You must must must must must get all html, css & graphic files, etc. from your designer even if s/he uploads them to a server for you. This is especially important if you haven't bought your own hosting service and therefore don't have ftp access information, etc.
If you don't do this AND your designer disappears on you and/or you don't want to use her to make every little change (or god forbid, your designer is an a-hole who's decided to hijack your site and hold it for ransom), you are totally screwed unless you're tech savvy. 99.9% of people are probably doomed to go through the horrible time-consuming exercise of getting all their files back by using the "view source code" command on their browser. And they better hope that their designer didn't code in PHP because PHP sourcecode is hidden if you access the file via a browser.
Remember: html, css, graphics files (jpg, gif, etc.) should be a part of the deliverables. You paid for them, so you're entitled to them. Specify this clearly when you hire someone.
BTW -- the list of designers I can now recommend has dwindled even more. In case you're wondering, I wholly recommend Frauke from CrocoDesigns and Tara O'Shea from Fringe Element. I've worked with them both, and they're excellent professionals. (Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with them in any way.)
I've seen so many writers who got into difficult situations with their webmasters. It could be anything from the webmaster going MIA, doing shoddy work, whatever. In the eventuality that you want to break up with your designer / webmaster, you should always ensure that your website design (including CSS, graphics, header, buttons, everything) is yours to take with you, and that you don't have to continue hiring the designer / webmaster you no longer find "professional" in order to be able to use the template, etc. you've paid for.
BTW -- don't let your designers register your domain for you. Domain registration is easy. A few clicks of the mouse and you're done. If your designers / webmasters did it for you, make sure to get it transferred to you as soon as possible. Transferring a domain name when your tech people go missing can be very time-consuming and stressful. Go to a place like 1and1.com and register it yourself. It's not that expensive, and 1and1 gives you free private registration.
P.S. In case you're interested, the ever-amazing Frauke from CrocoDesigns is doing a free author website workshop right here.
If you haven't done so, please read the previous installments titled Identifying Your Site's Purpose and Audience, Go-Live Date, Your Budget, and Your Technical Aptitude, Identifying Your Website Needs and Design Preferences a.k.a. Doing Your Homework, Contacting Designers and Getting Quotes and Evaluating Quotes and Designers before reading this week's article.
I was going to do lessons learned, but I realized that I really don't have anything to share, esp. since my experience with Frauke has been so smooth and pleasant. I really lucked out.
A few things to keep in mind:
- The designer works for you, not the other way around. She should provide you with a satisfactory design that meets your specifications.
- The designer is not a mind reader. If you're not satisfied with something, you must communicate as soon as possible.
- Don't stay with a designer who is rude, late, uncommunicative and/or incompetent. Believe it or not, there are a lot of incompetent designers. You can usually tell by their design portfolios and/or their response to your requests, etc.
P.S. If you want to plug any designers you've worked with before, feel free.
If you haven't done so, please read the previous installments titled Identifying Your Site's Purpose and Audience, Go-Live Date, Your Budget, and Your Technical Aptitude, Identifying Your Website Needs and Design Preferences a.k.a. Doing Your Homework and Contacting Designers and Getting Quotes before reading this week's article.
Within a week or so, most of designers you contacted should've responded with quotes and/or questionnaires. You should fill out those questionnaires and surveys as accurately as possible so they know exactly how much to bill you, especially if it's fixed fee work. It's very important to not change the spec in the middle of a fixed fee job because that means either the designer will refuse to make the changes (since it's above and beyond what you said the work would entail) or you'll have to pay more. Some designers might do the extra work for free, but I wouldn't count on it.
If designers bill you by the hour, you should still ask for an estimate based on your spec, so you know whether or not the work can be completed within the budget you set aside for your site.
Before you sign on the dotted line, ask for their service agreement.
Pay close attention to the following:
- Who owns the domain name? This is especially important if your designer registers it for you. Set a definite time frame on when she must start the domain name transfer process should you part ways. (You cannot stipulate that the transfer be completed within a week, etc. because she can only initiate and send appropriate forms, etc. and the rest is up to the registrars, etc.)
- How quickly does she update your site? How often? This is critical if you're planning to retain her services for site maintenance. (Otherwise, it's irrelevant.)
- Who owns the site designs, graphics, files, etc.? If you can't take them with you when you leave her, it's going to be a problem.
- Is the site going to be cross-browser compatible? If the site looks great on Firefox, but not on MSIE or vice versa, you have a problem. The site should look fantastic on Firefox, MSIE and Safari (Mac OS and Windows).
- If the work is unsatisfactory, what remedies are available? I'd say don't hire someone who refuses to refund your money. If the design is unacceptable and/or broken, you shouldn't have to pay. If the designer doesn't update your site as agreed, you shouldn't have to pay.
- Understand the payment terms. Do you have to pay by check, credit card or PayPal? When is the money due? Some designers require that you pay the full amount upfront. Are you comfortable with that? (FYI -- Frauke at CrocoDesigns requested that I pay her in full before the work started, and that didn't bother me at all because she's done a lot of design projects for other writers who are very happy with her service. So I knew she wouldn't take the money and run. But I might have hesitated if it had been someone new or someone I didn't know very well, etc. So know your comfort level, which may vary depending on who you're dealing with.)
If you don't understand anything on the service agreement, ASK. Don't assume. Else you're more likely to be frustrated and disappointed. And most importantly, walk away if you aren't comfortable with the terms of the agreement.
Next week, I'll talk about my own experience and lessons learned.
If you haven't already done so, please read the first and second installments titled Identifying Your Site's Purpose and Audience, Go-Live Date, Your Budget, and Your Technical Aptitude and Identifying Your Website Needs and Design Preferences a.k.a. Doing Your Homework before reading this week's article.
By now you should know what your site to have (at least have some ideas) and know which designers have worked on your favorite author sites.
It's time to write out your requirements to send to potential designers. Write out the timeline (when you want yours launched), the type of technical solutions you seek (CMS, WordPress, Joomla, template only v. installation included, maintenance needed or not, etc.), and deliverables (graphic files, actual codes, Photoshop files, training if any, other documentation, etc.).
Once you have this, you can email designers and ask them for quotes.
In addition, you can also use a site called eLance to get quotes from other web designers. The registration is free, and there's very little risk to the people who hire freelancers there.
Here's a list of designers I found by surfing author sites. The list is nowhere near exhaustive. If you're a professional designer and want to be included, leave a comment with your designer site info and/or where people can find your portfolio. I will not include you on the list if you don't have a portfolio and/or experience.
Disclaimer: I'm not endorsing and/or promising anything by listing designers here. The only designers I've worked with are Frauke from CrocoDesigns and Tara O'Shea, and I like them. If you want to ask any specific questions about either of them, contact me.
Next week, I'll talk about evaluating quotes and designers.