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The standard web development process typically is:

Sounds easy enough right? But each step is fraught with danger.

Initial Phone Call
In this step you really need to ask the right questions. I personally have had people wanting me to build the next eBay with a budget of under $1000. This person is obviously a dreamer. Probably the most important things to find out in this step is what they want and what their budget is. That way, you don’t waste any time on a meeting with someone who wants you to create something outside your skill set, or with an unrealistic budget. Never tell them what the cost the site will be at this stage, you can give a ballpark figure, but never an actual cost. Chances are they will want a lot more than what they mention on the phone.

It is in the meetings where you find out what they want by asking them. However, you need to be careful here because it can open a can of worms. You need to take control and ask them specific questions such as:
“What do you want to achieve? Do you just want to raise awareness with an online brochure? or are you looking to sell a lot of your products online though e-commerce?”.
“Are there any sites that you like the design of? which parts about them do you like?”

Take control and don’t let them rant.

Meeting 2
At this point you would put together a proposal outlining what each page has on it and its features. Be very specific about every part of the site because clients tend to assume things. For example, if you had a page just to display their products you must mention that there wont be e-commerce abilities. Otherwise they may turn around at the end of the project and say “oh, I thought people would be able to buy the products though that page?”.

Once the client agrees on your proposed design you MUST get them to sign a contract. It will save you so many headaches later. You may think that because your client is your uncle you wont need a contract. One little assumption on their behalf and things can get very ugly. The contract needs to specify how and when the client will pay you including penalties for late payment. I have heard many horror stories from other web developers where they completed the website to perfect specification and didn’t get paid for a very long time, or; the client never paid, the developer shut down the website due to non-payment and the client sued them for loss of income.

Web Development For Clients

Proposed Designs
In this step you would design some layouts and hope they like one of them, but where does it stop? what if they don’t like any of 3 designs you do? what if they don’t like the next 3 designs you do either? This is where you need to have a proposed design limit built into the contract. My own contracts have the following clause:

3. Design Revisions
The client may have up to 2 major revisions and can choose up to 3 minor revisions (the total of the 3 minor revisions may count as a single major revision) during the design phase of the website. A major revision is changing 30% or more of the layout at a time. After 2 major revisions the client will pay for any changes to the layout at the Provider’s regular hourly fee.
If the website design approval has already been signed, any additional design changes beyond this will be charged at the Provider’s regular hourly fee.

The contract should also specify how quickly they need to get back to you with approval for the designs. Jobs which would have taken 1 week to complete can be stretched out for months if the client doesn’t get back to you quick enough. If my contracts I have the following clause:

The client must respond to the Provider within 1-2 days for any questions the Provider may need to ask and for approvals unless previously notified by the client that the client will not be able to respond within 2 days. In this event, the Provider reserves the right to adjust the project deadline accordingly.

Once the client agrees to a design, get them to sign their approval so it cannot be changed later in the project unless they pay extra.

One Page Development
Use this step as a “last chance to change anything” for your client. Make sure they are happy with the single page including the layout, fonts and pictures that were used. Be sure that they know that after this step it will cost extra to make any changes later down the track.

Create The Site
Hopefully by this stage if you steered your client enough they shouldn’t be dropping any “can we have…?” bombs on you. If they do, I hope you got that contract signed in the earlier stages so you can easily charge for any extra work.

When the site is completed you should get them to sign-off on the project saying that it is completed to their specification. The contract also needs to reflect this. In my contracts I use:

4. Project Completion
When the project is complete there will be a Project Signoff form where, once signed any additional work requested will require a new contract and additional payment.

If they contact me months after the project was finished to add their new idea to the site, I am not expected to do the work for free just because I was the person who created the site.

Setup and Hosting
This is the point where you would typically publish the website on the internet. However, you need to be careful about publishing before payment. If the website is static (that is, no database backend) or your client resides overseas you should never publish before payment. Its too easy for them to save the web page and make a run for it. For these clients, watermarked screenshots are best to prove the project has been finished.

As for hosting, you need to make sure you have a terms of service which outlines what they can and cant do on their hosting space. If you are reselling hosting space you need to make sure that you include their terms into your terms of service. Otherwise you may find yourself stuck in the middle when your terms of service don’t disallow something, but your upstream hosting provider does. Once they are signed up and settled in, hosting can be a great way to keep earning money off your client.

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