Ah, a new website; generally speaking, it starts with the thought of, “ugh, my website sucks. I need a new one.”, and then you find a web designer and they build it and it’s all magic and everyone goes off into the sunset. The end.
As I mentioned in my last post, there is a bit more to it, and you have to start off by hiring the right person for the job.
But how ARE you supposed to work with a web designer or developer? What do they actually need from you?
Listen up, gorgeous. You are going to need to figure a few things out before you hire, AND keep your eyes on the prize. If you want to be the type of client that web designers rave about, this is where it all starts.
1. Before you even hire anyone – before you even Google the term “web designer” or ask for any names – you need to know what you want
“I want a website” doesn’t cut it. What do you want the website to do? What sort of content do you put out on it? What platform do you want to work on? Who even IS the website for anyway? I’m not suggesting you need to have all the details here – a web designer needs to glean those details from you. You’re not going to be asked the same questions if you want a massive e-commerce website versus a simple blog because they’re two different entities and two different reasons for existing.
BUT, get a strong handle on your customers, readers and clients from the off. Know what you want the site to achieve (selling lots of products? Building a readership? Interactive instructions on flying to the moon?). Understand the type of content you put out there (videos, blog posts, imagery – a combination, perhaps?), and have a vision for the direction you are going in. This will massively help any web designer. “I want a pretty website” helps no one.
2. Hire based on whether you like their work AND how they communicate with you
Communication is so important during this sort of project, so pick a designer or developer who communicates in the way you like to. Email, phone, Skype – it really doesn’t matter, but make sure that they want YOU to be a part of the process, and that use inclusive language when describing technical terms.
But also, make sure you love the work they’ve already done. If they have a site full of great corporate law firm websites, but you’re looking for whimsical fairyland blog layout, chances are they AREN’T for you and their work will fall short.
3. Now you’ve hired them, get crystal fucking clear
Most web designers and developers are great at picking out what needs to be done, they’ll get a plan sorted and get cracking. But make sure that you have the plan of action as well – ask for the designer or developer to break down what they’ll be doing, how long it will take and exactly what they need from you. At this point, if you notice something is missing, bring it up. Never, ever go on the assumption that you think something might be done if it has not been explicitly written down. Sure, your designer may simply have not added it in to the brief, but don’t take the chance. Tell them. Like, now.
So, now you’ve hired them and they’re busily working away on your new site. What now?
I’ve got you covered! This is my advice for being an excellent client and working WITH your web designer.
Don’t send emails which start with, “just one small thing… [insert something that is huge]”. It’s astonishing how many “small” jobs are a shitload bigger than you realise. Anyone who’s ever written copy or designed a graphic, or basically done anything for a client will know that what the client can see as “small” can often be not so small. Better options include, “How easy is it to…?” or “Does my package include…?” Never assume that because something looks small to you that it instantly IS small. This leads to what is known in the business as “scope creep” where the original scope of the project becomes wider and wider, meaning a longer project, a more expensive project and more pissed off people involved all round (including you).
On the subject of email trails, try to keep all feedback and emails together. Don’t shoot off one email and then think of another thing, then shoot that off, then another thing five minutes later. It becomes really hard to manage feedback that way.
My advice? Take your time to look over something, note everything you can see down on paper. WALK AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER FOR AN HOUR. Come back, look again, note down anything else you see and review everything else you previously wrote down. Why? Very simply, the first time you see something, you need to digest it and process it. Things that you might love initially, after a bit of time might not work well, and alternatively, things that you don’t like immeidately can grow on you. Note everything down in one place and make your peace with it BEFORE sending it to your designer. Reactive feedback REALLY SUCKS, takes longer and casues a boatload of confusion for everyone involved
Don’t send feedback that includes, “Can you do a mockup with this font AND with this font AND one of each in these other colours just so I can see”. No. Can you write a blog post, and write two more blog posts with the third paragraph completely changed, and then come up with seventeen titles for me just so I can see? This isn’t a process of elimination, it’s a process of honing. Start with one design, and tweak on that NOT “create 7 designs of pretty much the same thing with different colours and I’ll pick one”.
If you have a deadline to get imagery or copy to a design, do it within that deadline. Web designers are not magic unicorns who can change time – you get shit in late? Expect to get your shit late back, too.
Your web designer isn’t against you, they want to create something beautiful for you and WITH you. Get involved, share your ideas and listen to theirs – you know your business, but they know websites.
What has been your experience of working with web designers? Have you fallen foul of any of these yourself? Or perhaps you’ve had these happen to you before, let me know in the comments below.