design & development process
Whenever building a new website for photographers, I follow a time-tested process that I've crafted over time, to make sure the end result matches your initial business goals.
I've been building photography websites for many years and have worked with hundreds of photographers from more than 20 countries. So when we work together, you're not paying me to learn something on your time, because I'm most likely already familiar with all the nuances of your photography business and have experience with modern web-design solutions. During the project, we can dive straight into the tasks at hand and make good progress.
The duration of the entire process depends on many factors, but usually at least a few weeks. I work efficiently, but I focus more on the quality of the site instead of rushing things. Forcing urgency into a web-design process is not a good compromise for either of us.
I believe that the focus should be on actual results, not vanity metrics and that what's good for your customers is also good for your business.
Most importantly, my process also helps me be a consultant and a friend (not just a generic designer/developer) by:
- Helping you make good choices (for the right themes, plugins, tools)
- Guiding the project and helping you decide what pages go on the site or not, giving feedback on structuring your content, etc.
- Providing training and teaching you how to update your site
- Being there for you if anything goes wrong or you run into any questions.
Read on to see all the steps I usually cover when building a new site.
1. Deep understanding of what needs to be done
When booking a web-design project with me, you start with a detailed "project kickstarter" questionnaire. The detailed questions are defined to help both of us (you and me) to get a good understanding of your existing business and target audience, and your business goals and reasoning behind building a new site.
Often, I also ask you follow-up questions (via email or Skype) to learn even more about your needs, to set expectations and to define roles (if more people are involved, like business partners, outside designers or copywriters, etc.).
I then do an internal evaluation of you and your project request to see if we're a good fit. I don't take this lightly, I don't want to risk delivering a solution that isn't right for you or that goes outside of my skill set, or when I sense we wouldn't have a real collaboration.
If we're a good fit, I send you the project quote (along with links to some of my relevant pages) and answer any follow-up questions you might have.
When you're ready to get started, we clearly define the goals of the project, and we handle the project deposit. There are no extra fees along the way, everything is discussed up front so you can properly manage your budget ahead of time.
When we schedule the project start date, I will block time on my calendar and guide you through the next steps in the project.
Collaboration is the operative word there. It's never "Hey, just give me your content and I go build the site". I want to make it very clear that you have to be involved in the process, things can't go perfectly without you. I'm not going to disappear somewhere and pop up several weeks later with your brand new site, it just doesn't work that way.
Based on our initial conversations, I also send you bits of homework in advance (better defining your target audience and goals, preparing content, providing access where needed, etc.)
You getting the content ready in time is critical to the process, because building a strong website around existing pieces of content often proves to be much better. Without content, design is just decoration.
3. Research & branding
Depending on your project needs, I take the time to research the best solutions for you (personal vs. business name, required platforms/software, and resources, provisional site structure, etc.)
Although it requires more time, I take research very seriously. My goal is to nail down the site design from the get-go and not waste both of our time on a site that didn't have clarity in the first place.
4. Design & development
Time for me to start building an initial draft of the site. When separate design prototypes are required for some specific page layouts/details, I create them in Photoshop and collaborate with you on them using the industry-leading InVision App.
I develop the site only using modern and time-tested themes and plugins, as well as custom code any extra pieces of functionality needed for your site.
I try to give you access to the first working version of the site as soon as possible, so you can go in and get your hands dirty as well and start adding more content where needed. This also is a great opportunity for me to teach you the inner workings of the site and how to manage it yourself in the future. I'm always here to help, but I don't think it's healthy for you to depend on me for the basics, so I want to teach you everything you need to know.
5. SEO & other features
I basically follow every single SEO task that I cover in my in-depth SEO review (which is included in all new projects) and give you specific instructions on how to become friends with search engines.
This is the time we also prepare and work on email marketing, extra integrations, and bits of functionality, etc., as promised in our initial project agreement.
6. Testing & polishing
As we're nearing the launch, I leave no stone unturned and make sure the website is running perfectly. That means doing all updates, checking site content & style, testing redirect, contact forms, social sharing buttons, feeds, navigation menus & much more. Performance testing happens now as well.
I can test your site on any operating system and browser version you can think of, I have pro accounts with industry-leading testing tools (cross-browser, performance, usability).
7. Launching the site
After taking a proper backup of your existing/older site, I launch the site and do another round of thorough testing and activate any final security and performance measures.
This is when Google Analytics starts tracking your site's visitors, and I submit an XML sitemap (via Google Search Console) to encourage Google to index the new site.
Now's also the time to celebrate! :-)
8. Post-launch, support & maintenance
You settle the remaining project balance (in a timely manner), and I give you a final set of SEO recommendations and any other login details and instructions for updating content.
I also direct you to a small questionnaire to learn about your experience during the project and improve my work process for the future.
I follow up on your site regularly (to test its functionality and check on its SEO and backups).
You'll also have unlimited support via email, I'm always here to answer any questions you might have about using/managing the site. And when I say "unlimited", I mean it. From one particular client, I received a total of 104.889 words (more than an average novel!) spread out over 374 separate emails. She included "thanks" or "thank-you" 182 times :-)
What you get:
- A remarkable photography website that works well for your audience and helps you reach your business goals.
- All websites I build are mobile-friendly, optimized for retina displays and follow modern SEO & coding standards.
- Strategic advice on how to manage your site and use it to grow your business in the future.
- Help with setting up an eCommerce area and Analytics for tracking the results of your site.
My web-design process works! It helps me reach beyond what's expected, and it can help you succeed as well.
The process applies to full website (re)design projects, but parts of it also apply to smaller projects (website makeovers, SEO reviews, etc.).