Working with a web and interactive developer can seem daunting. Working with us is an entirely different experience.
We've heard over and over that we speak our clients' language, and we take the time to explain the options fully. More importantly, we listen to our clients and discuss real issues and questions.
We're honest, sometimes alarmingly so. Our clients expect us to say what's on our minds so they can make better decisions. We certainly don’t make suggestions based on what’s easy or what’s going to make us more money; our way of partnership means we measure our success by your success.
So, let's discuss the process.
Goals / Strategy
First, we need to learn about the organization and project, so we have to get to know each other.
We usually tour the organization's facilities, sit down with a large sheet of paper and ask a lot of questions. We often ask the client complete a series of worksheets that helps us cast a wide net on the needs and hopes of the site.
We then do our research – competitors, thought leaders, blogs, white papers, etc. We read up on trade journals, news articles, competitor’s blogs and people in the same type of organization in other cities.
We want to ask the hard questions, get to the bottom of the issues and learn about what makes the organization successful, where the real challenges lie (now and in the future), and the difference between perception and reality. Ask about press coverage or other legitimizing initiatives. Ask about narrative and voice and the things that come along with content.
There's a great opportunity to redefine the organization a little bit, and to push the brand, and we've seen how well it works to do that on the internet. If we're going to design a dream vehicle, why not throw a few extra perks into it?
We then jump into the Content / Usage
Content / Useage
The content is the most important part of the site, and there’s a lot of work to prepare for the content that will exist on a site.
We start with a site map based on a client’s current site or provided content outline. We make a technical version of that in a system where the client can collaborate and share that map.
We create a use-case map, defining the types of uses and what we hope to give them on their visit. We then create a second map iteration based on the use cases, available and proposed content, and on the strategy and goals of the website. We also collaborate on that version until there’s a finalized document that covers all the content.
We also map out what content goes on every page, what ‘buckets’ might exist for general use, and any special areas that might be used in case of emergency or big event. We need to then discover any content that will be used on the front page and other key pages.
For more complex site, or sites we need to really delve into the content before the design, we’ll create a series of wire frames for each page using a collaborative tool. Wire frames are really just a non-designed version of the new site, and they’re used to decide on the details for key pages, like form fields or account information.
Once we’re all in agreement, we jump into the web design phase
Design and Layout
The design is certainly one of the most difficult parts of our job, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
All the discussions, tours, research, wire framing and content mapping all need to merged with brand development and management and the rest of the organization’s collateral, and moved forward to make a meaningful design.
We start by spending a week or three creating a bunch of design ideas that we’ll share internally, and pare down to a few different ideas for a starting place. We present at these as mock-ups, and open the collaboration channels to see how close we are. With the feedback we either enhance upon the one of them or start with another series of designs. We won't finish the design phase until our client is in love with the design, and we feel we’re fully solving all the issues.
After we’ve agreed on the home page of the site, we’ll start designing the other key pages and any site template. We’ll be working with real content when possible and show all our work to collaborate and finesse these pages and templates.
And when we’re all on the same page, we enter the build phase.
After the fun and excitement of the design phase, the build phase is sometimes hard for our clients: we go quiet for a bit.
You can rest assured, we're working on it.
We’re cutting up Photoshop files and hand-coding CSS and HTML, managing quality even through old browsers and legacy systems. We're installing a fully custom content management system tailored to the site and its administrator's needs. We're creating forms and tools and custom reporting. There’s a lot of work to do, but not a lot for a client to see at the time.
As the build phase gets closer to completion, we start porting any content onto the new site, and normalizing it and formatting it to fit for the new system. Content can be tricky – formatting old content for new sites often requires new writing and new images.
We then put the site, in 'beta,' in a hidden location and share the location, and get the administrators in on the content management.
When all that's done and we're in beta, that isn't where this story ends. We still have quite a bit work left in the form of support and quality control.
Support / QC
Once your site launches we realize that there is still a mountain of work to do. Our relationship doesn't end the day your site goes live.
Far from it. We won't abandon you. From hosting your site and performing maintenance to training new CMS users and fixing bugs we are in your corner. Do you need help adding some new content? Would you like to add a new style to your pages? We are here to help, and our current clients can tell you how accomodating we are. We are easy to talk to, and genuinly excited to help make your site as good as it can be. We have a vested interest in your success.
Clients host their sites with us because we have unmatched reliability, blazingly fast servers, and great rates. Included in hosting are daily file structure and database backups so you can rest assured that your data is safe and sound. And as an added bonus, if you host your site with us, we'll throw in support for the lifetime of your site for free. That means we are always just a phone call or email away. Just one more reason to smile.
How it works
As soon as the client approves the design concept, we build the HTML / CSS, validate it, and test it in all relevant browsers and platforms. We get another approval from the client before we go to the next step.
We then create the content management system (CMS) and all the site tools. The client is often involved in this part of the process, supplying pages or working on the pages as we work to create the website tools.
Once we are finished creating the tools, we take the site to a 'beta' stage. We provide a full tutorial on how to manage the CMS and work with the client through the beta until the site is ready to go live.
Typically, we manage the registrar information and domain issues for the client to put it live. Most often, we manage the hosting fully. Most clients prefer to use our hosting services because we offer upgraded servers and great site maintenance options.
At this point, the site is finished and we support the site for a minimum of one year of operation at no charge. If the client hosts with us, we support it for the life of the site.