If you included a website design or redesign in your 2013 budget or business plan, it means you’ll be working with a web designer in the near future. As a Maryland web design firm, we’ve helped many small business owners improve their online presence, and we always try to make the web design experience as positive as possible.
However, web design requires a two-way communication, and the project’s completion speed, outcome and success largely depend on the decision maker = you (assuming a web designer is doing his/her part). If you want to get your new website designed in the most efficient manner, follow these tips and remember that you have your own responsibilities as a client.
Designate a person or a team to work with the web designer
First, you need to select who will be in charge of working with the website designer to complete the project. Will it be you as a business owner, your marketing director or your IT guy? This person or team will be responsible for communicating with the web designer, providing any necessary information, monitoring the progress and reviewing and approving the design on each stage. Having a designated project manager will help you avoid unnecessary stalling.
Understand the difference between design and development
Website design is a streamline process that has several stages. Once you sign the contract, you have given your web designer a green light to start drafting the design of your future site. This is called the design stage. Based on your preferences and his/her own expertise, the designer will create a mockup, which is a digital draft that illustrates what your new website will look like.
After you approve the mockup, it’s time for the development stage. At this stage, the web designer will start writing the code to turn the design mockup into a fully-functional website.
IMPORTANT: make sure you are happy with the mockup before the designer moves to the development stage. Making changes at this point is a lot more complicated and time-consuming.
Give the web designer some guidance
Knowing what you want or at least what you like in terms of your site’s look helps a lot. “I don’t have any preferences; surprise me” - we’ve heard that before. And it usually ends with a client being unhappy about the first mockup, because deep inside you do care how your website looks and you do have preferences. If you don’t have a clear vision, at least give the web designer some direction BEFORE he/she starts designing:
- Set the goal for your website: do you want to raise awareness, sell your products online or communicate a specific message?
- Determine your company colors and whether you want your new website to reflect them.
- Look at other websites within your industry and make a list of the ones you like and what you like about them.
Remember, besides his/her own expertise and imagination, the designer works off of what you give them. So if you never mentioned that you want your logo to appear floating on a cloud of balloons, then don’t expect the designer to read your mind. Similarly, don’t expect a full company history on the “About Us” page if you didn’t bother to write it or didn’t give the designer’s writing team any facts to create the content from.
Trust your web designer’s judgment
There is a reason you hired them: you don’t have the skills and expertise to design the website yourself. So don’t act like you know everything and insist on making changes to the website that the designer specifically advises against. Don’t get me wrong, you can request changes if you are not happy with the design, but keep in mind that the look is not everything. Your website needs to be attractive, but it also has to be functional.
Your web designer (hopefully) knows from experience which layouts and website elements are the best for converting visitors into customers. This is why it’s a good idea to hire a designer who also provides internet marketing services, because they design with your customers in mind (maybe not everyone, but we certainly do!).
Make your website a priority
We know you are busy and wear dozens of hats on a daily basis, but your website is something that needs your constant attention. We’ve had clients who signed the contract, started the process and then dropped off the face of the Earth for the next few months. How much can a web designer do without your feedback? Not much at all: the project gets frozen until the missing business owner calls assuming everything is finished. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
You need to stay on top of the game and collaborate with your designer at every stage of the process. The faster you answer emails, send images and provide content, the faster your website gets finished.