If you have ever had an interaction with a designer like this one, you know that communicating with creatives can often be tricky.
So you’ve considering a new website but getting that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think about choosing a web designer? We understand. Choosing a web designer can feel like a daunting task. After all, choosing a web designer is an important business decision. There are hundreds of design and development firms available, and the sheer number alone can leave you feeling intimidated and overwhelmed. Even if you attempt to pre-qualify the design firms by matching their services to your business style and needs, there is no guarantee of a perfect fit. So how do you approach website design without losing your mind? (and your money!)
Whether this is your first website or your fifth, the most important thing to remember is that this is a collaborative exercise. Your intimate knowledge of your business, coupled with a designer’s skill is the pairing that will transform your web presence, increase traffic, and ultimately improve your business by presenting a better digital storefront to your prospects. From the first point of contact, if your prospective web firm is not listening and considering the engagement as a “collaboration,” it probably won’t be successful.
We’ve mapped out four tips that will help you create a stellar working relationship with your developer.
1. Find a Website Designer You Can Trust
Most companies do not have the time or expertise to design a website. They want to focus on their business – whether that’s running a small business, marketing another company, or directing a non-profit. The daily demands of the business don’t provide margin for website maintenance.
Because the best website design is collaborative, you need a designer you can trust to truly partner with you. The essence of partnership is a give-and-take: You provide strategic guidance, your design firm offers suggestions for improvement, and you continue to move the project along. Both you and the design firm have a voice into the overall project. But is it really possible to tell at first glance whether a team or an individual will be trustworthy? We believe the following behaviors are benchmarks that indicate trustworthy design teams:
- Asks questions. A website that is beautiful and intuitive but lacks good content won’t perform well. Is the designer overly concerned with the design aesthetic but not asking questions about the communication strategy behind the design? Form without function won’t help you. Your creative solution must be based on a great marketing strategy. Is the design house asking questions to find out what your business goals are?
- Listens to you. It’s surprising how many people – website designers included – will ask questions but not listen to the answers. If a website design team isn’t listening to you, keep searching,
- Provides guidance. A good website designer is consultative. Once they understand your business, good designers provide suggestions to improve content, navigation, usability, and streamline your website’s design elements. As a collaborator, designers will be invested in your website’s success, but they should also understand it’s your website and alternate ideas should be clearly and kindly explained.
2. Be Clear About Your Expectations
Your website designer should want you to be delighted every step of the way – it’s job number one to good design teams. When you are clear about your expectations from the outset with your design team, you will have a better working relationship. If you must complete your project within a specific time, make sure your designer can realistically meet the deadline. Don’t leave anything to assumption.
3. Understand the Process
Before you seal the deal with a designer, have a basic understanding of their specific process. Ask about the steps in their design and development process. Inquire how and when the design team communicates with you. Have a conversation about what is required from you as the client and find out when you get to offer your input into the design process.
- Communicate collaboratively. It is customary that once you’ve decided on a design team that you will start receiving updates. Updates may be provided in a weekly email, on a phone call, or in an in-person meeting. These weekly touch points are a great time for you to offer feedback. For example, if you see something that doesn’t make sense or that you don’t like, make sure the website designer knows your issues so he or she can address them immediately. Regular updates and progress reports ensure that everyone remains on the same page.
- Keep your feedback simple. We recommend providing only one piece of feedback per site element. Multiple options create too much confusion. If you say, “make that field blue or red, I don’t much care which color it is,” often the designer will create a mash-up of the options (e.g., purple), and it won’t have the strengths of either option. We realize that you often find elements of each option you like and want to use, but we recommend sticking to one idea and make it a reality.
4. Remember that Design “preferences” are subjective – but good design should always be based on researched principles, methods, studies, and practices.
You bring your design preferences to the table. The design team arrives with their experience and knowledge of best design practices.
- Take a tour of other websites . To prepare effectively for this collaboration, take some time to visit other websites that are in your vertical, as well as those outside of it. This site visit practice will give you an idea of the types of designs and functionality that you hope to see on your final website. Make sure that you look at the sites you like on a variety of devices too so you can see what it looks like as it responds to various screen sizes. What you love on desktop, you may hate on mobile.
- Ask prospective teams for samples of their work. Talk about their design aesthetic and what they can do for you. You may have a different idea about what you like, and if it’s not in their wheelhouse, it’s best to know ahead of time.
Remember, this relationship is a collaboration between two skill sets, and both need to be in tandem to optimize your digital presence. When you trust your website design team, collaboration will feel seamless. Connect with us if you want to find out if we are the right fit for your next project!