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How I work

Word of Eye is a small business that I currently run from my office at home in Albuquerque, NM. Beyond the initial consultations with the client(s), I generally communicate via the Internet through e-mail and by posting comprehensive sketches (comps) and web pages to a password protected site. Here is an outline of how the process works:

  1. Homework
  2. Initial consultation
  3. First round of comps
  4. Second consultation and approvals
  5. Final web site contract
  6. Web site construction
  7. Collateral materials
  8. Further questions
  9. Terminology

Homework

Before the initial consultation, the client should, if possible, make a list of the URLs of sites that he/she likes and make a few notes about the design or features of each site that are particularly appealing. Also, it is a good idea for the client to collect any materials (such as business cards and letterhead, logos and artwork, and printed advertising) that the client has had designed in the past and secure the usage of the design(s). At the initial consultation, this will allow us the opportunity to discuss what, if anything, from previous designs will be incorporated into the design of the web site and what collateral materials may need to be designed for the future.

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Initial consultation

If the client is local and has a business that is open to the public, I may try to schedule our initial consultation at the client’s place of business. This allows me a chance to look at the place of business and get a feel for the image that the client wishes to project.

With the client’s help, I determine who makes up the target demographic for the web site so that I can anticipate what needs the end user will have. With this in mind, I discuss with the client the navigational structure of the site and the look that I will create, including colors and font styles (serif, sans-serif or script) that may be used and whether or not to use JavaScript to create rollovers and other effects.

I also discuss with the client what images will be used on the site. I determine whether we will use stock art or whether I will need to hire a photographer or illustrator to create these images. I can and, sometimes, do do my own illustration and logo designs. The logo design for this site is an illustration that I made using Adobe Illustrator, and I have made my own maps and designed logos for other sites. However, I do not generally undertake large illustration projects and I frequently use a professional photographer.

Similarly, I can write copy, and have done so for a couple of the sites that I have designed (this being one such site), but generally, I edit the client’s copy. I check syntax and spelling, and I rework the wording for search engine optimization — adding key words and phrases best suited to the client’s market niche. For particularly large projects, I may hire a copy writer.

If the services of one or more third parties, such as a photographer or copy writer, are required for the production of the web site, I will work with the client to find the appropriate talent. I either bill the client for the additional expense or have the client sign a contract with the third party. I charge by the hour for any services that I provide beyond the initial consultation and the first round of comps.

After determining the scope of the web design project, I offer the client a rough estimate of the time that it will take to complete the project and we set a deadline for the completion of the first round of comps.

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The first round of comps

It usually takes me about a week or two to design the first round of comps and the navigational structure. I generally design at least two sets of comps that may consist of a home page and one or more interior pages. I then either e-mail the completed comps to the client or post these to a password protected web site and e-mail the client an explanation of how to view the comps and diagram.

After posting or e-mailing the comps, I like to schedule a second consultation within a week or two. This allows the client time to consider the comps and get feedback from colleagues.

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Second consultation and approvals

The purpose of the second consultation is to determine whether the client is happy with my work and the way in which I work, and, if so, hammer out the details of our working relationship.

If, at this point, the client is unimpressed with me or the work that I have done so far, he/she may decide to look for another designer. If this is the case, the client returns any of the comps that I have made that may be in his/her procession, and I bill the client nothing. I would, generally, be happy to recommend another designer.

If the client likes the way that the project is progressing, I listen to feedback about the first round of comps, and we address changes that will need to be made to the design and/or navigational structure. It is rare that a client will completely commit to one particular set of comps without requesting changes.

If major changes are to be made to the design, the client may feel that another comp and/or navigational diagram is necessary. If so, we set a deadline and schedule another consultation.

If the changes are minor, I have the client initial the comp and the navigational diagram and the sign the approval sheet with the list of changes (that we have discussed). The approval sheet is a binding preliminary contract (a more detailed final contract will be drawn up after scheduling deadlines) indicating that the client accepts the design (with the stipulated changes). Should the client later decide to make major changes to that design, he/she agrees to pay for all work done on the design that he/she initialed and the additional expenses of the redesign — all work is considered work for hire and billed hourly.

We then discuss costs and fees and terms of usage and establish a schedule for the completion of the site. This means breaking the project down into various phases and setting deadlines for each phase. These phases include, but are not limited to, design and construction of templates, creation of images (photography or illustration as required), writing of copy, editing of copy, proofing and approval of pages and, finally, posting of pages to the client’s site.

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Final web site contract

After the approval sheet is signed and the scheduling worked out, I draft a final contract specific to the client. This contract details everything that we have discussed to date including who will provide what materials, the contracting of third parties, costs, and payment schedules, terms of usage, deadlines and approvals, final proofing, the posting of pages to the client’s site and maintenance. Additional contracts will be made for collateral materials.

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Web site construction

After the final web site contract is signed, I begin construction of the site in accordance with the contract. I post work to a password protected site for the client to review and approve. The client provides written approvals and lists of changes as necessary, including the final proofing of the site. After the site has been proofed, the pages are uploaded to the client’s site and, as agreed upon, I provide routine maintenance.

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Collateral materials

A client may wish to have collateral materials designed in conjunction with his/her web site. A request for such materials may be made before, during or after the web site design process, and the design of such materials is subject to the terms of a contract(s) separate from the web design contract.

I charge set fees based on ad size and colors for advertising in a printed publication (i.e. phone directories, newspapers) but generally charge an hourly rate for the design of other materials (i.e. business cards, letterhead or a promotional mailer). If a client requires multiple materials, I may negotiate a package deal.

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Further questions

I have tried to provide a general comprehensive description of how I work. Because every client is different, it is impossible for me to anticipate and address every issue that could potentially arise. So if you have further questions about how I work, please email me: marcia@wordofeye

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Terminology

Comps — I generally create my comps as digital illustrations (rather than hand-drawn sketches) using Adobe Illustrator and/or Adobe PhotoShop.

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Usage of design — Because copyrights generally reside with the creator(s) of original work, the client must secure the usage of any copyrighted materials and sign an agreement indemnifying me, as the designer, against all claims for copyright infringement.

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Client’s site — The client registers a Domain Name and contracts the services of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to host his/her site. The client transfers the Domain Name to the ISP, and the ISP sets up a Virtual Domain to host the client’s site. This is a separate site from the password protected site that I use to post comps and pages. I do not offer web hosting but can be of assistance in securing the services of an ISP or registering a Domain Name.

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Payment schedule — For my services, I bill at an hourly rate, and I invoice from the 1st of the month through the 15th of the month and from the 16th of the month to the end of the month, unless I have stated otherwise in the contract. Payments for third party services may not follow the same schedule.

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Terms of usage — As an artist, I hold the copyright to all original designs and images that I create unless the project is a “work for hire.” Currently, all new web design work that I do is work for hire. This means that the client owns the copyright, and may do as he/she pleases with the site and all the work product for which he/she paid. I do ask the client to allow me use of the original design in my portfolio, and to allow me to link to the site so long as I am responsible for maintenance and appearance. These requests are finalized in the contact.

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Deadlines — As the designer, I will make every reasonable attempt to meet all deadlines outlined in the contract. Should delay or error on my part cause delay in the posting of pages to the client’s site on the agreed upon date, my fees will be reduced as specified in the contract. However, should such a delay be caused by the actions of the client (i.e. through failure to provide materials, issue approvals or make payments in a timely manner), the client assumes responsibility for the delay at no penalty to me, the designer. At any point, should the client request major revision to the originally agreed upon design (initialed comps and approval sheet), the project becomes a redesign and deadlines are rescheduled accordingly.

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Approvals — At various stages in production a client will be required to sign approval sheets stating that the work is acceptable. If the client does not find the work acceptable, he/she must supply me, the designer, with a written list of changes that need to be made; this list may take the form of an e-mail.

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Final proofing — Some web sites may be built and posted in sections on different dates. After the design and construction of the web site (or section of the site) is complete the client is given at least a week to proof the entire web site/section and request any changes that need to be made before the pages are posted to the client’s site.

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Maintenance — I generally provide routine maintenance of sites that I design. This includes updating content and adding or removing links and/or pages. I charge my usual hourly rates for this service.

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