Frequently asked questions
Q: Do I really need a website?
That depends. If you have a genuine business and you’re serious about being successful, the answer is yes. If you’re a talented artist or writer and want a “living archive” to display and share your work, yes again. But if you just want a website because someone said you should, please wait until you’ve got something relevant to share — There’s too much junk out there already.
Q: Could I build a website myself?
Sure. You could build your own refrigerator too. Seriously, there are dozens of “page building” tools out there that can help you make a nice website. Just keep in mind that after the site is built, it needs to be managed. That means security, backups, plugin updates, additions, revisions, and fixing cranky code.
Q: What exactly do you do?
We design and build websites for small service businesses. We specialize in creating visual interfaces (the things people see) that are both useful and easy to use.
As noted below, we rarely build ecommerce or membership websites. They’re just too complex and time consuming — and don’t fit our business model.
Q: Do you also do application programming?
Q: What’s so special about your system?
The typical approach to website design involves all sorts of static files like wireframes, mood boards, mockups, and “stylescapes.” These are usually delivered to the client as PDFs or images that must be approved before moving on to the next “milestone” in the design process.
The problem is, none of these files are fully functional: you can’t click, drag, scroll, navigate, select, or resize. To make matters worse, most of this stuff is based on faulty assumptions gleaned from weeks of customer “research” done by marketing interns.
Our agile design system shortens the whole development timeline by months, and saves you money and countless headaches. We even provide a working demonstration site to share progress during the design process.
Q: Do you prefer specific website platforms or vendors?
Yes. We currently only build websites with the following technologies:
- WordPress content management system (CMS)
- Genesis and GeneratePress theme frameworks
- WP Engine and Kinsta managed WordPress hosting
Q: Is there anything you won’t do?
Yes. Here are a few types of projects we typically won’t tackle. Not to worry though, there are dozens of firms that do.
- Ecommerce sites
- Membership sites
- Shopping carts
- Web forums
- Bulletin boards
- Sites with questionable content
Q: Can you repair or modify our current website?
We’d be happy to review it, but we’d rather not work on it. When it comes to websites, it’s hard to know the original developer’s intent, experience, and skill level. For those reasons and more, we rarely work on stuff made by others. We prefer to build websites from scratch — If something breaks, we know how to fix it.
Q: Who do you like to work with?
Our ideal client:
- Runs a small, privately held service business that offers a specific set of skills, knowledge and expertise.
- Understands that it’s the customer — not organization charts or office politics — that matters most.
- Works directly with us as the decision maker and not through another staff member, assistant, associate, committee, or agency.
- Isn’t afraid to say what they think, and doesn’t mind if we disagree.
- Doesn’t squawk about the cost or time involved.
- Usually defers to our judgement because that’s why they hired us — We know what we’re doing.
Q: How does a typical work relationship begin?
We start by asking you some simple questions. We try to learn all about your company, your goals and your customers. This is usually done via email or over the phone. Once we have a solid understanding of what you need, we’ll put together a plan and get to work.
Q: Can you provide some references we could contact?
Nope. Not any more. This is why:
- On occasion, potential clients have sent out the same generic email to all references with a dozen or so questions. Some current clients felt like they were being interrogated.
- Some potential customers had interns call references and question them. If you don’t have the time to check us out yourself, we probably won’t work well together.
- Sometimes asking for references is a sign of skepticism. This type of doubt often persists throughout the relationship, and often causes friction.
- Most importantly, the work we do for a client is confidential — Just as our work with you will be.
Q: Where do you find new clients?
Most of our new business is referred by existing clients. We’d like to keep it that way.
Q: Do you work with clients outside of Northern California?
We do. The Internet has pretty much eliminated the distance barrier when it comes to communication and production workflow. Wherever you’re located, locally or globally, we’d be happy to speak with you.
Q: Do you work alone?
Usually. Sometimes we work with trusted outside partners who can provide a specific skill or expertise that we need. To clarify, when you hire us, you get us — not a flaky subcontractor, or one of our freelance buddies. If we ever use outside sources, you’ll be the first to know.
Q: How much do you charge?
We typically charge between $5,000 and $10,000 for a new website. Sometimes more, rarely less. Don’t freak out just yet. There are a lot of variables.
Q: What are your payment terms?
Most of our services are partially or fully prepaid and non-refundable, for any reason. The motive for this is not cash flow. Rather, it gives us the freedom to be completely open and honest with you — Without fear of you withholding payment. For precise payment terms please contact us about specific services.
Q: What is your hourly rate?
We don’t work on an hourly basis. That would just punish us for being efficient. This policy also allows us to devote more time to our regular clients. We encourage all business owners to have their sites professionally managed on a monthly basis — If not by us, then by some other competent firm.
Q: Do you offer web hosting services?
No. But we have very strong opinions on the subject. In fact, most of our design and service agreements require the use of a specific host. This is more for the client’s benefit than ours. The choice of a web host directly impacts performance, reliability, scalability, and security. Other than design, it’s the most important decision you’ll make.
WordPress and managed hosting
To be clear, we don’t build websites to run on $5-a-month hosting services. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place. Currently, we only build and manage WordPress sites that are hosted by WP Engine or Kinsta. We don’t profit from these relationships — They’re just splendid services.
Q: Do you offer copywriting services?
We do. In fact, we not only make content recommendations, we typically write much of your website copy ourselves — For you to review and improve at your discretion. We also edit existing text to make it more appealing for online consumption. There is no additional charge for this service, and it greatly accelerates the development process.
Q: What is “responsive” web design?
Responsive design is a methodology for creating websites that will provide a useful human user experience, regardless of the viewing device. Responsive design has been around for over 10 years, and is pretty much a standard feature of any new website. If you find yourself working with a designer who disagrees, find another designer.
Q: Can you build a website that will “dazzle” my customers?
Probably, but a lot of dazzled customers never come back because they never found what they were looking for. The purpose of a website isn’t to impress visitors, it’s to create customers. We believe in simple, elegant websites that are easy to maintain and a pleasure to use. This rarely involves anything that pops up, plays without warning, blinks, crawls, makes noise, or moves around the screen.
Q: Who the hell is Ern Berck?
Ern Berck is the blacksmith at an anonymous town shown in the opening scenes of the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven. You never see him, he never speaks. But somehow you know he’s there — with fire and iron — making stuff.
Q: What’s with the bird?