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Custom web design

Our philosophy

Forget the cookie-cutter approach. Our customized approach to web design fits your business’s needs.

Whether you need a streamlined website to establish your online presence or a massive, database-driven e-commerce site, BrownBoots is happy to assist with copywriting, graphic design, photography and videography, search engine optimization (SEO), web application development and more.

Usability always comes first, and that includes making your website accessible from a variety of devices. If you ignore mobile web users, you risk neglecting a major segment of your audience. We can work with you to determine if your goals and budget necessitate a mobile app, a pared-down mobile microsite or a responsive website that ensures your content looks fantastic whether it’s viewed on a phone, tablet or PC.

Our process for custom web design and development

Here are the high-level steps we typically follow during the web design and development process to ensure efficiency and continuous collaboration:


Phase 1: Website Planning

We start by gathering information about your business or organization as well as the existing website (if there is one), outlining what is working, what isn’t and measurable goals for the new site. We work together to determine which components the website will need and create a sitemap. A content strategy for copywriting, photography and other imagery, and search engine optimization (SEO), is created at this point too.


Phase 2: Web Design

After learning as much as we can about your branding, the tone you’re looking for and any other preferences pertaining to the site’s aesthetics, we unleash our web designers, who find the optimal balance of creativity and usability while creating layout options. You pick a concept and provide any other feedback. Then we send the revised layout back for your review and approval.


Phase 3: Web Development

Our web developers build out the layouts, integrate the site with your content management system (CMS) of choice. Content is inserted into the site, and following internal review, a link to the development site is sent for your review. Once any revisions are made, we plan for launch and schedule CMS training. When the website goes live, links are checked and testing takes place in a variety of browsers.


Phase 4: Evaluation and Ongoing Improvement

A neglected website is a broken website. We want to continue to work with you to ensure your site remains effective and engaging. We can help with SEO/SEM, usability testing, social media strategy, email marketing, customized web application development and more. At the very least, we want to meet with you quarterly to review your website’s goals, statistics, successes and areas for improvement.

 

Content management system (CMS)

One of our goals at BrownBoots is to ensure that our clients feel comfortable with us and also comfortable with updating their own websites. Way back in the day, we developed a proprietary content management system (CMS) for our clients. The CMS allows clients to make most changes to their website, including editing, adding and removing text, images and entire pages. Some changes to content and site functionality, however, might still require assistance from BrownBoots.

We are continually improving our CMS and adding new functionality, keeping it on the technological front lines and saving our clients time. Our clients have control of their online message, and we are only a phone call away for those “How do I do that again?” moments.

In addition to our own proprietary CMS, we also have experience with the following platforms:

BrownBoots Interactive logo WordPress logo Drupal logo

 

E-commerce

Whether you sell a handful of products or hundreds, we can add e-commerce to your website. We will work with a third-party shopping cart platform, such as Bigcommerce web design, or develop a custom cart system from scratch, depending on your needs.

Here are a few of the platforms we’re familiar with, though we’re always open to exploring new options:

BigCommerce logo PayPal logo Yahoo! Small Business logo Zen Cart logo

 

Email marketing

The e-notifications, invites and newsletters we design get noticed for all the right reasons. MailChimp, Constant Contact, iContact — whichever service you prefer, BBI can design and build templates for a one-time communication or regular correspondences with your audience.

If you already have an e-newsletter, we’re happy to integrate a signup form on your homepage or elsewhere on the site.

MailChimp logo Constant Contact logo iContact logo

 

Social media integration

From Facebook and Pinterest links in the header or footer to Twitter feeds to WordPress blog integration, we understand the importance of connecting all of your social media marketing channels.

In addition to linking to your social media accounts, we can provide easy options for your visitors to share content from information pages, product pages, blog posts and more through hundreds of different social media channels.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do your websites cost?

This is the question we get asked the most. It’s also the most difficult to answer — at least until we learn more about you. Because we design and build custom websites, there’s no one price point for us to advertise. Suffice it to say, the more complex the website becomes due to advanced functionality, such as database integration, e-commerce, smart forms, etc., the higher the cost.

Even “basic” websites — which at minimum include a homepage template, one or two subpage templates, one web form, a sitemap and content management system (CMS) integration — require significant hours for planning, web design, web development and project management. These baseline sites start at $7,000 or $8,000.

Additional services such as photography (professional or stock), copywriting, customized calendar, photo galleries, a blog, product database or multiple languages increase the cost. That’s why we prefer to have a face-to-face meeting before giving an estimate on web design. Once we understand your audience, goals, timeline and budget, we can make recommendations and extend an estimate. And once a project begins, we work hard to keep the process as efficient as possible.

How long does it take to build a website?

If “How much do your websites cost?” is question we get asked most, then this one takes a close second. It’s no surprise, considering the two are tied together. In short, the more complex a site becomes — three or more different page layouts, database integration, e-cart system, custom whiz-bang elements, etc. — the longer it will take from start to finish.

We’ve developed websites in a couple of months. Others have taken up to a year. Most fall somewhere in between.

The answer to this question also depends on you, the client. We are at the mercy of your pace. When a web design project falls on a client’s back burner and we don’t get feedback, answers to our questions or website content in a timely manner, the timeline stretches out.

While we are willing to work with your deadlines and readjust as necessary along the way, we always strive for high efficiency.

How do I know if I need a new website?

Sometimes you just know when it’s time to start anew.

In other cases, the short answer is this: If your website isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing, then it’s time to look at making some changes, which could range from major updates to an existing site to a full-blown redesign. We recommend evaluating your website on these six criteria: content, accessibility, usability, design, reliability and performance.

Who provides the content for the website?

We highly recommend investing in top-notch content for your website. After all, even if it looks amazing and works wonderfully, rough images and amateur text can greatly hamper the success of your website. BrownBoots is happy to curate the content for you. We understand writing for the web, and our copywriters are eager to work with you to determine not only what your audience needs to hear, but also how best to say it.

Copywriting, photography and videography services are estimated based on number of pages, and the quantities of each are listed as separate line items on a website proposal. Most copywriting and photography can be accomplished in house, but we’re also happy to find and coordinate with a third party, if necessary. Our web designers also can work with you to secure stock photography.

What are some custom elements you can develop for my website?

  • Additional subpage design templates
  • Implementation of responsive web design (for mobile-optimization)
  • Calendar of events
  • Virtual tour
  • Photo galleries
  • Comparison charts
  • Online applications/smart forms
  • Social media integration
  • Calculators
  • Multiple languages
  • Member database
  • Product database
  • Other databases
  • Site search
  • Announcement/press release management system
  • Blog
  • Discussion board/forum
  • Just about any whiz-bang web application you can think of

Will I be able to make updates to my site?

Yes. Clients can make add, remove and tweak most content on their website, including text and images, using BrownBoots’ proprietary content management system (CMS).

What is a content management system (CMS)?

A CMS is a user interface that allows an individual to make updates to webpages without the need for knowing programming languages like HTML. Whereas web developers can edit the raw code behind a website, most people rely on a CMS to make quick and easy updates to their websites.

Some CMSs are open-source, which means they are free-to-use. Examples include Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. The advantage to open-source CMSs is that many online communities make components freely available, resulting in a wide array of plugins, widgets and so forth. On the other hand, very popular open-source CMSs attract the attention of hackers, which means a website that is integrated with one of those CMSs might suffer from vulnerabilities in its securities — until someone finds a way to fix it.

BrownBoots is will to integrate websites with an open-source CMS, but we prefer to use our own proprietary CMS.

Is your content management system (CMS) easy to use?

In a word, yes.

If you can use Microsoft Word, you can use our CMS. Most updates follow the same steps: change/add, preview and publish. CMS training is included with every website, and we’re willing to give refresher courses as needed. We also have an online user guide. When clients hit a snag, they typically give us a call, and we’re usually able to walk them through the issue over the phone.

How much do you charge to use your CMS?

We charge $25/month for CMS usage. Clients who use our CMS are billed annually for the coming year. The $300 invoice is typically mailed out in December of the prior year.

We are continually improving our CMS and adding new functionality, keeping it on the technological front lines and saving our clients time. The $25/month usage fee helps compensate for the hours we spend maintaining this tool.

What are the hosting requirements for the websites you build?

Typically, the best hosting solution is to host with BrownBoots. When that is not possible, for whatever reason, the second best solution is to host on a Linux/UNIX server running Apache web server 2.x and PHP 5.x where PHP is compiled into the web server.

In order to utilize a full complement of our web development tools, a hosting server needs to have a full PHP 5, mySQL 5.x support and server-side includes. This requires PHP 5 to be integrated into the web server so that when a PHP program is included in an HTML document, it is pre-processed by the web server.

Websites hosted on a server that do not meet these requirements are subject to utilizing a subset of our web development tools.

We do not recommend the use of IIS servers that rely on ASP. (While this is an acceptable industry standard, we do not possess the expertise to provide high-quality solutions for our clients in this environment.)

Do you host the websites you build?

In most cases, yes.

We prefer to host the websites we build whenever possible because it adds efficiency during the web development phase of the project, but also it allows us to more directly address any issues down the road.

What do you charge for hosting a website?

We charge $25/month for hosting. Clients who host with us are billed annually for the coming year. The $300 invoice typically is mailed out in December of the prior year.

BrownBoots reserves space from off-site, secure servers with redundancies that minimize the likelihood of site interruptions. The hosting fee helps us cover the rental costs for those web and database servers.

How secure are your servers?

We utilize a web hosting provider that offers several redundancies to severely limit the chance of your website “going down.” If for any reason, data is not accessible through the primary connection, another connection is available. The connection allows our sites to continue working without interruption.

The servers for our websites are connected to multiple power sources to make sure a power shortage or outage will not affect a website’s availability. Multiple servers, switches and other necessary equipment provide protection against equipment issues. Additionally, technical staff monitors the network 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week.

Moreover, our websites are saved and stored in multiple locations. This multi-tiered backup system allows us to quickly restore website content if some unforeseen issue were to arise.

If advanced security is required, we also can employ secure socket layer (SSL) certification to encode login data exchanged over the internet between your customer’s computer and your website. The cost for an SSL certificate is $25/year. A unique IP address is needed for SSL certification, which costs $12/year.

We have experience securely linking public websites to third-party vendors, such as online banking applications and online forms.

Do the websites you host ever go down?

No webserver is infallible. However, our sites rarely go down, and when they do, issues are resolved in a matter of minutes.

Do you reserve a domain for me, or do I have to do that?

We are happy to handle the registration of one or more domains and set up redirects, as needed. Otherwise, if you prefer to manage your own domain(s), we will work with you to direct or redirect the DNS.

Do you charge for domain registration and renewal?

The average cost is $20/year, which covers the bill that registrars will send us and our time for administration.

Why do I have to pay to renew my domain name every year?

Regardless of who hosts your website, a domain name registrar is needed to manage the reservation of your domain. GoDaddy is one of the more popular choices. These registrars set the price on registering and managing various types of domains, including .com, .net, .org and .biz.

Are BrownBoots websites mobile-friendly?

Mobile web usage continues to be on the rise, and as more and more web traffic comes from mobile devices, it’s important to have a website that can be viewed and navigated easily on a smartphone, tablet, etc.

Whenever possible, we recommend taking the mobile web into account when building a new website. Mobile websites can be approached in several different ways, including a separate, often smaller website (i.e., a microsite) or a single site featuring responsive web design.

A client’s audience, current web traffic, budget and timeline greatly impact whether the new website is fully mobile-optimized.

What is responsive web design, and does my website need it?

“Responsive web design” is just a fancy way of saying you have one website that looks great no matter what kind of internet-ready device (e.g., desktop/laptop computer, tablet, smartphone) accesses it because the site’s display is altered based on the screen size. The content will flow into a page differently based on the screen/device

The reason “responsive design” has become such a buzzword is because even if web developers are divided on tactics, everyone agrees that the mobile web cannot be ignored. As of 2014, more people are accessing the internet via mobile devices than desktop computers.

If you’re ignoring mobile web users, you’re neglecting a major segment of your audience. We can work with you to determine if your goals and budget necessitate a pared-down mobile microsite or a responsive website.

Which is better, a website with responsive design or a separate mobile-optimized website?

While some would have you believe one is always the better answer over the other, the real answer depends on a variety of factors, including the number of mobile devices accessing your website, your goals for the website, your budget and your timeline.

There are pros and cons to each approach, and we’re happy to have a conversation with clients and prospective clients to determine which is most appropriate in your situation.

What kind of visitor traffic and web analytics do BrownBoots websites capture?

Our websites include Google Analytics code on each and every page. Google Analytics is among the most comprehensive tools used to capture data about your website’s traffic. From high-level stats, such as how many unique visitors the site had in a month or the most looked-at page, to very specific insights, such as how many visitors arrived on a certain page and “converted” by filling out a form or making a purchase, Google Analytics provides the information you need to gauge your website’s success and measure the impact of your improvements.

Websites that BrownBoots hosts also have access to AWStats, a more streamlined approach to website analytics.

What do I have to do to get my website listed on search engines like Google and Bing?

The short answer: Nothing. When we launch a website, we make every page available to the “bots” that search engines send out to index the internet at large. Your website, inevitably, will be picked up by Google and the rest.

The longer answer: Just because the search engines’ bots crawl through your site’s content, that doesn’t mean you’re going to end up on the first page of results for any given word or phrase. A significant amount of research into the optimal keywords and careful and consistent placement of these keywords is required in order to create a website that capitalizes on search engine optimization (SEO).

Will my website take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO)?

We strongly recommend including SEO as a component of your website project. However, it does not come “standard.” That’s because the time (and, therefore, money) spent on SEO depends greatly on the number of keywords, which in turn depends on one’s industry, target audience and so forth. SEO is definitely something we can help you with.

But SEO is not magic. Any “tricks” that certain companies promise will get you onto the first page of Google are more likely to hurt you than help you in the long run. SEO is both an art and science, and BrownBoots approaches it as such. Working with you, we determine the keywords that your target audience is most likely to enter into a search engine and develop a strategy to capitalize on them.

Regular evaluation and reports allow us to measure success and tweak tactics, as needed.

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