What to Expect Working with a Web Developer

This guide is an overview of the process to expect when working with a web developer on a website project. My experiences building websites over two decades has been a learning experience and working with different clients has helped me to fine tune the process.

Building a website may seem like a difficult process. A client may have a lot of expectations or come in with no idea what they actually want. Before I begin on a project I like to meet with the client and get a feel for where the client is on this continuum and most importantly, if we are a good fit to work together on the project.

What You Need to Know As a Client

The ideal client would have clear vision of what they want in a website, including its overall look, feel and style. Most clients have a pretty good idea about what they like and don’t like and can provide examples of sites they want to use as inspiration. I love when a client comes to me with an example that isn’t even a website, but just a picture or example to use as an aesthetic guide.

The disconnect between a client and myself as a developer usually occurs when the client doesn’t have any idea what it takes to actually build a website. That’s my job as a developer, right? I listen carefully to what the clients wants and think about what it will take to achieve the result. I like to provide a ballpark estimate before we get too far in the process. This allows us be on the same page before any details are hashed out. As a developer I have a good grasp on what can be technically achieved within a given budget. If the project isn’t going to work it is almost always because a client has unrealistic expectations combined with an inadequate budget.

Essential Items to Prepare Before the First Website Meeting

Before we meet for the first time I ask that clients have three things ready to be able to effectively discuss their project. This list isn’t everything I discuss with a client during the first meeting, but these three items are critical to a productive collaboration.

  1. A brief introduction and background of your business or organization.
    As a business owner or decision maker in an organization you should know exactly what you do well. What you might not realize is how a website can help you do that better. If you tell me about your process, product or service and your customer, I can usually find ways to make your website work better for you.
  2. What do you want your website to offer? If you currently have a website, what works and what doesn’t?
    Often a client comes to me because of an issue (or several) with their current site. Perhaps it is outdated and doesn’t look good or work well across different devices. Other times it is too difficult to use and update for the client, or doesn’t work well for their customers. Knowing what works and more importantly, what doesn’t work, will give me a clear vision of what a new website should be able to provide. Furthermore, you need to communicate features you want such as contact forms, user portals, integrations or e-commerce.
  3. Examples of websites (or other media) to use as inspiration.
    Being able to provide a few example of websites or other media that you like will go a long way toward jumpstarting the web design process.  If you have an established style guide that helps, but it isn’t required. Also, examples do not need to be in the same industry. More examples aren’t always better, keep the list brief, anywhere from one to three examples is all that is necessary. Note: I do not work with clients who ask me to clone a website. If there are competitor sites that you like, you may include them, but outright copying layouts and design is something I will not do.

Other items you should keep in mind for the first meeting:

  • Know Your Budget and Timeline
    While you don’t need to disclose an exact number, we will need to discuss what the project might cost. After a brief discussion I usually have a good idea of the time required to produce a quality website to meet a client’s needs. If I do not know a range or ballpark figure it is usually because I don’t have all three of the above essentials. We may discuss a timeline, but if not, it will be covered in a subsequent meeting before we begin.
  • Up-to-date content, pictures, videos, databases, logos, brand style guide, etc.
    Not every client will have everything ready at the first meeting, and not every client will have all of the above, but before the project will actually begin I need to have everything that will be used on the site. Not only does this help the design process, it also enables me to see how all this information may be put together into a working website. It is okay if you don’t have everything ready at the first meeting, but be ready and plan to be able to provide this before the project begins.

What Happens After the Meeting?

After meeting, assuming the first meeting was productive and we decide to work together, the client will need to prepare materials. At this point as a client, the most important task you have is to prepare the content for your site. This may mean you need to schedule a photoshoot, develop an up-to-date product list, or create new copy for you website. Occasionally a client requests or provides stock photography. This option isn’t ideal but can fit certain scenarios where time or budget are limited, but the result is usually not as good as custom photography. 

As a developer I may need to do additional research to help a client select a platform, plugin or research topics we discussed in the initial meeting. After I have gathered this information, I will get back to the client with the information and we may have a brief meeting to discuss how the project might proceed.

Starting the Project

Once we are on the same page and the information and materials are provided, the client will be given a contract. This outlines the scope of the project, a timeline or milestones, and payment agreement. Typically, most projects require a 50% deposit before the project begins with the remainder due when the project is completed.

Progress and Completion

I work on a development website so the client can review the work during the production phase. There may be additional milestones, depending on the project, and a final review after which all revisions are made. After the website is done to the client’s satisfaction it can be transferred to the client’s web host of choice or I can arrange hosting for the client.

Retaining a Web Developer on an Ongoing Basis

One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is that their web person was unreachable or took forever to respond. I never ghost clients. I do however require some form of commitment from a client to be available to serve their ongoing needs and provide prompt service. I ask that clients who want to keep me as their developer for updates and maintenance to provide a monthly retainer. This is to ensure I have time and resources to be available when needed. I am always an email or phone call away. The retainer acts as a deposit which includes a set amount of hours available for responses and additional work on a website.

Let's Work Together

Now that you have an understanding of the process of working with me as your web developer, if you would like to see what we can do together feel free to reach out to me. You don’t need to have everything ready now, but I’d love to hear what you need and share what I can do for you.