For a while I’ve been wanting to put up the process I use in my company to serve clients. Hopefully this will help clear up any confusion or worries you have about hiring me to help solve your tech problems.
Disclaimers – of course, this process often varies from client to client as the situation calls for it. However, these are the broad strokes of the process. I’m also refining these steps all of the time as I learn from past clients, learn about better practices, and learn from my own successes and failures.
It would be nice if producing quality designs and code was a matter of dividing production into discrete steps that followed, one after another, like an assembly line. This isn’t how it works. In reality, the steps don’t always fit into a rigid process.
There are general phases of a project that I use, but I’ve found through experience that we can do them in order, jump between them, and/or iterate over them for the best results based on each unique project and how you prefer to work.
If you decide to hire my company for your project, the following list outlines the steps.
- You’ll answer a new client questionnaire
- We’ll conduct a free meeting to help define or refine your goals for the project, including timeline and budget (let’s call this the Discovery phase)
- I’ll use what we outlined in Discovery to create a price quote for the project
- You’ll accept the quote and then pay a deposit
- I send you a schedule and milestones for the project
- We’ll revisit the Discovery phase to confirm and clarify goals
- We’ll agree to a very clear path towards meeting your goals (Design)
- I’ll build the solution to our Design specification (Development)
- You’ll test and accept the project (Test and Acceptance)
- You’ll pay the final payments, if any, and I’ll follow up with you regularly (Project Closeout)
New client questionnaire
Whenever I meet with a new client, I’ll ask you a series of qualifying questions before we can work together. This helps me to be sure I don’t spend too much time on clients that I won’t be able to work with. If we’re not going to be a good fit, I’ll always try to refer you to someone I know who might be able to work better for you.
Most importantly, getting your answers to the qualifying questions will help me better understand the “why” behind your project and what problems we’re setting out to solve.
Here are the qualifying questions I’ll ask you*:
- What is your primary goal for this project? Other major goals, if any?
- How will we know we’ve succeeded?
- How has your business performed over the last twelve months?
- How do you track sales, and what’s your conversion rate now?
- Why start now instead of six months from now or six months ago?
- Why choose me for your project?
- Can you walk me through your process for deciding to work with me?
Creating a price quote
The next step in the process is working with you to create a price quote. We’ll further develop the goals you listed in the qualifying questions phase, and then I’ll build a roadmap that’ll get us from where we are today to meet those goals. I’ll itemize the major steps in the design and development process towards getting us to your goals, assign a price to each as a line item on a price quote, and then send to you for review and approval.
You can take your time to review the price quote, and I’m also open to negotiating the scope of the project to work within your budget. I refuse to pressure clients into working with me. You either do, or you don’t!
Deposit and scheduling
Once you accept the price quote, I’ll ask for a deposit. For projects with a price of more than two thousand U.S. dollars, we’ll break the project up into equal bi-weekly payments, paid in advance at the beginning of each two weeks we work together. If the project has a value of less than two thousand U.S. dollars, I’ll ask for 50% payment up-front and 50% upon completion.
Once you pay the initial payment, I’ll confirm your scheduled start date on my project calendar. Please note; I won’t start your project or give you a confirmed date until I receive this initial payment. This policy helps me focus on paying clients and limits how much time and energy I spend on those who are just price shopping or dilly dallying 🙂
Major phases of the work: Discovery, Design, Development, Testing, and Closeout
Now it’s time for the actual work. These steps don’t go in a rigid order, but they’re a pretty reliable way to get things done.
During the Discovery phase we’ll decide upon the business goals of your project. You must have some underlying reason for wanting some code written. I understand that you want a custom tool built because you want to be more profitable as a business, or perhaps you want a mobile responsive update to your site because you understand that the lost traffic is losing you leads. We’ll know we’re done with Discovery when we have a clear picture of what would make our project together a success. We’ll do most of Discovery during the early phases of the project, and we’ll revisit it as often as we need to to make sure that we’re always on-track to meet your goals.
Design is much deeper than surface-level aesthetics…it’s a process for creating systems that solve specific problems. Design takes what we decided upon in Discovery to the next level. We’ll use everything from pen and paper sketches, whiteboards, digitally-produced wireframes, and limited static mockups as needed to cover different approaches to meeting our goals.
I prefer to get into prototyping with actual code as quickly as possible so we don’t waste a lot of your time and money producing ultimately unusable static mockups.
We’ll prototype, refine, and iterate until we get the user interface just about right. We’ll discuss critically important decisions like typography and color to make sure the end product “feels” right to you and your users and fits with your existing branding. If you don’t have existing branding, that’s fine too; I’ll help you breathe your own identity into the work.
Development is engineering our design into existence. Rest assured I’ll spend time designing the architecture of your site or app to make sure it’s as secure, maintainable, and scalable as possible.
When it comes to coding, I’ll use modern practices including a cloud-based source control to which you will have access at all times.
Your production server will be safe, since I will do all prototyping and development on an offline development server.
Code is fully commented for documentation purposes in case you have to hand off to another developer.
I will test the final product in the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. I will also test from mobile devices. On the latest version of iOS, I’ll test in the latest Chrome and Safari browsers. On the latest version of Android, I’ll test in the latest Chrome and Firefox browsers. I do not test on Windows Phone, BlackBerry, or any other mobile device unless the price quote specifically says otherwise.
Also, I don’t guarantee that my work will perform as a pixel-perfect replica on each browser/device combination. I will ensure that each device/browser combination listed above allows the end-user to use the application effectively, and that the capabilities are consistent across devices and as we agreed to in the price quote.
Weekly updates and as needed updates
We’ll have a scheduled, weekly update to keep us on track. I can either send you an email status, or we can schedule a phone or video call. I prefer a phone call or video call, but it’s up to you.
To stay productive and focused on high quality output, I can’t take unscheduled phone calls from clients. Our weekly update is the time for us to catch up on my progress, review designs and code, and discuss any modifications to the scope of work.
Testing and acceptance
After I build the site or app, I’ll send you a link so you can test it out. I’ll take your feedback and fix any bugs. If you’re happy, we’ll end the project there.
I will schedule email follow up for 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, and on the anniversary of the project to keep in touch.
So that’s the entire process! If you’re still reading, I encourage you to contact me. I’d love to answer any questions you have over the phone.
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*By the way, I can’t take credit for the qualifying questions I use…they’re derived from the questions Kurt Elster uses at his company, Ethercycle.