It’s a Love Thing – How To Be a Great Web Design Client
We are front-end developers. That means we use code to transform designs into brilliant reality, thanks to a deep understanding of aesthetic design and coding – very different skill sets.
It’s the same in every walk of business life: good relationships sit at the heart of great results. Web design is a powerful, dynamic blend of creative collaboration and mutual understanding. When the relationship side of things goes wrong, when there’s a disconnect between designer and client, it can affect the design. That’s the last thing you want. Here’s how to be a great web design client.
Building a lasting relationship with your web design agency
The communications that sit behind the design process are pivotal. As a client it’s your job to explain your ideas, providing a clear and concise direction for the agency to follow. If you can’t do that, you can’t really expect your designers to ‘get’ where you’re coming from.
A confused message can mean a confused website, a piece of marketing collateral that misrepresents your brand and ultimately baffles your users, which messes with your marketing messages and can even kill your business.
While the last thing they need is a fully-fledged design idea, with no space allowed for creativity, your site designer does need some sort of starting point. So how do you learn to communicate your ideas and thoughts accurately and clearly? If you’re lost in space your website design agency will know exactly what they need from you, so feel free to ask them. All they’ll usually want is some straightforward information about your business to guide the creative process in the right direction:
- Your business objectives and the part the website will play in achieving them
- Basic insight into your target audience – who they are and what they expect
- Brand guidelines – your business’ colours, logos, preferred font and so on
- The kind of brand personality you want to convey: irreverent, formal, personal, professional…
Luckily all this good stuff isn’t rocket science, and should already be covered in your business plan. Once your designer has the information they need to hang the website design on, you can work together to make it happen.
Enjoying the process – Good communication matters
It’s thrilling seeing your beautiful new website emerging. It should be an enjoyable process, something you genuinely enjoy rather than a teeth-pulling nightmare. As with so much in life, a positive attitude makes all the difference, even when the occasional passionate discussion comes up.
You might have to navigate a few difficult discussions, or you might not. But when you stay friendly and positive throughout, everyone’s a winner. Good negotiation and communication skills mean your designer will be happy working on your site, you’ll be happy with their work, and it’ll show in the finished design.
Knowing when feedback is appropriate – And when it isn’t
Feedback is vital at the right times, but it isn’t helpful all the time. It’s important to wait for your site designer to ask for feedback rather than giving it willy-nilly. Regular meetings are the ideal forum for feedback, giving you time and space to reconnect with each other and exchange of ideas. This involves you in the creative process without overpowering it.
A professional designer will give you regular progress reports. And you should be able to see the progress they’re making because they’ll host the site on their server for you to explore. Unexpected feedback can put the brakes on design progress, disrupting the creative process and throwing it into confusion. And leaving your feedback until the very end of the design process is equally awkward. It’s a lot more helpful to keep a running list of things you’d like them to think about, or that you need to change, so the information’s handy whenever your designer asks for it. It also helps if you can provide examples of what you like and what you don’t like.
Knowing which responsibilities are yours, not theirs
It’s a web designer’s job to create a suitable structure, look and feel to show off your content to its best advantage. But it isn’t their job to write the content for you. It’s your job to find a content creator in good time, so your designer can populate the finished website as soon as you’ve signed the framework off.
It’s no good giving a designer sample content to act as a place-holder. It just confuses things and can even mean they have to go back and remodel the site when the real content comes through, never a good idea. In an ideal world you’d hand over actual site copy, images, and videos at the briefing stage, for your designer to refer to and use to inform the style, tone, look and feel of the pages.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to get the content together before briefing a designer. It isn’t always easy finding a good content creator, either. Luckily most good web design agencies have content creation contacts, often freelancers who they know for sure will do a great job for you. Feel free to ask for a recommendation at the earliest stage so your content person can work in parallel with the designer to meet the deadline.
Trusting your designer to deliver the professional goods
Good designers build lucrative careers doing their thing. They know exactly what they’re doing. At the same time, plenty of people think graphic design is something anyone can just pick up. But you are not a designer. You wouldn’t like it if someone who knew nothing about your field of expertise tried to micro-manage your work. Nor will your design expert. So take a step back, acknowledge their expertise and put them in the driving seat. Trust their judgement. Understand the value of their work. Listen to what they say.
Knowing when you’re getting a great deal
You wouldn’t hire a crap builder to build a kitchen extension, someone who hadn’t built one before and wasn’t completely au fait with the building regulations, materials, safety, methodology and so on. The same goes for website design. Yes, to an extent art and design are subjective. But good design is good design, bad is bad, and great design doesn’t come cheap. Why should it? It’s a skill that takes talent, skill, time and effort to learn, and you really do get what you pay for. Pay peanuts and your website will only attract monkeys!
It’s your job to find a designer worth their salt. If a designer charges tenner an hour they are highly unlikely to be much good, either because they’re winging it or have very little experience. Good designers are paid fairly for their experience, expertise, creativity and technical knowledge.
Developing a good client/designer relationship isn’t complicated. It’s like any other relationship, working best when it’s built on trust, respect, fairness and good communication. When something works, celebrate together. When something doesn’t, discuss it positively and productively. Designing a website is a collaborative process, and done right it’s also very enjoyable. Together they make for great design. If that sounds good to you, let’s talk…