As with any web design agency, I thoroughly research and use industry recognised products, platforms and frameworks to give what in my view is the best solution to the requirements of my clients. In the last year I have come to believe that platforms such as Shopify, Squarespace and Wordpress are now sophisticated enough interface and administration systems to allow us to work with the pre-built tools and concentrate on design, user experience and keeping the cost down when designing for small businesses.
The coverage and scope of these platforms means that the administration features from just keeping a portfolio up to date to running a fully fledged store substantially outweigh those of a bespoke system anywhere near that price. With large teams constantly working to improve the product and an administration interface that has been intuitively designed over time by tried and tested means with a large customer base to feedback on. With simple drag and drop editing, multi-image upload and galleries, easy forms, built in ecommerce management, and automated social linking to name but a few. And, without the need to worry about ongoing updates, maintenance or security patches as this again is handled by the platform such as the recent upgrading to https://.
On top of price and a wide variety of features and online store management I choose these platforms as a freelancer for peace of mind for my clients. As it means they are not wedded to me in the future, and if I happen to be on holiday for example, or worse go out of business! The hosting, maintenance and smooth running of the website is not dependent on me but that of a large established organisation with dedicated and easy to contact support channels.
That is not to say that this solution is right for everything, some projects have unique needs and require or would benefit from a bespoke build and certainly bigger businesses will find that bespoke becomes the better option largely due to economies of scale. At a certain size there is a tipping point where the benefits of bespoke will start to outweigh that of an off the shelf platform with elements such as dedicated processes, website speed, security and bandwidth.
These platforms offer themes as a starting point from which to tailor the design to fit the business brand and objectives. On first thought this may seem worrying that there are identikit websites out there but a theme that lends itself to your business sector has the right context and can be customised to fit. When finished, with the right design and user experience they look very different from the original giving the uniqueness we want.
Design & CSS styling
Once the theme has been selected and installed, design and customisation of the theme takes place covering visual design and the user journey - what the customer needs from the website and what the business need from the customer.
This will include both graphic design and CSS & HTML coding and influences the text styling and layout, choosing an image style and sourcing or photographing a set of images, creating graphics, icons, banners, designing ‘call to action’ buttons, promotions, etc. More about style guides here.
With that large development team and constant improvements to the platforms the administration is easy to pick up but training helps to get the best from a system. I personally carry out one to one, or one to a group training on using the website Content Management System (CMS), updating content, adding blog posts, managing admin users and pushing content direct from email or to social accounts. Also involved is getting the best use from the administration system and the features on offer such as setting up new forms, managing your online store or taking credit card payments over the phone.
Analytics set up
Metrics come as standard on the dashboard of these websites and in Shopify custom reports are easy to set up. On top of this it's worth having Google Analytics useful for digital marketing in the future or just as a good understanding of traffic and more in depth report facilities.
Each website has an XML sitemap which should be submitted to Google via the Google WebMaster Tools to enable search engines to locate and rank the website.
Domain & Email setup
Once the website is ready I ask for the login details of where the domain name (URL) was purchased - usually a provider such as 123Reg or 1&1 - and from here set the DNS records to point to the new website.
I also make sure a mail box set is up within the domain provider so that it is possible to receive emails @yourdomain and we can then set this up on your laptop, tablet and phone as well.
When ready, I set a soft launch on the secondary domain for a final test and check before pointing the primary domain name at the live site. Once done it's good practice to check old websites are deactivated and closed down as well as monitoring the new site closely for a week to check it is running smoothly and you are getting the best from it.
I am a freelance Website Designer, Logo Designer and Graphic Designer based in Suffolk.
Contact me for more information.