I am outlining the workflow of a genuinely custom website – one that is built from scratch from the ground floor up.
Each project is as unique as the person building the business, so there are some variables but the similarities are what I am going to focus on. This is my personal workflow – the process I go through with my clients.
When I am first meeting with the client, I find out:
- What specific goal are they wanting their website to do? Marketing, informational, e-commerce…
- What target market are they going after? People over 50, women-owned businesses, young mothers, etc. The more detailed the better.
- Why would a visitor want to buy what they are selling services or products? Find out how it will benefit your client and work with that.
- Are they established as a brick and mortar business – just starting out – or do they need to re-establish a website gone wrong?
- Who are their competitors – have they checked out their websites? If so what impression did they get. What do you think is lacking and what would make yours better?
Once I gather all this information – I then ask them to send me links of websites they love – it doesn’t have to be in their market, I just want to see their style and what type of graphical interface they are drawn to, always keeping in mind their target market.
The next step is to do a little research myself and come up with content architecture – that is the flow of the pages – navigation and how the website will be structured. After each task, I consult with the client and get their OK.
Designing – the Fun Part!
This is where I can become creative – this is my favorite part of the process. I then open up all images in Photoshop (image editor) size and compress them, so they look great but load quickly when online.
Pictures – graphics are a combination of what they have or what I can find or create. If the client doesn’t have any royalty-free pictures or very few, I will go out on websites buy the appropriate pictures. All pictures need to be royalty free. I also design the banner and interface using different fonts, images and colors. If the client already has a logo I design around that piece if they don’t have a logo I suggest they get one so important in branding your business. And yes I do design logos as well!
Once the static image is constructed – I upload it to a unique folder with the clients name on it – I will do three different interface designs so my clients will have a variety to pick from.
Dreamweaver is my tool of choice when putting together a website – I then go into Dreamweaver create 3 html pages and put one graphic on each page. This is where I send me client the links to the pages, so they can look at what has been created and decide what they like. Once my client decides which they want to go with - then the real work begins.
Each page of the website needs to have copy with keywords – those are words that a client would search online for your services or products. I will work with my clients to create great copy - search engine optimization is a major plus. Some people give me a basic idea and I totally write the copy – some people are great writers themselves and they write the copy. I will go over it and critique it. I want to make sure it sells the sizzle not the steak and makes visitors that come to their website want what they have.
Actual construction of the website consists of seven steps:
- Cut up the graphic into pieces to be put together using mark-up language
- Import them from Photoshop into the image folder of your website.
- Create the .xhtml page that will be the template for your website.
- Using CSS style sheets and other elements put the images back together as shown on the static pages.
- This will be the shell in which all your content and graphics will be displayed.
- Make sure the navigation is correct and all the links are set for the structure of the website.
- Take edited and approved copy/text and pictures starting with the home page put in the guts.
Once everything is built and tested it is then ready to launch into its permanent home – to go live. I will take everything that is built and transfer it to my client's host of choice – depending on who they decide to go with - I can set up emails and different elements you may need.
This is not the end of the story. While the website is being constructed, we have to consider the elements of Search Engine Optimization. How fast website loads – keywords in the title and pages are only the tip of the iceberg. We must also design the description meta-tag using proper phrases – make sure there is only one header using the (h1 tag) on each page, and the alt text for all pictures have the appropriate keywords.
You will also want to be able to analyze who the visitors are that come to your website. Google has a fantastic tool called Google Analytics – I suggest you use it. If you monitor your website you will be able to see what need to be changed and what is working.
After looking at all that goes into a custom built website it goes without saying, you will pay more for a custom built website. I personally do a per project amount, and my clients greatly benefit because with all the hours we put into building their business they would pay much more if we went hourly.
Now some businesses may decide they want to go with a pre-built template, or a customized interface. That is a perfectly viable solution the most important thing is to get your website up and running – and you need to start somewhere. Just make sure whatever you build that you put in the most crucial elements – like Search Engine Optimization elements. Your website does need to look professional in order for people to take your business seriously.
To Exciting Opportunities & Endless Possibilities!