This is part 3 in the series In Search of a Professional Web Designer.
Now that you’ve found a web designer, how do you get the most of your web designer and ensure that you get what you want and need? I’ve got 10 pointers for you.
1. Have a Realistic Time Frame
Most people want their website yesterday. Many come to me and say they want to be ready to go in a month or less. It never happens. Why? Because the client doesn’t have the time to make that happen. Web design is a group process and much will come from you, the client: written content, images, feedback, and more. Don’t expect your web designer to write your content. Most web designers will not write your content because:
1. They are usually not writers
2. You know about your business, they don’t.
I just happen to be one of those designers that is a strong writer who enjoys writing too.
Further, many professional designers have other clients. Personally, I will not move you to the front of the line just because you want to be in front. That would kill my business by chasing off all my other clients that were there first. Even if we did get the website ready in a month, you’ve got a month or two before all search engines will list your site. Don’t plan to make this happen overnight. Talk to your web designer to plan a realistic time frame.
2. Have a Contract
I NEVER work without a contract. Even when I make sites for friends and family, my motto is “you keep your friends by having a contract”. Your web designer should already have a contract for you to sign. Read it and make sure you are clear on everything before signing. Make sure it includes price and time frame for deliverables.
3. Listen to Your Web Designer
I’ve been a professional web designer for 10 years. Most people will listen to my advice when they come to me and say “I want X” and I say “X is a bad idea for you because…”. There are always a few individuals who, for some unknown reason, are convinced that they know more than the experienced web designer. These people have frequently shot themselves in the foot by demanding technologies, text, imagery, etc. that hurt more than helped their business. If you want it, I’ll give it to you. But I’ll make sure you understand why this is bad before I do it. I see my job to be to help you make informed decisions; if you want to ignore the advice, that’s fine too. It’s your dime. But to get the most of out of your site, listen to your web designer. They may say “no” for good reason. If your goal is a website that helps your organization, then keep that in mind and remember that the web designer’s job is to help you reach that goal.
4. Give Honest Feedback
Web design is not fine art. When you are given a mockup, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t like it”. Do not pretend you like something you are unhappy with. Now is not the time to be worried about the designer’s feelings. They’re not married to that design. And if they are, they better be able to tell you exactly why and it better be for sound business reasons. If it looks like your web designer can’t handle an honest critique and is getting their feelings hurt: run away. A good commercial artist’s job is to find a design that you are happy with. Their job is not to follow their grand vision for your website to the exception of all other input. Again: web design is NOT fine art and a professional web designer will not treat your site as such.
5. Be Specific With Your Feedback
Sometimes, web designers get feedback of “I don’t like it” and can’t get anything else from a client on the subject. If you don’t know why you don’t like it, then you need to sit and think about that and verbalize it to your designer. We can not move forward if we don’t know exactly what you do and do not like. Is it the font? Shade of color? Layout? Style? If so, why? What do you not like and do you have any means to show them what you do want? I always ask clients to send me websites, either in their field or otherwise, that represent what they like, what they don’t like, and to tell me WHY they do and do not like those sites. We’re not mind readers. We need you to be very specific with us so we can give you what you want.
6. Don’t Be a Jerk
While honest feedback with specifics is important, do remember that your web designer is a professional who is working hard for you. Your feedback needs to avoid insulting remarks such as “that looks like crap”. Also, remember that you are not our only client and don’t wait until the last minute to give feedback, provide content, and so on. We’re not your dog to kick around and do your bidding. There are web designers, like me, who will drop a client if they are rude and insulting and difficult enough. Don’t slow your project by being one of those clients.
7. Send Digital Content
If we ask for a logo or written text, send a digital file. Don’t fax 10 pages for us to re-type for the project. This slows your project. And if they charge by the hour like me, you’ll pay more for this. Also: logos can’t be faxed over and magically converted to a digital format. We need your digital copy for your digital website. If you can’t locate it, you may have to hire your web designer or other graphic artist to recreate yours.
Remember: we’re not mind readers and the process does not occur in a vacuum. Tell us what is on your mind. Answer emails and phone calls. Provide feedback. Give us any content we ask for. If you are going to be traveling or on vacation, tell your web designer if it will be hard to reach you for a while. If you are too busy to truly participate in this process then assign a staffer you trust to work with the designer on the project.
9. Change of Scope = More Money and Site Delays
Sometimes, partway through a project, a client may want to change directions, add more to a project, etc. Your web designer may be ok with this, but don’t expect this to keep your project on the same time frame or price. If you change the project’s scope, expect to pay more and for the process to take longer. Some designers may even ask you to sign a new contract.
10. Design by Committee Sucks
Minimize the number of people providing input on your site or that get to contact the designer. The more people involved, the slower this will take. Your web designer may get conflicting input from various committee members, which will frustrate them and slow the process as they work to determine which way to go. Three people are probably the most that need to work with the designer. At the very least, have only one person designated as the point of contact. Ensure that the designer knows that only this person is authorized to provide content, make changes, and so on.
I can’t stress it enough: web design is a team effort. Making a website involves cooperation between you and your web designer. We can not magic up a website any more than you can magic up a product or service for your clients. The more you give us what we need to complete the project, the higher the odds you have a final product that will help you reach your goals. After all, we want your website to be a success too!