As a graphics designer I occasionally come across a client that either does not know what they want, cannot describe what they want done, or they they don’t understand the complexities of website design (like thinking that their 100 page tribute site to The Who is a simple website that will only take a day or two … no joke … really happened). So here are some tips to help clients prepare to work with a professional designer.
If you have an idea of what you want your website to be, and how you want your website to look it is probably a good idea to jot down those ideas. Using a block sketch. photos, patterns, and color swatches (which you can get from the $8.00 My pantone app on many smart phones, or at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot) can help a designer determine what the web site will look like. In addition other websites can be used by the client to help illustrate and provide a foundation of what you want the designer to create.
Now that you have the design ideas out of the way you need to get down to the specifics of what the website is going to be. If it’s a store, and you hire a designer saying it’s going to be a basic simple web site, he designs a basic template and tells you it will take between 10 to 15 hours to complete, then you hit the designer with your 200 item product catalog the designer is going to need to re-plan the web site from scratch. The reason for this is that a simple 200 page (1 page per item) is logistically a large store scenario. On estimate it takes between 15 to 20 minutes to copy, paste, adjust the look, and place photos in a hand made PayPal based store page. That’s 67 hours straight of mind numbing work. Planning the logistics of this particular example would lead a designer to suggest a web-host with a store back-end which will reduce the workload greatly.
There are backend services for all sorts of web sites. If you are planning a site with allot of content, then building a site around a content management system (a system used to manage artwork and text content). If you are planning a BLOG then a blogging backend would be beneficial … etc.
Ask Questions, and Prepare to Answer Questions
Prepare a list of questions.
- How much will it cost?
- What are your hours of operation?
- How can I contact you?
- Can I see examples of your designs?
- Is there a deposit required? What is the Process for publishing a site?
- Where will you / I get content for the site?
- How long will it take?
Questions like these will help you get a grip on what the site design process is, and what you need to provide to the designer so they can do their job.
On that note a designer should ask you about the logistics of the project (something I really need to do more often). You need to provide the most correct answers possible so the designer can plan out the project and do the job in the most efficient way possible. Some of the questions may be:
- What colors will the site be?
- How many pages?
- Do you want any animation work done to the site?
- Are there any specific deadlines to meet?
Perspectives and Opinions Vary
Sure you say that you want a simple website, after all, web development is so simple that even your nephew can do it … right … Well not really. Sure many people can design a website, but few can do it well. I consider a basic website to be between 1 and 20 pages following a simple theme with maybe 1 or 2 animations in the project. I have had clients who feel that a basic website is a complex fan-site blog with advanced animations. As a client you need to understand that your grasp of a simple project may not cover all of the logistical nightmares for producing a site that meets your requirements. So for that you need to ask a designer what he thinks the site will need, and time tables required to make the project work.
Finally, you the client must be patient. Things may look ugly at first, may not function exactly the way you think it should, or it might be a little behind the scheduled deadline. Be patient, and work with your designer. As a designer I have dealt with my fair share of upset clients, and I have to note that calling a designer just to scream their ear off does not help anything, in fact it slows them down because they have to stop to listen to you scream at them over the phone. I have found that in dealing with sub-contractors a quick e-mail requesting the status of the project with a request for an ETA usually keeps the project on track, and provides the designer with a nudge to get the project done. I am sure that the same tact will work with the designer of your project as well.
Planning ahead, and helping the designer plan for your needs will allow the designer to do his job in a timely fashion, and will provide you with a properly designed functional website.