What are the steps in developing a web site?
   How much does it cost to develop a site?
   What is the best way for me to keep my development costs down?
   What will be my on-going costs?
   What is a data-driven website?
   After the site is developed, can I change it myself, or do I need to hire a specialist?
   What are the typical tools used for developing a site?
   How do I make changes appear on the site?
   What special considerations are there for an on-line store?


1. What are the steps in developing a web site?
a) Web Conceptual Design: How do you want your site to look - What colors? What type face? What writing style (for example, formal, casual, funny)? What topics should be covered on your site? What pictures or movies would you like included, and where? What do you want the pages to say (this is know as "content")?

These topics would be included in a design document, which is similar in concept to the blueprints for a house. Without an idea of how you want the finished product to appear and behave, it will be difficult to start building anything.

b) Web Development: Once the design is completed, the developer can begin to do the programming. The length of this process varies, based on a number of factors, including:

  i) Is the design complete and stable, or do things keep changing?

  ii) Is the content written and ready? How about pictures and other graphics? If these are not ready, the process will take longer.

  iii) How "big" is the site? How many pages, pictures, links? The bigger the site, the longer it takes to develop it.

  iv) Did you already have a web host? A domain name? If you wish for your developer to get these things, there will be a little time involved to set all this up.

  v) Will your site be fairly stable in content, or will the content change often (as in the case of an on-line store with constantly changing inventories?) Dynamic web sites are a somewhat more intricate and thus more costly to develop.

c) Testing: Although some testing will be taking place during the development stage, a rigorous system test needs to happen as well. The customer and developer should work together to perform final testing so there are no surprises.

d) Maintenance: Over time you will likely wish to change the site - add pictures, change content, etc. On-going maintenance could be simple or complex, depending on the magnitude and frequency of the desired changes.

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2. How much does it cost to develop a site?
Development costs can vary greatly based up on the size and complexity of the site. The cost may be quoted to you, the customer, on a per hour basis (this cost varies, but do not expect less than the $/hr that you would pay for a mechanic or plumber in your area) or on a fixed price contract. Sometimes the cost is a combination; for example, the developer will do the design on a per hour basis and the development on a fixed price basis. Regardless of the pricing structure, note that the price will, of course be greater for larger sites, or for sites which have not been well-designed. Prices typically range from about $400 for a simple site where the customer has written much of the content, to thousands of dollars for larger sites. Large companies often spend tens of thousands of dollars for site development.

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3. What is the best way for me to keep my development costs down?
As the customer, you actually have a lot of control over the costs. Here are some things you can do:

  a) Do most of your own conceptual design. You can decide upon your colors, type face, and layout. You can also write the content and take the pictures. Draw up your design on paper or on a computer program and discuss it with the developer. The more you are involved, the lower your costs will be and the more likely it is that you will be happy with the results.

  b) If you are getting a per hour charge, ask for a detailed assessment of how the time was spent. If you are not getting the results for the time spent, there is a problem. Cease work until you can find out why things are not proceeding smoothly.

  c) Ask for a detailed project plan with milestones and deliverables. Monitor the project plan to make sure things are progressing on time as promised. If not, cease work until you can find out what the problem is.

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4. What will be my on-going costs?
You can hire a developer to do your maintenance (changing content, inventory, pictures, etc.) or you can do this yourself. If you hire someone, you will likely be charged a per hour fee. Note that above and beyond the cost for site maintenance, you will need to pay fees for your domain name and web host (see our FAQ regarding Web Hosting for more information).

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5. What is a "data-driven" website?
A data-driven website means that the content for the website is pulled from a database. The database information and the pages are put together when the page is accessed. This technique is very useful for websites where the information changes often (i.e. daily or weekly).

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6. After the site is developed, can I change it myself, or do I need to hire a specialist?
You certainly can change it yourself and this should save you some money. Even if you are not technical, you can write the new content and take the new pictures, then pass this to your developer. This alone will save you some cost.

If you are technical you should be able to change the programming of the site to make it behave as you would like. There are classes in basic web programming which can teach you how to do this. You may be able to have your web developer train you in how to do this (Critternut Services offers such one-on-one training, for example). If you take this approach, be sure you are committed to learning what you need to learn so you will do justice to your site.

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6. What are the typical tools used for developing a site?
Different developers use different tools. Since the prevalent programming language for basic sites is HTML (hyper text markup language), most developers use tools that allow them to quickly program in HTML. Two popular tools as of this writing are Frontpage™ by Microsoft, and Dreamweaver™ by Macromedia. The cost of these packages is about $200 and up. Sophisticated sites may require more complex programming, which would be done in other programming languages such as JAVA, ASP, ColdFusion, Javascript, PHP, etc. Each language has certain strengths and lends itself to certain aspects for the site. Each language also requires programming expertise and (sometimes extensive) training. Programming with these languages requires an expert.

We will incorporate your logo/corporate colors into your website. One of the tools we use to determine the best color schemes for your website based on your colors is Color Wheel Pro - a program that allows you to create color schemes and preview them on real examples.

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7. How do I make changes appear on the site?
Typically, one would make site changes first on a local computer where these changes can be thoroughly tested prior to making them available to the public. To take the changed pages or pictures (etc.) and put these on the web host, you will need to transfer the files to your web host. To make such a transfer, you will need to connect to your web host via the internet (the web host should be able to provide you instructions on how to do this. You will need the host address as well as a login and password that allow you to get to your live site). Once connected, the transfer of files is usually done with a file transfer (FTP) program. There are many high quality and FREE FTP programs available. Your web host can tell you where to go on the internet so you can download one for free.

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8. What special considerations are there for an on-line store?
On-line store require quite a bit more work for set up. You need to be able to accept and authorize credit cards and this should be done on a secure server. Your products need descriptions, pictures and prices. You'll need to know how to handle shipping and taxation. We outlined some of the considerations in our document entitled "How to Get a Web Presence".

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