by Justin Difazzio
So, you want a website. We’re happy to hear it, and we’d like to make the process as simple as possible for everyone involved. Having made many websites in our day, we know what works and have made that into a streamlined process to stop hiccups and delays before they happen. Join us as we walk you through what to expect when you’re expecting a website.
Part 1: First Thing’s First
Before we can do anything, we’ll need input. The website process is fairly heavily front loaded, meaning it’s going to feel like you’re doing a lot of work before we can start doing anything. That’s because without a clear picture of what you have, what you need, and what your vision is, we can’t deliver your dream website.
We need a lot more information than you may expect. Before anything else, we’ll need you to gather your login information. This includes domain and hosting information for your existing website, if you have one. If you don’t have an existing website (and sometimes even if you do) expect to have to purchase a domain. The domain depends on what is available, what makes a memorable URL, and what you’re willing to pay to get it. If you don’t know a URL from an ATM, we’re prepared to walk you through that and suggest a solution that won’t break the bank or leave you sitting in a remote corner of the internet with a web address longer than your mission statement.
Whether or not you have an existing website, we’ll need your content. That may include marketing content and brand identity elements like mission and vision if we’re building from scratch, or it could be the copy from your existing website organized and delivered so we can edit it. Why does content come first? We’ve come to realize that without content, it’s impossible to make an effective site map. If content comes after organization, it can lead to increased expenses due to rearranging pages, reworking your site map, and redesigning pages to fit the changed content. So when we have it up front, it’s smooth sailing for everyone.
Part 2: Two Months and Counting
What can you expect when it comes to a timeline? If you’ve got a product launching in a month or a week or even tomorrow, it’s probably not going to be feasible to get a website by then. If all you need is a page added to a website we’ve already created, sure. We can talk about rushing that. But the typical time frame is a month at the very shortest, and even with everything we need up front, that’s a tall order. More likely is that it will take two months or more. This time frame is largely dependent on how fast we can get feedback from you. If it takes three weeks for you to get back to us, we can’t make progress.
The first part of the process, as we talked about before, may feel like it’s taking a long time at first, but after we get what we need things speed up drastically. After content is sent and a site map is approved, that’s when the fun begins. That’s when we get our hands dirty working on design. Based on meetings and conversations with you where we find out what you want, what your existing branding can lend to a style, and how comfortable you are giving us the reins, we will create a style guide to serve as a map for the design. After your approval, we will begin designing pages, probably starting with the home page and one or two interior pages. You’ll get a chance to see the design ideas take shape in the mockup we send.
The purpose of the mockup is to give you an idea of the general look of the website that you can sign off on or suggest edits to. It is very important to understand that the mockup is not a pixel-perfect representation of what the final product is going to look like. The design will likely follow the mockup as closely as possible, but designs can change during the actual building process due to things like mobile responsiveness and accommodations for changes to content. Know that the mockup is the ideal toward which we strive, and come with us as we learn what works and what doesn’t in an initial design with the understanding that we’re going to give you the best website we can while keeping in mind usability and current trends in web design. In short: trust us. Our job is to deliver a stellar product and make you happy, and we love nothing more than overdelivering on that promise.
Part 3: As Your Website Develops
Once the designs are approved, we begin the building process. Understand that the building process and the design process are done with entirely different tools. Our designers generally know what is and is not possible in website design, and they work closely with the developers to make sure they’re not designing impossible things. However, sometimes a design turns out not to work like we imagined on mobile or isn’t as pretty as we all wanted it to be on an iPad or a laptop, so we have to discuss changes.
Building a website, it turns out, isn’t as simple as, say, designing a business card. A business card is static. When you turn it on its side, the content obviously doesn’t rearrange itself to flow vertically. A website, however, does. That’s why a simple design change or a content change that bumps a design element around a bit can mean hours of work to implement. Every element we build has to work on at least five different sizes of screens, and it all has to flow smartly and understandably in both a wide format and a narrow format. That’s why building takes so much time and why design elements might change from the original mockup.
Part 4: Approvals, Tweaks, and Revisions: Before You Go Live
We need your approval. We don’t mean we’re approval junkies or anything (but it’s nice to be loved). What we mean is that we’re not happy until you’re happy. Before your website is out there in the world, we’re going to need you to say, “GO!” Maybe don’t shout it at us. But if there’s content that isn’t quite right, something that has changed since we started developing your website, or an image that isn’t exactly right, we’re happy to tweak it. We just want to deliver a beautiful product that both you and we can be proud of.
When it’s time to deliver this shining creation into the world, it won’t come without some planned hiccups. There are some steps we have to take depending on whether or not you have an existing website, where your email is hosted, and some other factors. Expect your site to go down for a few hours (usually two or three, but up to 48) during the transition. You may have an email interruption due to your hosting situation changing. It’s nothing to worry about, really, but knowing about it means you can plan the best time for us to take your site live and not interrupt daily operations.
If you haven’t picked what hosting package you want by now, this is where you’ll have to commit. We offer two different hosting packages: Basic Hosting and Hosting Plus. Basic Hosting means we’ll host your website on our servers, update your plugins twice a month, and make backups so there are no catastrophes. For Hosting Plus, we do the same services as Basic Hosting but you also get an hour of our time each month to make edits or troubleshoot and consult with us. These hours roll over each month and reset each quarter, just in case you don’t have any needs the first two months but need something big done in that third month.
And when all that is squared away, the world can meet your new website for the first time. Congratulations on your new digital bundle of joy!
Part 5: After Your Website Goes Live
Now, that could be the end of the story, and with a lot of agencies, it is. But not with us. We don’t design and dash. We’re here for you in the time after launch to answer your questions and teach you how to manage your website. Expect to have questions in the first few months of your site being live. We’re prepared for that. Even on Basic Hosting, we give free Hosting Plus for the first month just in case.
We’ll also teach you how to use WordPress to manage your website for free. Training is about an hour, and we’d love for you to bring your laptop if you have one so you can learn by doing. In that hour, we’ll help you familiarize yourself with the WordPress dashboard, teach you how to edit text and change out images, run you through any plugins you might need to interact with, and answer questions you might have.
After that, if you still need more help or think you’ll need heavier edits or additional content, we can upgrade you to Hosting Plus to allow for that. And if you don’t know what you need, we’re happy to talk with you and figure out a solution that fits your time and budget. The important thing is that we won’t just hand you your baby and leave the room. We’re here for you for the entire life of your website.
If you still have questions after you’ve read what to expect when you’re expecting a website, we’d be happy to answer them. Contact us!