Why I build websites
My background is partly in journalism, partly in web development. It’s been a parallel career, which I’ve been lucky to have. As a journalist, I look for a story and how best to tell it. As a developer, I can seek to understand what someone wants to do with a website and how best to build it for them.
I build websites because I can, and I want to help people. I enjoy solving puzzles, which is what much of web development is. I don’t charge the earth, but I can create something that gives organisations or individuals a professional showcase, or more. And I want to work on things that are good for the world. That might be in a small way or bigger picture stuff, but my motivation is good outcomes, not maximising profits.
For most of my projects, clients have got a domain name bought already, or know which name they want. If you haven’t, that’s ok – I can help you work out which domain name makes most sense, and how to buy it. I usually set up hosting packages for clients too. Hosting needs differ, but as a rule, I recommend starting small. It’s usually less than £100 per year.
There’s no set cost, because no two website builds are the same. I can work to many organisation’s budgets, and can work on a combination of fees, for example doing the essential parts for a fixed price, and then adding things on for a daily rate.
I work with clients to understand what it is they actually want from a website. That can be very different from what they initially think they want. Priorities change when there’s a deeper understanding of how sites might need updating. Most organisations aren’t in the web updating business. If you are a charity or a school, your focus should be your mission, or teaching your pupils, not on making fiddly site changes.
I talk to clients about their typical day, their overall business goals, and how they want to run their site. I ask them how much time they will set aside for updating it. Whatever the answer, it’s about a tenth of that. We all overestimate, and life gets in the way of even the most earnest plans. With that in mind, I frequently build sites that update automatically – homepages that pull in content from elsewhere, whether within the site or from external sources.
As development starts, I aim to get regular feedback sessions so clients can change tack easily. Often designs created for offline don’t translate to online. Some clients are very particular about layout, and that’s fine. (Although it’s worth bearing in mind that any website looks different when viewed on a 17 inch monitor, a laptop, or an iPhone.) Sometimes things that weren’t considered in the initial spec become must-haves.
The purpose of regular meetings is to keep on track with timings and direction. Lots of agencies call this “agile methodology“, which I totally get, but this is a bit of a grand title for what is simply being able to change the work as projects evolve.
However, there is one very important lesson from the agile theory – and that is websites don’t need to be “finished” to be live. You can launch something without every single item on your list being done. One reason is that if you wait and wait for everything to be ready (or perfect) you risk never going live. Get the essentials up, get going, and add.
I build in WordPress. It’s de facto industry standard now. There are 1,000s of plugins, so you often don’t need to reinvent the wheel – someone has usually solved your problem already. However, if needed I have the skills to code what you might require. Most clients only need style (CSS) changes, but I am also highly experienced in creating custom scripts and functions in PHP (the programming language that WordPress uses), and other things.
Once things are live, I create a guide for clients for updating the site. I also keep nothing hidden – all clients have administrator access, full control of the hosting and domain. If at any point you want a different developer, you have everything you need to engage someone new, and that’s fine.
I’ll check in from time to time to see if you need anything and to update the site’s components and WordPress platform. And to say ‘hi’.