My Process for Building Your Website
So, you want a website?
I’ve already written in other parts of my blog about how to
(you can read those posts by clicking on the links above).
But what steps do I take to build your website after you hire me? Keep reading!
Before We Begin Making a Website
Before I even get started building a website, I need to find out what you want to use your website for. Some people want to provide information. Others are promoting a physical business. Some website owners are selling products on their website with a shopping cart website.
As a web designer, I need to know
- what you need your website to do for you,
- and what you expect it to do for you.
You can read more here in my post about figuring out the purpose of your website. Until you nail down what it is you want your website to do, having one won’t meet your organizations goals.
The Contract: Agreeing on What is to be Done
Next, we agree on what it is each client needs me to do for them, via a contract.
For many years working as a designer, I didn’t use contracts because it seemed too formal.
That was a mistake.
A contract protects both you and your client, and solidifies what it is you agreed on, in writing.
Without a contract, what I found most often was that I would do far more work than we original agreed on, and customers would balk if I increased the price on them, or customers would assume something would be included in my services without actually mentioning it, and feeling short changed later. Instead, now, I like to agree on all of the details up front.
Website Content Comes First
As part of my web design policy, I request that each of my potential web design clients provide me with the content that is going into their website.
Why is this?
Well, simply put, I need something to design. To make a website work most effectively, I need to know what content I’m designing for, and which pieces of content you feel are most important to your readers. This way I’ll know how to arrange your information in such a way as to meet your website’s goals.
What Content do I need?
- Home Page Content
- About Page
- Policies Page
- FAQ Page
- Contact Page
- Product Page information and images
If you’re having trouble writing up your about page or any other key pages for your website, I have a few suggestions for writing an about page, and other pages, here. I also have a whole board on this topic, on Pinterest.
If you’re a blogger, I’ll also need:
- A list of the topics (Categories) you’ll want on your blog, as well as a list of the tags for your potential posts
- At least 2 posts per topic, with images
Other Website Needs, Before You Get Started
Before I can start to build your website, you’ll also need to procure two other items for your website. These are separate from the design of the website itself.
A Domain Name
A Domain name is the website address of your website. For example, the domain name of this website is www.ThoughtsandDesigns.com.
A Domain Name costs about $15 per year, although the price varies based on the name and where you’re buying it from.
Web hosting is usually a monthly or annual charge. Think of web hosting like renting store space in a building, except in this case, you’re renting server space for a web designer to store your website’s files, so that others can visit your website using your domain name.
Web Hosting, depending on the exact service you need, usually runs around $10-20 per month, although the cost varies.
Confused? Help is Available
Any web designer, such as myself, can help walk you through what you need to do to get started with your own website. If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me via my contact page, or connect with me on social media.
Rolling Up My Sleeves
Once I have each of these things in place, It’s time for me to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I usually work in a specific order, which I have found works best for me. Most web developers have a specfic order they prefer to work in.
In fact, I have a checklist I use, which I have on my Evernote account, that helps me not forget anything. I need things to keep me focused.
I usually get started first of all by looking over the content and the needs of my client, and deciding what would work best for them. If a website doesn’t meet my clients needs and goals, then it simply doesn’t work.
An aside note: initially, as a new designer, no one really taught them this, even though I went to college for design (albeit before the age of the internet). However, designing for someone else cannot be about what they “like” or think is “cool”, but rather what works for them and meets their needs.
For years I used to ask, “What do you like?” to get started. Now I ask, What do you need this to do for you?
Wireframing is basically just sketching out where everything is going to go in the different pages of the website, and deciding how I’m going to fit all of the content on each page in a visually pleasing and functional manner.
In this age of mobile devices, mobile web design is a huge deal as well. I no longer sketch out a normal sized website, but rather decide how a website will look on a variety of screen sizes, right from the start of the design process.
Next, I usually begin creating any graphics we need, including icon sets for social media or website functions. I have some basic icons and shapes on my website here, and I also have basic shapes I store on my harddrive in my office, which makes this go much faster. However, I do like to personalize the icons and the look of the website, while keeping the icons familiar of course. You can’t go too far off the reservation with icon design, as they need to be instantly recognizable.
Installing WordPress and Entering Content
Once I am sure how I want everything to look via wireframing and putting together the graphics, I install WordPress on the web hosting my client has purchased, and begin entering content.
WordPress is not just for bloggers anymore. WordPress is a very flexible, easy to use CMS platform, which allows my clients to easily edit their own website content. WordPress can be used for blogging, shopping carts, and informational websites alike. I’ve written more here about CMS’s like WordPress, and why I love them!
Looking at the content and needs of the client, I also install whatever WordPress Plugins are necessary to meet their goals, and I configure WordPress’ settings as well.
Customizing a WordPress Theme
Once the content is entered and WordPress is configured, I customize a WordPress theme to match the wireframes I created and to meet the needs of my client. A “theme” in WordPress terms is the look and function of your website.
I create my themes to be responsive and mobile friendly, so that they look great on any sized screen.
Finally, after we have created the website, I work on whatever minor tweaks need to be taken care of, within the realm of the contract.
Do you need a website? I am available for small projects. Contact me for a quote.