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Honest Critique please (Moderators encouraged!)

Okay. So, I am starting the beginnings of my web design business, and I have come to make a "list" of procedure when a client approaches me to perform a duty for them (I will not just be offering website design but word processing, resume creation, pamphlets, booklets, ect) and I need a hard list of protocol for the business license application (why, I dunno...) but here's my list. Please give brutally honest opinions, just don't insult me or something. If it is constructive criticism, I can handle it. Maybe perhaps you pretend you are a customer?

1.) Contact is made by the customer, asking for a website for their pet or young child, and leaves me a message about it. I reply as soon as I can.

2.) I then contact them back in the way THEY contacted ME, unless otherwise requested. I set up a meeting over coffee or something, and for safety, my husband (or assistant in the terminology I use for him) attends with me. I never show up in Jeans if I can help it, and always have a fresh appearance, as well as never eating food before the client (it looks poorly). I get ideas about what the customer wants, and get a feel for their personality and that of the intended website target (if present.) We discuss my fees, why and what they are paying for, and if they accept, I present them with a contract of sale, which doubles as a reciept. (On it are rights and expectations of both client and designer, and that all copyright of all material are belonging to myself, with full usage granted to the customer. This is to protect my work, and leave a step out for the company [copyright infringement]. This way I deal with legal matters concerning logo theft and/or HTML theft). We keep 1 original each party, and the price is written in ink on both copies and becomes non-negotiable unless I perform so badly that it is contestable that I have done an unacceptable job, in which case they get a refund, or I redesign the site.

3.) We then arrange to reconvine in a few days so I can design and supply a proposal letter, a color pallate, competitive analysis, site map, and wireframe to present my ideas and opinions to the customer based off the company peers and competion, target audience, and other variables. If the customer likes this scheme, we go ahead, and I request files like wanted site content, images, or files they want used, logos, ect. If these items are not available or do not exist, I will make them for a charge, which would have been discussed previously. If it has not, I make a SEPARATE reciept and treat it as a separate job. Photography also would be on it's own charge, as I am also offering that service.

4.) If everything is acceptable and the client likes the intended project so far, I go ahead and start with the smaller projects (logos, graphics, and photographs). I then send them a non-savable copy via email with a watermark on (notifying that the watermark will be gone when it is up on the website) so they can approve/disprove/provide commentary. If acceptable, I recieve payment for that section of the project.

5.) If all is acceptable, I go ahead and design a basic cookie-cut of the main page, with greeked content, to display the visual aesthetics of the site. This will be hosted temporarily on Frihost for them to click-view.

6.) If acceptable, I proceed and finalize the website in full. The user is sent a link to confirm they like the final page, if they want it changed, or whatever. If good, payment is requested, then once it is made, I supply a CD containing all of the files, images, logos, HTML files, ect, with a copyright statement, and an instrictional how-to to apply the files to their own domain site. I keep a hard backup copy of all files, and if needed, I will make copies at their request.

7.) If they wand originals of the photographs/logos/graphics, I supply at a fee, and at request, will waive copyright, but will retain a fee for any image used commercially, and this will be on a contract reciept as well.

8.) I contact the client in a week or so, and check to make sure they are satisfied. If not, we start again. If so, I carry on.

What is your honest opinion?
Constructive advice:
a) Don't expect to get many commissions from businesses - at least not until you are well established. They tend to use known suppliers for services such as web design. Your best bet for a target audience would be home users wanting to construct home-sites or perhaps ultra-small businesses like corner shops, window-cleaners, mobile hairdressers etc.

b) Beware time-wasters. You will almost certainly find yourself commissioned to produce websites, put a large amount of work into it, and get nothing in return. I would advise against the 'meet over coffee' idea. Better to either go to the potential client or have them come to you. There is nothing wrong with having a potential client come over to your house, rather than an impressive industrial unit - they will not be paying top commercial dollar and will not be expecting Microsoft. The reason for this is that my own experience is that meeting in a cafe or other public venue often means you haven't got access to the vital widget, document, phone number, portfolio example that you really want when you find out what the client is after. It also encourages time-wasters (if they regard it as a chat over coffee with someone with no commitment rather than a serious meeting at a set venue).

c) Are you sure you are ready for this? Are you familiar with Web2 standards? Have you any experience with php/mysql? Those are two things that I would consider absolute essentially for almost any business website creation. Have you got existing examples of websites you have designed? If so are they good enough? Do they have integrated back-end processing (customer database, on-line ordering/payment etc?). You may be better starting with simpler stuff like preparing CVs and the other things you mention before jumping into the web-creation business. On the other hand, if you think you do have the skills, and a portfolio of existing work to show a client, then go for it...
a) Absolutely. I know I'm either going to get the eccentrics who want a site for their dog, or local home grown businesses.

b) Time-Wasters are why I ask for a deposit first. That way of they abandon the project, they lose the deposit. I also live in a second-floor apartment building with my husband's parents whom are building managers, and I am not allowed to operate the business in the apartment. I also do not have a car, so I am restricted to bus routes, and coffee stops are public in location so I not only feel safer, but the client doesn't feel "trapped"with me in their house and can't tell me to leave - they can just get up and walk out of the place. If they live halfway up a mountain, I would have to tell them I can't meet them. Also, they will be contacting me - likely from a home or cell phone or email address, and that way I contact them back. Also, my website will be on my flyers and business cards, this way they can see my portfolio and prices before they contact me. So, the coffee meeting would be about expectations and paperwork.

c) No, I'm not sure. Am I ever going to be sure? Lol. I'm not even out of school yet and have a good few more classes to get through before I'm done. I haven't done php or mysql or anything of the sort yet, if I do. They seem to teach me the basics of what is required to perform at market standard, so I assume I will learn all that yet. They made me cover Javascript in 7 days and I still can't tell you what it's supposed to look like. I can however c and p code into an xhtml document and outsource it properly. I even have yet to buy a business license, design the website, get the flyers and business cards made, and obtain an external hard drive. Seems like I am being taught to make simpler, basic sites instead of corporate, huge online sales material. My final project will be a portfolio; I haven't started it yet. I will hopefully be finished school in January or February, course load about 10 more books...
In that case forget web design for the moment because it will end in tears. Stick to the other stuff until you have a lot more knowledge and experience...

You can get much of that knowledge and experience by designing some sites for yourself, or free for others. You can't start doing it commercially until you have that knowledge and experience.
Time wasters! The client that knows exactly what they don't want when they see and only give you a vague clue about what they want. That eats a lot of your time (money).
Best of luck to you.
Bikerman wrote:
In that case forget web design for the moment because it will end in tears. Stick to the other stuff until you have a lot more knowledge and experience...

You can get much of that knowledge and experience by designing some sites for yourself, or free for others. You can't start doing it commercially until you have that knowledge and experience.

I have to concur.
At this time, unless you know php as well as your HTML, forget about seriously getting into web design. Java is fine and all, but it's usually NOT the way to go. Before you can seriously entertain the needs of clients, you're going to need php/mysql.

How are you for image creation?

It's not a bad idea to get started into HTML5 too if you can.
I haven't even finished the class yet nor have I gotten any hard books yet so lets see what they teach me hmm? I was asking for advice on the process only, not whether you believe I am ready. Obviously this is a hard task.

Someone please lock this.
The actual process can be done in two ways.
a) Paper prototyping. Sounds daft/primitive but it works. As the name suggests it involves sitting with the client and prototyping the site using bits of paper to represent screens. This is a technique used by many software developers as well as website developers, even in cutting edge companies. I actually teach paper prototyping to my BTEC Level 3 students as part of the course.

b) On-screen prototyping. You sit with the client and take them through a selection of site templates already prepared. You get a feeling for requirements for screen layout, colour scheme, menu positions and types etc and then normally work from the base template to build the actual site.

Anyhoo...thread locked as requested.
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