Every step of creating your clients new site from the initial conversation to getting the site live and handing it to a client.
So you’ve got yourself a new client? Whether this is your first client, or you can’t even count how many websites you have built over the years, I am sure this post has something for you. I will take you through my process of building a website for a client. Most of the time, developing a website starts the same way. If the client has approached you, then that either means they have seen your work and liked what they saw, or they are confident you have what it takes to take on their vision.
If you have reached out to the client, then you should already have an idea of what you are getting yourself in to. If the client is local, then it may still be in your best interest to ask some questions over email before looking to have a meeting in person first. There are some basic, but important initial questions to ask first.
1. What business will the website be representing?
From the client’s starting email, or from your cursory research, it may be apparent what the business is, or what the client might want from you, but hearing it in their words might give you some more insight.
If the explanation doesn’t quite make sense to you, or you’re almost sure you know what the business is, stop. Ask more specific questions, make sure you understand fully. Knowing exactly what it is you are building for will make it a lot easier for you in the future, and will help you build more of an understanding and working relationship with the client. If you’re asking basic questions a couple of weeks in to development, that won’t look so good from your client’s perspective.
You should find out if the client already has a website that you will be redesigning. If they do, then asking what they don’t like about their current site will give you a good start on what you will need to do to make sure your site is one they like.
Most businesses use a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress, SquareSpace or a custom solution. It will be up to you whether you take the job from this detail. Depending on your experience, it might just not be feasable for you to take work when you know you will have to learn a whole new system to build around. Ask your client what they use, if they use a CMS at all. If they don’t, and you prefer to use one, then it might only benefit you and your client. It will make life easier for both parties. I personally use WordPress, but I have taken some work for many other systems in the past.
At this point, both you and the client should know whether the job is a good fit for you. Now you can start to talk more about the details. If there’s an option to meet in person, then I would highly recommend it. You can learn so much more and gain much more of an understanding if you can show and get examples of work and details of the site. If you can’t meet in person, that okay too. Most of the time this will be the case.
2. What are the goals of the new website?
From here you will be getting more details of the client’s needs for the new site. Depending on the way the client conducts business will change the answers here. The client may want more customers for their e-commerce business, or more views on their blog page. Getting this information will give you a better idea of what you will need to work on.
If the client has any data they can give you about their current site, that can help you see what aspects need working on. If their page views are high, but the engagement, app downloads or newsletter sign ups are low, that shows actual data rather than what the client believes needs fixing.
Before you start building a complete redesign of the site, you should ask the client what they like and would like to keep from the current site. Even if the client doesn’t have a site currently, making sure you know the brand identity and what the site must have will ensure you won’t have to revise as much, if anything, in the future.
If at all possible, if you can ask to see any website data such as the information on Google Search Console.
You should confirm that you can address the client’s needs and then let them know briefly what you plan to do to achieve that.
Check Out One of My Sites
Corner House Studio is a studio in which I redesgined their website. Check out the before and after and a little writeup on the process.
3. What assets and services does the client already have?
Now you’re on to the business part. This is where you will send a contract, discuss pricing and what services the client needs. You will need to find out whether the client already has a web server, domain, email services and anything else you might need. You should collect any logos, pictures and similar assets. Discuss a site map, with what content should be on each page. Make sure you have any relevent text that needs to be on any page, along with how it should be displayed.
If the client doesn’t have web space, such as server hosting or domain, you will need ask whether they want that included in their finished project. If you have got this far, you are probably aware you can get reseller hosting on most reputable hosting sites, along with domains. I normally set the client up with an email on my end and then hand everything over to them so they have the power if they want to renew the hosting or make any changes. I don’t like the hassle of trying to charge extra each year to renew, but I do normally charge a setting up services fee.
If the client has existing web server and any services they need for the website, try and get a login for those. If you can set this up for the client, this will be for the best. Even if the client seems tech savvy, anything that goes wrong with them setting something up themselves will always come back to you.
Pricing will be completely up to you. Charge how much you think you’re worth. Some people charge by how many pages the website will have plus extras. Like most jobs, I charge per hour rounded up. Never ever work for free. Family, friends it doesn’t matter. If they think you’re worth their project, your time is worth money, even if it’s not a lot to just build a portfolio at the start. You can’t pay for food and rent with exposure.
I just want to say, believe it or not, I am not a lawyer. I use this contract template to get me by, but if you’re not sure, get a real lawyer if you’re worried. If you feel like you can do it, get some payment upfront to avoid the client going quiet after you’ve put in some hours. I have learned that lesson once too many times.
4. Building The Website For The Client
Starting design of the website should be the fun part. I would normally build the website locally on my machine during the whole development and then move it to the server when it’s ready for client. Your development process will be unique to you, but make sure your work cannot be stolen. You’d be surpised what people do to not have to pay.
Depending on how long an estimate you have given the client, I would recommend keeping the client up to date with the process. You don’t need to be emailing them with every feature you add, but it’s for the best you don’t leave the client in the dark on how it is going.
A tip that will save you some embarassment or pressure when building a website for a client is that even if you encounter a problem as you’re developing, let the client know. If it’s something that may delay the delivery date, the client should hear about it. It’s their money and website at the end of the day.
When you can see the end of devlopment is near, prepare the client. Let them know the website will be finished soon and you will send them some screenshots, or a live version of the site for the client to look over.
5. Submitting the website for review.
If you’re incredibly lucky, the client will see the first draft and not want any changes. But it rarely works out that way. Whether you know the way you have designed the site works better for SEO, or is just more current with the modern design languages, the client is always right. I often explain why I designed something the way I did, but I will always respect the wish of the client.
Charging for revisions isn’t very common at this stage, especially if the client isn’t going back on anything they have requested in the previous questioning. Make the changes, submit another revision.
Once the client has agreed that the design is to their liking, you can now get to work on getting the site live. Explain to the client the length of time that this will take, give yourself some breathing room. If you’re moving the site to a new host, setting up the email service or registering a domain, get to work on that as soon as you can. Domain DNS or nameservers are up to the powers of the internet gods when it comes to the speed of them sorting themselves out.
TIP: If the client already has a live site, do a backup of the existing site first. Even if you know they have backups, one more can’t hurt.
6. Handing over the site and getting paid.
This is the moment you have worked for. Once everything is live, and you have ensured everything is working, including any email services, links and any other services that need to be functional, you can send the invoice. Contact the client and let them know everything is ready for the hand over and send them the invoice for your work. If you don’t have a difficult client, they will pay, you send everything over and everybody is happy.
Any logins and services you have created should be handed over. I often let the client know to contact me for anything they may need help with for the week after hand over. I will sort any of those problems out free of charge. I think that’s only fair. I would also suggest letting the client know you will make any further changes, revisions or updates to the site at your hourly rate, or at a price you have set should they need you in the future.
I hope after reading this you feel more prepared for building a website for a client and have a better idea of the process that goes into creating a website for a business. Not every business is the same, some steps maybe different, more difficult, or if luck is on your side, easier than suggested.
Good luck, happy developing.