Aand we’re back! Today we’re going to talk about the 10 most helpful things you, the business owner, can do to help your web designer to make your website the centerpiece of your advertising, the crown jewel of the business…the place where we change a visitor into a customer! As with most things in the business world today (heck, the whole world, who are we fooling?), remember the 2 C’s: Clarity and Collaboration! A healthy dose of these will help you both win in the end. Here are 10 things to keep in mind when working with your web designer:
- Have an idea of what you want: It is a great idea when you are first coming up with a design concept to cruise the web and see what is already out there. Make note of fonts you like, color schemes that draw you, and design layouts that make you want to click deeper into that website. From experience at our company, giving your designer existing ideas about what you like and don’t like can greatly add to their design process.
- Be precise: Follow up the concrete examples that you found on the web with specifics, not generalities. “Make it jazzy” is the bane of the designing industry, followed closely by “spruce it up!”. When talking about a color scheme, specify your colors, don’t just say “use blues”. If your company is very specialized, give your designer advertising copy that speaks directly to your customer base in order for the website language to draw the largest number of visitors – while designers are creative geniuses, they should NOT be expected to know the lingo of your particular industry.
- Be crystal clear: When going through the design process, giving clear feedback is invaluable to your designer. Saying “I don’t like it” should be followed up with a WHY you don’t like it, or perhaps even an alternate suggestion of something you would like better. At this moment in time, the question WHY is your best friend – it can help your designer get to the bottom of what you are really feeling and looking for, and can bring out the best results on the whole website.
- What is your business, who are your people? When working out the initial concepts of your website, really delve into WHO you are looking to attract with your site. Know the clientele you already have, as well as the clientele you wish to attract in the future. Your business goals are also an important part of the process. If you are looking to up sales, the designer needs to produce a layout that encourages purchases and makes completing a purchase simple. If you are looking to distribute information, you want the information to be presented in a clean, readable fashion, so that the reader comes back time and time again to gain knowledge from your site. Know what your goal is with your website BEFORE you start the design process!
- Be honest, but not hurtful: While you hire a web designer for their credentials, their reputation and their portfolio, remember that the designer IS a human being; they put great pride into their work for you. Sometimes, even when you have been abundantly clear about your ideas, your web designer will put together something that you do not like, or that is vastly different than what you expected; try to take a few hours to digest what they have produced to make sure that it won’t work for you, rather than just rejecting it out of hand. Even though it might not be YOUR idea, it might actually be a better idea that you simply have to get used to. Finally, while being clear about why you don’t like it, always remember to find something to praise as well as criticize. Everyone works better when they know that their efforts are appreciated, and you will continue to build a positive collaboration with your designer. On the flip side of this, you are the paying customer, and your opinion counts. If you do NOT give honest feedback about what they produce, you run the risk of having a website that doesn’t represent you well, or isn’t in some way what you need it to be. Moral of this story? Be honest, be clear and be kind.
- Be realistic. Yes, web designers are magical, and they know cool things like cropping and DPI and all those other acronyms that we mere mortals stumble over when we simply try to pronounce them. However amazing and cool and magical they seem, they are not miracle workers. Every page, every design that they create needs to have a specific aim, and expecting them to be able to get across multiple messages in one area is a sure recipe for disaster, both design-wise and business wise. Remember the lowly billboard on your daily drive to work – they are only expected to get across one message at a time. So be realistic in your expectations of the designer – keeping requirements clear, simple and easy to understand is yet another win-win in the design process. No designer will back away from a challenge, but keep it in the realm of mere mortals, ok?
- Using a time frame/project template: When a project is starting from the absolute ground floor, some web designers will offer you a time frame worksheet or a project template to go from. This is a massive help in keeping everyone organized – it provides a clear understanding of what is required for each step, gives a direct path for asking/answering questions regarding a specific portion of the design, and can really help the collaboration bloom while keeping everyone on track. Ask your designer if they use project software to collaborate with – it may save you a lot of lost files, time and energy in the long run!
- Collaborate, but don’t elaborate: If you have a company that has multiple people who wish to be in on the website design project, it may help you to designate one person at the beginning of the project to be the spokesperson with the designer. We’ve all run into the “multiple cooks spoil the broth” scenario, and website design is no different. For the sake of the project (and maybe your web designer’s sanity), keep communication with your designer clear, not contradictory, and always give them some room to maneuver. If, on the other hand, you are a one person business, it is never a bad idea to show work in progress to a few close, trusted friends with knowledge about your industry. Getting their feedback and collating it is YOUR job, however, and not that of the designer, so make sure to take all the extra feedback and compile it into one cohesive statement…one that YOU, the business owner agree with!
- Do not micromanage: YOU know your business, hopefully inside and out. You know what excites people, what sells and the image you want your business to project. Your designer knows design, layout and HOW to put it together to make it palatable on the web. With technology changing daily there is no way for you to know both sides of this, so trust your designer – give them some space to be creative, and they will produce amazing things for you – things you might not even know were possible!
- Know what you know, ask questions when you don’t: As in any business, the lingo of web design is a clique-ish one (get it? Click-ish!! Web designer joke!) While you are not expected to become well versed in their lingo, it never hurts to understand the basics of what they are doing. Knowing the difference between a thumbnail sketch and a mock-up, or knowing what contrast and proximity mean in web design terms will only improve your communication. Don’t worry about what you don’t know, just be prepared to ASK! Asking questions is a sure-fire way to keep communication lines open with your designer, from beginning to end of the project. And hey, if you asked them their favorite candy bar or type of beer, who knows what magic might be produced?
We hope that you have enjoyed learning more about the process of helping your web designer help you (thanks again, Jerry Macguire!). As with any part of developing your business, stay true to your beliefs, and enjoy being part of the progress of this critical portion of making your business a success!
You may not know the lingo, but it doesn’t hurt
Keep it simple, keep it clear, make it shine!