We'll want to meet with you, in person if possible, for a preliminary meeting to create a plan for the project. We'll want to know your goals and your audience, and what kind of content you plan to display on the site. We'll work with you to develop a scope of work and a creative brief, documents that will guide the rest of the design process. We'll also sort out the details of your URL and web hosting plans.
We'll usually want to meet at least one more time, for an hour or two, to create a plan for the site. In this meeting we'll get deep into the details of your site's structure and content, and we'll also talk a bit about the look and feel to inform the next steps.
Once we're done with those planning meetings, and we've got a clear picture of the site's audience, goals, and structure, we'll take off (usually for at least two weeks) to draw some mockups of the site. If you're interested in doing a detailed, iterative design process, we can certainly accommodate, but most of our clients lean toward a quicker, cheaper option, where the first draft we deliver is a detailed mockup of the entire website in PDF form. At this stage you'll have the opportunity to review and request revisions.
If you're hiring us only to design the site, and hiring someone else to build it, this is the end of our work. Once we've agreed on a mockup, we'll hand that off to your developer. If you're hiring us to build it too, keep reading.
Once we have a mockup that makes everyone happy, we'll take off, (usually for two or three weeks) to build the website. At the end of this process we'll deliver a password protected staging site for you to review. This is a fully-functional version of the site with all pages and structure present. The only thing separating it from the final is the content. All images and copy on this site will be placeholder. Small revisions can be made at this point if necessary.
We'll give you and your staff a training on how to upload content to the site. We'll be on hand during this period to answer questions, and help out with design related tasks as needed (resizing images and such), but the primary responsibility for writing the copy, and finding the images, and loading them up to the site will be with you. We usually advise clients to create as much of the content as possible while we're building the site, so that this phase can be relatively short (usually about two weeks). We'll also use this time for final quality control, tracking down bugs and making sure the site looks great on every browser and device.
When all the content has been loaded, and all the bugs have been fixed, and everyone has reviewed and approved the staging site, we'll push it live for all the world to see. In this process, also called "go-live," we'll copy the site from our servers to yours, and make any necessary changes to the DNS (pointing your URL to your server). Lastly, we'll give it a final test run, validating it with Google, Facebook, Twitter, and anyone else who matters to you.