Some Frequently Asked Questions, compiled to help you understand my process…
What is the process?
How long will it take?
Do you host the site?
Do you use Flash or other animations?
Can I update my own site?
What size are the sites designed for?
What format should my images and files be in?
How do we protect my images against copyright violations?
How does my site get seen by search engines?
Do you redesign existing sites?
I have a blog and really wish it looked my website. Can you help?
What process is involved to create a website?
1. Information/requirements gathering
Send me an email! Then I’ll send you my New Customer Website Design Questionnaire that you’ll need to fill out. Your responses will give me a good feel for the type of site you’re after. After that, I’ll probably contact you with additional questions and provide you with answers to any you may have. Once we get the specs nailed down, I will then send you a cost estimate that contains a projected schedule that works well for both my timeframe and yours. This cost estimate is just that – an estimate. If the scope of the project changes as we progress, I will alert you to the fact that additional charges may be incurred. No surprises.
2. Contract and scheduling
If you approve the cost estimate, I’ll send you my contract. I require a 50% non-refundable deposit*, and you’ll send me all of the necessary files (text and images) along with your signed contract and deposit which I’ll need in order to schedule and begin work on your site. Once I receive these items, I can schedule your site over a 4-8 week period that works for both your and my schedules. While I can estimate a start date prior to this, I can’t give an accurate date until everything is in place. It has been my experience that customers think they’ll be ready on a certain date and then many are not, so I can’t hold a place on the calendar until all of the pieces are in place. If you are unable to work with me on a steady basis during that time period, scheduling becomes difficult to manage because I need to begin other jobs during delays. Beginning other site designs during delays, only to have the previous customer come back after an extended absence, means I am suddenly swamped with more work than is manageable at a time.
As the customer, you’ll need to be available during our scheduled time period, which we’ll agree on at the beginning of this process. This way you should have your completed site in less than 2 months! If you’re unable to be available during this timeframe, I will have to move the completion of your site to the end of my schedule. Being available just means that you’ll be able to review potential designs and answer questions I may have as we progress during that scheduled period. It’s a very interactive process and I involve you in every step of the way so that you’re not surprised with anything at the end. If you’re going to be away or very busy, then we should probably schedule your site design for a more convenient time.
*Why is the deposit non-refundable? Often I spend a lot of time with potential customers in the early stages of the process – answering questions, sending out my questionnaire, reading it, interacting more with the customer to obtain more information and clarify specifications, etc. I’ve also never had anyone back out of the design process after the estimate was approved, but it could happen. I require the deposit to be non-refundable so I can at least be compensated for my initial hours spent and to confirm that the customer is serious about their commitment.
3. Design process – Homepage design
Based on your requests and the information you provided me about your site requirements, I’ll design the homepage first, as the look and feel of that will be reflected in all other secondary pages. This design will be a non-functioning .jpg (just a picture) created in Photoshop. The links won’t work until we finalize the design. During the design process, you’ll be able to view the site “live” on my server, not visible to the public, so that as programming begins, the links will begin to work. That way you won’t be receiving countless email from me with attachments to keep track of. Everything will open in your browser the same way the public will eventually see it.
I’ll present you with one design taking into consideration your requests and specifications. Look it over carefully and let me know what you like and dislike about it.
You will be allowed a certain number of tweaks after I present you with the homepage design. You can request font changes, color changes, layout changes, etc., or an entirely new design (up to 2 unique designs will be offered total). If we exceed the number of allotted revisions, additional charges will incur.
The reasoning behind this is based on years of experience. This tweaking process can go on indefinitely, and in order to complete your site within our agreed-upon schedule, eventually decisions have to be made. Too many versions becomes utterly confusing for both of us. This is called “Scope Creep” in the corporate world. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you see what you don’t want, and that’s okay! But the process has to have a defined start and end point or it could go on forever. I want your site to match your needs and I want you to be entirely satisfied with it, just as I need to be able to finalize the design and move on to other crucial steps in the design process in order to complete it as fast as possible. This is why your being available to review steps in the process during our agreed-upon timeframe is critical.
After you decide on a homepage design, any changes that you request to the homepage or navigation after sign-off will incur additional hourly charges.
4. Design Process – Secondary pages
After sign-off on the homepage, I will present you with the design of the “shell,” or template, for all or most secondary pages. In most cases, pages such as your “About” page, “Links” page, “Contact info” page, etc., have the same structure. If you are an artist, your gallery pages will have a unique layout that will differ from other secondary pages, and I’ll work closely with you on the design of those, too, and the approval/sign-off process will follow this format as well. Typically the navigation bar on the homepage remains the same on all secondary pages (including gallery pages) and I’ll design how the text, any headers, and layout will appear. I’ll present this design to you for your approval. You will be allowed a certain amount of revisions after I present you with the design of the secondary pages. You can request font changes, color changes, layout changes, etc. After the maximum allowed requests, additional charges will incur.
After you decide on a secondary page design, any changes that you request to the design/layout of those secondary pages after sign-off will incur additional hourly charges.
5. Development and Testing
After your sign-off on the secondary page template, I will then build all secondary pages, and check the site in multiple browsers including the most recent versions of Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari. I don’t test in AOL’s browser.
6. Your Quality Control (QC) Check and Revisions
After I complete the site, you will have time to review it and you may request 2 rounds of minor revisions such as text edits*. As stated above under Design Process – Homepage Design and Design Process – Secondary pages, changes to the homepage, navigation, secondary page design layout, addition of forgotten images, etc. will incur additional charges.
*Minor text edits are defined as correcting typos, replacing a word or sentence here and there, adjusting alignment, etc. Replacing entire paragraphs or pages such as an entire resume, or adding additional images not previously given to me, may incur additional charges. Please write and edit your text prior to sending to me to avoid major edits at this stage. You’ll be able to edit your website yourself, too, so you’ll be able to tweak things freely when we’re done!
After you sign-off on the entire website, any changes that you request at this point will incur additional hourly charges. Final payment is due at this time. I will send you an invoice. I’ll provide you with my customized reference guide and 60 minutes of my time for any additional training you may request, redeemable within 30 days. And then you’ll be all set!
How long will it take?
Typically my websites take 8-12 weeks to complete. The variables are whether the customer is able to supply me with all or most of the files upfront, the customer’s schedule and availability to answer questions and review initial designs (this can take some back-and-forth over a period of time), and the amount of revisions requested at each stage.
Do you host the site?
I don’t offer website hosting services, but can help the customer choose a host and help them with the domain name registration process if necessary.
Do you use Flash and/or other animations?
While Flash does have its benefits and can certainly make a website look wonderful, I’ve chosen not to include it in any of the sites I design. Primarily because the incorporation of Flash on a site means your viewer will have to always have the most recent Flash plug-in in order to be able to view it properly, and you don’t want to lose viewers because they can’t even get past the homepage. A customer once pointed me to 3 websites he really admired so that I could see what type of look he wanted his own site to have. I try to keep all of the current and various plug-ins, yet I couldn’t open any of those sites without first upgrading each one. Needless to say, your casual viewer won’t bother and you’ll lose them right off the bat. And if they’re on a slow connection, the page might be painfully slow for them to view.
Basic PayPal can be incorporated into your website for small e-commerce sites, or we could choose to install a more robust ecommerce plugin for larger ecommerce sites. I keep my e-commerce sites simple and don’t get into the headaches of that larger e-shops usually come with. I strongly believe you need to have a reliable design firm with fulltime programming staff available as problems arise when dealing with the larger shopping carts, and currently my programming resources are freelance.
Can I update my own site?
Absolutely! I offer a very easy-to-use WordPress-based Content Management System (CMS), and include a customized illustrated PDF reference guide (that has received rave reviews!) as well as 60 minutes of additional training (phone, email, or a combination of both – I can share my screen with you, too). If you can use a word processor and have basic file management skills, you can use my WordPress-based sites for your basic update needs.
What determines the overall size of the “page” on the screen?
Most people, according to website statistics, are now running in resolutions slightly higher than 1024×768, so a good current rule of thumb (which changes as the stats change) is to build a site about 960 pixels wide. There are now very few people running in 800×600 according to online statistics.
Note, though, that depending on someone’s browser, and the number of menubars and toolbars they have open in the browser, the actual screen real estate might even be less than 700 or 800 pixels high. But of course, if your pages require a height higher than 600 pixels, by all means they will scroll vertically. I just try not to setup anything wider than 960 pixels. Horizontal scrolling is a usability nightmare.
Also note that with the trend for larger monitors, many people view the web in browsers opened to the screen width maximum, so there will be some background space visible outside of the main content area. You don’t want to fill that with content, as it will only have to shrink down, and for usability reasons, you can’t read a single column of text comfortably when it’s too wide – hence the old newspaper setup of narrow columns. Just because the screen is massive doesn’t mean it needs to be filled.
If you’d like a responsive design template used to adjust for smartphones, we can discuss this as it would incur an additional cost because code has to be written to resize pages, images, and possibly incorporate unique smaller versions of headers and footers that have to be designed, etc.
What format should my images and files be in?
I can work from any type of digital images. Most likely you will have .tiff or .jpg files. There’s an additional fee to scan 35mm prints or hardcopy. I am not equipped to scan slides.
Your digital images should be as large as possible, but I don’t need 100MB .tiff files that you may have used for printing purposes. I will crop them (if required), as well as resize and sharpen them to create the thumbnail and large versions. You can always reduce in size but enlarging isn’t desirable, so send me your largest and best images. I can also retouch some images (such as removing backgrounds, lightening, etc.), but extensive retouching will incur an additional charge so please let me know up-front what images need tweaking and I will give an estimate.
It’s much easier for me to work from existing electronic text files as well, than to retype from hardcopy. Text can be sent to me via email or on your CD, in many formats including Microsoft Word, text, .rtf, etc., or just pasted into the body of an email message.
How do we protect against copyright violations of my images (other than by warnings)?
That’s a good question, and one that comes up often for artists in all mediums. Overall, there isn’t much you can do to prevent someone from right-clicking on the graphic and doing a “save as” and saving the image to their hard drive. There is code I can insert with each image to prevent that, but an easy way around it for a savvy viewer is to just hit the Print-Screen key and the entire page is now in the clipboard for them to “steal,” so I no longer include that code.
If you’re a quilt pattern designer, for example, even a small image, once seen online, could be redrawn (not even necessarily traced). In other words, by displaying your artwork online (or even in a printed brochure), it’s out there for the world to see. There are a few small things we can do, though.
I do include copyright warnings in the footer on all pages.
I also resize and compress all jpgs so that the highest resolution image is *not* on the server. That is, you may have a thumbnail page, in which those images are about 200 pixels at the widest or tallest, and if someone printed them on a 300dpi printer, they’d be less than an inch big. If those thumbnails are clickable and open to larger images, we can keep those sizes on the small side as well ? nothing wider or taller than 600 pixels, for example. You may occasionally see websites with very, very slow-loading graphics. If you happen to right-click on them and save them to your hard drive, you might see that the HTML code is telling them to display at a size like 600 x 400, the real image on the server is the massive, high-quality original, at 2048 x 1536 or even larger. We will not do that! Not only for speed reasons, but so that the best resolution that exists for good printouts is not out there for people to snag. That’s about the best one can do.
You could also watermark each image, but that can be distracting and annoying to viewers. I don’t know of many artists who like this or actually incorporate it in their sites, but some do.
How does my site get “seen” by search engines?
I provide several services for this. I still include meta tags (keywords and description) in the code of every page for those search engines who still use them. I also encourage my customers, when they are writing the body copy for each page, to include relevant content for the search engines who can “read live text,” and I can help review your content and offer basic suggestions to make sure you’re including great keywords. A page consisting entirely of graphics or a Flash animation can’t be read, for example, so I make sure to include a blurb of live text on the homepage (which is typically graphics-intensive) that describes your site. I will also submit your site to a few of the top search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing when done. Holly Knott LLC guarantees no particular or specific search engine placement. Advanced SEO (Search Engine Optimization) requests should be directed toward a company who specializes in this. But please note that the WordPress framework I use on all of my sites is very SEO-friendly. That is, anyone can write a WordPress theme and there are tons out there, and some are buggy and some are never kept updated. The framework I’ve chosen to use is built by a reputable company who had SEO as a priority.
I have a site that I’m not really happy with. Can you work with those files and/or redesign it?
It depends. I may not be able to use the existing code because I prefer to setup the site using my own structure to make future updates easier for both of us, rather than trying to get into someone else’s code that could be problematic, but depending on your situation and current site, I may be able to redesign or restructure it for a slightly lower cost than if I were to create a site for you from scratch.
I have a blog and really wish it looked like my website. Can you help?
If your current blog is with Blogger or WordPress, yes! There are a variety of options depending on how your website will be set up (i.e, moving your current blog to another platform, keeping it in its existing platform, etc.), but I can easily make your blog look and feel integrated with the rest of your site if you’d like to keep it where it currently lives.
I also offer standalone blog customization – you may not have a website but may just need a blog visual upgrade.