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I've been getting into more web development later and talking to people often I'll get "Can you make me a website [for my book]?" types.

"Yes. But.... Well, what do you want from it?"

"I want it to look nice and attract people and people will want to buy my book."

"..."

What all does making a website for somebody really entail from the designer/developer end?

  • How responsible are we for graphics? Are we expected to make them a nice header with their name/logo and pretty like?
  • Color scheme? Overall feel of the site? (I mean, do we decide by ourselves or have some back and forth with the client?)

  • Specific wording of content (such as homepage flavor text. Obviously we wouldn't be expected to write the About the Author section.)?

  • Additional functionality that we think the user may appreciate?
    Ideally you'd talk to the client and figure out what they want, but really--do clients ever really know what they want?

What is expected of the client in order to be able to make a website for them?

Are web-designer and web-developer essentially interchangeable in casual speak, or...?


I guess this question really stems because I'm learning I don't like doing most of this. I don't program to be a designer. My artistic skills are probably better than the average programmer, but that isn't the point. I would actually prefer it if a client came to me and said "I want it to look like this" and handed me a paper copy, which I could then duplicate. What does interest me is more of the behind the scenes functionality of websites. Is it smooth, functional, does the user have to navigate all over or rely on 'search' to find what he's looking for?

Please shed some light on this perceived division of tasks for me.

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6 Answers

It really depends a lot on what you are advertising.

There are three main aspects to anything web based, and two only really apply to web applications. All of these roles can be combined into one person or separate people, and how you combine them depends on your skills.

It should be noted that if you advertise a full featured website then you are most likely responsible for everything the client wants done.

Database

Whatever you are using to store and retrieve data. This could be an API, a database, collection of flat files, whatever.

Application

Any logic that is handled. User management? Check. Manipulating data? Check. Login / logout / authentication? Check. Interactive JavaScript? Check.

Presentation

Markup and style. This would be all your CSS, HTML, and applicable "design elements" that make up what a visitor sees.

Myself I can handle everything – except design. I'm not a designer. I can handle HTML and CSS (thus completing all there major tiers) but the initial design is something I won't do, simply because of time constraints. What you are capabile (or willing) to do determines what you should offer clients.


To specifically address your questions:

How responsible are we for graphics? Are we expected to make them a nice header with their name/logo and pretty like?

If you are doing the design then yes.

Color scheme? Overall feel of the site? (I mean, do we decide by ourselves or have some back and forth with the client?)

If you are doing the design then yes but always with a lot of client input. The design of the site will involve a lot of back and forth.

Specific wording of content (such as homepage flavor text. Obviously we wouldn't be expected to write the About the Author section.)?

Copy should be provided, unless you are a copy writer as well.

Additional functionality that we think the user may appreciate? Ideally you'd talk to the client and figure out what they want, but really--do clients ever really know what they want?

If they pay you for it then sure, otherwise bring it up as a potential item but don't work on it. Sometimes clients are extremely receptive to improvement suggestions, other times not so much.

What is expected of the client in order to be able to make a website for them?

Whatever the clients expect. Manage their expectations by being upfront about the services you offer and are willing to provide.

Are web-designer and web-developer essentially interchangeable in casual speak, or...?

Sometimes, sometimes not. Most people will say the average "web developer" is a designer with enough knowledge of WordPress and PHP to be dangerous.

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Thank you for specifically addressing my questions. I guess my next question would be: If I work alone but don't want to do design, then where does it come from? Do I just use premade templates and let the client choose one, maybe with some tweaking? If so, and if there's a nice front-end where the client can update information, what really is my job other than taking care of the possibly-intimidating task of finding a server, installing a CMS, establishing template and maybe some basic menus? I suppose maybe as I get more practice, these questions would answer themselves. –  emragins Mar 25 '11 at 19:03
    
@emragins: That's basically it (the more practice). ;) –  Josh K Mar 25 '11 at 19:32
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Customers like your example customer don't know what they want in detail, but they do know what they like and don't like. That's why when you ask for requirements, you get phrases like "I want it to look nice and attract people and people will want to buy my book." Those are the customer's goals.

Well, nice is subjective. And whether or not the site will attract people and get them to buy his book will depend on many factors, including the quality of the book and the author's marketing skills.

Part of the job of a graphic designer is to create prototypes for the customer so that they can tell you what they like and what they don't like. If you have the skills to do that, more power to you. If you don't, that part of the job is best left to a graphic designer.

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From the design perspective, you could ask them about sites they think look nice. In the context of an author's site, you could look at his book designs to get a feel for his style. –  Michael K Mar 25 '11 at 17:30
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Whats expected of a "Great web developer?"

  • Excellent design sense and skill
  • Extensive front and back end development experience and skill
  • Most important of all The ability of a good sales/Marketing person. You must have the ability to sell "Their Product"( what ever the website-application is for) with "Your Product" ( The actual website-application)

Its for you to decide if you want to be great

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You need to help set the expectation.

You should be clear and up front with a customer to make sure there is no misunderstanding about what will and won't be provided. There are too many different skills and too much variance in what people may want under the domain of "web development".

  • Mobile is different from standard web dev, even from a design point of view.
  • Flash, javascript, HTML, CSS, Images
  • Backend server development for dynamic sites.
  • Retail, shopping cart, credit card processing, drop ship integration.
  • Social media mashups and integration.

And the list goes on and on. Some people/companies will have experience in one or more, rarely all.

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You could look at it this way...

What's expected of a Game Programmer? Is he expected to make a nice playing environment for the user that the user will actually want to play in? Well in my opinion there wouldn't be much sense in making the game (or any application for that matter) unless users would actually want to use the product. It can be great underneath but with out a great UI its essentially worthless to the general user. That being said scale tends to determine the size of the team working on a project. Larger projects will have many people involved who will have a specialized purpose in the project. Smaller projects will force more (if not all) of the work to be put on a single programmer. Now it sounds like to me you're working as an independent contractor. If thats the case you're responsible for the full product UNLESS you have indicated otherwise and are up front about it before hand.

IMO its a little unethical to provide an incomplete product to a customer unless priorly arranged and they have other means of getting the finish touches put on it. But maybe that's just my opinion.

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Make sure you are focusing on the right question. Your example:

"I want it to look nice and attract people and people will want to buy my book."

suggests two things: I want it to look nice is developer / designer territory while people will want to buy my book. is marketing.

To put it another way, would your client be happier with a site that looked nice, but didn't sell many books or a site that sold books but didn't look as nice?

It sounds like you don't want to be a designer, that's fine--just make sure the site helps to sell books. Do some keyword analysis to get his page ranked highly in Google. Make sure when people come to the site they visit multiple pages.

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