We feel that complete transparency and open discussion regarding our approach to website development is the most effective means of helping clients (and the world) relate to the process. It is with this in mind that we have put together this helpful Clients Guide to Web Design.
When inquiring about a new website development project with Alchemy Imageworks, a potential client should have a few things in mind before the initial meeting. This helps us more accurately put together an initial proposal based on your needs and budget, and provides you the client, with a basic understanding of the procedures we follow; from the initial meeting, to the final production and launch of your online identity.
Three important items to consider in your website development budget are Domain Registration, Website Hosting, and the acquisition of proper Website Content.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the easy-to-remember and unique name—like alchemyimageworks.com—used to identify a website on the Internet. The Domain Name System (DNS) is a comprehensive directory that connects these names with the numerical addresses of other computers on the Internet. Domain extensions begin after the name, such as .com, .org, .ca, and the domain extension you choose can indicate easily whether your business is a commercial site, an organization, located in Canada, and so forth.
If you haven’t already registered a domain name, then doing so before development begins or contacting us to begin the searching and registration process for you is adviseable. Premium domain registration through Alchemy Imageworks is $25 (CAD) for .com, , .net, .org, .biz. CIRA-registered .ca addresses or addresses such as .us are $59 (CAD).
More in-depth information pertaining to domain registration with Alchemy Imageworks can be found here.
What if I have already registered a domain name?
If you have already registered a valid domain name, then congratulations! You have already finished the first of several steps necessary to put your website on the World Wide Web, you also get to skip this process and proceed right to the next item, Website Hosting.
What is hosting, and why does my website need it?
In order for your website to be visible on the internet, it needs a certain special place to reside in cyberspace where other computers from around the world can access and view it safely. This space is ‘hosted’ on powerful computer networks that securely enable people around the world to interact with your website. Alchemy Imageworks can provide powerful, reliable and highly-secure servers, dedicated starting at $300 CAD per month or shared for as little as $120 CAD per year, with 24-7, 365-days-a-year support available by telephone, skype and email.
What if my business already has a hosting service?
If you already have Hosting and a registered Domain, fantastic! Now all that remains is for you to gather some important information to be used in the actual development of your website, known as content.
Why is content so important?
Content (text, images and the like) is what Google and other search engines look for when searching for a website. When the content of a website is strategically thought about and utilized, it can launch a website to the top of a web search based on the ‘keywords’ that people use to look for it. This is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Allowing your content to be optimized to your target audience is crucial in allowing them the best chance to find you. It is important to have a look at the content that is being displayed in the navigation, the headlines and in the content of a website since it can determine whether the site will rank well on search engine results pages on google and other search engines.
Business cards, brochures or other marketing materials currently in use the business can provide much-needed copy or context for the development of content for your new website.
Here are some general guidelines to use when submitting images or other content to Alchemy Imageworks:
- Pictures, images, or graphics of any kind previously or currently associated with the business. For best results, please submit highest available resolution files. Preferable formats are TIFF, JPG, PNG, PDF, EPS, or AI
- Text information, preferably in electronic form such as a Text file (TXT), Microsoft Word Document (DOC) or Adobe Reader (PDF) file.
A Note About Copy Content:
Knowing what your customers want is the key to success and we know that the right words can get incredible results. Hiring an other expert copywriter is an ideal solution. You get effective copy, written by professionals with years of experience and up-to-date skills. We start by learning the search terms people use to find your product or business. Then we write content to answer their questions and deliver information relevant to your target demographic. By putting the right copy in the right place, proven methods and fresh knowledge maximize every message, guiding the visitor’s experience to your desired outcome.
Updated content is also key. If you currently have a website, and it has been up for a while, chances are it might be ready for a content overhaul. Fresh content will keep your audience returning to your website repeatedly and is vital to ensuring measurable results in search engine positioning. A good rule is to have content such as text and images updated as often as you want users to return.
Depending on the nature of your site or business, this can range from every few months, to up-to-the-minute. The time your users spend on your website varies according to the variety and amount of content as well. However, that being said, you don’t have to consider a major overhaul of your image to reap the rewards. A relatively small investment in professionally-written persuasive, informative, and entertaining content can improve your web presence and deliver measurable financial benefits.
Effective communication demands good writing. Alchemy Imageworks delivers. Let us know if we can assist you with expert copy and content development for your new website.
Phases of Development
Initial Meeting and Client Survey
To understand your requirements, we start with a brief Client Survey. This helps us articulate those needs and agree on goals. It also addresses your message, audience and content, and the site’s look, feel and functionality. Key decision-makers should complete his or her own survey with brief, but thorough information.
Depending on the project, we may conduct an interview with you in lieu of the Client Survey. Once we have a clear deﬁnition of what needs to be accomplished, we will prepare an anticipated budget range and timeline for the project.
The proposal includes standard features of your project; additional custom features can be discussed when we review the proposal with you. It’s our shared responsibility to ensure you have a complete understanding before we begin, as this is the best way to reach your goals and stay on budget. Items of information considered during the proposal process include the following:
- Defining Goals: We work with you to deﬁne what we are going to accomplish during the project.
- Define Audience Perception: Together we deﬁne the perception the site needs to create for the rest of the world or your specific demographic.
- Content Documents: We’ll outline all of the pages, their goals, types of content and content hierarchy for the site.
- Sitemap: This is the high-level view of your website and how the pages relate to each other.
- Content Development: Using the materials given, the sitemap and your input, our copywriters create or refine the content for your site.
- Layout and Design: This is the visual design of your site.
The more complete the information you provide, the more accurate the proposal. Please tell us about your unique circumstances or special requirements, such as internal hosting, third-party tools used or required, branding guidelines, approval processes or the extent of your content.
This is the ﬁrst time the entire team meets to review the project. As the ﬁnal step in the Analysis Phase, it’s critical that we’ve identiﬁed everything we want to accomplish and discussed any special requirements, such as:
- Being unable to transfer the site to an approved Alchemy Imageworks host.
- The need for Email setup or migration support.
- Branding guidelines to which we need to adhere.
- Special technology requirements, such as the need to use speciﬁc programming languages. This normally involves using ASP or .NET. If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, we can talk with your IT department.
Considerations such as these have a great impact on how we develop the site. That’s why it’s so important to identify them before we start development.
We’ll also need you to provide us with a company overview, explain the competitive environment and answer questions from the team. It’s best if you have all of the content materials in a digital format at the meeting. That way we’ll be ready to go with no delays. Once we have approval to proceed we will start the Design and Layout Phase.
We provide the entire team a thorough overview of information captured in the Scoping Phase; ask any ﬁnal questions and request clariﬁ cations before starting the Deﬁne & Design Phase. We ask that you make sure we understand all special considerations; supply in digital format all materials, including photography, that may be applicable, as well as a company overview. If you provide everything we need for the project at the Initial Meeting, it will save hours in the long run.
Website Design and Layout
The information gathered at the Initial Meeting is used to create Content Documents which deﬁne the direction for your site’s development. These include:
- Perception Deﬁnition: We’ll work with you to deﬁne the perception the site needs to create.
- Content Brief: These are the details of the pages and types of content for the site.
- Sitemap: The sitemap lays out the site’s overall ﬂow and information architecture.
Once we receive approval from you on the Content Documents we develop designs that meet the requirements of the Scoping Phase and Content Documents. We translate the Content Documents into an effective experiential design that reﬂects your brand and accomplishes your goals.
Throughout the design process, you may ask for certain things that we advise against. Please understand that we don’t do that to be difﬁcult — we just want to make sure nothing gets in the way of your users having the best experience possible.
Content Development and Look & Feel Development are closely linked because content is the largest part of the user experience. Finding answers to questions and tools that help users with tasks are what makes a site successful. Content will also include development of keywords for search engines. (Don’t worry — we have a simple worksheet to help with these.) Designs must be approved and all content, including pictures and videos, must be approved and delivered before moving on to the Production Phase. The timeframe for custom content development is based on the size and scope of your project.
The Design and Layout Phase offers several opportunities for budget and time overages to occur. To stay on target, we need to look at designs and content from the perspective of how easy and effective it is for users. Our average project has two rounds of design, so that’s what we include in our estimate. Overages occur when there are additional rounds of design or development required.
Timeframe of production is variable, based on the size and scope of your project. Most of the activity in this phase is on our side. Depending upon the size of your project, the production timeframe can be days, weeks or months. As always, we’ll send you frequent updates on our progress to keep you informed.
A note about how we build your site:
Every site we build is handcrafted. We don’t use off-the-shelf products because they can’t achieve the same level of professionalism and effectiveness. By using up-to-date coding and development practices, we provide our clients with more powerful, dynamic, and standards-compliant web solutions.
Beneﬁts of standards-compliant websites include:
- One version works with all types of browsers.
- Content is presented differently based on the output device.
- A new design can be applied in days rather than weeks.
- Compliant sites load much faster than traditional sites.
- Higher visibility, accessibility and portability.
Live Launch of Your New Website
Once final testing and review have been completed by both the client and our team, and any subsequent changes applied, the website is packaged up. We copy all of your website information and files onto DVD and deliver a copy to you. If you have third party hosting this DVD can provide all of the necessary items to put your website on the internet. If you have subscribed to one of our secure hosting packages then by this stage in development we are already in position to make the website live within minutes of your approval.
A few mouse clicks and keyboard clicks later, and the entire world can view your new online identity!
We recommend pursuing an active online marketing campaign using social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or through highlighted and organic Search Engine Optimization for premium search websites such as Google and Bing!. Alchemy Imageworks has a proven history of success in marketing, both online and off, and we will be happy to discuss the possibilities for your new online venture. Contact us today and we can define a marketing plan that can help your business succeed.
Assumptions and Understandings
We make sure everyone understands what is and, perhaps more importantly, what is not covered by the estimated development costs. The following are typically not included in our estimate:
Integration with Third-party Tools or Databases.
This is not covered within the scope of the estimate on most projects.
Photography, Documents or Multimedia.
We need this content provided by you in a digital format or it will be estimated separately. The estimate covers the time to create the project, but not the materials. If the materials are not supplied electronically, additional time and costs will be incurred.
If your website has to be hosted internally, or your IT department has speciﬁc requirements for how the site is built or external applications the site has to work with, we will need to know these “special needs” during the estimating process. Otherwise, signiﬁcant costs may be overlooked until the project is well into development.
We will present you with a budget range based on costs for similar projects and requirements. To get started we’ll need a small deposit. For most projects the deposit is 50% of the agreed project estimate. Once we receive the deposit your project is assigned a job number and is queued for construction. If, at any time during development, we feel this project is in danger of exceeding this budget range, we will notify you immediately (via email or telephone) of the situation that could cause the overage and provide a recommendation to correct it. The initial deposit will be applied to the ﬁnal payment(s) on the project and is included in the budget range.
In the event that you request the addition of new features or revise the scope of this project after work has begun, Alchemy Imageworks will provide a revision to the budget range in writing for the change. Upon your approval, the new features will be scheduled for development or integration.
The Pause Clause
If a client deliverable, such as input, approvals or payment is late more than 10 business days the project will be considered “on hold.” Once the deliverable is received and the project is re-activated the project will be rescheduled based on Alchemy Imageworks current workload and availability. Just to say it loud and clear, it could be a month or more to get you back in the system if the project is put on hold.
Transfer of Ownership
You own all the original work created for you by Alchemy Imageworks as soon as you’ve paid for it. So if you stay up-to-speed on your payments then you own all the work.
In the event of the project being canceled, you own all of the original work created for you by Alchemy Imageworks that you’ve paid for. If you decide to start a project back up after canceling a new deposit will be required.