Working together on your website
If you are planning to work with us, please and read this page carefully and print it out if possible. We will refer to it as our work progresses. If you're looking for general website advice, see or Handy Tips page.
What we do
Applegreen does the technical part of creating, uploading and maintaining websites, from conception to completion.
We suggest designs, and then work with you to achieve a result you like which we think will work for your project. We put the work online (in a folder of Applgreen's own website) so that you are kept updated at every step, and ultimately we can arrange a domain name and hosting so that your website is placed online on its own address.
We are not a graphic design company but we can offer graphic design within our capabilities. For complex logos and branding we would refer you to specialist colleagues.
We are not experts in Seach Engine Optimisation (SEO) but we will carry out basic optimisation across your website as a standard part of our work (read more about SEO). There are companies that specialise in SEO, analytics and Google Ads.
We do not have our own Content Management System (CMS) but we can design your website in WordPress, giving you the means to update it yourself. The decision to design in WordPress must be made at the start of a project.
We are not marketing experts but we can offer guidance to get you started, and refer you on to colleagues if you wish.
What you need to have thought about
You, rather than we, are the experts in your own field: if you are starting a business we expect you to have thought through some of the implications.
In particular, you will need to know your market and to have understood that you are probably entering a field with many existing players. We expect you to be aware of your closest rivals, to have looked at their websites and to have given some thought to what might be your Unique Selling point (USP).
Do consider the following: how will you bring visitors to your website? How will they discover you? How will you compete with the opposition? What search terms (keywords) would your customers use to find you, and what level of competition is there for these terms? These questions can be discussed with Applegreen (have a look at our SEO page) but you need to have done some of your own thinking.
A new website on its own will not be sufficient to launch your business. At some point you will need to deal with the different aspects of marketing and advertising, including the use of social media (read more about social media). The people whose businesses grow are those who put time and effort not just into the business itself, but into its dissemination.
What we need from you
Believe it or not, we need to know your style preferences before we launch into a design based on the very colours you hate most. If you have favourite websites, let us know — we won't be able to match them exactly because that would infringe copyright, but it'll give us ideas to work on.
On the other hand, don't be too wedded to a particular design in case turns out to be either technically impossible or inadvisable. What works well in print, say in a book or leaflet, does not necessarily translate to the web: you must be prepared to take advice on this.
The text must come from you. We are happy to improve on exisiting text if you're not very comfortable with writing, but we must have something to start with and cannot be expected to guess the content of your website.
Images you provide must be of a decent size and quality. We can improve lighting and even orientation if a photo is not completely straight but we can't deal with blurred images or poor composition, where a main subject is partly off the picture. We believe that poor-quality photography actually detracts from the effectiveness of a design. Consider employing professionals, either specially commissioned or through online image libraries. Talk to us about this.
We will suggest a website structure for your approval, but or course you know your own field better than us. There may be obvious aspects of website design that apply to your area of expertise, and we expect you to have done enough research to be aware of them. We will try to create the best structure and design, but we cannot take responsibility for the long-term success or otherwise of your enterprise.
You need to have planned the time you will spend helping us to build the website, and then publicising it afterwards.
Please give some thought to how your website will be accessed by disabled users, especially if it is aimed at them. Read more on our Accessibility page.
WordPress is a third-party platform that allows developers to create websites by customising the look and functionality. It is very powerful and offers a wealth of options, not least the chance for website owners to update their website themselves (content management).
For people learning to use WordPress, our WordPress Instructions can guide you whether or not your design was carried out by us.
WordPress uses ‘themes’ that work like a kind of skin: the theme determines how the website looks, how it works and how easy it is to customise. There is a great variety of themes, some free and some paid. Applegreen prefers to design bespoke themes specially for its clients.
Clients sometimes come to us having made a start in WordPress, installed a theme by themselves, tried to customise it and got into trouble. They have usually done a great deal of work adding content before realising they really need specialist help.
Such clients must understand that while we're willing to help, every theme has its limitations and we cannot work miracles for them. We will do our best to sort the design so that it's attractive and talk you through adding content and SEO correctly, but there will be limits to what we can achieve, especially is another designer has been involved. Having said that, we have helped a lot of people in this situation and reached reasonable solutions for them.
WordPress is an open-source project that is being continually updated to offer extra functionality, iron out bugs and fix security loopholes. We strongly recommend that you keep the system, themes and plugins updated, and regard this as the responsibility of website owners.
Ecommerce is defined as the ability to sell products through a website. There are several ways to do it:
- With just one or two products to sell at a fixed price, the simplest is to add PayPal buttons. This works well with static websites. Paypal provides the payment interface. A business account with PayPal will enable purchasers to use their credit or debit card if they do not have a PayPal account.
- WordPress websites integrate with the ecommerce plugin WooCommerce, which adds shop, cart and checkout pages and integrates with Paypal. The basic plugin is free and can be made to integrate any bespoke theme. But additonal functionality can be purchased by subscription. This includes a watermark to protect images, a music player for sampling music files, and other additional options
- Shopify is an all-in-one ecommerce platform (non-WordPress) that displays products in many variations and integrates with a choice of payment methods, including a direct link with the seller's bank account, though PayPal, GPay and ApplePay are all options. Shopify is not free: after the 14-day trial, the seller pays a subscription (currently 29$/month, see pricing plan). If you're thinking of Shopify, you need to be sure of selling a set amount per month in order to make it work for you. Currently, Applegreen does not create bespoke designs for Shopify but there are plenty of themes that can be customised and personalised.
We are sometimes asked about alternatives to PayPal, which seems to have cornered the market for online selling. All selling intermediaries take a commission on sales, but the differences between them may affect your choice. PayPal takes a commission on each sale, while other providers (SagePay, WorldPay) take a monthly subscription. This means that if you are starting out or not sure how much you are likely to sell, PayPal is a good place to start. You can review things later if they are going well.
Factors to consider with ecommerce
Ecommerce involves a lot of work and is, in our experience, the type of website that most frequently fails. By failure we mean that the website owner loses heart with the complexity of it all. So here are a few things to think about if you really want to make a success of online selling.
- What experience to you have of retail? If you are already successfully selling via online platforms such as Ebay or Etsy, or via a physical shop, you know you have a market and you have a good idea who your customers are. An WordPress or Shopify site extending your range is an obvious next step.
- Who are your competitors? Without knowing who they are, you won't be able to compete successfully against them — do your research.
- How will you attract customers? Consider your unique selling points, including geography and niche, and make sure you are fulfilling a need. Again, do your research.
- Do you have attractive photos of all your products? Online, products without good pictures won't sell. Consider employing a photographer if you are selling something you make, or use the images that come from the manufacturer.
- How will you attract visitors to your new website? In a crowded market, just putting products online won't be enough. Think about how you will reach your customers: craft fairs, shows, local shops, social media and more.
- How comfortable will you be using the online platform we set up for you, based on your previous experience with computers? We will teach you the system but the job of managing products and orders day-to-day will be up to you. If you are a diehard technophobe, an online shop may not be the right thing for you.
A new project is exciting, but online selling isn't necessarily for everyone. Here is an example of someone I talked out of a website project with Applegreen (if he approached another designer, I will never know!). The man rang up and described a project he had for his retirement: selling a range of children's clothes supplied by someone he knew. Probing a little, I found that he had no experience in retail and had never sold clothes (or anything) before.
In the first instance he wanted me to set up an Ebay shop for him, a service I don't actually offer. While I was still on the phone with him I did a quick search of Ebay and another seller of children's clothes immediately came up. He had never heard of it: he clearly hadn't looked at Ebay himself.
He had done no background research on the competition, either on Ebay or anywhere else online. He had had what he thought was a good idea, and he was looking to Applegreen to fill in the gaps. This was clearly not going to work: our job is to create the online tool to get products displaying and selling online, but the rest is up to the website owner.
Who's job is it to add the content to my website?
Content is defined the text of your website: what goes in the page to explain about you, your organisation, company or products. Content can also be individual products for sale.
As we explained in our Handy Tips — Content page, you know your business best so the substance of your content should be driven by you. But the manner in which it is added to your website will depend on the site itself.
With hand-coded sites, we do not expect our clients to navigate code. All content provided by you will be added by us as part of the original job of creating the site. Once the site is signed off and paid for, further updates are charged at our usual hourly rate, see our Costs page.
If a content management system (CMS) is provided for you, the point of this is to enable you to add and update your own content. Our job here is to create templates so you can add and display your material, whether it is products, page content, posts or further pages.
We recognise that the prospect of learning WordPress for this purpose can be daunting. That is why we provide full instructions and ongoing support, tailored to your particular installation and theme because these can vary a great deal. There is also extra information on Applegreen's own website.
Our commitment in this situation is to add enough text or products to each page to confirm that the display is correct and the system is working. Each separate template will have at least some content added. But you know your business best: we would hate to add products with the wrong price, or give the wrong information about your services.
Enabling you to add your own content serves several purposes: it allows you to learn the system under our guidance while ensuring that you are fully in control of your website's content.
With complex systems such as ecommerce platforms, we schedule a series of meetings a week or so apart while you are learning so that you can work a bit on your own and come back to us with questions, until you are comfortable on your own.
How do we communicate when working together?
I don’t mean the usual communication methods, which of course include phone, email, face-to-face meetings and, these days, Zoom.
What I am concerned with here is the fine detail. Once we get down to designing, creating pages or uploading products for sale, how am I to know what image or text belongs to which product or page? You know your own material very well whereas we, at our end, do not. What may seem obvious to you will be entirely new to us.
So please, make sure that everything is clearly labelled, especially images. Images for upload should have short filenames made up of words (not numbers) in all lower case, with hyphens between words and no spaces. Associated information (where you want image to go, its title and canvas size in the case of artwork) should be listed in a separate document and the images clearly referenced.
With a content management system, the purpose is for you to continue adding pages, blog posts and products into the templates we have created and gradually become independent of us. Involving you with this at an early stage is not laziness on our part: it is a way to avoid costly mistakes and ensure accuracy, while acquainting you with the system. Only you can be responsible for the information presented on your website.
Help! I don't like the design you've done!
We want you to be happy with your website and we normally submit two or three related designs before settling on one. Adjustments to colours and positioning and even structure are easy to make if they occur early on (read more about design).
In some cases a design really only comes alive once the content has been added, so we would also counsel patience (and lots of content, please!). As with any purchase, it is natural to experience doubts along the way. Take time to think about it and ask friends and colleagues for their views.
Help! I don't know what to write!
Some people find this harder than others. We are here to help but we cannot be expected to guess the content for you, so we need your input. There are some clues to the most obvious things on our Content page.
After our first meeting we try to work out a page structure (it's ok if this changes later). Once the design is in place we create a navigation system based on the agreed structure: many people find it helpful to keep referring to this as a guide to the content that is needed.
Even so, an empty website can seem daunting and it can take time to find the right voice. We are happy to keep advising; we are also happy to re-write text if you are not confident about writing. We can meet with you and write as you speak, if you find this the easiest method, but this may take longer.
Please don't hesitate to contact us if you're having problems, it easiest for us to help you if you are straight with us about this.
Beware of copyright and licence pitfalls
Images and fonts are easy to download from the internet, but that does not mean you can add them to your website. A licence or permission must be sought appropriate to the font or image's use. This is usually straighforward, though not necessarily free of charge and must not be overlooked.
Extras from Applegreen
We can provide analytics to track the use of your site by visitors, talk to us about this.
We can integrate a blog or a Twitter feed, but this must be decided at the start because of the design implications.
We can advise and help with the creation of a regular email newsletter.
Website analytics and cookies
We place analytics tracking software on all our websites as standard — if you do not want this, please tell us so.
The reason we do it is that too often, six months or so after a probject has been delivered, a client comes back to us and asks how many visitors their website is getting, expecting an answer. We would not be able to answer if we did not use this tracking software.
The software takes the form of a small piece of code, or cookie, which tracks the behaviour of visitors through their IP address without identifying them. The data is aggregated and presented as charts which inform the website owner how visitors reach their site, how long they stay on it, which pages are popular and where they leave the site. This can help with strategies for improving the site in the future.
The data is collected and processed by Google Analytics (in a few early projects we used StatCounter). Google Analytics works hand in hand with its Search Console which picks up errors such as attempts by visitors to reach a page that no longer exists, and hasn't been redirected. On one occasion, Google Search Console alerted us to the fact that one of our websites had suffered an injection hack, in which hundreds of unrelated pages had been added by someone from abroad: we were able to deal rapidly with this and resubmit the site for indexing.
Google Analytics stores data for a set amount of time and then deletes it automatically. Most accounts are set to the default value of 26 months.
If you would like us to put a cookie control script on your website (which pops up every time a new user visits your site), please ask for it.
Costs and charges
See our Costs page for an overview. Applegreen does not charge upfront, and does not normally charge for meetings as long as these are reasonable. We usually finish the work and make sure you are happy before sending our bill.
However, if a project is not progressing because material is not being supplied by you, we reserve the right to charge for design work already done. This is usually a fee of £100 which is deductible from the final bill.
We provide a quote at the start of the project and this is what we charge when the website is finished. But extra costs (which are always discussed with you) can be incurred by the following:
- Purchase of domain and hosting: we normally provide a ballpark figure but the final costs are outside our control;
- Purchase of design elements (stock images, fonts, WordPress themes..);
- Regular subscriptions for paid WordPress features;
- Major changes from the original specification, such as the addition of an intergrated blog, or the decision to have a contact form rather than a plain email address;
- Follow-up work such as updates and analytics.
We do not ask for a deposit, but projects that take longer than six months to progress from the initial design work will incur an interim charge (usually £100) which is deductible from the final total.
Hosting and domain costs must be paid within two months of invoicing (unless there is a delay agreed with us). If we do not hear from you during this time, your website could go offline and your project and its associated files risk being lost.
Follow-up work is charged at £30/hour. We keep records and send an invoice when the time we have spent on your project reaches four hours so that you can keep track of what you are spending.
Let's do it!
A new website is a partnership between you, the client, and us at Applegreen. We will need your input at every stage so you need to be contactable, and to respond when we propose designs and changes.
We also recognise that a website is a big purchase for people starting a new venture, and that people already running a business are busy working much of the time. For that reason we remain flexible with our demands on you.
It's your website: we will build it, you will make it succeed.