Last week, I wrote the first part in a two part series on some of the things you need to know about when doing a blog redesign – whether it’s a Blogger to WordPress migration or simply a new design for your existing blog. Part 1 covered hosting, finding a designer, and how to be a prepared client.
Today, in Part 2 I look at budget, the process and what happens after your new site is up and running.
So? How Much?
That’s always the big $64K question.
The answer? It depends.
That’s not a cop out, it really does depend.
The goal of your designer should be to give you the most bang for your buck. The best thing you can do is tell us your wish list and your budget. Be honest.
This part is always a little dance. Most people are reluctant to give the full amount they are willing to spend for fear that that will be the final quote when maybe, they could have got it for less if they’d given a lower number. Yes, some people will try to overcharge you. You don’t want to work with them.
Every project is different. You can’t compare yours or your budget to anybody elses. It’s not a fair comparison. Some people just want a data transfer. Some want a new design. Some want a new logo. Some want to use a specific WordPress theme which may cost more or less.
I like to ask a lot of questions and then put together a quote based on the information I get. If that’s too high, I like to work with the person to see what they can afford and what we can perhaps leave out, what we could do differently, what can wait till a later date.
If there is a designer you really want to work with but they give you a quote that you can’t afford, don’t be afraid to tell them. Most of us are happy to sit down with you and look at ways we can still work together but within your budget. It may mean compromises on your part or putting things off till later but there are almost always alternatives. Designers are a creative bunch… that means we are good at finding unique ways to solve problems.
Get a contract. Always. This is for your protection as well as your designer’s. I don’t care if it’s for $100 or $10,000 or if a friend is doing it for you. If they “don’t do contracts”, run. Run far away. And you should especially have a contract when it’s a friend or family member. I don’t know a single designer who hasn’t learned that one the hard way. Not a single one.
A contract should outline the scope of the project, what will be done, when it will be done and for how much as well as the terms of payment. It’s a way for everyone involved to know what’s what and keep expectations in check.
Read the contract. Understand it. Ask if you don’t know what something means. If you want something clarified in writing, ask. This is your money, your business and your blog. Protect your investment.
If you are doing a Blogger to WordPress migration, the actual act of moving your data is not that difficult. It’s all the little things that go along with it that make it a big process. Some of them are very time consuming and nitpicky. Your designer should be able to go through all of them with you but some things to ask about are:
- Protecting the SEO rankings of your old posts once you’ve moved
- What happens to comments, tags and photos?
- What about my design… (your blogger design doesn’t get moved as part of the data transfer)
Whether you’re doing a Blogger/WP migration, a new design for an existing site, or a brand new site from the ground up, you want to make sure you have open and regular lines of communication with your designer. They should be updating you regularly on progress and there will be times where they will need information from you in order to keep moving. Both parties should be prompt in their responses.
There are certain items you will need to give your designer so they can get to work so it’s best to know about them beforehand so you can gather them up and have them ready. Some things you should be prepared to hand over to your designer upon request are:
- user name/passwords for your current blog, your hosting account, possibly your RSS feeds, and certain social media accounts (if they are doing some work on your social media assets). This is another good reason you need to have a contract and a high level of trust with the person you’re working with.
- Images. These might be logos, photos for your bio, possibly stock images,
- Any page content outside of your blog that you will be writing (your About page etc)
- The code for any advertising feeds you will be running
- Any badges, links or other items you want included
Depending on your project, there may be more.
User Name/Passwords and Trust
Always consider carefully how you will give access to your designer. You will need to pass on user names/passwords for us to our job. If you use the same password for your blog as you do for your on-line banking or everything else in your life, consider changing it before you give it to us to something temporary.
Once work has been completed, you can change it back to something you’re more comfortable with but keep in mind that if you have any issues you need us to work on later, or we are going to be doing your upgrades and maintenance for you, we will need to have access again. Sometimes, when something is down, it’s not easy to change a password. It’s best to use a separate password for any accounts we may need to access that’s different from other daily life accounts you wouldn’t want us to access. This is protection for everyone.
Afterwards: Training and Maintenance
There’s always challenges in every project. First of all, there will always be little bugs after it’s all done. That’s normal. We do everything in our power to make sure those are eliminated before going live but there’s always something that sneaks up. Don’t panic. Let us know about them as you find them and we’ll fix them.
Bug fixes after a launch should always be fixed free of charge. However, if you go in and make changes and then things stop working, you will generally be charged for fixes.
Learning the WordPress Ropes
You’ll want to make sure you have adequate training with your new WordPress install. I can tell you from experience that this varies dramatically from person to person. Be sure to discuss this with your designer before getting underway. Some designers will charge extra, others will include a set amount of time in their quote and charge for anything over and above that.
Ask how the training will be done. Is it a written manual, a video tutorial, in person, or a Skype screen sharing session? If your designer is not local to you, you won’t be able to do an in person session so if that’s what works best for you, you will likely want to hire somebody in your vicinity.
You owe it to yourself and your blog to understand how to do more than just make a new blog post. While there are certain aspects of WordPress you may never need to touch, you should be familiar with why they are there and you should insist on your designer going through them with you. Even if you plan on paying them to take care of all of the maintenance.
You Mean There’s Maintenance??
That’s right. It doesn’t end the day you write a cheque to pay your final invoice. The web moves very quickly and things get outdated faster than you can say “out of date”. WordPress sends out several new releases a year. Some are major functionality releases and some are smaller security releases. They need to be implemented. Are you going to do that? Or pay your desinger to do it? Or will your host take care of it for you? Not implementing these can compromise the security of your blog.
You need to back up your blog. Regularly. If you post weekly, backup weekly. If you post daily, backup daily. Again, are you going to do that? Are you going to pay somebody to do it? Is it part of your hosting package?
Things happen. If you come to me after something catastrophic and you can’t give me a backup, I’ll do my best to help (and you will be invoiced for it) but I’m not a miracle worker. Depending on your level of hands on with your blog, you may or may not want to pay for a maintenance plan with your designer or you may want to pay them on a case by case basis.
It’s just like running a business… and for many of you your blogs are a business. I have an accountant who does the icky math stuff for me but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the basics of what she’s doing. Ultimately I’m the one responsible for the health and well being of my business. And for its success or failure.
Post-Project Access By Your Designer
I have an agreement with most of my clients that once final payment has been made, I won’t access the back-end of their site without their prior knowledge. If a security patch comes out or if I need to see some code in the template, I will email them first and let them know that I’ll be working on the site
This is something to consider when you sign on with a designer and something you should agree upon as the project comes to a close. The reason? Just so there are no surprises. Just like we appreciate you letting us know when you are considering adding a plug-in or making other changes, we owe it to you to let you know when we are going to make a change.
Some Pitfalls to Avoid
There’s always challenges in every project. First of all, as mentioned earlier, there will always be little bugs after it’s all done.
A few things to avoid are, updating your WordPress installation to a brand new version the moment it’s released. I’m not referring to security patch releases – those should be updated immediately. I mean the big releases WordPress does once or twice a year that alter functionality. Most plug-ins you’ll have installed won’t be compatible with the new release and may not function properly afterwards or cause other issues. Wait a few weeks or contact your designer and ask them if they think it’s safe to do so.
I try very hard to keep plug-in use to a minimum on sites I develop for that very reason. Every plug-in that’s added to your site adds an additional layer of complexity and more things to troubleshoot if you have an issue. They can also result in greater security risks. I’m certainly not anti-plugin. There are some excellent ones available and there are times where you need them to get a specific job done. But, if a plug-in is being used, it needs to add some really great value to the site.
I don’t recommend that you ever install your own plug-ins without discussing it with your designer first. Some people get a bit “plug-in happy” and go crazy adding them and they get very little benefit from most of them. If your designer is working with a robust theme framework like Thesis or Woo, it will have a lot of extra built in functionality that eliminates the need for a lot of plug-ins.
If you do add your own, and later decide not to use them, deactivate them and delete them. Keep clutter to a minimum. Also, if you install plug-ins and they cause issues, keep in mind that you will have to pay somebody to fix them for you if you’re not willing or able to fix the problem yourself.
Make sure your designer has activated Akismet and get yourself a license key for it. It’s the best anti-spam plug-in I’ve worked with and it’s bundled with WordPress
That’s Just Scratching the Surface
What started out to be one post has turned into two and I could still write so much more.
The big point here is that it is worth finding the right person to work with and who you trust if you’re not up to doing the job yourself (and hey, some of you may be! Go for it!). But it does require putting in some effort and treating your blog in a way that reflects its importance in your life.
Finding the right person to work with is a big deal and you should find yourself having a number of discussions with them about the whole process. Knowing the right questions to ask and the things to look for will go a long way to finding the perfect designer for you!
You can read Part 1 here.
I’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming with the next post!