How We Work
Good process is everything.
Why Process Matters
We're obsessed with process. An effective process makes complicated projects manageable by breaking them down into bite-sized, logical steps.
Our process is designed to be highly collaborative and includes five key touchpoints to gather your feedback and ideas. It also ensures that you know exactly what is expected of you and when it's expected, and lets you feel confident where things are headed.
We've tweaked and refined this process over the years to make it as smooth and effective (and fun!) as possible for you and your team. Let's build something amazing together!
Before diving into the actual website, it’s worth spending some time with your web design firm clarifying your goals, identifying who you’re targeting, and defining who your competitors are. Otherwise, you’ll likely spend a ton of money putting your old website in a fancier package.
If you already have a clear sense of your goals, audience, and competition, this might be a fairly simple process of communicating this information to your web designer. But if you haven’t done this recently, we'll include a discovery session before diving into a web project.
This session can involve your staff, leadership, and other stakeholders working through a number of discussion questions and exercises to identify what you want.
We'll also extensively review your existing website, printed collateral, brand guidelines, and any other documents foundational to your business/organization. We’ll spend some time getting a sense of what your competitors are doing and ensure they understand how you differentiate yourself.
Sitemap + Content Plan
The first deliverable is the sitemap, which is a basic flow chart of the pages on your site.
The sitemap outlines the site architecture and identifies all of the pages that will be included in the new site. You’ll use this to identify what content needs to be written or revised. The sitemap should organize the parts of your work into a logical structure that makes it easy for users to understand who you are as an organization and answer their questions.
A couple key questions to answer are:
- Who are you? (About page)
- What do you do? (Programs, services, products, etc.)
- Why do you do it? (Mission, purpose)
Once we've finalized the sitemap, we'll put together a content plan to help you identify what needs to be written or revised, then we'll make a plan on how to get it all done.
The next phase is in my process is the prototype, a fully functional website using placeholder images, dummy text, and bare-bones functionality. The point of this phase is to let you click around the site and get a feel for the user experience without being distracted by design elements.
During this phase, I encourage my clients to pretend they are a specific user type (e.g. a donor, a program participant, etc.) to see how quickly they can find the information they’re looking for.
Many clients come alive at this phase because they finally have a tangible website to use and provide direct feedback on. We can talk all day about building a filterable grid or donation user flow, but for non-web-designers, it can be hard to picture exactly what we’re talking about.
The prototype ensures we’re all on the same page before going deep into the design or coding.
In the visual design phase, we'll design the look and feel of the site including typography, layout, colors, and photography. We usually design the homepage and 1-3 other key pages for your review.
If you aren’t a designer, it can be intimidating to provide feedback on the visual design. I recommend you focus on the feel of the design and whether it captures the feeling your target audience associates with your organization.
If you have defined brand guidelines, you’ll want to confirm at this phase that it meets all the specifications.
Once all of your content is complete and the previous steps have been signed off on, it’s time to build the fully designed/coded website. This phase is the most time-intensive for the web design firm but—assuming you’ve already provided all of the content, images, and feedback requested—is a relatively quiet phase on the client end. Just sit back and enjoy a quick break before the revision rounds.
Once the draft site is submitted, it’s time for revisions. We use a handy tool that allows you to add comments directly to the web pages, including mobile versions.
Our process includes two rounds of revisions. Here’s what a typical revision process looks like:
- You review the site and share it with any other staff members, board members, and other stakeholders.
- You'll submit your requests and questions using the Markup tool. Make sure to read and consider each request you received from colleagues. Sometimes people will request changes that others disagree with. Only include requests that have been carefully vetted and agreed upon.
- We'll meet to review your requests and ensure everything is doable and in-line with the goals of the site.
- We'll make the changes and send you the updated site.
- Repeat steps 1-4 for Round 2.
After the revisions have been completed, we'll run through our extensive pre-launch checklist to make sure everything is ready. We'll help you set up a your hosting server, connect analytics, and finish optimizing the site for search engines.
Finally, on your cue, we launch your site to the world!
After launch, most projects include 30 days of free support and maintenance. During this time, we'll train you on how to update your website content and make sure you have a good grasp on things. Then you'll be invited to optionally subscribe for one of our Website Care Plans if you want us to continue to keep your site secure, updated, and maintained. Otherwise we'll hand the site over to you to manage on your own.