Keeping website design and deployment slim, fast, and cost-efficient

I’ve been involved in designing and launching quite an array of websites over the years, from the early, crude days on Macromedia Dreamweaver and TextEdit to the current platforms, based on pHp, MySQL and the like. Flash sites that basically SEO-incoherent and lean HTML designs. Over the years I’ve seen things coming up again and again that cause the design and execution process to bog down, costing time and resources that a little planning would have kept safe for other efforts. The worst offenders are custom coding on themed sites, primarily WordPress, and a lack of a clear chain of decision-makers. One leads to constant rounds of minute revisions (I like to call it “couch-moving”…ie, “well, maybe if you move the couch a couple inches this way. No, move it back. No, back this way” and so forth) and a straying from the approved mockups/comps. The other leads to nightmarish wholesale changes when the actual boss, who til this point had been assured they’d simply “love it”, is brought in at the last moment and disagrees with everything their marketing director has done. Either one can be addressed with a little forethought.

One thing I’ve always preferred while generating a site for the small- to mid-sized clients I work with is to remove options to increase cost-effectiveness. I firmly believe clients get more bang for their buck, in the form of increased ROI, by not doing custom coding to WordPress. There are enough wonderful themes and plugins available for the platform to make custom coding, specifically adding new functionality, in general an exercise more in vanity than anything else. Unless there’s some absolutely critical function they require, I avoid this like the plague. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and requires adding a new element outside of the crowd-tested and at least somewhat-moderated world of WordPress. Being upfront with clients and letting them know you’re saving them time and money by not engaging in that aspect, even if you have the skillset to create the code yourself, will, in the long run, save you money, time, and frustration.

When you’re engaging a new client you have to identify your sign-off person. Every company will hopefully have one (one!) person who approves vendor work to be billed. Occasionally it changes from job-to-job, so it’s important you find out who you’re working for on a given project. Marketing directors sometimes get overly excited, and you’ll need to know who actually signs the checks before adding new work to a project, or expanding its scope. Signed estimates are a must! I use Freshbooks for my estimates and invoices, it’s a good bargain for a small operator like myself. A signed estimate will often flush out the real sign-off person at a firm. Careful laying out of your requirements is also an important step, for lots of reasons other than this one.

Keeping your site functioning on off-the-shelf themes and plugins, as well as having a clear chain of command, will help you design and deploy faster, in less time, and with less expense, allowing you to pass those advantages along to your client.

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