How we’ll work together

Getting started

I usually schedule design projects 8-12 weeks in advance, but as you can imagine, this approximation changes all the time; once we decide to work together, I’ll provide an exact start date for our project. (Small-scale engagements can often be scheduled sooner.) Want to schedule further out? Great! I can schedule projects up to eight months in advance.

When we decide to work together, you won’t get a 30-page contract full of technical jargon. Instead, you’ll get a four-page worksheet that outlines:

  • The scope of our work together — the packages we’ve selected, plus any add-ons or additional consulting
  • Our project plan — our start date, project length, and completion date
  • A detailed timeline — so you know when to expect things from me and when I’ll need things from you
  • A one-page contract — a formal acknowledgment that we’ve decided to work together and that the proposed scope and timeline work for both of us

Once you’ve reviewed the worksheet, I’ll upload it to Adobe EchoSign for us to sign digitally (or you can mail it to my PO box, if that’s more convenient for you).

Your project deposit (50%) is due before our project start date. The remaining balance is divided evenly between a midway and final payment; due dates for each payment are included in your worksheet timeline. Both checks and credit cards (Paypal, Stripe, or Square) are accepted.

Phase 1: Discovery

If design is storytelling, we have to start with the story itself. In your Composition Workbook, we’ll take an in-depth look at your story — what are your core values? what resonates with you? what inspires you? The questions in this workbook are for both articulation (to give your vision a vocabulary) and introduction (to transfer your vision to me, Vulcan mind-meld style). It ensures that I’m fully immersed in the who and how of your business, seeing your brand through your eyes, so that the designs we create truly represent you.

If we’re doing a website together, we’ll also start on content strategy during this phase, answering questions like:

  • What information should appear on the homepage to make an instant connection with your visitors?
  • What click-through path do we want people to take?
  • How should you leverage email marketing and social media — and what does that mean for your website?
  • Where do we want to reinforce the written message visually with photography and illustrations?
  • What action do we want people to take at each stage of their journey through your website?

What distinguishes design from art is that design is done to accomplish something specific. Design has a purpose — and in the case of your website, its purpose is to draw people in, to take them on a journey, to create a connection. None of that can happen if the design isn’t responsive to — and crafted around — the content.

Although I don’t do the writing for you, I give you tools — and guidance — so you can put pen to paper with confidence.

Phase 2: Design

Every aspect of your brand is an opportunity to tell a story. I look at each detail — from big things, like the header and navigation, to little things, like blockquotes and buttons — and ensure that each is crafted with care. A bit of texture here, an illustration there; buttons and widgets that delight; careful attention to hierarchy and organization; delicate typography throughout; different layout treatments on different pages. Every item, every section fits together like pages in a magazine — cohesive, true to an overarching style, easy to navigate and browse, but enchanting in its own right.

Following the timeline outlined in our worksheet, I’ll send multiple creative concepts for the design of your website, logo, or other design elements. We’ll then enter into an iterative process of collaborative revisions, where we refine those initial designs into the final design.

If appropriate, I’ll also send recommendations for templates or themes to use, along with proposed design customizations. (Since partnerships are often a fusion of advising, design, strategy, and consulting, our design process may happen in tandem with development, depending on the specific needs of your brand.)

Phase 3: Development

If we’re creating a website together, we’ll move into development — installing and configuring software, installing hand-picked plug-ins that I trust and love, creating pages and flows, inserting content, and bringing your design to life. Using an extensible theme base or a fully-custom Allie Creative theme, we’ll ensure that every detail translates from creative concept to live website. We can also customize your site for mobile and make it fully responsive for screens of all sizes. As part of our development process, we’ll also address things like delivering digital products, creating an online store, or building your online course or community, as applicable.

Phase 4: Delivery

Once your logo and/or website design is finalized, it will be provided to you in relevant file formats, along with any supporting materials (such as a style guide or typography and color reference). If our package included development, we’ll do final testing and unveil your website for all to see.

After your website launches, you may have questions that need answers — or problems that need solutions. If we have an ongoing partnership, I’m here to provide tutorials, resources, training, and email Q&A as you familiarize yourself with your new website.

Ready to get started? Come say hello.
Still have questions? Read on!

Common questions

What’s your relationship with your clients? (In other words, how many people are on your team?)

One of my favorite aspects of my business is that I get to build deeply personal working relationships with my clients. I get to know them and their businesses intimately so that I can effectively translate who they are and what they’re about into visual language. This means that I work directly, one-on-one, with all of my clients. I do, on occasion, bring helpers and experts on board — to assist with administrative work, or to consult on technical issues that I’ve never seen before. But aside from those rare exceptions, Allie Creative is a one-woman show.

What if I need to change the scope of my project?

Whether it’s a third website design option or a bonus round of revisions, I’m happy to add to our original project parameters. Bear in mind, however, that additional costs and longer timelines may result. We can outline the specifics if and when additions are requested.

How do I know if I need a logo?

This is one of the questions I hear most often. And the line between website header and logo can be blurry. What’s the difference?

Website header Logo
Your name (or business name) rendered in a carefully-selected typeface (and when our website project is complete, I let you know what typeface I used for the header, so that you can download/purchase that font and use it elsewhere) Custom typography or layout work (some examples include: altering a typeface specifically for you; creating a round emblem or other shape treatment; hand-drawn typography)
Typography and illustration within the website header Typography and illustration in a variety of file formats to use on other collateral (business cards, letterhead, etc.)
Creative concepts for the header area (including your name or business name) within the context of the complete website design A formal logo design process, with lots of creative concepts and revisions
A mixture of original, vintage, stock, and altered/customized illustrated elements Original illustration (as applicable — not all logos need illustration, of course!)

Still unsure? Ask away; I’m happy to advise!

What web browsers do you test against?

At minimum, sites are tested against Internet Explorer 8 and 9, Firefox for Windows and Mac, Chrome, and Safari.

Do you offer development for mobile (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.)?

I do offer (and love to do!) mobile website design, but I do not offer app design.* There are two ways we can customize your website for mobile:

  • Responsive design is an added layer of design that makes your website rearrange itself automatically depending on screen size. (To see what I mean, try visiting Allie Creative from your phone and see how it looks different — and also how it looks the same! — from your mobile device.) With this approach, the design of your website persists across desktop and mobile platforms. Responsive design can be added on to the Renewed Website or Complete Website packages.
  • A mobile theme is a WordPress plug-in that shows a simplified version of your website to mobile visitors. With this approach, the mobile version of your website follows the plug-in template — usually a solid color bar across the top with the name of your site, and then plain text content for each of your pages and blog posts. In other words, the design elements that we create (such as background textures, header graphics, etc.) aren’t shown on mobile devices. A mobile theme can be installed free of charge on any website that we create together.

* What’s the difference, you ask? An app is something that you install on your phone — say, from the iPhone App Store. A mobile website, on the other hand, automatically comes up when you visit a regular website on your phone. For example, you can go to Nordstrom.com on your iPhone, and you’ll see a mobile version of their website. But you can also elect to go into the App Store and install the Nordstrom app — and that app looks (and works) completely differently from their mobile website.

Do you create custom WordPress themes or use existing theme frameworks (like Thesis, Genesis, etc.)?

I do both, depending on the needs of the client and project. There are benefits specific to each of these approaches — such as:

  • Frameworks are highly extensible. They give you lots of customization options that don’t require code knowledge, and if you were to hire an assistant or technical support person later, you could hire someone with expertise in your specific framework (rather than needing a general-purpose WordPress expert or a custom WordPress developer, which is often a more difficult niche to fill).
  • Custom themes give us complete creative control. They don’t put any limitations on how we arrange pages or layer elements on those pages, and they’re often leaner, code-wise, because we decide what functions we do and don’t need.

In either case, I have very specific code standards for the websites I create — both in and outside of WordPress. First and foremost, they are always built on web standards, and semantics are valued highly. (What that means to you is a lean, mean, visitor-friendly machine designed with update-ability and SEO in mind.) I’m also rather staunch about the way WordPress is customized. I believe that the page elements should be easily editable by you from the WordPress admin. (For example, sidebar widgets and menus should never be hard-coded into your theme.*) And I believe that your theme should be smart enough to respond to your content automatically whenever possible — without having a dozen different templates that you have to keep track of and manage.

During the implementation process, I usually decide which approach is best for our project. But that said, if you use (and love) a certain theme framework and want to use it for your redesigned website, just let me know when we start our project and we’ll make it happen.

* If your website was built several years ago — for an older version of WordPress — you may have widgets and menus hard-coded into your theme because no other options were available at the time. But we should get that fixed pronto so you have full access to your website.

I have a graphic designer I adore, but she doesn’t know HTML. If she designs my website, can you build it?

I believe that web design is a different discipline than traditional graphic design. Don’t misunderstand me; I know and love a number of phenomenally talented graphic designers. Print is simply a different medium than web. Usability, intuitive flows, and interactions aren’t part of the graphic design world — but they are crucial to a strong website.

In addition, as much as I am passionate about quality code and technical best practices, I’m even more passionate about good design. I consider myself a designer first and a developer second.

For these reasons, I do not offer build services for websites designed by others. I would, however, love to work with you and your graphic designer to translate the brand identity (logo, style guide, etc.) that he or she created into a website.

If you already had your site designed and need someone to build it, I know some fantastic developers who offer this service and I would love to provide referrals.