Today I’m going to talk about the process involved in developing and building a website, This is to help you understand what to expect when working with a developer/designer.
There are a few things that can be scary the first time you do them, Buying your first house, having your first baby, etc. This is because you don’t know what to expect. I’m going to attempt to run through the step-by-step process of developing and designing a website.
Note: I’m using both the terms “developer” and “designer”. Generally, the developer is the person setting up and configuring the server and software, the designer is the one creating the design of the page. In some companies it’s multiple people, in others, they are the same person.
You want a website
So you’ve started a business and have made the decision to get a website. Maybe you’re on Facebook, Instagram, or Yelp (nothing wrong with that, we are too), but you want something more. Or you did one of those build-your-own-website services (see my article here on those), but you wonder why you’re paying so much for so little.
Anyway, you want a real website, you’ve picked a company, and ready to get started. What comes next?
The company will have an agreement for you to sign, please read it carefully, and if you have any questions, be sure to ask. Also while you’re at it, read the Terms Of Service and Acceptable Use Policy (usually located on their website). These documents will tell you what you can and can’t do on your website, you can’t most anything illegal.
The company will have also sent you an invoice for a deposit on the site, usually half.
Once the agreement is signed and the deposit made, the work starts.
Starting the process
The very first thing that needs to happen is the domain name. Not much can happen until that is in place. See this article on domains for an explanation on that process.
Unless it has already been discussed, the designer will need the color scheme of the site, along with what fonts you would like. A good place to research these is Google Color Picker, and Google Fonts.
Template, or from scratch
If you’re building a website from a pre-made design (see ours here), the designer will probably send you a sketch or wireframe of the template with sections marked (“A” “B” “C”, or “1” “2” “3”, etc.), asking you to let them know what you want in each section. Please send these to them as you make each decision, don’t wait and send them all at one time.
If the site is being built completely from scratch, hopefully you have given the designer an idea what you want. Maybe you sent them a few websites that you like. The designer will then make a wireframe of the site for your initial approval. Then they will similarly as above, ask you what content you want in each section.
Hosting and CMS
Simultaneously, the developer will start setting up the hosting server, configuring it, and installing the CMS (if you are getting the hosting through them), and creating a username and login for you, you should have the ability to access your web server. If you have purchased hosting on your own, you will need to give the developer your name and password so they can configure it and set up the CMS.
What is a CMS?
Back in the old days of the web, sites were simple. When building a website, a designer wrote a bunch of code, put it on a server, and voila, you have a website. Today’s sites are more complicated, they have other software and databases running on them and they need some way to manage them. Thus the Content Management System “CMS” was created. The most popular CMS is WordPress, almost 70% of the world’s websites run on it.
In case you don’t know, there are two versions of WordPress. Both owned by the same company, Automatic.inc. They are commonly called “WordPress.com” and “WordPress.org”.
WordPress.org is the free and open source CMS, that’s what we and most every other web company uses.
On the contrary, WordPress.com is a build-your-own-website company that costs anywhere from free, but super limited, to $5,000.00 per month for the VIP package. See this article for a better explanation of the two.
FTP and email
They will also set up an FTP login where they can get into the website file system even if it goes down for some reason. If you’re not sure what FTP is, check out this Wikipedia article.
If email comes with the hosting (with ours it does), they will set up your email accounts and send you your passwords and information on how to access them through your preferred email service.
The Design Process
From then on, the process is mostly between you and the designer, they will probably put a “Coming Soon” page as the landing page, and maybe password protect the rest of the site so someone doesn’t stumble upon a half finished site. You should be able to access the site as it is being built so you can give your approval, or ask for changes.
And as for those changes. Don’t be afraid to ask for them as the site is being created. The designer would rather make changes as you notify them rather than you giving them a laundry list of changes at the end.
When the design is finished, and you have approved it, the company will send you a document, possibly the same agreement, for you to sign. This will Certify that the site is to your liking. Plus they will send you an invoice for the balance owed. When all is satisfied, the “Coming Soon” page will be removed and the site will go “live”.
Some web companies, like us, offer a maintenance package where they take care of updates, backups, and make minor changes. If you choose to not use a maintenance package, the developer/designer should walk you through how to run updates to the various software plugins (they come out constantly), and how to make backups.
If you have any questions about the development/design process, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 770-692-0075.
Our website is southmetroweb.com.