Elance Blog

Bridging the Designer-Developer Divide: How to Efficiently Build Your Next Website

Occasionally we invite clients in our marketplace to discuss issues of importance to freelancers who work on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Jessie Krieger. He is a best-selling author of Lifestyle Entrepreneur and creator of the Business In a Weekend. Learn more, and get a free copy of his book, at: www.BusinessInAWeekend.co

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Over the last half decade I have hired Elancers for over 110 projects, including dozens of websites both for my own entrepreneurial pursuits, and those of my clients. Throughout those five years I have deduced a super easy way to save thousands of dollars building websites through Elance. It all revolves around a 3-step process that divides the work between designers and developers (as opposed to hiring one person or team to build the whole site).

You see, design work and development work (aka programming) are two totally different skills. Very rarely does one person posses a total fluency on both fronts. Rather, there is no shortage of incredible designers out there, just as there is no shortage of incredible developers out there. The trick is knowing how to break down your website needs into three discrete jobs. Let’s take a look:

Job #1 – Logo Design

Assuming you’re starting a new business or doing a redesign on your website, the first place to start is getting a great logo designed. Your logo encapsulates the look and feel of your business or brand and communicates what you’re all about to your customers. A great logo instantly builds credibility and immediately informs new visitors to your site how you can help them and what your value proposition is. And perhaps most importantly, a great logo embodies your brand’s design aesthetics can act as the “seed” from which your website design grows.

A great logo consists of a suggestive illustration, your business or brand’s name, and an informative tagline.

Here are some examples of logos I’ve had designed on Elance. Each one cost less than $100 to design including multiple initial design ideas and many rounds of revisions.

Takeaway: To start building your next great website, start by posting a Logo Design job on Elance and describe the look and feel you’re going for as well as provide some references to other logos whose style you like.

Job #2 – Homepage & Inner Page Template Design

Now that you’ve got a great looking logo, it’s time to put it to work! For your second job post a job titled something like “Homepage and Inner Page Design Template Needed for _________ Business” where you simply fill in what industry your business is in.

The specifics of this job should include two deliverables; a homepage design and a template for how the inner pages should look. When you post this job make sure to mention that you have a logo to share with the designer that they can use as a basis for the look and feel of the homepage and inner page. The inner page template simply describes the structure and layout that all pages inside your website will be based on.

The logic here is that by starting with a logo, you’ve defined the key graphical sensibilities that your website will be based on. Then by limiting your second job to just two designs, you keep costs under control and take advantage of what designers are great at – DESIGNING! This step in the process can cost as little as $200-$350, depending upon your requirements.

Takeaway: Provide the homepage and inner page design team with your logo and give them references to other sites you like, pointing out specific elements you like there (i.e., I love the menu bar on ABC.com and I love the right-hand sidebar on XYZ.com)

Job #3 – Technical Integration Specialist

Now it’s time to take these great designs and turn them into a fully functioning website. For this job you are hiring a programmer to take the designs you now have and do whatever coding work is necessary to get them published live on your domain.

This job is all about handing off the designs from Job #2, tell them what functionality you want such as a shopping cart and/or email capture forms and telling the developer/s to “take it across the finish line”. You want the final deliverable for this job to be your website published on your domain as a fully functioning website.

By splitting up the website development process into these three discrete steps you stand to save thousands of dollars as compared to the more traditional approach of hiring a team to “build your website”. Once again, this step in the process may only cost $200-$350 -- depending upon what you need.

Takeaway: Have designers deliver your homepage and inner page designs in HTML/CSS format, then hire a programmer to integrate all the functionality you need and publish the finished site live on your domain.

In conclusion: By separating the design process from the programming aspect of building websites you stand to save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars building your next website or launching your next online business. Bridge the designer-developer divide let Elancers focus on what they are best at, just like you’re focusing on what you’re best at by hiring great talent on Elance!

About the Author:

Jesse Krieger is the best selling author of Lifestyle Entrepreneur and creator of the Business In a Weekend.

Comments

Hey Elancers, this is Jesse Krieger (aka Starlight). I'm excited to have the opportunity to publish on the Elance blog after being an avid user for over 5 years. Please ask any questions you have about splitting design work from development work, or any other Elance related question here and I'll answer them all in detail.

To your success - Jesse

Hi Jesse awesome to have you onboard!
I have a question: I want the developers to keep assisting me with any technical issues and the growth of the website in the long term. My project its a social network website & i expect uses number to grow and also to adapt the platform & evolve it according to this growth and customers' needs. Are these services included by the developers or I have to pay extra??! How to go about "spliting" this kind of work and whats a "fair" quote for this ongoing assistance. I guess developers wont let you down after putting up the site,Will they ? Thanks in advance very much Jess!

Hello! Very good question, what I'll usually do is use the prospect of consistent future work on the site as an incentive to get great work on the front-end, as well as consistently get competitive prices for the development work. In other words, let the programming team you hire know on the front-end that you'll likely re-hire them and/or give them a monthly retainer to be on-call to help with further development.

I talk a lot about this in my book, Lifestyle Entrepreneur which you can get for free (and learn about my Business In a Weekend program): www.BusinessInAWeekend.co

Talk soon and let me know if that clarifies for you,

Jesse

Thanks a lot for this very useful awesome article!! Fantastic. I really hope that his prices/quotes are realistic because many lances ask crazy prices still..

@Aliahhh28 - See my comment below, and please keep in mind that I'm speaking from my experience of both sub-contracting freelancers and taking on projects (not on Elance, though)...

My pleasure, glad you liked it! Yes, those prices are the average amounts I routinely pay for those services on Elance. It's true that many providers charge/bid higher than that, and many of them to fantastic work. But for my needs, I've found great quality teams at those price points

While I can see the value in this approach -especially if you are not familiar with software development- I find the estimated cost of the 'programming' portion very unrealistic, even for Elance. Unless your website is merely a display of static content, you are looking at many hours of development needed to implement at least a database, the business logic and the front-end. Add e-commerce, some web-app, maybe even a CMS and suddenly you have a big project.

Hello, you raise a fair point. In general those programming services, at the price points in the article are for integrating a shopping cart, WordPress theme modifications and integrating social media with the site (as well as having it published "live" as the final deliverable), so they are a baseline level of work for a sales-focused website. In terms of database implementation and CMS, I'm a fan of WordPress powered sites that take care of that for you for free. That plus an number of task-specific SaaS solutions (DropBox, TeamBox, GoToWebinar, etc) that are either freemium or tiered pricing based on usage and volume, and it truly does become possible to get a full-fledged business live for the prices in the post.

And of course this is a high-level overview of the strategy, I have 12+ hours of training on implementing it in my course Business In a Weekend - Check it out and grab a free copy of my book Lifestyle Entrepreneur while you're at it :)

www.BusinessInAWeekend.co

Best,

Jesse

Great article. Thank you. I wish I had read it about 6 weeks ago. Understanding the difference in roles between designer and programmer is very helpful and this knowledge could have saved me a lot of time and disappointment.
I have a question regarding the finished home and inner page designs being in html/css format.
Is all of this advice suitable for a WordPress site with a purchased theme?

Hello, thanks a lot! Good question, and the answer is generally yes. What I'll usually do is start with designing the look/feel like I mention here, without regard to whether I'll use WordPress for the site or not. Once the designs are looking good, then it's a pretty straightforward job for a programmer to build that as a custom WordPress theme and deliver it to you as a functional site.

Does that help? Have a free copy of my book Lifestyle Entrepreneur and learn more about my Business In a Weekend course here: www.BusinessInAWeekend.co

All the best,

Jesse

Dear Peter,

Your question seems very relevant and quintessential for many employers. I do appreciate your honest question about it.
First of all, it's possible to complete a project at the lowest cost like Mr. Jesse Krigger shared. Well, as he mentioned on his theories it all depends upon the requirement and the goal of a website. If, you've a crystallized view about the project and the purchased theme definitely it might reduce and sometimes cost you more. It's always recommendable to discuss the requirement with an expert to help you out on the ditch. Does that sounds expedient to you? Feel free to ask me up to clarify further.

Best regards,

I'm not Peter but my question is almost identical about whether to have a developer use WordPress. In my case I want my small biz clients to be able to make small (usually just text/blog) additions to their sites, or simply add a page to their new website themselves. I've had CSS coding interfere with those simple changes. Also I want my clients to increase website useability with plugins. Thoughts? I think you are saying it can be more expensive to have a developer work around a Premium WP theme, than simply start from zero.

I feel you do a disservice to the design community by saying good logo work should be priced at $100. It takes a professional designer hours to properly investigate and develop concepts and then to ultimately produce good branding. This must be pricing for students. I'm not sure who in the United States can survive on such cheap labor.

Hello, if you have posted a "logo design" job recently on Elance, you have almost certainly received bids in this price range. These are not "students" but sophisticated teams of designers, who work through a project manager and deliver around 3-6 initial designs for that $50-$100 all-in price. I am completely agnostic about where the teams I hire on Elance are located. There are great designers in Pakistan and Argentina that work with time and time again for this price. If you're interested, I'll give you the Elance names for the teams I use so you can see for yourself what quality they provide. Spoiler alert: They are GREAT!

Best - Jesse

I take serious the comments here and elsewhere so here I go. I recently had a very unpleasant experianse with contracting via a broker. I posted an request on Elance and within hours I had bids from $.50 to $350.01. I went with a higher quote. I bundled my previous work as best as I could and zipped it to the bidder. I sent a rather long list and explanations along. I was having some serious medical problems so sometimes I was out of the contact loop. The bidder took my project which I had expressed that I wanted it in HTML and CSS, He took a quick look at an old attempt that I had done in tables and finished the $350.01 project in a day and a half sent it to me, but not in strictly HTML and CSS. I was under some serious pain killers so it took me a few days to respond. In the meantime Elance had taken my escrow money and paid him without my approval or disapproval. From there I had no recourse. I objected to this rapid procedure to Elance but their response was that I needed to take any complaints up with the contractor not with them. At no time did I have any say so or agreement to pay him. He said that He was done and he was paid before I could responed. I have never been agreeable to this incident.

That is certainly a unique and isolated incident. You should be able to contest the charge through Elance and get a fair resolution. In any case, for future projects simply set the "milestones" at dates further in the future so you don't have some accidental ending to the job that triggers payment. Don't let the experience turn you off, out of 119 jobs on Elance I have done, I'd say less than 10 of them have had an issue and only 1 or 2 where I had to open a dispute through Elance.

Best - Jesse

Hello - I hired a firm through Elance to rebuild my website in Magento Community. It is not live for several reasons - The biggest being that the front and back ends are so slow it is difficult for me to even work on it. They recommended Host Gator when we got started. HG says the programmer needs to optimize the site and the firm says HG is the problem - their server is too slow. HG showed some data from a speed test and the firm marginally improved some of the items. I don't know who to believe - now I am stuck. Any advice?

Hello, I'll tell you something interesting: Every, and I mean every, hosting company I have used besides GoDaddy has given me major headaches and/or site outages. I exclusively use GoDaddy for all my hosting and I have rarely ever had an issue. Give them a try! And if you actually need a "faster" site, you can use a CDN service (content delivery network) that stores that images and web elements (that make your site load slow) and caches them on separate servers that are lightning fast. I use MaxCDN for my blog and it works great: www.LifestyleEntrepreneurBlog.com

All the best,

Jesse

thanks will check it out
how can I check to make sure the firm that is building my site has done all they can to increase the speed?

Sure thing! Well, the site speed is going to depend on many things, like how many images you use, what size they are, if there are a bunch of scripts running on the site and more.

In general though, you'll want to optimize the image size that you're using on your site. Use .jpg or .png graphic files and make sure they are in the 50-150kb size range (don't use images that are 1mb for example as that will take much longer to load).

That's the basics, but site speed optimization can be a science in and of itself. Google Analytics has some free tools for benchmarking site speed and their Webmaster Tools gives suggestions for improvement I believe.

Best - Jesse

Hi Jesse,

Thanks for your article.
What about the actual creation of the content?
Meaning mainly all texts. Combined with photo's and graphics that are uses on a website.

Do you have any tips on finding people/ defining projects to help with this part of the job?

We are a manufacturer that is good in making awesome products not in making stories/content for our website.

Hello,

My pleasure, glad you enjoyed it! In terms of content creation (also known as "copy" or "copywriting" in Elance parlance) there is certainly a segment of the Elance community that specializes in just that. Although it wasn't the focus of this article, I've worked with a dozen or so copywriters on Elance and they can do everything you need...from About Us page to product descriptions, to terms and conditions text. You can hire a team of copywriters to get the text content done for you.

I'd recommend you grab a copy of my book Lifestyle Entrepreneur (for free) and check out the section in the book where I talk about just that: www.BusinessInAWeekend.co

Hope that helps - Jesse

Hi Jesse thank you so much for your reply. I think though that. I will need them on call pretty much all the time but only a month...as in : to be there whenever the users find a problem, because social networking sites in their initial stage get to test in away all the functionalities.. And you can take my nigger build a decent number of users so I need to adopted as I go by as I get a feedback as well, i d like to get developers to work&assist more in an evolutive perspective... I am not sure what a fair quote would be for this type of site and this type of assistance that I need, do you have an idea?!
And lastly.. Do I really need to get them the designs in HTLM format?! Im would like to use my own designs (drawings) and maybe give them some more cops and references from other websites but I don't want them to do my logo and the look of my homepage& inner pages- how to go about it, still price applies or more expensive without Htlm format? Thanks again!!

Oops sorry, auto correct messed it up! I didnt mean no offense with "nigger" lol. Its was meant to read: " And it may take up to a year to build a decent number of users so I need to adapt as I go by and as i gather feedback from users" ta!

Well. After a week of no reply i assume that that's how much you can assist with! Promotion of ebooks done! Good for you Jesse. All the best

Hi. Thanks for the info. I am a bit confused on the design issue though… when you say design a template for the inner page, what If I have a number of different inner pages, should I ask for a template for each? In Other words, should i design each page the user would reach when pressing on a tab? i am new to this and i would appreciate your input.

Pricing quotes like this are why I no long try to gain clients through Elance. People expect quality work for very little money. It's insulting.