondence. The mock-up will be uploaded to your domain so you can view it. The mock-up is simply an image, a picture that is easily changed, but nothing's clickable yet.

13. You send me feedback on the mock-up. Tell me what you want changed, and I'll change it. It usually takes several mock-up revisions to get a final mock-up that clients find acceptable, so don't be shy about giving feedback. It's important you get a website that looks and feels like you want it to.

14. You approve the final mock-up. After several rounds of iteration, we'll reach a point where you say "it's good" and approve the mock-up. This version will become the basis for your website template. We'll pick fonts for your content, and your graphics.

15. Template creation. I use Dreamweaver to create my website, and Dreamweaver has this neat feature called a template. I use your mock-up to create a template for you website from scratch. This unique template will be the basis for all of your website's pages, linking them together. So if you want something changed in your navigation area, I change the template and the template changes all the other pages in your site for me. Sound efficient? Yup!. Templates typically contain all of the regions of a website that are common to all pages, like the banner, navigation area, footers, etc.

16. Page creation. Using the template I create all the pages on your new website. You can now click around your website, but there's nothing to read because there's no content.

17. Content creation. Now that the pages are made, we need to add content to them. Content means things like text and images. Sometimes client have created their content ahead of time (when they made their outlines), and sometimes they create it on-the-fly. I typically talk to clients about "keywords" before they start to write their content. As I receive content, I add it to the pages.

----------------------------------- FINALIZE -------------------------------------------

18. Polish, Polish, Polish. In this phase we both go over and over the website, making small adjustments to structure or content, until you say we're done.

19. Launch. Once you say we're done, I do my final pre-launch work and then officially announce your website's debut to the search engines. I'll also send you an email with a list of tips (and homework) for new website owners.

----------------------------------- MAINTAIN -----------------------------------------

20. Maintenance. Now that your website is completed, it enters the maintenance phase. (Click here to read about website maintenance services). I don't have any maintenance contracts, so simply email me with details of your desired changes.

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