Montana Webmaster Development Process and Practices - Montana Webmaster

Montana Webmaster Development Process and Practices

The Big Picture

The purpose of this page is to help you understand how Montana Webmaster works with you on your website project. It’s secondary purpose is to help you decide whether Montana Webmaster is the best fit for you.

My outcome goal for your website is that it is secure, as easy as possible to use, and easy to find through searches. My development goal is that you understand how your website works and learn to manage as much of the work in-house as you have time to do. Web development is a collaborative process.

Somebody Else Thought of it First

Kent Beck
Mike Beedle
Arie van Bennekum
Alistair Cockburn
Ward Cunningham
Martin Fowler
James Grenning
Jim Highsmith
Andrew Hunt
Ron Jeffries
Jon Kern
Brian Marick
Robert C. Martin
Steve Mellor
Ken Schwaber
Jeff Sutherland
Dave Thomas

I stumbled onto my principles and practices through trial and error … funny how when they say something is a “learning experience” they don’t mean it was a fun experience. Then I found out that someone else had thought of it first and named the process Agile.

There are a lot of websites about Agile. I thought I would link to one, but they tend to be trying to sell me their services with pop-ups and other marketing tactics. Or, they spend a whole lot of time talking about their nemesis, the Waterfall Method. So, I will honor the folks who came up with the good ideas and leave it at that:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

Holistic process

A website is a communication tool, not a mere technical or artistic entity. Working on your website involves consideration of many factors at all times.

  1. Your message to the world: marketing.
  2. Making your content usable to other technologies: SEO and social media.
  3. Your technology mix.
  4. Security
  5. Accessibility
  6. Ease of use: UX / UI

When I work on your site, it may seem that I work on specific that don’t seem to be part of the immediate outcome you want. For example, I may do a check of your Google Analytics or Google Search Console to help keep that work in line with what is successful or how it affects your position in the search engines. Or, I may do software updates before tackling that change you want. Software updates may cause some changes in my work. Doing the updates ahead of time can save having to redo work later.


The first thing I usually tackle when starting work on an existing site is making sure that you are the owner of all your web related resources and that those resources are held in a manageable number of accounts. These resources include:

  1. Domain name(s)
  2. Hosting
  1. A hacked website is is bad for your business, no matter how wonderful the site is. I am not a security expert, but all my projects include the following practices
    1. Strong passwords: the nasty ones that we all hate and that make our lives less efficient.
    2. No reuse of passwords.
    3. No sharing of passwords, unless a system only allows for one login.
    4. Regular software updates. This includes server software and your specific website software. If you don’t want to pay for updates, I can teach you how to do it. I won’t work on out-of-date software. If your software is out of date, updates are the first thing we do.
    5. All new software will have a basic due diligence check on its security. If you don’t want to pay for this step, I can teach you how to do it.
  2. Training is the best fix for most poor security practices, but in one or two cases, I have fired clients who refused to follow standard security practices.
  3. I use AVG antivirus software to protect my computer while I work on your site.
  4. I use NordVPN to protect access to your site while I’m working on it.
  5. I stay away from questionable websites that might infect my computer so that your site is not put at risk.
  6. I don’t let other people, who might go to questionable sites, use my computer.
  7. If you share passwords between more than one person in situations where it is possible to set up separate access, I may suggest that you work with another developer.
  8. When your employees with web access change
    1. It is very important that access to all digital assets be removed.
    2. In situations where there is only one login available, the password should be changed.
    3. It is best that someone in your organization have access to all the digital assets, even if it’s the owner or other principal.
    4. It is best that we check that the owner or principal is able to access those accounts in case of emergency.
  1. If your website is on a web service, such as Shopify, Wix or Weebly, they are responsible for the updates, backups and maintenance of the software.
    1. As these systems allow you to add, delete and change content at any time, I recommend that you maintain records of the content you have added to the site in case you ever want to move the site later.
    2. And, I recommend creating a folder on your computer or a backup drive with subfolders to store copies of all the images.
  2. If your site is hosted on a server that allows you to install software, backups and updates are a critical part of the overall web development tasks.
    1. Montana Webmaster backs up your site to our local computers, but does not maintain guaranteed backups.
    2. We do site backups whenever there is a WordPress core update.
    3. It is in your best interest to also store backups somewhere you have access to them, in case Nora “gets hit by a bus.”
    4. Since we build sites that allow you to make changes, we do not know when or to what extent you will make those changes. If you do significant content updates to your site, it is in your best interest to do at least a database backup.
  1. Training you how to maximize the benefit your organization receives from your website is my top priority, along with security.
  2. I work with organizations that are willing to take an interest in how their websites work.
    1. That means that either the head of the organization, an employee or an interested person will work with me on content and business decisions.
  3. I am happy to train you, and/or your staff, to do as much of your own content and web development as you have the time and interest to learn.
    1. Every client situation is different, some have more time to learn and do the work than others. I do the work you don’t have time to learn and do or.
  4. My training process is holistic.
    1. Trainings will be based on specific outcomes needed on your site. My approach is task oriented.
    2. As we work to accomplish a specific learning task, training will include how that task affects and is affected by user experience, SEO, security, and other factors that make up a successful website.
    3. It is not possible to put 20+ years of training into a few months of work with you and/or your employee. Be patient with both!
  5. Everyone comes to web development with a different set of skills and previous experiences.
    1. I cannot tell you how long it will take a particular employee to learn how to do everything you want them to do.
    2. There are no extra charges if more than one employee attends the trainings. But, adding more people to a training will increase the time it takes to do the training.
    3. Anyone can learn to work on a website, but if the person I work with is computer uncomfortable or does not have experience in basic computer skills, the training process with require some time on the basics first. This situation will cause delays in your website project.
    4. There will always be more to learn than what you and your employee think there should be.
    5. You still have to pay for my time, even if your employee takes longer to learn than expected.
    6. Feel free to make a list of the website tasks you would like training for. If you don’t make a list, I will prioritize training according to the needs of your project and what my experience has taught me is most important.
  1. Since I started in web development in 1997, I have not seen one project that ended up being exactly what was described at the start of the project. That is OK, and that is normal.
  2. Projected time to complete your project is affected by factors in both your world and my world.
  3. If someone has a hacked or down site to restore, work on all other projects will face a slowdown. This is happy if it is your site that needs emergency work, not so happy if it is your project facing the slowdown.
  4. If I need information from you and I can’t reach you or you don’t have time to answer, I generally move to a different task on your site.

For every website, I create a Google Doc to keep records of the work done on your website. Although the ownership of the document remains with Montana Webmaster, you will have access to this document through your Google account, provided your payments come within 30 days of receipt of my invoicing.

You are also welcome to make your own notes in the document, provided you follow the formatting of the document. I am happy to show you how to use the Google Doc effectively. If you do make additions or changes in the Google Doc, there is nothing that tells me automatically that you have made those changes or where they are. If it’s important information for me to see, send an email to let me know to look at the document and where to look.

You can download a copy of the document at any time as a local backup. Or, you can use it as a model for keeping your own website records.

Many of the email threads about your site will be added to the Google Doc as a record. This makes the communication easier to follow than searching through an inbox.

I do not keep passwords in the Google Doc.

  1. Our relationship is about your website. As a matter of building that relationship, you may tell me about your family, your pets, your computer skills, etc. But, I don’t want to hear about politics or attacks on specific politicians, no matter what side you are on.
  2. My time is your $$$. If the subject line of your emails clearly tells the subject of the email, I will spend less time hunting for specific messages. Even if you hit Reply on one of my emails, you can still change the subject line in the new email.
  3. My time is your $$$. If you keep each email on one topic, I will spend less time hunting for specific information in your messages.
  4. My time is your $$$. If you use bullet points to mark unique action items in your email, it will take me less time to read and reply to your messages.
  1. Large companies have tech support departments whose only task is to be waiting for your call. That is not the case with a contractor.
  2. My daily schedule has at least two projects that are in process. These are clients who are paying for ongoing, regular work.
  3. The reality is that my day also includes folks who call me out of the blue. Generally, these are clients who have been the in-process clients in the past. I cannot anticipate these unexpected calls. And, when 6 of them come in within a couple of weeks, the time I have for you will be in bits and pieces.
  4. If you want me to be available to you per a schedule, schedule an appointment time.

If You Are on a Mac Computer

I use GoTo (GoToMeeting) for both online meetings and to make it easier to share screens during in-person meetings. The security set up on a Mac requires extra steps for you to confirm to the system that the GoTo software is OK to install. This step often causes a loss of time in working on the website. I highly recommend that you set up the GoTo software on your computer ahead of the meeting time. I will not be able to see your screen to help you, but you may find this link helpful.