Over the course of the past year, my blog design process has evolved, but some of the core fundamentals have always existed. I’m particularly proud of this process; I believe it is something that sets me apart from other designers. Today, I’m going to walk you through my process.
When I began designing websites, I used that experience to define my goals for the process experience. With each custom design process, my goal is that the following is achieved:
- Clients feel empowered and excited throughout the process.
- Clients are 100% confident that their logo, website, and subsequent assets adequately represent their brand.
- This process should maximize my creative potential as well as be profitable for me.
By defining these goals, as I’ve made adjustments to my process, I have always kept the focus on what I wanted to achieve with my customer relationships as well as my work.
1 – Inquiry
Once a potential client emails me with interest in a blog or web design, I follow up with a pricing pdf and questions about their project. They are required to complete these questions before I schedule a meeting. We then arrange a time for a meeting. If the person lives in Chicago, I try to do in person meetings, but often these meetings occur either on Skype or over the phone. In these meetings, I go over specific questions I have based on their questionnaire answers, and we outline everything that is included in the project, timeframe, and budget.
If when the client sends back the questionnaire, I believe that I’m not a good fit or a premade would be the better option, I will explain why and refer the client elsewhere or to the premade blog shop.
2 – Welcome Package + Research
After the initial meeting, I follow up with a “welcome package.” This package includes in the invoice for the project’s deposit (50%), project contract, as well as an outline of the client homework. I will also send the client a link to a Dropbox, where he/she can upload any and all materials needed for the project. In my contract, I specify that clients have five business days to return feedback to me. This allows me to plan and schedule projects accordingly. It also keeps the project “fresh.” This timeframe also gives clients enough time “to sleep” on the project. During this time, I also do research into the client’s current website and social media. I get a better idea of where they’ve been (current content) and where they want to go (based on our conversation).
3 – Logo Development – 2-3 weeks.
If the project involves the creation of the logo, this step is addressed first. The logo development spans about two-three weeks. This branding package is different than the custom header option offered in the premade shop. Logo development goes through 3 different rounds.
- Step 1 – Presentation of Concepts: In this round, I present six different primary concepts of logos with 2-4 mood boards. Each of the six concepts uses different fonts and graphic elements. The mood boards draw inspiration from the client’s Pinterest board as well as images. The client will select 2-3 concepts that they would like to see developed out, as well as one or two mood boards they would like to see developed.
- Step 2 – Expansion + Refinement: Synthesizing the mood boards into the concepts, I design out the concepts selected into variations – one with a tagline, one social media icon, and one favicon. I incorporate color into this round. The client often selects 1-2 boards that they might want to see further refined. If the client has found a logo that they love and would like to skip the third round, I’ll add some other service – business cards, notecards, sticker, etc.
- Step 3 – Finalize Logos: In this round, I make any edits to Round 2 logos, and the client approves the logo. Throughout this phases, we’ve narrowed down the solutions, so often the third round only includes 1-2 logo boards.
As I’m working on the logo creation, the client is gathering all text and images for the website/blog and support content. The client is required to provide this content when they confirm the finalized logo.
4 – Website Design + Development – 2-3 weeks
Once the client has provided me with all the assets, I create a wireframe of the website/blog. This wireframe includes outlines of the templates that I will build out – home page, support page, category page, and blog page. The colors and fonts used on the site are in the wireframe. The wireframe goes through 1-2 rounds of revisions. Since I started requesting all the information before designing the website, it is often one round. When I present the wireframe, I ask clients to give me feedback on everything, but in the end, they are just approving the layout. Based on their feedback, I determine if another wireframe revision is warranted.
Once the wireframe is approved, I develop the website. I develop everything locally, and then I setup the new site on a demo domain with the client’s content. The demo site goes through 2 more rounds of revisions. These revisions are often minor but include adjusting font sizes and colors. It is also during this time that I build out any assets – business cards, notecards, letterhead, etc.
5 – Installation + Follow Up
When the client approves the demo site, I then install it. The projected payment is required before I install it. Support after the install is always minimal. The client is ready to go and operate his/her website. Subsequent client changes are extremely rare as everything as been thoroughly thought out and developed.
I follow up with clients 2-4 weeks after their site is installed to make sure everything is running well. In most cases, they do not. I still like to check in to make sure that they know they can always come to me with questions even though the project is over.
Tips + Tricks to Improve the Blog Design Process
+ Hold clients accountable for providing information in a timely manner. This area was something that I struggled with at first. My project schedules were getting messed up because I wasn’t getting the information that I needed. I wasn’t pushing clients because I wanted them to enjoy the process. For me to do my best work, I need all the information from them that I requested.
+ Emphasize the importance of giving thorough and explicit feedback. To prevent going backward I ask clients to be explicit as possible when they are providing feedback. I also mention in the initial meeting that “going backward” means additional costs.
Why doesn’t premade shop have this process? The premade shop is an affordable solution for potential customers who want the functionality of my work. To keep the prices affordable, the premade shop cannot offer the same level of customer service as custom work. The premade shop is mainly product-based element of the business, while custom blog and web design are service-based.
How many projects do I take on at a time? Ideally, I would take on 4-6 projects every two months. In the past, I’ve taken on 8-10 projects every two months. Now that the premade blog shop sales are picking up significantly, I’m sticking towards 4-6.