This document outlines some of our normal working practises so that you know what to expect when we are working with you on a project. It also contains answers to the most common questions we are asked.
There are 5 main processes that each web site undergoes, some of which overlap slightly, and all of which are designed to minimize mistakes, solve problems, and develop a look-and-feel with which our customer is truly delighted.
When a customer first contacts Spherics, we will generally ask for a broad outline of what they would like to achieve, and try and gain enough information to do some basic research before an inital planning meeting is held, in which a version 1 specification is discussed and agreed. We then take this information away and can prepare a 'Level 1' estimate.
In the time between the meeting and acceptance of the estimate, the spec can be revised or tightened up to our customer's latest requirements. If the spec does change in this time, we will usually issue another 'Level 2', or final spec, and subsequently work from that. If our estimate is then accepted, we dispatch a short 'Commencement of Services' document, which allows us to start work imminently on receipt of it, and the agreed deposit.
The next stage is to arrange a design meeting, in which we will take time to fully understand your business, and take note of, amongst other things, your target demographic, your preferred design styles, and preferences for various technical aspects of the site. There is a short design questionnaire designed to make you think carefully about the sort of look and feel you are hoping to achieve. We can also discuss Domain Registration and Hosting arrangements. At this point, main design can begin.
Initially, Proof-of-concept designs are submitted as JPEG attachments to emails (in the case of web work), or as Adobe PDF's (in the case of print work). Design continues with either new POC's, or revisions and developments of the client's chosen preview until a final 'front page', or mainframe, is approved. If it is a web design, it is at this point that approved designs are first dipatched for coding.
Coding takes place when the intial designs are received, a main navigational structure is built, and a development server area is established for future site previewing. We usually invoice Stage 2, or the Mid term payment at this point.
Whilst coding of the main page is progressing, design work moves on to other pages of the web site, or other aspects of the design, and work continues until all art and source imagery are assembled and ready for coding. The dev server, which is accessible from any computer, is used for our clients to monitor our progress.
When coding is complete, we begin testing cycles, and complete a final design check throughout all elements of the project, making sure that colours are exactly right, layout is as intended, and that all functionality works exactly as planned, and in all browsers. We then hand over to our client for their own 'final approval' tests, and arrange any training that needs to be given to administrate the site.
When we are fully satisifed that the project is looking and working flawlessly (at which point we invoice the Stage 3 payment), and we have final client approval, we upload the site to our clients chosen hosting solution, after which it is live to the world, signed off, and thereafter thought of as complete.
At the initial design stage, all changes to design or fuctionality, major or minor, are included in the estimate, allowing for ultimate flexibility in the early stages of the project, as the base designs are submitted. As the project moves on and one is finalised, we realise there will sometimes be changes of varying degrees to the original spec. Most of these, we would hope to be able to accommodate within the scope of our estimate, but occasionally, where final designs have been approved for coding, subsequent functionality or design changes can often prove complex and time-consuming to redo, and where this is the case, we have an efficient change request process.
Work will pause temporarily, while the impact of the requested changes can be assessed, and new time and effort estimates can then be issued accordingly for your approval. Whilst this does allow total flexibility towards changes and evolution of concept beyond the original spec at any stage of the project, it is best to avoid major change requests after design approval altogether by making sure that the original spec is as final and accurate as it can be. The simplest way to avoid unnecessary change requests is simply to tell us if there is anything wrong with a design before you approve it for coding.
There are various options regarding any future changes to either the functionality of, or the information contained on the site that is not client-adminable. We are happy to estimate for this either as an ongoing monthly support package, or on a T & M basis as and when required.
These options should be considered near to the final site testing stage, by which time you will have a better idea of how often and what is likely to change about the web site in the future.
We are happy to discuss any large changes to the look, feel and functionality of your web site, and we recommend that you consider the option to expand your site to a newer version, so that your customers will feel that you are a successful and growing business, and that your web space is regularly updated and features new things to see, read and do. This will encourage them to come back to it more, and to tell others about it.
These future options should perhaps be considered near to the final site-testing stage, by which time you (and we) will have a much better idea of how often and what is likely to change about the web site as time goes on.
Spherics work on a Time and Materials basis, which ensures value for money because our clients pay only for the actual time the work has taken. Our intial estimates which accompany Level 1/2 specifications, ARE only estimates, however. Our actual charges are always on a T and M basis. If, at any point during a project we find that work is taking longer than expected, we will always advise that this is the case, and seek approval from our client to continue it to completion. We will never complete additional work without this written approval.
Depending on the size and development time of your project we will usually work with a 2 or 3 stage pay cycle.
In a 3 stage cycle, Stage 1, the deposit, is usually a third of the total estimated cost, and is invoiced before major design work begins.
Stage 2, Mid-term payment is invoiced when work is first available for viewing on our development server, meaning that the main structure of the site and back-end functionality has been completed.
Stage 3, the final payment, is invoiced when the site is ready to go live, and has been tested and approved by both the client and Spherics MM.
In a 2 stage cycle, Stage 1, the deposit, is usually around half of the total estimated cost, and is invoiced before major design work begins.
Stage 2, the final payment payment is invoiced when the site is ready to go live, and has been tested and approved by both the client and Spherics MM.
Our initial estimate will usually give some idea of the time scale of a project, but this estimate will assume that whenever we send out design previews, or ask questions about content, that a response is forthcoming on the same day. Please try and answer feedback request emails as quickly and thoroughly as you can, so that design work can continue in the smoothest and most consistent way possible.
We are happy to advise on any aspect of site management, and we offer our own shared, managed hosting solution and domain registration services. We register domains in our client's name, nominating ourselves only as the technical contact on the account. This protects our customer and ensures that they always have full access to the control of their web admin, but allows us the control to be able to manage and update the site as required. We do not charge to release domain admin details, and these are available to you the same day that final payment for the project is received and cleared.
Every site we build is coded so that it already follows all the important rules for a site to register as 'relevant' to search engines for most search terms applicable to your business: that is to say that each page of any site we build will feature a carefully considered page title, page description, appropriate metatags, and will be built in such a way that search engines will find it very easy to 'spider' or index. We are very experienced at helping our customers choose the right information for these vital attributes.
Although we do not offer any specific long-term SEO services in-house, we do have trusted partners who do, and we would be happy to put you in touch with our friendly Google campaign experts.
Because of the large amount of creative work that Spherics undertake, we are sometimes not available during normal working hours for phone calls. However, our voicemail is checked regularly and remotely, so we are usually able to respond to questions and problems promptly, should they arise. Email is a preferred way of contact because it provides a written record of questions, which can then be considered and referred back to later if needed. We can and do check email from almost any mobile location.
Our main office number is +44(0)845 643 8454. (local rate).
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