Behind the Scenes: How I Build Websites

One of my favorite clients — no, I won’t name names this time — just gave me the green light to start building her new website. I love kicking off a new project because it’s a chance to either help a brand new business grow or create something that will improve an existing business.

Every single new site I build kicks off the same way, with me looking over the design files for any questions, hiccups or details that will need some flushing out.

Did you think that I was the one designing the site? That’s a common misconception. While I might have a degree in design, my super powers are better used working with PHP + CSS. Aka the languages that make WordPress work.

Designer + Client’s Vision

I take the time to look things over because a flat file does not behave the same way an interactive website does. I want to know what the designer + client’s vision was; there is zero room for assumption in this phase. Similarly, I give the project contact a list of possible hiccups or missing content so that it can be worked on while I’m building. This usually looks like form thank you messages, discussing the best way to present media without slowing down a site, or going over plugin licenses the client may need.

After I hand off my notes + questions, I start developing locally. That’s geek speak for building on my computer. I do this because it speeds up the process by a few seconds every time I save a website file. (Writing this out makes me wonder exactly how many times I make a change during a site build… I bet it’s at least thousands of edits + file changes.) Shortcuts are not my focus, but being efficient with my time (+ in turn, my client’s time) is a priority. I build the desktop version of the site to as close to done as I can before sharing a link with the team.

Handing Over the Files

It can be scary to hand over files + wait patiently for an update on the project. But this focused coding time is great for other project tasks to be tackled too. Drafting launch announcement emails or ads, updating branding on all tools used, getting new photos edited, creating a new downloadable product, etc.

Once the link is shared with the team, we review for any edits or changes. This phase can be 1 day long or 1 month long depending on how many edits + changes are requested. Typically we move on to the next phase the following week which gives the client time to review the site + provide details, for me to make those edits + for the client to confirm that the changes are good to go.

Making Sure the Site Behaves

At this point, I’m in the home stretch of building the new WordPress site. I get out all of my extra devices + get to work making sure the site behaves on all browsers + devices. This is when the mobile site is fine-tuned. I do what is known as responsive development, meaning the code responds to the size of the screen. But there can be things that come up on mobile that need tweaking. For example, I just had a client request changes to the size of their headings because on really small phones, the long words that are common in their industry were breaking onto multiple lines.

Why do I do mobile after the desktop review? It’s another way that I save everyone time. After one too many projects where mobile was pixel perfect, a change made on the desktop side of things impacted numerous pages on mobile. So then I’d have to get out my devices again, review multiple pages, make edits + then hand it back over to the client. Instead, I get the large screen version set + then can focus on the mobile version.

While the client reviews the mobile site, I wrap up testing all of the site features + functions. How does form filling out go, what links are missing, is it loading as quickly as it should, etc. That way, when the mobile version is approved, we are ready for the final (but not really final) step — launching.

I Launch, You Celebrate

I handle the launch process for all of my clients so they can focus on the best part – celebrating + sharing the new site. Sometimes this phase is a matter of pushing a few buttons + confirming that everything works. Other times it’s a bit more involved + requires me to copy pages over one by one. It just depends on the site structure + the project.

I said it wasn’t really the final step because I despise the “launch + bye” approach that I’ve seen some developers take over the decade of doing this. Do I want my clients to be able to work with their site without my help? Absolutely! But I also care about being available to them should they need me, or when they’re ready to make some updates. Which is why I offer hosting + site care packages to those that want tiny blue orange in their corner post launch.

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