Web Design Newsletter Archives
04/01/2008 - Questions to Ask Your Web Designer
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Vol. 1 No. 6 - April 1, 2008
Welcome to the latest edition of Scribbles!. In the past few issues we've discussed many of the technical aspects of creating, maintaining and marketing your web site. For the next couple of issues we're going to steer away from the thoroughly technical, and instead deal with the social side of building a web site. In this issue we'll discuss questions a business owner should ask their web designer, web developer or webmaster before beginning a new web project or redesigning an existing one.
In This Issue
10 Questions You Should Ask Your Web Designer
As with any other professional you hire to assist you with your business, there are certain items that a business owner should go over with their web designer or developer while designing or redesigning a web site.
Your web designer or developer has experience with many different aspects of creating a web site: graphic design & typography, html coding, user interfaces, client- and server-side scripting, database development, web site hosting, e-mail and the myriad other details that go into creating and operating a web site.
And now, let's put the web designer on the spot.
How much say do I get in the design and layout of my web site?
A web designer’s job is to create a cross-browser, cross-platform* compatible web site around your business. They will use your existing identity kit and standards manual as a basis for the design of your web site. Your logo, colors, typefaces and established image are what your designer will strive to successfully project to a web audience. Once your web designer presents you with two or three viable designs that they feel will work on the web you will be expected to critique, suggest and change details of the design and layout to match as closely as possible your plans and expectations for the site. ...top
*There are many different web browsing programs and computer operating systems. The savvy site owner wants her web site to work on as many as possible.
Do you have a process you use to create a web site?
A web designer should have a process which they have developed over the years to design and execute a complex project like a multi-page web site. Mine consists of over 20 steps to help keep my customers and I on the path to executing a web site. We break these steps into three categories: My responsibilities, my customer’s responsibilities, and joint responsibilities. ...top
What do you need to know about my business?
If a web designer or developer already knows something about your industry they can reduce “spin-up” time and more easily start work on your web site. You can help by providing brochures, ads, company literature or industry journals. You may also be asked to provide text content and photographs of your facilities, staff and products if applicable. ...top
Will the design be based on a template or will you create my pages artistically?
Personally I’ve never used a template; I’m cursed with a mind that finds it difficult to shoehorn a customer’s unique needs into a one-size-fits-all layout. I have also found that the usability and content of a multi-page web site will guide and govern many of the choices I make for the user interface, site layout and overall look & feel.
On the other hand, if your business or industry is served by a web design company that caters exclusively to your niche they will probably have templates that may save you money and decrease startup time. The downside is that your web site may look generic or resemble a competitor's site....top
Will you guide me through the process of creating and registering a domain name?
Your web designer or developer may or may not be willing to help out with the process of creating domain names. Those that are may charge a flat fee per name, others make it part of their hourly rate. Once a domain name is created, registration is a fairly straightforward process. If you are unfamiliar with the process you may want to ask your web designer for assistance when you go to a registrar's web site to register your domain name. Take your credit card with you. ...top
If you offer hosting, why should I host my site with you?
If your designer is reselling hosting services, he or she is your frontline person if there are problems with the site. They can deal with the ISP’s tech support, set up and update any CGI scripts, e-mail and ftp accounts, and keep your site running smoothly as part of a maintenance agreement. If you prefer to pay for your own hosting you should ask your web designer if they will offer a maintenance agreement or if they will charge you by the hour to maintain you web site. ...top
Will you tell me what I want to hear or what I really need to have for a good web site?
As an ethical designer, one of my challenges is helping my customers get what they really need, instead of just what feels good to them, or what every off-the-rack, one-size-fits-all, template-driven web outfit tells them they should have. If you're strictly a local business I may even suggest that you not get a web site and instead put the money into an ad in the Yellow Pages. ...top
Will I have access to the site so I can make changes or add fresh content?
If your web designer does not provide hosting and you have contracted with a separate hosting company then you already have a username and password which will allow you to upload new content to your web site. Whether or not you are comfortable doing this is another matter. Your web designer may also provide you with a simple interface that will allow you to upload new content to parts of your site. “News” or a “What’s New” area on the front page of your site will usually lend itself to frequent updates. ...top
How long will it take from start to finish before the site goes live?
A simple site (three to five pages, a few photos, text and a contact form page) can be up and running in as little as three to five weeks. Allow a week or two for design explorations, changes and approval of the look and feel of the first page, and another two to four weeks for coding, testing and upload. Too, the schedule will depend on the timely receipt of content from the customer.
A more complex site, one that includes all of the above on seven to twenty pages, plus downloadable forms and audio or video may take three to six months to complete. Sites like these depend heavily on a large amount of content from the customer. Text must be created and edited, photos processed and documents saved as downloadable PDFs. DVDs or other A/V content may have to be converted into streaming media then embedded into pages on the site. The developer may even use a database to store site and user-generated content and preferences.
An e-commerce site may take as long as six months to a year to be developed properly. The project manager, designer, content producers and developers have to incorporate the above elements, then create and connect to one or more databases that will contain the site data, photos, descriptions and prices of the merchandise. The team must also connect the site to the site owner’s merchant account and set everything up on a secure server. ...top
How do I fire you?
Seems like an April Fool’s Day question, right? Not really. There are many reasons for a business relationship to end. Perhaps you are not getting the ROI from your web site that you thought you would. Or now that the basic site is done you want to be able to hire another designer to maintain it. Whatever the reason, your web designer should be willing and able to provide you with a CD containing your web site. The files on the CD should be such that another experienced web designer can open the CD, copy the files and directory structure to an appropriate web server and have the site up and running in short order. ...top
Now that you have a sampling of questions that you should ask your web designer, web developer or webmaster, you're ready to start down the road to a new or redesigned site. In the next issue I'll touch on steps I've developed over the years that help my customers and I stay on track when we embark on a new web project.
- 22 Steps To Creating a Web Site
- Designer's Responsibilities - What I Do
- Customer's Responsibilities - What You Do
- Joint Responsibilities - That Voodoo We Do So Well