Lately I’ve seen on social media and in various forums a situation with business owners looking for new web sites and blogs and not understanding the process involved or the costs to expect. So, let’s go through this together and then designers, programmers and clients will understand and can all work together successfully.
It all begins with a business owner having a need for an online presence so they can feature their products and/or services. They’ve decided it’s time to expand and sell or blog online. Perhaps they’ve even made a list of the pages they think they may want.
Now it’s time to figure out how to present your website and where to look. Some business owners are more savvy and search in Google for a designer and perhaps even in their own area. Others may ask a friend to recommend someone. But how do you know if the person you’re selecting is the right person for you? This of course is why web site designers have online portfolios and samples to look at. But just because they may have a nice portfolio and do creative work, doesn’t mean they are technically savvy and can build you a site that will have great SEO (search engine optimization) and give you that ROI (return on investment).
Here are some key components that your new site or blog must have!
1- Title tags, descriptions and keywords for all pages and posts
2- Social media buttons, so people can follow you on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc…
3- Social media share buttons underneath your posts and pages so they can share your content with others.
4- All your images within galleries or within your site’s pages should be named and sized properly and be in the right format! RGB, not CMYK and either jpg, gif or png. (example: let’s say you buy an image from an online source and once downloaded to your hard drive, it has a name of 20 numbers. That name means nothing to the world, it only helps sort it for the photo agency, so you must rename the image while you’re creating a copy (don’t change the original) at a size to fit in your blog, like “social-media-image.jpg.” Notice how I have put hyphens between the words. NO BLANK SPACES EVER! The web cannot recognize an empty space and will put a %20 wherever it sees a blank!
There are lots of cool plugins to add tremendous functionality to your site/blog. To read about those, click here.
Okay now that we’ve discussed a bit about finding someone and functionality, let’s talk about the actual process and the costs.
The first step is to discuss and plan (designer and client) exactly what that site needs and should have. Always remember that more pages, content, imagery (galleries), video, etc… will mean more money as well. There should never be a one-size-fits-all attitude to a businesses website. Your business and mission is different than someone elses, so your needs and wishes are different too. If you have a brand identity already, be sure to show the web designer anything you’ve already produced, your logo, brochure, business card.
Once you’re both in agreement of what the site needs, the designer writes an estimate based on the amount of work needed. Depending on that person’s experience the price can vary. Always remember that the estimate is based on the amount of work, so you can come back to the designer and adjust the scope of the assignment and the designer may adjust the price. If it’s all fine, the design process begins. Usually there is a down payment to get the project going, so expect to pay 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2, depending on your agreement.
Layouts are created. The timeframe for initial layouts should be within about 10 – 14 days, but again this should be included in the agreement. Some work in Photoshop and others in Illustrator or InDesign. The homepage might look different that interior pages, so a few pages might be needed. Homepage, about or text type page, product type, form page, etc. The more types of pages that are needed, the more the design process and development costs. (example: a photographer might need a special preview or animated homepage, an interior section with thumbnails for different categories, single image pages, and the contact form page.)
Included in the agreement should be how many rounds of design or edits there will be. Once the layouts are approved, the web template pages and styles, (all the coding) are created so they can be used to build out the site. This means that for each different looking page design a template is created so as pages are added to the navigation, the designer (or programmer) can pick which page needs which template. For WordPress or Concrete5 CMSs, the theme is created and implemented in a similar way and would also have different template pages if needed. The homepage might have 4 short blog posts that lead to full articles, inside pages or galleries would look different.
While building out all the pages and content, the plugins, tagging, etc… will be added. A new site / blog should also be in a folder on your web hosted space, not live to the public as it’s being built.
Remember that just like any other profession, more work equals more money. All your copy should be final, copyedited, and spell checked. Don’t resend copy with rewrites to a programmer once the page has been created and styled, revising copy is doing it again and may add costs.
Any video you use should also be named and properly tagged from your YouTube channel. (Tutorial with video on naming and tagging on YouTube.)
Once everything looks good, the site can launch.
Be sure to update pages often and if blogging, be consistent. Don’t just put up a web site and leave it untouched for months or years! New sites pop up everyday and they will be the newest, freshest content to Google, while yours will keep slipping backward if untouched.