Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Working Together

In summary, how do you work with clients?

More detailed information is available elsewhere on this page, but my overall approach is:

To begin creating our new website, what do you need?

To develop a new website for you, I need to know exactly what you want it to be able to do. That information forms the project specification (often referred to as the "project specs" or "design brief"). Please send me the following in an email message:

To work on our existing website, what do you need?

What are the phases for developing a website?

Why is it best to develop a website in phases?

Years of experience have shown that large projects are best created in phases (with each phase invoiced separately):

Can you create a mockup before we have you build a website?

Sorry, no. For many reasons, I do not do unpaid speculative work. Also, any designs made for a proposal tend to be created to impress the client and not the website's target audience. Producing an excellent website design is a partnership between the client and the designer.

Why is email the best way to discuss our project?

For discussing the details of your project, email — or a collaborative project management tool, such as Basecamp — is much better, for many reasons:

Who will own our website's content and code?

You will. I build most new websites using Drupal, which is "open source" — both the core code and any contributed modules. This means that I don't own any of the code, and it is licensed to be freely used by you. Non-Drupal third-party applications, which are typically not needed for the websites I build, are owned by their respective creators, and usually offer a license for use by anyone, without charge. You will own the text, images, and other content that you create, including anything edited by me. Copyright and ownership of the complete website are transferred to you, the client, only when full payment for the project is received.

I reserve the right to use a screenshot and a description of the website in the portfolio section on my website.

If we need to sign up for a service, can you do that for us?

Yes, but I would need all of the required information, including the credit card details to pay for the service. Some of my clients find it easier to give me that information (which naturally I keep completely confidential), but most clients sign up for the services themselves, and then send me the login information that I need for accessing the account.

How do we get a domain name and web hosting?

I recommend that all my clients choose reliable web hosting and domain name registration service(s), which can save a lot of time and trouble. If a client insists upon using a problematic hosting service (such as Go Daddy or Network Solutions), then it will cost extra because it will take more time to set up and maintain the website. If a client-chosen hosting service is causing us many problems, then the client must open an account with a service I recommend.

Can you do an analysis of our competitors?

Yes. If you send me the website addresses for all of your leading competitors, then I can research what they are doing right and wrong on the Web, and suggest ways that you can leverage this knowledge.

How do we read the database design you sent?

Each paragraph (i.e., set of contiguous lines) represents a table. The first line is the table's name.

All of the other lines are fields within that table. You can think of them as columns in an Excel worksheet. The first field is usually an ID number, which is a 10-digit number that uniquely identifies the particular record.

For each line, the possible components are:

When making any changes to the design, use the exact format described above — including the use of two spaces to separate components — because the design needs to be read by a computer program.

Information Security

What is your privacy policy for proprietary information?

All client information is kept strictly confidential. I respect your privacy, and will never sell or distribute your organization's sensitive information, such as contact information, product plans, ideas for new businesses, etc. Over the years, my clients have learned to trust me to the point where many of them provide credit card numbers (so I can order services on their behalf).

Occasionally, an organization will ask that I sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), typically because they think their business idea is fabulous, has never been thought of before, and could be stolen or revealed by their web developer, thus ruining the business's potential. Actually, it's not an idea that makes a business successful; it's the implementation and follow-through of a set of proven ideas and best practices. The world is full of promising ideas never actualized or tested but shown unworkable. Almost every smart businessperson is not interested in risking resources on unproven ideas. Usually such people are already too busy with their own ideas that they think are much better. This is especially true of top web developers, who already have long lists of projects they dreamed up and want to implement. The last thing they want is to make that list even longer by adding an idea in an area in which they have no interest. (I personally have hundreds of such ideas.) Also, even if the client's idea is proven viable, by then the client is already successful, and there would be no way to protect the idea since it is public (in fact, the better the marketing of the product or service, the more people know about it). What's critical to keep secret is the customer data, not the business idea. Moreover, the best web developers have reputations to protect, which they would never jeopardize by blabbing any information shared in confidence. My reputation and honor are too important to me to ever risk through indiscretion. Lastly, if you don't trust your web developer, then no contract will protect you. Only partner with professionals who have been in the field for many years (ten years or more would be best).

Can we avoid sending you our passwords?

Most of my clients simply tell me the passwords needed for changing settings in their accounts. In fact, I'm often the one setting those passwords. But if you prefer, you could set any password to a temporary value, and then later set it back to its original value, after I've finished accessing the particular account.

To send any such short and sensitive information, you could use a Gmail account (so the message never leaves the Google servers) or use the free service One Time Secret.

Professional Qualifications

What web and application programming technologies do you know well?

What is your Drupal experience?

I began working with Drupal in February 2008, with version 6.1. Since then, I have:

How do you keep your skills current?

Like all technical professionals, web developers must keep their skills up-to-date. I do so by staying active in the web development world — specifically:

What web technologies do you typically use for building websites?

I use whatever technologies are best suited for the client's needs. In most cases, they include:

How are you able to complete projects quickly?

I am able to work at a very rapid pace and finish the work faster than most developers, while maintaining quality, for several reasons:

Can you show us samples of your work?

The portfolio section describes websites I have created, with screenshots and project summaries.

What web development presentations have you given?

Creating Taxonomies Programmatically in Drupal 7
DUGLV, Pinkpeas

Keyword Ranking with Rank Tracker
DUGLV, Pinkpeas

Keyword Ranking with Free Monitor for Google
DUGLV, Pinkpeas

Drupal 7 Essential Modules
DUGLV, /usr/lib

Creating a Drupal 7 Distribution
DUGLV, /usr/lib

Drush 5 Installation and Basics for Windows
DUGLV, /usr/lib

Ubercart Affiliate v2 Drupal Module
DUGLV, /usr/lib

Artisteer for Creating Drupal Themes
DUGLV, Pinkpeas

Drupal 6 Base Installation Settings
DUGLV, Pinkpeas

Drupal 6 Modules for Every Website
DUGLV, Pinkpeas

iTransact Basics
SDWTG, Hampton Inn

CubeCart 3.0
SDWTG, Hampton Inn

Dupal 5 Installation
SDWTG, Escondido YMCA

Joomla 1.5 Installation
SDWTG, Ramada Inn

What kind of longevity can we expect with you?

Several of my clients are "refugees" of irresponsible developers who disappeared, without passing the client along to another developer — which is inexcusable. Fortunately, I'm the exact opposite: I have been here for my clients for over a decade, and look forward to continuing to provide the best service available, in the decades ahead.

Project Time and Cost

Even though we have limited funds, can you still work for us?

How limited is limited? I don't need to know any exact amounts, but I definitely need to know a ballpark figure for your budget, so that we don't spend time discussing a project that cannot be afforded. Please let me know. Thanks for your understanding.

Instead of paying you, can we offer a share of profits?

No, my policy is to charge a fee for my services, due when the work is complete. I do not undertake any speculative work.

Can we ask you many technical questions, before having you do paid work?

No. Sadly, I have had several cases of prospects asking countless technical questions, but never resulting in any work. One prospective project manager asked me many rounds of questions, all of which I answered, and all of which required substantial research. But he never sent any work my way. Months later, he was back on the same web developer mailing list, asking the same types of questions — seeking another victim for unpaid research.

How do we pay you?

Like other web-based professionals, I do not accept cash, because it can get lost in the mail, with no recourse. The fees for my services can be paid using a bank check or wire:

Why is PayPal not an option for paying you?

There are several reasons why PayPal is not the best choice for sending large sums of money, including these:

How much does it cost to get a new website?

The time that it takes to develop a new website — and thus the cost to do so — depends upon the complexity of the website, including:

You can get a free estimate.

Do you use a contract?

Generally, no. Feel free to put together any contract or agreement that you want. I've never used contracts in the past, but instead rely upon a combination of a deposit (for big projects), timely payments (for smaller invoices), and getting to know the client. Also, by US law, email proposals and acceptance are legally binding.

Why should we choose a freelancer like you instead of an agency?

Why must an estimated price be updated for project changes?

Website development costs can generally be charged in one of two ways: at an hourly rate for all hours spent working on the project, or an estimated price for the entire project if the client can specify exactly what she wants in a website. Any estimate will need to be updated if the client later increases or decreases the scope of work. The more extensive the changes, the more impossible it would be the stick to any earlier fixed bid, for several reasons:

What rate do you charge for your work?

My billing rate depends upon the type of work, its urgency, and other factors. Contact me for more information. Developers with my skill set charge anywhere from $70 per hour to twice that.

Unlike most consultants, I do not round up to the nearest hour. Instead, I round down to the nearest half hour. This saves the client money, especially for many small tasks requested separately.

For anything but small tasks, I require 50 percent of the estimated total as a prepaid nonrefundable deposit, before I can begin work on any projects or deliverables. A deposit not only helps to protect me, but you as well, because it commits me to completing your project and not getting sidetracked by other clients. Brand new clients don't get the privilege of "work now, pay later" service; established clients do.

I bill my clients at the end of every month. Invoices are due and payable upon receipt. Tardy clients quickly become ex-clients.

If you have a critical project that you would like me to begin immediately, or you anticipate such a project in the near future, then you are encouraged to prepay for a block of time, which will guarantee that your project will be the highest on my priority list.

I am compensated purely for my time spent developing a website and computer code, and not for any products. Thus I am liable only for my productivity during the time billed, and your solicitation of my services indicates your acknowledgement of such. You will find that I am dedicated to the highest in quality service, professional results, full confidentiality, and client satisfaction. This is why clients are happy to refer me to their friends and colleagues.

Can we monitor your computer as you work, to track what you are doing?

No. I'm not an employee and won't be treated as such. Also, if the IRS were to learn of it, they could reclassify me as an employee of your company, and charge you any back taxes.

What is your policy on estimates?

If it takes less time to complete the work than I had estimated, then I charge for the lower amount (I always carefully track my time on tasks throughout the day). If it takes more time simply because I underestimated, then I only charge for the estimate, as a courtesy to my client. Naturally, if I go over budget as a result of the client changing the specifications or technical problems with a third-party service, then I would charge the actual hours. Any estimates are not to be construed as absolute commitments or fixed-price quotations. All work is billable on a time-and-materials basis. If a project is ever taking longer than expected, I keep the client updated on the hurdles that we are facing, how much more work needs to be done, and what our options are. Fortunately, this rarely happens.

Why should we choose you instead of a cheaper foreign developer?

A business owner in need of a website can be tempted to choose the lowest bidder — such as a foreign programmer or even a relative. The owner thinks she is saving money, but she invariably ends up with a website that does not work for her business, and has to be scrapped and replaced with something that does work. In the end, the owner doesn't save any money, but loses it — and also loses valuable time, which may be worse than the monetary loss.

Website Features

Why is Drupal the best choice for building our website?

Among developers who have tried various tools for building major websites, Drupal has emerged as the CMS of choice, and is becoming quite popular, for many reasons:

Will we be able to change the website's content ourselves?

Yes. I can set up your new website so that you can make updates to the text, images, videos, and other content within pages easily, anytime you like, without needing to request or pay for technical expertise. This significantly reduces the risks that your website will become obsolete in the future (which often happens when business owners try to save money by going with the lowest bidder, which typically delivers a website difficult or impossible to keep up-to-date).

Will we be able to change the website code and settings?

If a client changes a website's code or settings that control how the website works, then there is no guarantee that the website will continue to work. If such changes result in my having to fix any problems, including code cleanup, then I will charge for the time required. Also, I would need to be apprised of exactly what changes had been made. This is just one reason why I strongly recommend against clients making code changes.

Will you be able to change the website code, settings, and capabilities?

Yes. After your website is launched, I can make enhancements to it, as requested, even years later. Those modifications will be billed at my current rate. Most of my clients request that I make ongoing updates to their websites, to match their changing business needs. That allows them to focus on their business, while I maintain the value of the website.

What are the advantages of forums?

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