How We Work

Dilbert by Scott Adams - 12/7/2009So you think you might want a new website designed by Rowboat Media. If you’re like most people, you don’t know where to begin beyond sending a “Help” email. Not to worry – we’ll lead you through the rest of it from here.

Our first conversation

Our typical response to emails that simply say, “I need a website. How much and how fast can I get it?” is…laughter. Once we stop laughing, we email you back and advise you that, while titillating, your missive does not contain nearly enough information about who you are, what you need, and whether or not we are a good fit to work together. First we ask that you thoughtfully fill out our short Website Design Inquiry form, and then we’ll email you back to schedule a telephone or Skype conversation.

We do initial consultations on a pre-scheduled basis, once we receive your Design Inquiry.

Cynthia’s most impressive super-powers come in her human scale. She’s a real live, real smart, real funny, real human, human being, who is quick on the return email, sharp on the snark, wise (and occasionally wiseass) on the opinion, and all around an extraordinary pleasure to work with. Kudos to her and to Rowboat Media.

-Matt Levy
Levys’ Unique New York – New York’s First Family of Tour Guides

The point of these consultations is to get a sense of who you really are and what you’re looking for, without you having to know all the fancy techie words to describe it. We’ll ask the right questions.

As a result of that phone call, we will provide a detailed proposal with firm quote for the project scope as outlined in that proposal, and a delivery timeframe estimate.

I want to hire you. What next?

If you are pleased with the telephone call, the quote, and our initial ideas, you let us know you want to hire us by choosing one of the payment methods provided. Quotes are good for 30 days only, and your retainer is what solidifies both your place in the production queue and your price.  For insta-confirmation, we take Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover, and PayPal. You can mail us an old-fashioned check, too.

We’ll also send you an email with your “homework” – everything from getting a domain name to a hosting account to providing us with high-resolution logos if you have them and good photo files to work with of both yourself and/or your products. The faster we get these, the smoother your project goes.

How long does the process take?

Once we begin a project – meaning that you have provided all content, photographs, and other collateral – we expect to complete that project within 60-90 days with active feedback and participation from you in a timely manner.

We’re not interested in dragging out the process, for ourselves or for our clients, so we prefer that you sign on with us when you are fully ready to engage. Stale, stagnant energy around a slow-moving project is no fun and doesn’t aid commerce on either end.

Content – or…what on earth do I put ON my website?

“Content begets design” is the truth. You must have something to design for the result to have meaning.

- Chris Pearson,
Thesis creator and developer

Ah, content creation and copywriting. The bane of both every web designer’s and design client’s existence. Those pithy words that send your message out into the world, lovingly cradled by the outstanding design for which you’re paying hard-earned money. Content and design, design and content…it’s hard to figure out what to put on a website that doesn’t exist yet, and it’s hard to build a design to hold imaginary contents!

This is the one spot where a design process can most likely end up stalled and drifting on becalmed waters. If you want your website quickly and on schedule, you must actively participate in the content process and meet the internal deadlines we set. Otherwise…the Internet could be obsolete before we get the project in the can!

Since your content needs to reflect YOUR personality and that of your firm or company, it’s hard to provide “canned” content that sounds like anything other than just what it is. We’ve all seen the results of those one-stop-shopping website mills and the same crappy content over and over.

If you feel unsure about how to proceed, you’re flat out too busy running your own business, or subjects, predicates and keywords make you break out in hives, we can help. Check out our Website Content Writing Service.

We’ll help you figure out what absolutely MUST be covered on your website on our initial call.

If you’re providing new content, we need it BEFORE starting your design. We can’t stress this enough – design CANNOT begin without your having delivered to us the content you are comfortable launching with. Since this is WordPress, you can always add more later – but we need the initial content bundle before we start. If we’re doing a blog for you, this includes at least 3 initial blog posts.

The fun part – creating the design

Creating the design can be the most rewarding and the most challenging part of the process. While we love playing with typography/fonts, pretty colors, and lovely images, we’re also giving serious thought to the architecture and functionality of your design.

It’s our job to make sure that, while it looks good, your site is also attractive and easy to index by the major search engines, and also dynamic enough to support minor changes and continual additions to content without having to throw the whole thing out the window and start all over. There are many ways to make a website “look” nice without being properly constructed under the hood.

We start out working in Photoshop and Illustrator to create a mockup of your home page and interior pages based on your specifications. Once we’ve got something we’re proud of, we share it with you via our collaboration program. Don’t bother clicking those buttons – remember, it’s not REAL yet….but you CAN click and drag right on the design to make your comments.

Once you give us your feedback, we incorporate that into another revision. Once you tell us you are 100% happy with it – this is important, as changes are cheap to make in Photoshop and expensive to make in code, we build it as an actual website on our test server and load in your content. This part can sometimes take longer than the mockup portion due to its inherent technical gnarlyness, so be patient.

On revisions:

We tried including unlimited revisions in our quotes. For most clients, this worked out fine. But for a few, this meant – put the couch over here…no…wait a minute…put it over there…oh, silly ME, put it back. On second thought, I don’t even WANT a couch – how about an armoire? Once we got to revision #15, we…DIED. Of a simultaneous studio-wide aneurysm. When we came back to life, we had a 3-revision-round limit on each page template outlined in your proposal. Additional revisions above the 3 rounds cost extra. So…let’s polish up our communication skills and focus.

A word about browser compatibility…

In general, we try to support browsers that are up to 3 years old, and monitor resolutions down to 1024 x 768. This means we currently support IE9, IE10 and current versions of Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. Otherwise, we’d have to charge five times as much and take three times as long for the time spent in workarounds, alternative designs, and flat-out hacks. Plus we’d be encouraging people to get their computers hacked by using such an attack-friendly browser.  Having said that, we do personally test all of our work in both Windows and Mac environments and with Firefox, IE9, IE10, Safari, and Chrome.  We use online testing services for browsers we don’t have or can’t run – provided they are reasonably current.

We continually monitor browser market share and trends over time using this link.

Yet another word about disappearing clients…

We know this may be really hard to believe, but sometimes, ever so rarely, we have clients who pay a retainer and then…disappear. While this may seem like free money, because we’re all work ethicky, we find this quite distressing – we’ve put them on our calendar, which means other people couldn’t have that time on our calendar, and we’re either halfway through the design process or haven’t started yet and can’t find the client to answer our questions, provide feedback, or otherwise indicate they’re alive. We do not understand this behavior, as a retainer for a Rowboat Media website design is an amount substantially larger than the cost of a Happy Meal. It causes us worry – has there been foul play? Have they fallen and can’t get up? Did a tour of the La Brea Tar Pits go horribly wrong?

When this happens, sometimes we’re forced to tell the client that they’ve lost their place on our calendar and have to go to the back of the line, at such time as they choose to resurface. Also, in order to incentivize said elusive client to remain in view, we may have to ask for another 25% of the project price to soothe our jangly nerves. Clients who go incommunicado for 30 days may have a fee for work performed and an administrative charge assessed against their retainer. Call your mother – she’s worried sick.

Checkin’ out the finished product.

Once we’re finished with the code on our test server, we send you that link and invite you to wander around, peek in the closets, snoop in the medicine cabinet and generally try your best to break things. We hope you’ll be unsuccessful at that, but if you are – it’s doubly helpful. Let’s take a look at what seems hesitant, or less than intuitive, and talk about it. Find the dead-ends, cul-de-sacs, and flat-out silly connectors. Get Grandma to test it, along with your six-year-old nephew. Studio cat Elliott is our chief end-user tester at Rowboat Media, so we try to make our designs accessible to those who lack thumbs and are easily distracted by dental floss.

Let’s LAUNCH this baby and make some NOISE!

Once the site has been cat-tested and approved, and you say you’re thrilled with the idea of it showing up under your very own domain name, you let us know. Once your account is paid in full, we’ll get you live on your own domain, test the live site, and break a bottle of champagne over the nearest pointy corner we can find. You don’t EVEN want to clean up that mess. We then follow up with a congratulatory email to you, make some noise with our social media networks about it, and strongly encourage you to do the same.

What now? Do you sail off into the sunset and leave me here all alone?

Absolutely not. At the time your site launches, we give you the opportunity to subscribe to our WebMistress Service, which is an extremely economical way to have us monitor your site quietly in the background and be available to you when you need minor changes to content, graphics, plug-in help, etc. You can find out more details about that service here.

Otherwise, we charge a diagnostic/setup fee and an hourly rate for support and changes. If you just have a simple question, feel free to ask – we’re always here to maintain a continuing dialogue with our clients – many of whom become friends before the process is over.

Now I know how it works – but how much does it cost and how long does it take?

Magic 8 ball says…it depends. Cost and timeframe are dependent upon how many clients are in the production queue ahead of you at any given time, the complexity of your project, and how fast you get YOUR part of the project to us – login information, logos, photographs, and content. That’s why we like to speak with you first before quoting your project and making timeframe estimates. Because we keep a busy production calendar and we prefer to do things right than do them over, typically expect between 4-8 weeks from time of booking for a fully custom design.

This sounds like WAY more fun than
a root canal. Let’s do it!

Great idea! Get the process started by sending us a website design inquiry.

Still not sure? Check out what these people had to say about working with us – all I know is, I’ll have what they’re having.

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