Starting a design project can be overwhelming. You are handing over control of your business’s visual identity to someone you barely know – if only temporarily. If you don’t have design experience, you may not understand exactly what is going on as your designer works. You aren’t involved as the actual design is happening, so you only see progress in the form of periodic updates, not day-to-day.
I understand the desire to have your fingers in every pie when it comes to your business. But no one can do everything alone. Sometimes, we have to turn over the reins in order to maintain our sanity. And that requires trust.
You must trust that I know what I’m doing. You must trust that I am doing the work that is best for your business.
We both have to trust that the other is representing herself honestly, and being upfront with any pertinent information.
In the interest of developing that trust, I have created this comprehensive guide to my design process. Use this as a basic outline of what to expect when we start your design project. The details might be different depending on your project, but the overall experience is the same.
Tools of the TradeMy Preferred Tools
WordPress is a powerful content management system, versatile enough to be suitable for almost any type of website. From a single landing page to a complex e-commerce site, WordPress is capable of handling it.
User-friendliness is just one of WordPress’s high points. There is no need to be familiar with HTML or CSS to utilize WordPress, so you can easily update content once your site is in place. And, there is a great WordPress community in place that offers support, answers questions, and provides amazing plug-ins that increase website functionality. WordPress is open source software, which means that developers around the world are constantly working to improve WordPress, and make it better and more robust than it already is.
Nearly all website hosts have a one-click install option for WordPress, making it oh-so-easy to get your site set up and start styling it. A WordPress website grows with your business, so you can start with a single landing page and next week, next month, or next year – when you’re ready to expand – there’s no need to investigate and learn new software.
And, best of all, installing WordPress on your web host – as well as a large portion of its features and plugins – is absolutely free!
Don’t want to go the self-hosted route? I also offer packages suitable for websites built using SquareSpace, Wix, and other popular DIY platforms.
DIVI & ELEGANT THEMES
For custom websites, I recommend the awesome Divi Theme from Elegant Themes. Divi comes bundled with multiple features that other WordPress themes require plugins to use: Calls to Action, Testimonials, Sliders, and more. Divi is completely responsive, so your site will look great on any number of devices. And, it has been used to develop a variety of site types, including this one!
Don’t want to use Divi? That’s okay; Elegant Themes has many gorgeous, pre-made WordPress themes for your website, and I can work with them, too. In fact, there are literally thousands of free and premium themes across the web designed for WordPress, so if you choose to not go the completely custom route, you are not without options.
I have a lifetime Developer’s license for Divi, which means I can use it on your site as well as any others. However, if you prefer to purchase your own usage license, consider using this affiliate link: Elegant Themes.
BLUEHOST SET UP
There are a lot of options for hosting your website. The most well-known, of course, is GoDaddy.com. I personally recommend Bluehost.com. I’ve used it myself for 7+ years, and have no complaints. Bluehost has excellent customer service, great rates, and plenty of bells and whistles to choose from – even though you don’t really need them, as I’ll set your WordPress site up with everything it needs, like security, backups, etc.
Need some help getting your hosting service set up? You can download a free step-by-step instructional to the left. Need more help? Contact me.
REQUIRED CONTRIBUTIONSThe Information I Need From You
Log-in information, usernames, passwords, etc., are not shared with anyone outside of the project, and even then, not without express permission.
ALL THE LOGINS
If I can’t get to your website, I can’t work on your website. In order to give you the best design possible, I will need access to your hosting service account and your WordPress login – at a minimum. The extent of your project dictates any other login information I might need, including, but not limited to, your e-mail campaign manager or social media accounts.
Don’t worry – you won’t have to hand these over willy nilly. I’ll provide you with a form requesting all of the needed information.
Set up a Pinterest board to collect inspiring images for your identity or website design. It can be a public or a secret board, but I’ll need access to it.
In preparation for your design project, you should be collecting images, fonts, links, etc. that inspire the design style you want. Images that include your desired color palette(s), sites you find particularly inspiring, and font styles that fit with your brand are good places to start.
During your collecting, don’t censor yourself. If something speaks to you, add it to your inspiration file. When the design project begins, I can go through this file (making a Pinterest board is best; see left) and identify the recurring themes. I can then create a mood or inspiration board that acts as a visual guide for the whole project.
If we’re working together on an identity design project, feel free to skip this section.
However, if your identity design is already in place, I will need all that information: Brand colors, brand fonts, all the visual elements that make your brand your brand.
The design process is a collaborative one. When you sign on for a design project, you must commit to giving feedback in a timely manner. Otherwise, your project will run on for much longer than anticipated, and may end up costing you more in the end.
Unless otherwise specified, the client is responsible for providing any website content such as graphics, photographs, and copy.
TERMSThe Nitty Gritty
The following are simple summaries of my project terms. They are laid out more fully in the Design Services Agreement.
I require a non-refundable 30% deposit upon signing of the Design Services Agreement. During the project, two 30% payments are invoiced. The final 10% of the project fee is due upon completion. All payments are invoiced on a net 0 basis. Payment is due before work can proceed, and before the final project files are delivered.
Smaller projects are billed entirely up front, or are split: a 70% deposit and a 30% balance before delivery.
Payments are accepted primarily via PayPal, with which you can use your own PayPal account, any major credit card, or an e-check from your bank. I am available to discuss payment plans, if that is something you need.
I block out 8 weeks for each of my design projects, although most can be completed before then. To stay within this 8-week timeframe, it is imperative that you have as much of your content as possible ready before the start date. This also helps me to design around the amount of content you have on a page.
If you don’t have all of your content ready for a particular page, that’s okay. Using dummy content, I can create a mockup of what the page will look like once your content is in place.
Projects can be cancelled at any time without penalty before signing the Design Services Agreement.
The deposit is non-refundable, and payment is due for work done before the project was cancelled. Only completed elements will be delivered. Rights for partially completed elements can be purchased separately. Otherwise, I retain the rights.
I require a credit line in the footer of your website (if applicable), consisting of my name and a link to my website. I also add my name and website (along with yours!) to your website’s stylesheet. I reserve the right to use images of and links to your project on my website, in my portfolio, and in any promotional materials.
PROJECT WORKFLOWThe Step-by-Step Process
Links to all of the documents pertinent to your project, as well as our primary means of communication, will be located on a password-protected page on my website. I will provide you with the URL and password when the project begins.
- The kickoff step to our workflow is to contact me and express interest in working together. Maybe schedule a consult call. Chances are you’ve already done that, and that’s how you got here. Hopefully, I’ve answered any questions you have, and have given you clarity on my design process, but if not, just let me know.
- When you’re ready to proceed, I’ll give you a choice of start dates, with a 4-week lead time. Choose your start date based on when you can have your content ready, and when you can devote time to reviewing and feedback. Block out 8 weeks for the duration of your project.
- You’ve chosen your package, alerted me to any desired customizations, and picked your start date. At this point, we start solidifying our relationship. First, I will send you a custom quote, so you can confirm your design package and choose any extras. Quotes do not include any fees associated with elements outside my services (plugins, licenses, etc.).
- After you’ve accepted the quote, you’ll receive the Design Services Agreement. The Agreement will outline the project scope, payment schedule, and the terms of our agreement. Your deposit will be invoiced at this time. You will be able to sign the Agreement and pay your deposit electronically. Your project is not officially on my calendar until I receive your deposit!
- I’ve received your deposit and your project is written in ink on my calendar. It’s time for you to start gathering your inspiration, content, and images.
- I’ll be providing you with detailed questionnaires to guide me with your project. Fill these out in as much detail as possible. These should be completed at least 1 week prior to your scheduled start date.
- At this point, I’ll get started working on your project! I’ll provide you with regular updates so you always know where we are in the design process!
This checklist helps you keep track of what you need to do in preparation for your project. Some items may not be applicable to your project, but no worries! Just cross it out and fuhgettaboutit!