E.Webscapes’s lead designer wrote the book on WordPress… literally. But, that’s not the main reason that we chose them over at PhoneNews.com, we quoted several designers on their past work, and price range.
Upon the completion of the quote, I was assigned (sub-contracted, really) to Leanne, one of their staff members. I was quoted a rather long period of time to completion, 25 to 30 business days. After submitting the details, I was told it would be a couple of weeks to come back with a draft.
Couple of weeks came and went. I touched base with Leanne to see what was happening, and was told… nothing had happened. Leanne had an illness in the family, and had not worked on my project. Now, at this point, I had hoped that she would have re-assigned the project to someone else… but since it was basically a sub-contracting, I didn’t see this as happening. Leanne assured me that things would be back on track, and by weeks end we had the first draft.
The first draft, I have to say, was awful. It was terrible. I could have done a better design… and I still can’t do more than Paint-level work in Photoshop. Yeah, it was that bad. Every single staff member on PhoneNews.com independently rejected it. I emailed back and forth Leanne, and made a battery of specific goals and changes for a second (completely new draft).
A week later, we had the new draft. It too, had several issues, some things in the draft simply weren’t even things you would want on a web site… and other hallmarks of a web site design were absent. A week-and-a-half later though, we had resolved those and got to coding.
Now, I don’t say this to attack E.Webscapes, I do so to point out the importance of the drafting phase. You need to, with all designers, hammer out the specifics long in advance. By this point, we had a draft that we were happy with.
Then came the coding. Now, because of the delays, we’re now pushing up against the timeframe to deploy the new site. Starting the re-launch of PhoneNews.com had to happen within the first week of January… that was the only time I could temporarily abort real life for a few days to do the job right. If we missed that window, it couldn’t have happened until June. We let Leanne know this long in advance, but things were pushing much closer to the pre-set deadlines than I had liked.
So, we had to deploy using the theme that I’m currently using on this blog. However, Leanne came through within 48 hours with a beta version of the template. That really helped us deploy since we were fine with rolling with the punches… as long as PhoneNews.com didn’t look like a mess.
Then came the bug squashing phase. This was supposed to take a week… it wound up taking the better part of a month. Every web browser had problems with the code at some point (Opera, Firefox, Safari, IE 6 and IE 7). This is where I’d like to point out one key term in the standard E.Webscapes contract. At some point, the designer declares the template final. Then, you have 72 hours to point out all the bugs in the template, and have them fixed… yeah, in three days.
Bear in mind, we had weeks of bug testing just to get the site to render properly on all five main browsers. So, those 72 hours were not a fun period… we were pointing out issues, getting new code, testing it, finding more bugs caused by the fixes, and submitting changes. After the 72 hours were done… I realized “hey, all the bugs we even noted aren’t fixed… and the fixes created new bugs!”
At first, Leanne wanted to start quoting me rates to fix the bugs. I shut that notion down quickly. But, she still had to seek approval from her boss to finish the job, since it had stretched beyond the 72 hour window.
Typically, web designers assure that their templates will be bug-free with the version of the software they’re targeting. For example, we’re running WordPress 2.3.x on PhoneNews.com. Typically, a designer will assure the code is bug free for WordPress 2.3, and when WordPress upgrades (say, to 2.5, the next version), we would be quoted a fee to do the upgrade.
E.Webscapes however does not do this. They don’t assure a bug-free design when everything’s done, the onus is on you to find all the bugs within 72 hours. This is why I cannot reccomend E.Webscapes unless you negotiate this change out of the agreement. That’s not to say by any means that the quality of the finished work they did is bad in any way… it’s very good. But, they’re already a premium WordPress design company.
They charge a high price for quality work. With no long-term comittments that the work they did is actually of a high quality (as in, bug-free), your users will probably wind up reporting bugs with the design a week after you deployed it.
Personally, I wanted to avoid deploying the design before it was finished. Now, I’m glad I did… users were the ones that came forward with many of the bugs. I doubt we would have found all of them within 72 hours, even with user feedback in that small of a window.
In fact, we did find a bug that was after the 72 hour window. We asked for Leanne to “pause the loop” at one point, a technique I actually discovered in Lisa’s book (which, like many For Dummies books, actually has lots of good information even for savvy users). However, Leanne did not implement the code properly. The loop was paused after every post, we wanted it to only pause after a single post (so we can inject content in-between, say, the second and third article). I can fix it myself… but this blasted 72 hour approval window really strains relations.
So, should you use E.Webscapes? I would certainly recommend getting them in your quote list for a new WordPress design. However, when you go into the quote, one of your first qualifications for the job should be that they commit to bug-fixing support at least on the version of WordPress that you deploy on. If that raises the cost of the quote, fine… take that into consideration when comparing their work to the other designers that you are quoting.