Web site projects are a bit more complex than you might realize. Here are the various steps in the development (or re-development) process.
Get a Domain Name
A domain name is the name of your Web site on the Internet. Domain names consist of two parts, such as mycompany.com:
- Name - the part before the dot, in this example mycompany.
- Top Level Domain (TLD) - the part after the dot, in this example com.
You obtain a domain name by leasing it from a domain registrar. These days I recommend GoDaddy for domain registration. GoDaddy is extremely economical and does registration well.
Although I require all my clients to make these arrangements themselves, I will provide advice and guidance to help with the process and, if you don't have one, to help you choose a good name.
Once you have a domain name, you need a place for your Web site to live out there in the ether. Hosting Companies provide this service at very economical rates. Assume $15/month for business-class hosting, $10/month for economy hosting. Lower monthly costs are obtained by making long-term committments to the hosting company and paying in advance. Beware loss-leader pricing.
Although I require all my clients to make these hosting arrangements themselves, it is extremely important to involve me before you make a decision. It is so important that I will offer advice before you have committed to using me for your development project. You must be sure that the hosting plan provides all the capabilities needed to operate your site. I can provide you with critical insights to keep you from making a mistake. Please see my recommended hosting companies.
Note: Do Not buy domain name registration and hosting from the same company if at all possible. See Three Sources. My only exception to this rule is GoDaddy.
Connect the Domain Name to Hosting
There is a huge "telephone book" on the Internet that allows the specific physical location of a Web site (denoted by an IP address) to be associated with a specific Web site name (domain name). I'll take care of that for you as part of my standard suite of services.
Display a Placeholder
If you are getting your first Web site, there will be nothing at your hosting company for anyone to see. I'll take care of that on the first day by putting up a simple, one-page site with very basic information. Doing this prevents hosting companies or domain registrars from putting up ads when your domain name is used.
Sound silly and maybe a waste of time? Hosting companies and domain registrars are not stupid - if your domain name is jqpublicDDS.com, you can bet those ads will be for other dentists. The last thing you want is to promote your competition!
When a placeholder page is needed, I will provide it at no additional charge as part of my standard suite of services.
Create a Design
You'll need a graphical design for your site. This can be the most difficult and trying aspect of any site development project and it will involve a great deal of your time.
Here are the ways to get a site design, roughly in order of cost (highest first):
- Hire a professional Web site designer.
- Have me do your site design.
- Purchase an existing template to obtain a design, then have me adjust it as needed.
- Do it yourself.
I am not a graphic artist. I have a good eye, which has enabled me to do some simple design work, but I am probably not your best bet for this work. Trust me on this - every dollar you spend on a good design will be worth it.
Graphic design is not part of my flat-rate project fees. If I do the design, my fee will be less than a professional will charge and, itself, will be a flat, fixed price. Pros charge from $750 to $2500 for a design and the processing work needed to produce the pieces I need to build the site.
Determine the Features
While some features of a site are obvious, only you can determine what it is you want your site to do. The sooner you can determine that, the easier and faster it will be to build your site. This takes some time but it is well-spent.
You must provide the content for your site. This includes graphical elements (like logos), photos, other images, and copy. I will provide copy editing to the extent you request, mostly for grammar and flow. Keep in mind that only you know about your company or organization - I can't write what I don't know about.
I will also provide graphical editing services for photos and other images to create Web versions that are efficient and that fit in the allotted space in the design.
Content is hard. For many of my clients, this is the most difficult part of the process. The good news is that it will be worth it. The better the content, the better your site and the more likely search engines will be to find you.
Create a Prototype
Once I have a design and your feature list, I will build a prototype page so that all parties can see what the site will look like. This is sometimes called a wireframe. The prototype allows you to see the proposed appearance of your site as early as possible. It may also have some operational features, such as menus.
Develop the Site
I require my clients to provide formal approval of the prototype in writing (an email will do). Once I have it, I'll bring your site to life. This includes building all the pages, installing SiteCommander (if that is part of your site), and generally taking care all the technical stuff that makes a site work well.
Launch the Site
Once the site has reached critical mass, I'll officially launch it by uploading it to your hosting company, removing search engine blocks, turning on Google Analytics, submitting a sitemap to Google, dealing with other search engines (like Bing) as needed, and removing any preliminary pages like placeholders. When I am re-doing a site for you, this is the point at which the old site goes away and the new site becomes available.
Deal with Search Engines
I ask all my clients to obtain a generic Google Mail (Gmail) email account, something like MyCompanyName@gmail.com, and to use that account to sign up for Google Analytics. I then integrate Analytics statistical tracking in to every page on your site.
Although I don't do search engine optimization (because no one really can), I do follow search engine guidelines to make pages as search friendly as possible. If you follow my advice, your so-called "organic" results will usually improve, moving you further towards the top.
Once the site is launched, I will send Google a sitemap file, which tells Google where it should look for search targets on your site, and I will update Google Maps (and Google Business) if you have a physical business location you want connected with your site.
All this work is part of my basic suite of services, included with every project I undertake.
Provide Final Approval
Once the site is up and running, I require written approval of the project within 30 days. An email will suffice. This is mostly a nicety in which you acknowledge that you got what you paid for.
Get an Archive
I make an archive of the final site and burn a CD, which is then sent to you. If I get hit by a truck, you'll have everything.
If I am re-doing your site, you will also get a starter CD, which is the state of the site as it existed when I began working on your project. You'll always have it as a fallback.
If the CD is mailed to a U.S. address, there is no charge. Otherwise, you pay the postage. (Additional copies of the archive are available for $12 each.)
Maintain the Site
Once the site is complete, I am available for ongoing maintenance. I will fix problems and bugs at no charge for 90 days after the site launches. Changes, additions, and ongoing repairs (after 90 days) are performed on a time and materials basis.