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Website Designers



As with any skill, website designers have varying levels of knowledge, experience and integrity, from rank amateurs who throw together quick and dirty sites with canned templates to professionals like me with years of experience, related skills, previous work you can review, and clients who will vouch for me.

The mass-market template-bound operations have their place, depending on your needs. They are usually cheap or free, require little technical knowledge, provide a customer browser interface for site design and management, and have 100's or even 1000's of templates to choose from. I know WordPress even has it's own Registrar so you can skip that step (but if you ever cancel the site you loose the domain unless you transfer it first). These are great for low-tech end users who want to build and manage their own simple sites at low cost. But there is a price. You're stuck with their templates and severly limited access to do any custom work outside of those templates. Even then, it's been my experience that for some more advanced features there is a learning curve as steep as just learning to hand code in the first place, and even then there are still frustrating limitations.


The Process

Building a website is like building a house. First you need to own the property: the domain name, which is purchased and periodically renewed through a Registrar, have suitible land to build on: a hosting service to store and deliver the page files as browsers request them and an architect: you and the website designer need to come up with a design, which is much easier to improve as you go than a house design.

The Foundation

Construction starts with the foundation: establishing and organizing the hosting server files (one per page and some extras) and a private mirrored staging server on my computer for testing before going live. Special features and functionality, like image archives, shopping carts and Website Security Certificates, need to be decided at this time. Then I can try to estimate hours and costs, but be aware that this is very difficult and estimates can be off by over 100% when unanticipated requests or complications arise.

Framing

Then comes the framing: usually a master page layout, organization of what goes on which pages, the main menu, navigation and other structural items.

Finishing

Now you're ready for dry-walling, then finish carpentry, furniture, polishing and cleanup, in that order: building and refining background art, individual pages, which involves gathering, processing and editing text, media, links and building forms or other special functionality. This is the meticulous phase that usuall takes the most time.

My own process is not to waste time prettying up pages likely to change during a later stage. I may throw in dummy images, lorem ipsum text or place holders for items not yet available, and provide private viewing for the client to review before proceeding, like touring the house before the dry-wall goes up, and at each stage thereafter. It helps and saves time and money if the client knows not to expect final layouts and other refinements until later stages. Better to keep notes as we go along and address them when most efficient. You may have noticed this page has no images (yet), other than the master page graphics that appear on every page.

It also helps if the client can be timely in reviewing and responding, and prepare polished and proofed text and media so I can just drop them in.


My Services

I build custom websites for special clients that I get to know a bit, and feel in tune with. Aesthics, functionality, legibility, navigation and, of course, client satisfaction are my highest priorities.

If you look over some of my previous work you will see that I avoid large stark white areas which can cause eyestrain, poor sleep and other unhealthy stresses. A video screen is not reflective paper, but an active light source. Staring at a bright white light bulb for hours on end can't be good for you, as many studies have shown. There are other ways to portray crisp confidence on a website

I mostly do non-profits, performance, event, personal, art oriented and a few commercial sites, like this one, and CrestonBliss.com. You can visit some of them using the MEM Client links on the Home page.

I have, have access to or can create a large selection of free or low cost royalty-free music and other media, which also supports my web design and video production projects. You might also want to check out some Design Aids I have provided.

I hand code everything, except for a few complex packages that only an outside specialized vendor can do properly and keep maintained, like the JAlbum image archive package. My regular tools include HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MYSQL, Apache, PhotoShop, Transmit and many more. Over the years I have created some of my own templates which speed up the work on new sites, but I can modify them whenever need be.

For example, I spent about 3 volunteer years building a comprehesive MYSQL relational database for a non-profit client, designed so I was able to relatively easily repurpose and port it to another client's website at a huge savings. This is just one item in the bag of tricks I have developed over the years.

The challenges of accommodating smaller screens has been mostly handled with new development tools and procedures. This website is an example. You can make your browser window as narrow and as wide as it will go, and view pages on your smart phone to see how this works.

My rate is $50/hr. My time clock has a pause button in easy reach. I do not bill for time spent getting stuck for too long on something I should have known, or on developing my own general skills and resources, like for example, researchng shopping carts, which just goes into my bag of tricks for all clients. If you want me to invent a specialized voting system just for your site, that's billable, but I already have a template for that particular job.

In exchange for access to my mutable templates I reserve the right to pass on to other clients any code, templates or techniques I develop. That way everybody wins.