What a website designer requires checlist
By Dennis Suitters on Sep 22nd, 2019 9:09 PM

What a website designer requires from a client

This article is a Work In Progress, but I am making it available to help potential client's along. It may be beneficial to come back now and then and see if there have been changes. Or as I make updates, I will more than likely reshare the article on various social media services. After reading many horror stories on Reddit, and remembering some of my own experiences, I thought I would put together an article outlining for client's what designer's or developers require, whether they communicate requirements or not, and possibly add some ideas for clients and designers or developers that may not have realised what they should be communicating to clients. I've been building websites for a long time now, and have had a lot of good and bad experiences with clients, some of which my fault, and a lot where the client simply didn't understand what was required of them to proceed or complete work. I'd like to make something clear at this point, and that is the difference between "Designers" and "Developers". This is a term that is often blurred and confusing to clients and makes understanding what those roles are a problem for clients to understand what may be required from each. A "Designer" is someone that creates the layout of what the website will look like and may in some cases produce the HTML code that gets used or implemented by a Developer who makes the design work. At times some Designers may do some of the websites pages layouts inside an editor that may be built into the chosen Content Management System, or pass the layout onto the Developer to do. A "Developer" is someone that creates or modifies the underlying code that makes the website work. Whether that is a static website or a website that uses a Content Management System. A Developer may also set up and install the necessary software, services, or plugins required to make the website work and function appropriately. A Developer may also do the design process, but does the extra steps that a designer doesn't do to make a website work.In this article, I will most likely use the term "designer", but I am meaning both terms for the sake of brevity. I have found that in most cases with client's where relationships have broken down, and from stories from others, the main issue is communication between both parties. By this, I mean communication on things like who enters the website content, or the time needed for a feature to be implemented. Beside's communication, there is often a misunderstanding on the technical aspects, and what those mean exactly. As a Designer or Developer, we need to be mindful that client's will more than likely not understand different technical aspects of what they require, or what web technologies can be utilised. And in some cases what isn't possible. I remember a prospective client from my early days, where the client wanted to have their website do things that were not technically possible. It was very hard to explain to them and have them understand that what they wanted to do was impossible, and thinking about it while writing this, what they wanted is still not possible. And this is something that both parties need to be clear about as well.That said, though, as designers we need to listen, and document what a client's requirements, suggestions, and what they think is required to have their Website work for their business while keeping in mind to advise the client how visitors will interact with their business, and work out a public-facing interface that allows visitors to become customers. If the Website is hard to use, and understand what the business is offering, they'll simply go somewhere else.Some things to discuss with the designer, or they should bring up with the client what the Website should do may include:- Get more inbound leads / quote requests/ phone enquiries / bookings? Increase brand awareness? Educate visitors? Encourage sales? Collect visitor information to build a list for newsletters or chasing up leads? Encourage onsite or social media interaction? Rarely does the discussion of contracts come up as the first topic of discussion, but is something that is required before any work is undertaken or paid for. Without an agreed-upon contract covering what work will be done, a timeline for tasks to be completed, and a payment schedule, both parties are open to serious problems that can occur. A properly written contract will outline and make clear what is expected of both parties, and can also outline legal responsibilities if either part breaks or can't agree upon changes that may occur during the process of the contract. Part of the process is agreeing upon a design. In most cases, a client with an already established business will already have a brand that makes their business unique. It is not a good idea for a designer to recommend tampering with that brand, something, that the client will already have invested money in creating. For the client, it most helpful for the designer if the client can hand over not only design idea's, but also documentation that should include a guideline that outlines logo graphics, variations, colours, fonts used, and include files that may have been produced or licensed by the concept designer that developed the brand. Once the design, and what will be worked on is agreed upon, outlining to the client what Content Management System will be used and whether the client or someone else is going to be entering the content, such as articles, services, or products. I've had some clients be confused with this, believing it was my responsibility to produce content, even though I was sure I had made it clear to them that the content wasn't up to me. Without content, a website is pretty much useless and doesn't help the business grow via their website. There are options for clients who don't wish to produce content, and that is to hire a Copywriter who will write content for the client and hopefully do so in a manner that positively affects the Websites SERP (Search Engine Rank Position). SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is another subject that is very important to discuss. From choosing an appropriate Domain Name (if one hasn't already been registered), to deciding if the client is going to do their own SEO, or hire someone to do it for them. In some cases, a Copywriter will also specialise in SEO. Outlining how SEO is to be implemented on the website is also important. By this I mean, how the different aspects of SEO will be utilised, from ad-dons that will be installed, or like in the case of AuroraCMS, if it's built-in already, and how necessary fields can be edited.Where exactly the website will be hosted is a concern for some businesses. I've been made aware recently and depending on the type of business, that some business insurances can dictate where a business website is hosted. For e.g. a financial-based business in Australia is required to be hosted on Australian services. While the location isn't a factor for SEO anymore, it is a factor for legal reasons depending on the type of business. Ownership of content and materials should be outlined clearly as there is often confusion about this. Generally, while the design of the website is being developed, and if the designer is creating materials and graphic content for the website, those are usually owned by the designer until full payment and handover of the website are made to the client. If the client hands materials over to the designer, which usually aren't altered apart from resizing, those materials are owned by the client, the client should also indicate any legal permissions and whether the material was sourced from another service which may make altering or using material difficult from a legal standpoint, and whether permissions are required or forthcoming. The budget should be determined whether the designer works at an hourly rate or a one time fee and if a deposit is required before undertaking any work. A client's budget should also be taken into account with payment options where work will commence once a set amount is agreed upon, and how much work will be completed in a set time period for that amount. Incomplete payments should be outlined in the contract, and the consequences for both parties if those are not met. I've been caught with this in the past, where the client was unable to finalise payments to complete agreed-upon work. In those cases, I usually kept any completed work that I had undertaken but handed over material that was provided by the client, as I didn't own the rights to that material, but was able to protect the work I had completed by not having to legally hand that material over to the client. In some cases, it's better for both parties to come to an arrangement amicably rather than dragging the issue through the legal system. Ongoing costs should be outlined, and options discussed, which usually involve design changes over time or if requirements come up as technology changes, as well as ongoing hosting, and domain registration. Hosting can be done a few different ways, with the most common being that the designer hosts the client's website and either includes a time period of hosting within the design costs, or changes per month, annually, or whatever is agreed upon. Domain registration is much like car registration where it is most commonly year by year, multi-year, or can be paid for years in advance. Sometimes this is left up to the client, but in my experience mostly by the designer, where the designer invoices the client when the ongoing registration is due, and they will have an account with a preferred Domain Registrar.
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Business to Business Working Relationships
By Dennis Suitters on Sep 19th, 2019 11:47 AM

Business to Business Working Relationships

I met Alan Raycraft online about 9 years ago (2010) through a business that was listing and encouraging other businesses to work together on Facebook, mainly Work At Home Parent types, they had a Website that had one of those old school link exchange systems on their site (something that Google doesn't like, so don't think about using one). It turned out that Alan was the owner of Raycraft Computer Consultants, and after some back and forth and friendly banter, we learned that we had a lot of similar interests, particularly in the IT (Information Technology) field. Both of us have a history of performing customer services, such as computer repairs, building new systems, and general troubleshooting of hardware and software. It also happened that Alan was interested in updating his Website and his online presence. While Alan already had a Website, he was interested in something more robust, nicer looking, and something he could easily maintain. And this is where I came in. I was at the time, providing hosting services, and web design using my own custom-built Content Management System which has now evolved into AuroraCMS. Since then, I have hosted and designed with Alan's approval a design for his business, that I believe works well for him, and in that time we have helped each other out in different ways, on a personal and business level.We've both let off steam about issues (that I won't go into here) that we have and still struggle with on a personal level, and give each other advice, that has helped us both greatly, and come to an understanding that we are not the only ones who struggle in similar situations. We have both passed work onto each other during this time, benefitting us both in as far as being able to earn a little for each of our businesses. Alan now does the hosting of his and my client's websites, and he has also brought more website client's into the fold for me to design. During my time as a Web Developer, I have also been able to use Alan's Website to test Search Engine Techniques, which I'm happy to report have worked great and have benefitted Alan's Search Engine Rankings positively. And those findings will enable us both to pass that information learned onto current and future client's. In today's mad rush of a society, where it seems that everyone is out to make a quick buck, do everything on their own, and be in competition with similar businesses, it is refreshing to be able to work with someone who is not only like-minded, but is also not out to simply make a quick dollar at the detriment of lousy work, or not caring about client's needs. Getting to know Alan on a personal level, even though we've never met face to face, we've been able to watch (via social media) our families grow and evolve in the past 9 years, and I believe we've come to trust each other on a level that other businesses or people simply don't. That seems to be a rare thing these days. We need more of it, and we need more businesses to work together even in the same industry as one another. Collaborating with other businesses, regardless if they are in the same industry or not, can be beneficial not only to yours and their business but also the local economy. Working together is less stressful and much better for long term health, physically and the health of your business. Actively putting your business against others can also mean spending a lot of time doing so, and not working on your own to it and your detriment. A great example of collaboration could go like this. A local coffee shop could display an impressive arrangement of flowers on its counter, provided by a florist located locally. The coffee shop receives a beautiful addition to their d├ęcor, while the florist gets to reach out to potential customers in the area that may not have otherwise been aware of its services. In this way, both businesses benefit. In my case, there is a local artisan that may need a website to promote their products, which is something I use in my everyday life. After building their website, I add it to my portfolio with links back to their website, and a purchase code the customer can use when they purchase one or more products. That code, could give the customer a discount, and indicate to my client where that customer came from, and in turn, also gives me a discount on that product. This collaboration works in a number of ways, not just financially, but also helps both businesses with natural links to my client's website, helping theirs and my SEO, as well as passing on business to my client on an ongoing basis (obviously as long as customers are filtering through my website onto the clients). The client can also pass business back when asked who built their website, in turn benefitting my business. Those are just a couple of examples, there's a lot of ways businesses can work together. In the case of businesses in the same industry, there may be situations where each specialises in a particular part of the same industry, and each can pass on customers that need that specialised service. Well, I hope this article gives you the reader some ideas that can help improve your inter-business relationships, and you can prosper in this tough economy. Just remember, not everyone is your enemy.
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How much should I pay for a Website?
By Dennis Suitters on Aug 29th, 2019 10:06 PM

How much should I pay for a Website?

How much does a Website Cost? How long does it take to build a Website? These are questions that Web Designers and Developers get asked often. The costs in today's world for a Website can vary greatly, and you will get different mileage depending on what you pay, and what options you want to take, and not really something that can be answered with a definitive cost. The biggest thing is to make sure you're getting value for money, and that value can be determined whether your Website is giving you a return on your investment. In today's world, it is important that most businesses have some sort of online presence to help bring in customers and earn money. Not having a Website in most cases can hamper your business when competing with others in the same industry. A Website can be the first impression to customers, of your services and products, and most importantly, if your business can be trusted, and determine if that customer wants to deal with you. Some things you should have in place, or be working on before undertaking to build or having someone build your Website: Branding, Business Name and Domain Name: These things go hand in hand. Branding of your Business will include things like Colours, Logo, and those will be determined by what your business does and the Services and or Products it provides. And will also include your Logo, which you should have in mind how you want it to look online, and if it's readable easily by customers, as well as memorable. Your Domain Name needs thinking about along with your Business Name, again you want something that's easily remembered, instantly recognisable. Target Market: By this I mean, research your competitors. What Keywords are they targetting? What Keywords you want to target. How you want to implement your marketing strategy, like how much you want to spend on marketing, what your monthly, yearly limits are. This will also help determine what kind of content, and the frequency of adding content like Blog Articles to your Website. If you decide to include video's, like embedding YouTube Content, consider also adding a Transcript for Visually Impaired visitors, or for those that find it hard to follow verbal content in your videos. Website: Knowing what you want your Website to do for your business before undertaking the build process will actually help map out what tasks need to be done, whether that's for yourself or your web person. Researching your competitors will help you determine what works for them, and how you should proceed design-wise. Here are some things you should be asking: Will my Website be Secure? Having security in mind is usually the last thing a client should have to think about but is something your Web Designer or Developer should at least discuss with you to create a plan that you can both implement and know what roles each should be taking. Your already busy running your business, you don't have time to fix security issues. A regular backup plan and storage of that backup should be something the Designer or Developer implements as part of negotiating and undertaking to build your Website. This should also include steps to help make your Website secure, including any additional Addons they recommend, and also discuss the update and upgrade plans. That said though, they should not try to convince you that their setup is secure and hacker-proof, there is simply no such thing. Will my Website be Standards Compliant? Having a Website that follows W3C's Standards of Compliancy, will go a long way towards helping your Website be crawled by Search Engines, as having the underlying code of your Page easily crawlable by not having out of date techniques that are deprecated (no longer in use), or code that is full of errors. Just think how difficult it is to read a page of text full of errors where you have to try and guess what the text is trying to represent. Will my Website be Accessibility Compliant? Having a Website that is easily used by Visually Impaired or other Disabled people is very important. In some countries, there are laws to try and encourage Website owners to make sure their Websites are usable by the Disabled. Does the Copyright of any of the Content, like Graphic Images, Logo (if created by the designer) and Website Template or Theme belong to me? This is actually something that I have seen a number of times, where Designer's, as they created the Graphic Content and other Media for a Businesses Website or other Media, have claimed that the Business owner does not own that Content. Most of the time though, once full payment for the work has been made, the Copyright is transferred to the Business Owner. Who does (you, them, or outsourced) the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for the Website? SEO is something you can do yourself and doesn't take as much time as you may have been led to believe. However, if you decide not to undertake doing your own SEO, then this is something you can discuss with who you are negotiating your Website with. Most Designers or Developer's don't do the SEO side of things, and you don't have to use who they recommend. There are links at the bottom of the article for resources where to learn to do SEO yourself, or where you can find someone to do it for you. Who does the Content, and can I easily Edit the Content myself? This is something that often causes issue's between Clients and Designers/Developers, and should be discussed from the beginning so it's clear who, whether it's you, or them that does the Content and Editing. It used to be, that a client would contact their web person with what they wanted to be changed, and be charged for the web person to make those changes. These days with a lot of Websites being driven by a Content Management System, Client's (You) have a login that allows them to add, change, or remove the content as they see fit. Usually, though, you can't make changes to the Theme of the Website, which still falls to the web person. If the content is up to the client (you), and something you feel you aren't capable of doing yourself, you can hire a Copywriter, and there are some great ones available. There are links at the bottom of the article where you can source a good copywriter or learn to do it yourself. There are a lot of factors, including, using a custom-designed Website (more costly and takes longer), or a pre-built Website (Quick, Cheaper, but fewer features and less customizability). Free Websites such as Wix, Weebly, Yola, while great to get you online and get your business, services and products online, do have a severe caveat when it comes to customising the underlining code of your Website, which can make getting your Website Search Engine Friendly (SEO) a nightmare. Things like specialised payment facilities, custom forms, or being able to tailor pages to suit exactly what your business does, can be very difficult to achieve. Free also means using pre-defined Website Templates, that can be very difficult to modify. The biggest hurdle though is SEO and making changes to things like speeding up your website as you are at the mercy of the hosting provider, and how they've built the underlying code of their product, as well as the technology they use to make your Website available online. Another issue can be the copyright of uploaded and edited material. Some Licensing of Free Website options can be worded in such a way to allow them to onsell or even take over the copyright of your content, check the Terms Of Service before undertaking this option. Paid Hosted Services, such as Squarespace (who have just made improvements to the SEO of their Websites, but time will tell how good that is). Much like the Free explanation above, these services also leave their customers at the mercy of what they provide. While Squarespace has a lot more that can be customised, and it can be a good starting point if all you need is to get your brand out there, there are limitations, esp. when trying to rank against other businesses that have much better custom-built Websites. Squarespace currently charges between $ 12 to $ 40 per month billed annually depending on the plan you require. This can be a good option if you don't want to be bothered with updating the underlying Website system, however, you are at the mercy of the service. If they have a serious security issue, this will not only affect your website, but all the website's on their service, but it is something they will have to fix at their convenience. Wordpress. I've made this its own section, as a lot of Graphic Designers, or Web Design businesses these days, are simply using Wordpress, with an Addon Theme, and plugins that can be purchased and installed. There are some developers that custom-build a Wordpress Theme, and modify Wordpress to behave how you need for your business, which usually requires a lot of back and forth with the Developer (Designers and Developers are two different categories), but you will end up with something close to your needs. Both can be a quick turn around time to get you up and running. There is a risk, as with anything, most of which are security issues due to plugins, bad updates, or the lack of security plugins being installed to protect the Wordpress Installation. Making changes to the underlying code can also be difficult, esp. if you need to make changes to how content is output and displayed. Costs can vary greatly, from the very cheap to thousands. The most I've seen someone charge for one of these types of Websites is about $ 12,000, and this isn't even including the Domain Name Registration or Hosting. Wordpress, however, is primarily and was originally a Blogging System, that over the years has had addons to force it to behave like a CMS, under the hood though, it's still primarily a Blogging System, and depending on what your requirements are for your business, it can be difficult to have Wordpress fully behave as required without extensive workarounds. Custom Coded Websites, are the most versatile, customizable option. Though they too have pitfalls, the main being development time, and costs. It costs a lot more to pay a developer to build something from nothing, but the result is that you get exactly what you need. Costs can vary greatly, but you will find the cheaper the developer usually means they are inexperienced as more expensive developers know what their time, knowledge and experience is worth. Lastly, (and yes this is kind of a plug for the way I build Websites), is a custom-built CMS, and there are quite a lot of Open Source Projects, some being osCommerce (one of the oldest) Shop type system, Drupal, Joomla, or my own project AuroraCMS. As with any CMS, templates/theme or plugins can be installed to extend the functionality. Addons and Plugins in any system can be fraught with security issues. Especially if developers outside of the project create addons, and don't follow security procedures, or it could be that the developer is just not experienced enough to take security into account, one of the biggest issues with Plugins with Wordpress. There is also the issue that malicious code can be purposely inserted into the addon. Costs for these systems, as with Wordpress, can vary depending on the Designer/Developer. Let me, just for a moment, explain why AuroraCMS is different than other platforms. Size, it has a smaller footprint compared to other CMS's, esp. considering its features. AuroraCMS is not only Blog/Article capable, it also has a lot of other built-in features, such as: Pages, Portfolio, Client Proofs, Messaging (Full Email Client built-in) with storage of Contact Page Messages, Inventory, Shopping Cart, Rewards System, Services, Bookings, Full Invoicing System, Content Scheduler, News, Events, Testimonials, Portfolio, Newsletters, SEO including JSON-LD Built right in, Accounts with User Ranks with Permissions Options. Content can be reverted if other Administration Users change the content. Content Editing Suggestions. SEO's or other Permission enabled Administrators can suggest edits, that if accepted can simply be changed with an approval button Comments and Reviews require Approval before they are displayed on the Front End, and are also put through the Spam and Honey Pot Test. Built-in Security that checks submitted form data for spam, and checks users IP against Project Honey Pots Blacklist and can automatically block IP's with a 30day option to clear blacklisted IP's. Security options can also block IP's if known Wordpress attack attempts are made, to reduce hammering of the Website and to stop brute force attempts. Front end can use any pre-built CSS Framework, or you can roll your own. The front end uses simple HTML Style tags to indicate where database content should be used. Other costs to take into consideration are: Domain Registration: This is an ongoing cost, just like car registration, and can vary depending on the domain name extension (the .com, .com.au, .design, or any other of the many options now available). We recommend and use VentraIP. Hosting: This too can vary greatly. We recommend and use VentraIP for Hosting as well. Outsourced SEO Consultant: This cost can vary greatly as well, we, however, recommend the option of doing it yourself, and one of the best courses we recommend are Kate Toon's. Outsourced Copywriter: Another variable cost, and as with the others, mileage will vary. Kate Toon also does Copywriting and has a list of people she recommends on her Website, another great Copywriter I recommend is Belinda Weaver of Copywrite Matters, she also runs courses. And to finish up, the differences between a Web Designer, and a Web Developer to help clarify who you may be talking too when negotiating the design and costs of your Website. A Web Designer is, at the basic level, a Designer, someone who creates the look of your Website, and in most cases doesn't write code (the stuff that makes your website work). A Web Developer, on the other hand, writes the underlying code that makes your website work, for e.g. the HTML, CSS, which is the structure of your Website, possibly the Javascript that helps with the client-side functionality, and they may also write the software that creates or modifies the content and HTML of your Website (PHP most commonly), and generally usually does some of the backend magic. The person who administers the server where your Website is hosted is called a SysAdmin, or Web Master (Old Skool name), sometimes and quite often the Web Developer may perform this role as well.
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