You are passionate about your business and you are very excited about your new website. You hired a web designer to build your new site and you rare ready and raring to go. However, nothing seems to be going right…
Looking back, your designer may have been asking you questions that went unanswered or they kept asking the same questions again and again. Maybe you suggested a million design tweaks to your designer. Maybe you gave the input from your focus group to your designer and asked to see the changes.
The whole process seemed to screech to a crawl at some point, but you aren’t sure where or when. But what happened?
Here I discuss six things every project needs to have in order to be built on time and on budget. Each one of these bits of advice come from a great deal of experience and pain but if you have them, your project will sail.
Remember, You Hired A Designer For A Reason
If web design was easy, everyone could do it. With all the technology and DIY web design tools there are, honestly, anyone can throw up a webpage. However, those pages tend to very much look amateur and frequently miss some very key things that a professional designer knows that needs to be there.
In other words, a professional has the technical expertise and experience to do the job right. That’s why you hired one right?
If you aren’t comfortable with your designer’s ideas, skills, and expertise you should honestly find another designer. If your designer starts discussing ideas or recommendations that you originally didn’t discuss, then chances are they realized that something was missed. That or they are wanting to improve the site beyond what your original idea was.
No matter what, establishing trust with your designer is key. Remember first and foremost, you need to trust your designer to stay on top of the project, all the moving parts, and to give you the website you deserve. The old saying you can have only have two: cheap, good, or fast.
6 P's: Proper Planning...
A professor told me many moons ago the “6 P’s of Operational Excellence: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”
This is never truer than when you design and build a website. Even the most talented designer is ultimately a creative problem solver, not Merlin the Magician. Your designer will come up with something that will last your business for a very long time. That’s their job. You need to be able to give them as much information about your needs as possible.
Chances are, your designer will assign you homework at the beginning of the project. I know I do. A questionnaire about your ultimate goal, your target audience, and ideal customer, etc. will let the designer have a more informed idea about what your needs are.
Whatever you do, take time and answer all these questions. More detail is better than too little. This gives the designer the holistic view of you and your business and will greatly help them design your site.
Just as critical, your designer will need some things from you:
- Brand assets including logos and any color or marketing standards you have
- Text content for the site. This is the most problematic part of most designs. A designer can only use filler text so long. You know your business better than anyone else. If you expect the designer to produce the content for you, your price will go up very dramatically.
- Credentials. If you have an existing website or social media pages, your designer will need to have the information for these pages in all likelihood so be prepared to have them.
Communication Is Key
There is a stereotype of designers being trolls that sit in the corners of coffee shops with headphones on to avoid human interaction. This is kinda true, so if your designer contacts you then it is probably really important. This can include needed graphics or text, a request to review their work or a clarification of a goal of the site.
Your feedback is critical since you are the ultimate audience for the project.
If you can’t devote time and effort to working with the designer on your project, you should honestly not start. Your time and efforts are better devoted to other areas of your business. Speaking from experience, I’ve seen otherwise simple projects become year long death marches since a client can’t/won’t get back to me for approvals or to answer questions. On my site, I list “You” as a member of my team. I take that quite seriously.
Too Much Of A Good Thing
Designers want you to be a part of the project, however, you have to avoid micromanaging the design process.
As an entrepreneur, you are used to taking charge and leading projects. It’s how you succeeded in your business. However, you have to realize that your designer is in the driver’s seat now.
Place trust in your decision to hire this designer. When they do something, there is always (okay, usually) a reason for doing just that. I’ve had amazing projects totally derailed by spending 8 hours of meeting time discussing typefaces. Really. When I should have been worried about things like setting up working calls-to-action, mobile navigation, etc, I was stuck worrying about typefaces, kerning, and other nearly worthless esotera of typography.
This is a case of where being a control freak ended up tripling the cost of the project and turning a 1-month project into a 1-year long project. Trust your designer, please.
If there is something that truly effects how well your site will work, and not just a design element that’s a matter of personal taste, then let the designer know. Otherwise, trust your designer and their experience. Things like spacing and typeface can usually be addressed as a revision later in the design process easily enough.
Once again, please trust your designer.
Design By Committee
Do you like endless meetings and making sure you have a consensus of everyone’s opinion before you make any decision about your business? Chances are if you are still in business, the answer is no.
When it comes to design, more opinions are much worse than too few.
Again speaking from experience, a person can be very happy with their design but will start asking friends, family, board members, etc about the design. Literally, everyone will have opinions and suggestions about the design. Sending the designer hundreds of tiny design change requests can kill a project fast.
Just as bad is having to wait for a design committee to make decisions about a design. This is especially true when working for non-profits where practically every business decision requires consensus. This is also why many designers won’t go near non-profit projects.
Ultimately, there needs to be one decision maker that has a 1,000 ft. view of the project that acts as a gatekeeper. The gatekeeper needs to be decisive and able to act on their own.
Again, speaking from experience, I’ve had projects where there are 10 people in a room having a vote of literally every single little design element. Those are projects that never, ever get launched and just languish forever.
Don’t get me wrong, other opinions can be really helpful. However, make sure that they understand the project well enough to see the forest for the trees.
Together Everyone Accomplishes More
A designer can only do so much. Ultimately, you know more about your business or organization than anyone else. Your words really help convey the passion to clients. So, this is why designers ask you to provide the content to your site.
If you can’t provide the words or don’t want to, then chances are your designer can do it for you. However, and this is a very big however, good copy is incredibly expensive. Professional copywriters are very expensive and can quickly drive the cost of your website to stratospheric levels.
This is why you really need to channel your inner passion and write the content for your site.
While the designer is responsible for the way the site looks and functions, the client is usually responsible for providing the content your visitors will read.
Stil, you must remember that you are in this together with your designer and they want your project to succeed as much as you do.
When all is said and done, remember that y’all are in this together. Your designer wants to build something really great with you.
Speaking personally, I want to build sites that clients will love but I am not willing to sacrifice quality and effectiveness in order to mollify a client. This means I won’t hand you something that I’m not proud of and you should expect this from any designer whether I am your designer or not.
Having a site you love will take time and work, however, it will so be worth it in the end.