Setting up and launching a website can be a stressful business. Even when you know what you want, it can be difficult to explain this to someone else, and when you try to do it yourself, you often end up way out of your depth or creating a website that just doesn’t do your vision justice.
The good news is that if you do it right, working with a web designer doesn’t have to be painful. Here are ten tips to make the process smoother and much more enjoyable.
There’s no point having a fantastic website if it’s not meeting your business goals. That’s why it’s a good idea to set up either a meeting or a remote screen sharing session so that you can go through competitor and industry websites. Tell your designer what you like and what you don’t like and discuss what you can do to make yourself stand out. Remember that remote calls can save time (and money) by cutting the amount of time your designer spends on meetings, but only if you’re both comfortable with using remote technology.
Your company’s marketing standards play a huge role in the design phase, so it’s important to share essential information about colors and font preferences, logos and the visual imagery that you use to convey your message. Some people think that they need a new website and discover that they need a rebrand, while others fail to share brand information and end up causing delays and higher costs down the line.
Many people are tempted to work with freelancers or to give the job to the lowest bidder in an attempt to cut costs. This approach is usually a bad idea because there’s no guarantee of quality and it’s impossible for any one person alone to know everything there is to know about every area. A company, by contrast, can offer subject matter specialists in different areas and form a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. When you have problems working with a web designer from that company you can usually ask for a new one and they can usually accommodate you quickly without going through a month-long search and rescue which is what you might need to do if you have to start over.
One way web design companies make a website more affordable is by limiting creative design options. If an artist doesn’t limit creative options, they risk getting abused by a difficult client who insists on seeing as many design options as possible. I had one client that LOVED the first design our designer created, and they said it was perfect. After further consideration, they insisted on having us create two additional design options. WHY??? Well, our contract stated that they could have up to 3 designs and the next design could be better than the first one, so they insisted on seeing more options. This “grass could be greener” in the next design drives up costs unnecessarily and can cause relationships to sour. It’s better to get it right first time and to focus on the revision process.
Avoid sending hundreds of emails with every little change that you think of because this will take up more time for your designer and potentially lead to things being missed out and forgotten altogether. Instead, consolidate the feedback as part of a list and pay particular attention to key decision makers at your organization so that you know they’ll be happy to sign off on the final design.
Designers are business owners too, and the faster they get a job done, the sooner they can get paid and the more money they make. They’ll be able to pass those savings on to you if you speed up the process by preparing the written content beforehand instead of causing delays and redesigns later on in the process. Furthermore, given that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires creative content, many web design firms now have full-time creative writers on staff. If you let them take on your writing, you may find that your pages will get a higher rank with search engines in the process.
When there are deadlines and deliverables in place, you know what to expect and when to expect it. Make sure that you consider the vacation plans of your decision makers so that you avoid rescheduling and putting extra pressure on an already busy designer. The best web designers run a busy shop and have a lot of work in production, so proper planning on your part will make their life easier and improve your relationship with them. If your web designer is promising to complete the job in less than one month, that is a red flag, and maybe there’s a reason he is not so busy.
Work with your designer to create a written scope of work that details everything that the final website should contain. For complex sites and systems, a design document includes pages of business rules and database designs. The designer or programmer can refer back to this scope of work or design document, and you can use it to solve any disputes. It’s also fairer for both parties because if you set a fixed price, that price covers everything in the scope – but no more and no less. If you receive a one-page proposal for an e-commerce website, run the other way.
Web design takes time. Be assertive if they miss deadlines but do it professionally. If you constantly badger your web designer for updates, it may take even longer. Trust them to meet their deadlines and repay the courtesy by meeting any deadlines on your end for when you’ve agreed to pay invoices or sign off on designs.
Don’t just forget about your designer after you complete the project. It’s likely that you’ll want to make modifications down the line and at some point, you’re going to need to refresh the design or to launch a new version. That’s why it’s a good idea to stay in touch with your designer after the project is over in case you need to work with them again in the future. Besides, you should consider the fact that making updates to your website is critical because its environment frequently changes. Unless you’re working with a web designer to make upgrades and improvements a priority, your site will go stale and give your customers a bad experience.
Working with a web designer doesn’t have to be difficult. As with most forms of collaboration, communication is essential, so the best thing you can do is to stay open and transparent with your communication throughout the process. By following the ten tips in this article, you’ll be off to a good start.
Good luck – and enjoy your new website.