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?
Absolutely. There are dozens of semi-automated web-building tools out there to help you do just that. However, keep in mind that after the site is built, it needs to be managed. That means performance monitoring, 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.
We rarely, if ever, 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 “phase” in the design process.
The problem is, none of these files are fully functional: you can’t click, slide, 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 theme framework
- WP Engine managed WordPress hosting
Q: Is there anything you won’t do?
Yes. Here are a few 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 adult or other questionable content
These types of projects can get very costly and complicated, and are beyond the scope of our workflow.
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:
- Our current clients have not signed up to give you advice, and that’s usually what happens. Some have even been pressured into discussing sensitive processes, costs, and strategies.
- On occasion, potential clients have sent out the same generic email to all references with a dozen or so questions. Some clients felt like they were being interrogated.
- Some prospects had assistants or 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.
- In many cases, asking for references is a sign of skepticism. It’s been our experience that this type of doubt 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: What happens if something goes haywire with our relationship?
We honestly don’t believe that there’s much you can do to screw up a business relationship that is meant to be. Just remember that maybe it’s not meant to be. We say “no” a lot more than we say “yes.”
Q: Where do you find most of your clients?
The majority of our new business is referred by existing clients. We’d like to keep it this 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 be clear, 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?
Typically between $5,000 and $20,000. Don’t freak out just yet. There are a lot of variables.
Q: What are your payment terms?
Most of our services are 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 refer to specific services.
Q: What is your hourly rate?
We don’t work on an hourly basis. This allows us to devote our 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 WP Engine
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 came to the wrong place. Currently, we only build and manage WordPress sites that are hosted by WP Engine. We don’t profit from these relationships — They’re just splendid services.
Q: Do you offer copywriting services?
We frequently provide content suggestions, and often edit copy to make it more suitable for online consumption. That said, we highly recommend working with a professional copywriter who is familiar with your industry or profession. Content isn’t the best place to skimp on your budget.
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?