Nate Northway

Project Flow

blog | September 15, 2016

Prior to starting a relationship with a client, I like to walk them through the website design and development process. Often times, a lot of standard business practices are implemented, however, there are a few things unique to web design that (in my experience) have come as a surprise to the client.

The first step: Quote Request/Initial interaction

Normally, the first thing a potential client asks for is a quote. They give me a five minute breakdown of what their site needs, a timeframe, and a possible budget. They communicate this after hearing that I build websites, in a hasty email, or through the contact form on my website. They usually end their sentence with "How much will that cost???". I don’t know. I could do what you describe, but to accurately answer your question, we need to move on to step two.

Step two: Project Discovery

Project discovery helps me answer a potential client’s first question: how much will their website or app cost to build? My quote depends upon a lot of things, generally:

  • What technologies need to be implemented

  • How long it will take

  • How busy I am

  • What type of client you are

  • Features

  • Complexity of Design

I’ll break these variables down.

What Technologies Need To Be Implemented

I work mainly in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and MySQL. I work with CSS preprocessors, jQuery, PHP libraries, and SQL extensions for PHP. Each of these skills has their own cost associated with them. A half hour of HTML & CSS work costs less than a half hour of PHP Programming, which also costs less than a half hour of MySQL programming.

I determine the technologies necessary to build your site from learning what problems your site needs to solve. Is there a lack of information in the world? Do you need a static, informational site? HTML, CSS, and JavaScript oughta do the trick. Do you need a blog attached to it? Add in PHP and MySQL. Do you also need your site to be translated? There’s an extra week (or two or three depending on which languages you need). Will your site have users with privileged access (such as admins to edit, delete, and add posts)? Tracking and analytics? All of these things add up.

Basically, the more complex, the more expensive.

The Site Itself

Site features and design complexity take skill to build, test, rebuild, debug, deploy, maintain and hotfix. The more complex your site or design, the higher your price point will be.

How Long Will It Take To Build Your Site

A big factor of your quote is time. If your site is going to take a lot of my time, it will be more expensive. There is a lot that I do in my life and web design isn’t the only thing. If your project deadline is in a short time frame and you need work turned around quickly, this probably means that I’ll be cutting into my personal time to build your site, which probably means that, unless I really really like you, you’ll be charged a premium for this time.

Generally, I work out time based on a few things. First, I take a look at the pages, functions, design, and every other aspect of the site and use my previous experience to gauge how many hours it will take me to build it. Factoring in an additional 5-10 hours of non-response time (link to ‘non-response time’ article), I then compare my hours estimate to your project deadline, based on 8 hours of work in a day, 24 per project per week. If, at these daily and weekly rates, your project deadline can not be met, I add $15 per hour to my hourly charge and adjust my timing so that your project can be delivered on time.

How Busy I Am

At any given point, I’m juggling at least 3 clients. Since I like to spend at least 24 hours in a week on each client, that means I’m juggling 72 hours of work per week before factoring in non-response time and 42 hours after factoring that in. So, if I have three clients and you want to jump on my client list, I’ll be honest with you and tell you if you can fit on my schedule. Generally, I try to flip every project within 3 weeks. Anything that takes longer than that should be considered a long-term project and we’ll be talking about gainful employment at that point. If you can fit in my schedule, I’ll give you a lower quote. If I’m really busy, your quote will be a little higher, simply because I’m usually tired at the end of the day as it is.

What Type Of Client Are You?

In a nutshell there are three types of client: the easy client, the mediocre client, and the annoying client. If you’re an easy client, your quote is lower. If you’re the mediocre client, your quote is unchanged by your client-type status. If you’re the annoying/helicopter client, I’m charging you as much as 20% more than the mediocre client.

Finishing up with Project Discovery:

Usually, at the end of project discovery, I’ll ask a few questions pertaining to design and UI/UX. I’ll ask what sites, colors, designs, artists, and cars you like. This helps me get a feel of what I’ll be aiming for design wise. Usually, I’ll try to sketch out some design elements, bring up some ‘inspiration’ sites, and explore some design patterns and UI/UX patterns using the demos that I have already built (mostly with CodePen). This really helps me determine project complexity and how it is to work with you as a client.

Once we’ve finished project discovery, I’ll be very clear about whether or not I think we could have a good relationship and start talking about the quote and the contract that I’ll be sending over for review.

Step Three: Quote Delivery

After we’ve determined all of the things that factor into the price of your site, I itemize the total quote and break it down. Usually, it looks a little something like this:

   Static Site: $   750
          Blog: $   350
 Dashboard/CMS: $   500
        Design: $   500
Implementation: $   250
           SEO: $   250
         Total: $ 2,600

This quote is further broken down in person so I can explain why and how I came up with these numbers. I’ll email this quote to you and request a meeting to answer any questions and discuss our contract.

Step Four: Quote and Contract

So you’ve got the quote. You know what you should budget. You talk to your boss. Your boss says ‘bring his price down’. You want to haggle a little bit. That’s cool. Haggle away. Everytime you suggest the price of your site to go down, it goes up because you’re becoming more of the annoying client.

Anyways, once we’ve agreed on a quote, we can start talking about the contract. Generally, I bring up a template I have and we talk it through, discussing the stipulations and applying any changes unique to our relationship. Doing it this way helps avoid confusing and lets the client know that I really am there for them.

After we negotiate the contract, I tell you that I’ll be emailing you within a week. Then I drop the contract off with my lawyer and make sure that nothing illegal or sketchy has been agreed upon, and I call you back for a contract signing.

Step Five: Contract Signing

Woah. Finally to the actual start of our relationship! At the contract signing, we sign the contract and you pay me 20% of the total quote. Then i run away in a frenzy and start building your website.

Step Six: iterative Design

Once I’ve built out most of the features, I put a development site on my server and give you access to it. You look at it, tell me what you like, don’t like, etc, and I explain or fix these issues. Usually, this is also a great time to test UI/UX to make sure it meets the needs of your customers. We do this a few times.

Step Seven: Testing

I test my sites a lot. I have a small team of beta testers whom I pay to break the sites I have built. I also try to break sites. This helps me identify edge cases and provides real world feedback so your site doesn’t break ‘out in the wild’. Once I’m satisfied that no more edge cases are being discovered and there are no errors with your site on any platform that we’ve deemed necessary, we can move on.

Step Four: Pushing the Site

Now that we’ve iterated over design and features and tested, we can push. This really isn’t hard and doesn’t take long, but it’s a milestone.

Step Five: immediate Maintenance

For one week after pushing your site, I provide 24/7 maintenance. I don’t mean that I don’t sleep for a week, I mean that if I’m awoken by a call from you saying that your site is down, I wake up and fix it. Sometimes this has to with DNS errors, floods of bots, crawlers, and people trying to break into your site. There are also some things that could happen with your web server configuration that need adjusting. That’s what this first week of being live is about. Finding those things and fixing them before they become too much of a problem.

Step Six: We’re Done!

Once that week of maintenance is over, you pay your final invoice, and our relationship is almost back to where it started - but now, you have a website.

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