How to get the most out of your web designer, without being annoying ~ BY TIM EMINETH
If you have been in any kind of service business for a while you have run into the “difficult customer". You know the one you can’t make happy no matter how hard you try.
Well, I want to try and give you the in’s and out’s of web design so you can create a great relationship with your designer rather than just using them on your current project and hoping to never speak to them again. (Yes, this happens more than you know).
So here are my 10 steps that you should follow on your next website build or design project.
1. NO Designing in the dark!
Whether you are building a website to generate income or influence visitors, you should have an integral part of creating it. Your brand new website isn’t a surprise, it is a collaborative effort. You can’t just sit on the side lines and hope your designer will figure it out. You've got to get your hands dirty, ask questions, give opinions and examples of what you like and what you don’t like.
- Give examples: Before we start any new project with any client no matter how big or small, we ask for 5 websites that they like. Creating a website for someone else is an exercise in communication and reading their mind. If you give me 5 examples of sites that you like you start to answer a lot of questions that your designer would not have to ask. Such as:
i. Colors – Believe it or not, most if not all of your examples will share the same color.
ii. Style – Most of your examples will either be full width or have a boxed layout.
iii. Images – Your examples will either have large clear images or a slide show
iv. Menu Placement and style – Communicating if you like your menu on the left, right or the top or if you like the 3 line hamburger menu (yes that is really what it is called)
v. Layout – This is the general look and feel of the sites as a whole, image placement, CTA buttons, content placement and any additional functionality placement (IDX solutions)
2. First Look or Wireframe - don’t be discouraged.
After you have given examples of what you like your designer may give you a first look or they may give you a 'wireframe'. Understand that this isn’t a finished product. This really isn’t about style and colors. What a wireframe/first look is really about is the designer asking: Am I close?
Taking the examples that you have given has already communicated a lot and the wireframe/first look is just a confirmation that your designer has heard you. We designers think like this: "Ok, they like the menu on the top. Check, They like the colors, blue, red and black. Check. They want a slider that takes up half of the home page, Check." So on and so forth throughout your entire home page. This is where I think they want their IDX function, this is where I think they want their call to action. This is the general layout and the site is full of placeholders and temporary images.
This is where you have the chance to discuss layout changes such as the slider takes up too much screen space above the fold; let's put buttons on the slider; let's move the Call to Action above the content or put it in the middle of the content. Just remember that this is layout issues, not color, not content and not pictures - yet.
3. I can't emphasize enough the importance of communication.
In any collaborative effort communication is the key. Your designer can’t read your mind - we try but we can’t. Here is a list of phrases that you should stay away from:
- It doesn’t look right?
- This can be better
- This doesn’t look professional
- I feel like we could bring everything together a bit more
- These pages still need work
- Looks like stuff is cut and pasted
All of the above statements may be true but none of them are helpful. Being a little more descriptive will solve a ton of problems.
For example: There seems to be a lot of white space, everything seems blocky, can you tighten up all of the elements.
Giving suggestions is always better than just giving out a blanket statement of disliking. The best case would be to find a page on the net and send that for an example. Again visual tools are the best tools.
4. The definition of a web designer. What we do and what we don’t do
It is our job to try and give you a website that you love and will use. It is not our job to create 50 different layouts until you decide that you like one of them. Usually, this ends up being a waste of time and you end up with the first lay out anyway.
We are the one designing but we have to do so in a way that works with what you want. We do the work, but you know what you want and like. The vaguer you are in your statements of not liking what your designer is doing the more your designer will ask you questions.
I've heard the phrase, “it is your job to get us close”. The issue is that the client was not communicating what close is. Therefore you end up designing in the dark.
Do you like this? No, How about this? Tell me what you like. ….. That is what we are looking for because we can build off of that.
Read More: How to Make Your Website Stand Out!
5. Exhausting your designer! Setting standards for all of your pages.
If you have a lot of community pages or city pages on your website and you want a consistent layout it is more effective and less time consuming to get the layout on one page rather changing all of them over and over again.
This is very time-consuming to edit 10 pages over and over again especially if you want the same spacing under images. It is more effective and less time-consuming to get one right and then copy that layout to all of the other pages.
6. Understanding the NO.
Sometimes your request might be met with a 'no'. There usually is a reason why or if you have exhausted your designer you will notice that you will get a lot of No’s - LOL. I know, you are probably thinking this is not fair but time is money and if you are taking a lot of time from your developer then eventually they are going to stop making money on your project. I am not saying that your requests are not important but if you are unclear about what you want and the designer has to keep editing your pages over and over again they are no longer making any money on your project and once that happens they will naturally begin to be less enthused to work on your project or even dread answering any more change request that you are making. Bitterness develops here and they won't finish your site as fast as possible so they can move on to the next client that knows how to communicate what they want.
Think of showing a house 18 times to a client that's an hour away from your office. Then they change directions completely and forget that house, but now want to look at another house that's totally different than the first house 20 more times. You get what I'm saying here.
You might get a 'no' because you are asking your designer to break the theme or template. This happens in WordPress in particular and you may not even know it. If you and your designer purchase a theme from ThemeForest then you are confined to the constrictions of that theme, for example.
Another reason for a 'no' is the responsive design. Your request might break the look and feel of your website across all devices (Phone, tablet, etc..)
There are many reasons for the 'no', just make sure that you understand them rather than being upset that you got a NO. Designers know that you are paying for the site but that doesn’t mean you get everything you are asking for because sometimes you don’t really know what you are asking for or how many extra hours it will take to complete.(and this is totally understandable)
7. Designing for YOUR DEVICES ONLY.
Telling a designer that it doesn’t look right on your computer also doesn’t help. Rather, tell your designer the following: I am using a Windows PC/Mac/Linux and when I use Chrome/Firefox/Edge/IE/Safari/Opera (yep there are that many and they are all different depending on what operating system) it does the following. (Insert a screen shot)
Another helpful thing to know is your screen resolution and or screen size. This is the same with your phone as well. I am using an iPhone/Andriod and this is what is happening. (take a screen shot). Designers are trying to make your site look good on every PC and Browser and Phone.
A client of mine in the past was really frustrated because he was seeing something completely different than I was. I eventually got to the point I just remotely connected to his computer to find out that he was looking at all websites zoomed in, and he had a bunch of tools bars and viruses on his computer. After spending 5 hours cleaning off the viruses and removing tool bars and fixing the zoom issue he finally saw what I was seeing. (No your web designer should not be your IT guy either, I just happened to be one for 14 years)
8. Designers are not SEO experts. (Unless it is us... insert shameless plug)
Being an SEO company, we have been hired to fix countless websites that either has just been built or have been on the Internet for a while. It is usually the same story; I had this built and I am not getting any clients from it. Our question: Who has been doing the SEO? Answer: My designer did it when they were creating the site. Designers can choose to make short cuts to make the site look and function the way that you want it to but in the end, it is very SEO unfriendly.
Usually, these sites have major duplicate content and lite content issues causing a panda penalty. As an SEO company, this makes our job a lot harder in that we have to reverse engineer what your designer has done and then redo your page the “long way” so you get the most benefit.
Read More: Do you want an SEO'd site or a Pretty One
9. Communicating Corrections.
If at all possible do not use statements like “The 5 bullet points are not appearing responsive on my iPhone, held either vertically or horizontally.” While that communicates almost everything we've said previously, you have missed 1 very important item; Where - What page is it on?
If there is a content fix please provide the link to the page that you are looking at. By not giving a link to the page you are expecting your designer to go through the entire website rather than just fix the issue on that one page. (It's okay because there is a lot of back and forth, but if we know the issue and where, it saves us all time)
10. Project stall and Launch.
Sometimes your project may stall, which has happened to me more than once. Most of the time I am asking questions that just don’t get answered. I know that we are all busy and I am not saying drop everything while your site is getting designed but I am saying spend the extra few minutes to answer the questions to keep the project on track. If the ball is in your court then we can’t move forward without it.
Launching your site - Most sites launch at around 80% to 90% completion. Why not at 100%? The major one is to complete the project and there are some items that will always have to be fixed after launch. That coupled with the rest of the items to fix will push your site to completion. This really is the time where you need to visit every page of your site and ask for the final adjustments. If you are waiting for the magical 100% see step 5 no really... go back up and read it. Your website at best will stay at 95% completion for eternity because there is always something to change, always something to adjust. That is why most design firms have an hourly rate because there is always something.
Hopefully, this will help you with your next web project. The big take away here is communication. Use everything at your disposal (screenshots, other web sites, other pages) to communicate what you want your site to look like. The better you can communicate with your web designer the more you are a joy to work with and there is nothing like waking up in the morning working for people that you want to work for, rather than people you have to.
Phew! This was a long one, but we love designing and want to save everyone time, money and energy. These 10 steps will make that so much easier!
BTW - We loved working with our latest client and his amazing site! Check out Bruce Simon's New Website!! WOW! It's awesome! http://www.brucesimonsayssold.com