Think of Me as the Steady, Friendly Hand at Your Website's Till
Executive Summary For Those in a Hurry (i.e. All of Us)
building a website can be complex and daunting. Sometimes you might feel as though you’re traversing a dark, storm-tossed sea; a sea filled with dyspeptic giant octopi and swirling whirlpools. Oh, and all you have is a rubber dinghy.
I see my key role—gained through 10 years of experience—as helping you navigate these treacherous waters in my sturdy clipper, the S.S. Restless Bee. I'm a hands-on captain: I'll draft nautical maps, swab the decks (I guess the metaphor here would entail the more tedious parts of coding), hail, and communicate with, other ships, and so on. And ever so gently guide us into port (that would be site launch. Am I pushing this too far?).
Of course, part of a captain's role is to delegate when necessary. While I can design, code, and CMSify a site from soup-to-nuts, there will be times when aspects of a project are too complex, or just outside of my wheelhouse (I'm so sorry); in these cases I'll help find the right programmer, IA specialist, cat-herder—whoever is needed. And I can talk their talk, given my experience working on teams. If you have never worked on building a website, trust me—you don't want to head in cold to a talk with some of the more-—er—technical programmers out there.
OK! The Allegory of the Sea is over—promise.
Here is the closest I get to a direct sales pitch: I design. I aim to design very well, and in whatever mode best suits my clients' needs. And I do responsive coding. Again, I try to do it very well, using current best practices. Between these two things, I am a web design chimera; we're not in huge supply right now, and we’re precisely the hybrid creatures who are needed for the complex intermingling of code and design that the responsive world demands.
Let's get down to the bullet points. Here's what I focus on doing very well:
- Graphic and Interface Design: I favor a simple, modern approach that puts the spotlight where it belongs: on your content. Need a professional look? I can do that. A fun, playful site? Sure thing. I've designed everything from simple brochure sites to complex web applications.
- Responsive Coding Using HTML5 and CSS3: I hand-code HTML5 and CSS3, and am as meticulous about crafting beautiful code as I am about creating gorgeous designs. I know my way around jQuery, which can be used to add rich interactivity to your site.
- CMS Setups and Buildouts: A CMS, if you don't live with me in nerd-world, is a content management system; it's what allows you to easily update your site content and assets without relying on a technical person like me. I work primarily with ExpressionEngine, a system that is simultaneously powerful and user-friendly.
- SEO Fundamentals: As you might be aware, there is a whole industry devoted to upping your site's Google rankings. It's an industry often mentioned in the same breath as "snake oil." Google's ranking algorithm is, to a large extent, a black box, and an ever-changing one at that; anyone who claims to have all the secrets is to be ran away from, quickly. But there are three very basic pillars to search-engine optimization: (1) coding a site using best practices and semantics (that's my job; I take it very seriously), (2) writing compelling content that makes judicious use of like search keywords and (3) getting your content linked to in ethical ways from other, reputable sites. Those last two are up to you, but I can offer guidance. There you have it: SEO in two sentences.
- …and a Whole Lot of Miscellany: From start to finish, launching a website involves a hundred small and large tasks, maybe more. I have experience with information architecture, usability testing, hosting and site migrations, art direction, blog setup, basic logo design and branding (i.e. I can make you a lovely, type-based logo and business cards), prototyping, storyboarding, wireframing, content editing. In ten years, by necessity, you pick up a lot of skills here and there.
And as much as I try to be a jack of all trades—well, I trust you know the rest of that saying. I try to be perfectly transparent about what I don't do. The first, big point: I'm not a programmer, AKA a back-end developer. To the extent that I call myself it's a developer, it's in the capacity of a front-end coder and a CMS implementer. I can't write a giant PHP e-commerce app; that's for people with brains the the size of planetoids and hourly rates to match. I actively avoid anything complicated in WordPress, and anything at all to do with Drupal or Joomla or the like. They're all great CMS's and all serve a purpose, but you have to pick your battles.
On my previous site, I had a little chart, going stepwise from kickoff meeting to launch. It was pretty, and it was also pretty much useless. While there are steps that most every project will have in common, every project is a unique snowflake, and I mean that very sincerely. A benefit of working with me is my flexibility; I can adapt my process as needed to the job at hand.
So, bye-bye little chart. Instead, let me tell you how the earliest stages of my process work. You get in touch with me, via email or phone, and we have a very quick exchange in which I just feel out whether what you're after is even in the realm of projects I can take on, and whether I can take them on in a way that matches your schedule. If those two things are a go, we have a quick phone conversation—20, 25 minutes—in which I ask some general questions about your project, and you ask me any questions you have about how I work. Please trust that I am not a hard sell guy and I'm not looking to get you in my sales funnel; I'm pleasant, easy to talk to, and work hard at adapting my vocabulary to whatever your technical comfort level is.
After that call, I will send you a ballpark estimate. This is totally non-binding, and unless it‘s a very small project, will likely entail a fairly wide range. You compare my ballpark to your budget, and if you decide you'd like to work with me, we have a longer phone call, in which I get the details I need to give you a tight estimate. Out of this comes a proposal. Again, until you've signed on the dotted line, nothing is binding. It's a risk I take—this initial stage, between the actual calls and my background work, usually takes 4 or so hours, but that's part of how this weird business works.
SO WHAT'S THIS ALL GONNA COST?
OK, seriously: as my early-stage process description describes above, I need to collect a minimum of information from you before even taking a wild-ass guess. Websites aren't widgets; they are, in fact, about as different from widgets as you can get. So I'll just say two things.
First, I aim, and have a track record of which I'm proud, for complete honesty and transparency. You will never get a surprise bill from me; if I seem headed toward busting an estimate, you'll receive plenty of advance warning.
Second: my rates are commensurate for a designer/coder with 10 years experience, and with my portfolio. I'm not cheap, but I also don't charge crazy agency prices. And—to head one last time down Ye Olde Sales-Pitch way—using someone like me, in the responsive/mobile era, means you can save real cash, because there is not all the expensive back and forth between two individuals, Joe Designer and Ann Coder, when a tag-team is working on the design-build stage. I am your one-man tag team! Sometimes I even hold meetings between designer-me and coder-me.