Stafford Design - Innovative graphic design services - Portland, Oregon Stafford Design - Innovative graphic design services - Portland, Oregon Stafford Design - Innovative graphic design services - Portland, Oregon
 

Below are listed some of the questions a lot of my clients ask me regularly. It is possible that you may find an answer or two here. If this page doesn't give you what you need, please visit the 'contact' page and get in touch with me directly. I'll be happy to answer anything you may need more information on. Click on a question below:

 

 

 

Q: Why would I want a web site?

A: Believe it or not, I still get this question a lot. A web site is a natural extension of any effort you may make to find and secure new business as well as an asset to maintaining your existing business. It can be your business card, your products and services brochures, a ready means of direct communication with your existing customers, a way to target new customers, an interactive presentation or a way to constantly keep your customer base updated on the very latest developments. Your web site should work hand in hand with any direct sales effort or advertising campaign. In today's business world customers have come to expect a web presence as an indicator of the type of company they have chosen to do business with. Just like with any other sales effort, the impression you make with your web site is very important to the image you want to present to your customer.

Take some time and look around the internet at what your competitors and other companies within your industry are doing. You will get an idea of what might be expected of your own web site and it may even help you to plan what it is you should or should not want present on the internet.
 


 

Q: What do I have to do to get started?

A. The first thing to do is to sit down with me and discuss exactly what it is you want to do. Together we can determine the size and scope of your project, your target audience, your time to completion requirements, and some options on how best to get your message across to the site visitor. At this meeting we will also determine your needs regarding your domain name and site hosting arrangements.

It will help me a great deal if you have some information and materials ready at hand when we meet. Things such as; your company logo, a color scheme you may prefer, other web sites you may wish to emulate or draw ideas from, at least some of the existing materials and wording that you want utilized in your web site and any other specific items or functions you want to see included in the project.

I will come away from our initial meeting with some idea of the direction you want to go and the overall scope of your project. In a few days I will then come back to you with a project proposal that includes all of the items we discussed, a projected completion date, and all costs to you relevant to your project. I will want to meet with you again to go over the proposal, edit it as you may feel is necessary, and finally arrive at a contract for services.

Upon your acceptance of the contract, I will begin the initial design phase in which we are seeking to arrive at an acceptable "look and feel" for the site. It may take several attempts to get to the point where you can approve the design. Upon your approval of the site design, I can begin to work in earnest on the project. Throughout the entire project you will have access to a posted series of web pages (residing behind stafforddesign.com) which will let you view the site while it is under construction and monitor progress towards the completion date. This way I can facilitate small changes early into the project. However, if there are major design changes that occur after you have approved the site design it may mean some additional charges or a contract revision, and possibly a longer time to completion date.
 




Q: What is a 'Domain Name'?  What does URL mean?

A. Your domain name is what identifies you or your company on the internet. Every web site has some type of domain name and you will need one as well. Your domain name may also be referred to as your URL. This is an acronym for 'Uniform Resource Locater' which is the internet address for your domain name. Your URL would look something like this: http://www.mycompany.com.

You can search for a domain name at www.netsol.com or any number of domain name registrars on the web. Once you find a domain name that is available, you can usually register it right on the site where you found it. Cost per year varies from one registrar to another, but you should never pay more than $30.00 for a one year name registration. Some registrars offer domains for under $10.00. You can also register your domain name for multiple years if you choose.

It is preferable that the domain name you choose relates in some clear manner to your company or organization. It will be much easier for visitors to find your site if the domain name isn't too obscure or hard to figure out. In addition, you should try to make the name you choose easy for people to remember and to type. If your domain name contains foreign words or phrases, unusual letters, dashes, tildes, or anything else that makes it harder to remember or to type into a browser, you will end up with fewer hits. Many internet viewers are not trained typists.

There are some relatively new domain name extensions (such as .net, .info, .us, .tv, . biz, and more), but many people still expect a .com at the end of your domain name. Domains with the .com extension are getting much harder to find and you may be forced to consider one of the other extensions. If at all possible, try to find a suitable name with the .com extension. (Unless you qualify for a .org extension which is usually reserved for non-profit organizations).

If all this is a bit too much, as your web designer, I can search for a domain name for you and present you with some options from which to choose. I can also get it registered and have it forwarded to your web host. (see below).
 




Q: What does web site hosting mean?

A. A web host is the company that owns and maintains the web server computers which contain your web site and present it to the internet. Unless you or your company own your own web server and want to host your own site, you will need to utilize a web host. Very often your ISP (Internet Service Provider) also offers web site hosting services. Check their web site and find out if they can meet your needs.

If you prefer it, I can arrange hosting for you. The company I usually refer clients to for hosting services is: www.rahsyland.net. The hosting rates at Rahsyland.net are very competitive and the service has been outstanding.

At Rahsyland.net a small to medium sized site (under 20 meg) will only cost $10.00 per month, with a one-time $20.00 set-up fee. Larger sites cost only a little more. Rahsyland.net can set up all of your emails, register domain names, acquire an SSL certificate for you and provide any other internet services you may require.
 




Q: What is SSL and why might I want it?

A. SSL is yet another computer acronym. This one means 'Secure Socket Layer'. This is a protocol that allows private information to be encrypted and sent over the internet securely. This is important for anyone who collects a site visitor's confidential information such as credit card numbers, financial history, contact information or any other personal data through their web site. Site visitors will recognize SSL pages either because their browser will warn them that they are entering a secure pages area or a secure page symbol will appear on their browser. Usually it is a padlock symbol. Any secure site URL will begin with the designation: https://. If you don't see the "s", the page is not located on a secured server.

If you are considering an online store, you should definitely have some kind of site security in your plan. Many web shoppers are understandably reluctant to enter their financial information on sites that do not display an SSL symbol. SSL requires that you purchase a yearly certificate. You can easily do this through your web site host. SSL certificate prices can vary quite a bit, so shop around a little.

An alternative to SSL is to use an outside service for online store payments. These services can save you a lot of time and headache. One of the more common of these is PayPal. Visit their site at: www.paypal.com to learn more about them. Google now also provides a secure online purchasing option on some sites.
 


 

Q: What is meant by page content or collateral materials?

A. Page content is the written text and photo or illustrative materials that you require for every different page of your web site. This consists of all manner of written copy, lists, descriptions, pricing where applicable, tag lines, catch phrases, form content and so forth. It is difficult for many customers to acquire all of this at once. Many companies do not have advertising people on staff or even someone who has to time to gather all of the materials needed. As you web designer, I can help you with this. I can make suggestions as to what may constitute a successful page and even write some of it for you. However, nobody knows your company, it's products and services, or it's mission like you and your staff, so I will have to rely heavily on you for page content.

Page content is very much more relevant today for search engine queries. This includes the actual paragraph text you present as well as paragraph headers, page titling, (hidden) descriptive text, and more. It is important to make sure the text presented on your pages contains key words and phrases that you feel necessary for any possible search engine inquiry relating to your company, its products or services.

Collateral materials are those items you may already possess that you currently use to promote your company. This would include your company or corporate logo, company color scheme (if there is one), product brochures, business cards, company letterhead  or any other printed sales materials. In addition, you should have some photographs of products, key staff members (if desired), facilities photos or anything else you would like to have presented on your web site.

I can shoot photos for you if you should need it or digitally correct or enhance existing shots.

Unless you are seeking an entirely fresh company image, I will work closely with you to make sure your web site correctly reflects the image you may have created already with your existing sales materials.

All page content and collateral materials are needed promptly in order for me to finish your web site by the projected deadline. Any materials you provide will remain your property and will be returned to you upon completion of the project.
 


 

Q: How do people find my web site?

A. There are three basic ways for people to locate and visit your web site: They can type the URL directly into their browser, they can find your site through a search engine, or they can come to your site via a link from another web site.
 

1. Search engine placement: Search engine optimization and page ranking has become a very important part of today's business web presence. This can be both rewarding and frustrating. Rewarding because often your customers can often find exactly what they are looking for in a search fairly quickly and easily. Of course, you want them to find your company just as easily and quickly. At the same time it is frustrating in that the web is now so vast that you may often get millions of responses to your search query. Trying to locate one particular company can very often take quite a while if your web site isn't tailored to fit the most up-to-date search engine requirements.

Today's search engines utilize various mechanisms that search out the page content of any particular web page and judge whether or not what is found there relates to the searcher's inquiry. As your site designer, I will work with you to make sure your page content will be both informative to the site visitor as well as relevant to current search engine requirements. If you are working with a Search Engine Optimizer, I can also work carefully with them to assure that each or your pages presents to search engines in the best possible manner.

You can try to secure premium placement on some search engines. However, this can get very expensive and constantly has to be maintained. There are any number of companies, software programs, or hit generating services that promise premium placement on search engines. Be careful with these. Some of them work very well, others are simply come-ons. If you are really interested in a premium placement service or program, do some research first. Get on the web and look for reviews or comparisons of the placement company's products or service. NOTE: Many of the Search Engine companies have their own hit generating processes. Some of these offer premium placement or higher hit counts on your web site. Like it often is with so many other things, sometimes you don't get what you pay for. Be sure to research carefully any type of pay-per-click option you may sign up for.

2. Off-line marketing: The only possible way for anyone to type your URL directly into their browser is if they already know it (or can guess it). You can accomplish this by making sure that your web site is only one part of your overall marketing effort. All of your other materials (business cards, brochures, manuals and stationary, trade show displays, etc.) as well any other forms of advertising like radio or television spots should have your URL displayed or mentioned. Put it on your telephone book ads and signage. If you have company vehicles, make sure it is visible on them as well. Your sales and marketing staff should be willing to direct people they come in contact with towards your web site. The more visible your URL is, the more hits your site will receive.

3. Interlinking: Lastly, site visitors can come to your site through a link from another site. If you have partners or affiliates, belong to trade organizations, clubs or associations, or have any other connections outside of your company, it can help to link to their sites and in return have them link to yours. Reciprocating linking has been around as long as the internet and can work very well for everybody involved. Additionally, one of the factors that a large search engine like Google uses in their site placement protocol is how many other sites are linked to yours. This helps them to determine the relative importance or your site and where it should appear in a search.

As your web designer, I can create small banner ad links for you (and for your affiliates). I will place these on your site in such a manner that if a visitor to your site clicks on an outside link, it will open a new browser window instead of closing your site. Visit either my 'personal links' or 'partners' page to see some examples of banner links.
 


 

Q: Who will be able to visit my web site?

A. The short answer is that just about anyone with a computer and access to the internet will be able to visit your web site. However, there are many different web browsers in use today, different operating systems, different levels of technical expertise among today's web viewers, and equipment that ranges from the latest high-end systems back to computers so old they are little more than calculators. To this we need to add a wide range of internet access speeds from high-speed direct lines and cable down to the old 14,400 baud dial-up modems. In short, there is no real standard.

Part of my job as your web designer is to see to it that your site is directed towards your defined target audience in the best possible way. For example; If you wanted to reach 18 to 35 year olds in a totally urban market, I would be safe in assuming that the bulk of your viewers would have up-to-date computer systems, the latest versions of today's browsers, and probably a higher than normal level of high-speed internet access. This would allow me some leeway to add more complex visual and functional elements to your site design. On the other hand, if you are trying to reach a more rural market, I can be confident that local internet service is probably spotty at best, most rural people do not automatically purchase a new computer every eighteen months, so I know I will probably have to build to older browser standards and machines, and that it is even possible that I am going to have to deal with dial-up modems as slow as 14.4K bpm.

All of these things will help to determine how many of the latest bells and whistles your site should contain in order for the greatest number of your targeted audience to be able to open the site quickly and view it easily.

For my part, I will generally build a site to the following specifics: 1024 X 768 optimum screen resolution expandable to full screen width as desired. No horizontal scrolling. Coded to be viewable on current versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer and FireFox and Google Chrome browsers. I won't build to older browser versions unless you specifically wish me to do so as the older browsers have too many limitations and contradictions with other browser formats.

There are some reference sites that can help you to determine what standards you may wish to build your site to. Check out these links:

www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_display.asp   (This tells what the most popular screen resolutions are)
www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp     (This tells what the most popular web browsers are)

 




Q: Can I update my web site myself?

A. Yes, you can. One option is that you or someone on your staff who understands and can work with basic HTML code can make changes to your site or update information. You can accomplish this through any number of good HTML editing programs available today. This is the easiest way to maintain your site but it does have some inherent dangers. If you elect to make site changes yourself, there is a risk that you may do some damage to the structure of the site, upset site navigation, or otherwise cause your site to become disrupted if you are not completely clear on what it is you should be doing. This can get expensive for you because it often takes me just as long to locate and repair unintentional site damage as it does to create the site in the first place.

If you don't really want to mess with site updates yourself, I can make site changes for you. I will charge you an hourly rate if the changes will involve some real quantity of my time. (such as a monthly newsletter, additional new pages, large press releases, or other things of that nature). We will always have a mutual agreement on the time allowed to complete these tasks prior to beginning them. However, small changes that only need five or ten minutes to accomplish I very often don't bother to charge for.

There is a third option you may want to consider if your web project is large enough to sustain it. This is a separate site administrative program that can be created just for you that will allow you to change text or images on your site without interfering with the underlying site structure or having to know anything about site coding. This type of program can be installed on one or more of the computers in your office and stands alone from your web site. The program operator can make changes to the site in plain text and upload them in real time to the site without having a lot of computer knowledge or experience.

A program like this is used to make changes in pricing or product or service lines for example, but can also be utilized for most any of the pages on your web site. This way you can add new photos or graphics or keep text items current and always have a fresh presentation on your site. Bear in mind that this option can add several thousand dollars to the price of your site.
 




Q: What will it cost to create a web site for my company?

A. Your cost depends entirely upon how elaborate you wish to make your web site. The longer it takes to create what you want, the higher your cost. Take my own site here as an example; This is a fairly small, simple site consisting of a short Flash intro page, a home page, and five additional first level navigation pages. There is also four second level pages (such as the page you are on now), some simple java scripting in a couple of places, and a small mail handler form. A site like this one could cost from just a few hundred dollars up to about $2500.00 or so. It will depend on how much you want to place on the site, what you want to see regarding graphic imagery such as Flash content, other animation, video, etc., and how much of the content you can supply to help get it done.

On the other hand, if you were to want an e-commerce site complete with databases, secure pages, administration program and all of the other bells and whistles, you cost could easily run into several thousand dollars. (Maybe more). Additional services like digital photography will add to the cost.

The way to find out about cost is to meet with me and outline what you would like see on your web site and what your expectations are with regard to finding new business and ROI. Armed with this knowledge, I will come back to you with a proposal explaining costs, requirements, time needed, and perhaps some options for you.
 


 

Q: How long would it take to create my web site?

A. In most cases a project will take from two to three months to complete from our contracted start date. This would cover many of the sites you will find on my portfolio page.. Sometimes a small project can be completed much quicker than that and larger jobs may run out to as much as five months or even longer.

During the proposal stage of a project I will calculate the amount of time needed to fulfill all of your requirements as well as your requested project finish date. Rush jobs are more expensive.

As is often the case, design changes, alterations, additions and the like that take place after design acceptance can add to the time required and push out the expected completion date. Additionally, page content text and collateral materials are needed in a timely manner in order to meet project deadline.

 

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