An acquaintance of mine from Australia, just recently posted a link to an excellent brief article for people that are looking to hire a web designer/developer to build their website. In brief there are a few different aspect to consider so that you achieve the best communication with your designer. I see in my line of work that communication and unrealistic expectations are often the 2 factors that cause trouble and mistrust in our web design community. Websites are here to stay and are becoming increasingly more attainable to have whether you are a novice or not in the field. As a web designer and developer I put a lot of energy into creating trustworthy relationships and have honest communication with my clients. Clearly it is complex with the kind of features and types of designs that are possible, but it is hard to understand what takes more time to put together than others and so it is important to create trust. I am inspired by the following article, because it has a very practical purpose to inform the client/consumer in what lies ahead of them when purchasing a website.
Here are the important points that the article bring up - I have made my own comments below to each point:
- Target audience
- Content and products
- Required technical features
- Design style
- Design style samples
- Budget for the web design project
1. Consider why you are building a website? Is it to sell something, is it to share information and put yourself out there and what you do, is it to promote your business ... do you expect people to find your services online or do you already have a big clientele? Do you want a dynamic site that is easily found by the search engines, or won't you be updating it so often and is it enough that your website functions as a expanded business card?
2. Do you need a website you can update yourself? Do you need a shopping cart to sell your products online? Do you need to expand down the road? Can you think ahead, even if you need to save money right now? What other functions can you imagine would be important... an event calendar? Social media marketing? Newsletter component? Think about all of your marketing- perhaps it can all be tied together in the same system, which will save money and time on training.
3. Think about what pages you want on your site. Look at how your competitors put theirs together. A sitemap is basically a map of all of your pages and how they are stringed together in a menu.
4. Who is your audience? How can you best appeal to the people you want to attract?
5. Do you have specific time line in mind, specific functionalities you want and perhaps in a specific order? Some functionalities may be added on later on, so that you can stick to the budget you have now.
6. Do you have any other PR material that you have already written? What are you products or services? This is important information when the designer starts to put together the site. With little or no content to work with, a lot of guessing has to take place. You can create the skeleton, but eventually you will need the flesh and the sooner you put that together the better. Some designer will help you working on the process of putting together the content. But some of it you really have to put together.
7. Look at other sites and see what they do, what mechanical things you can do, like shopping, submitting a contact or other registration form, the way information is displayed on the page, galleries, calendar, event lists, registration of any kind, etc. They are all dynamic features that demand a little more complex coding. It is important for a designer to know what is expected, before the project starts. Integrating and adding these features will make a difference on the price you are paying, because some features are quite time consuming. Even if you don't know what is a complex feature, look at other sites and ask the designer, tell them you like this or that on a website and they will explain to you the complexity.
8. Some design styles are more complex than others. You have to trust your designer on this one. Anything that is animated is typically Flash and takes someone who specializes in that type of coding. It is commonly known that web design is steering in a different direction as smart phones and ipads are becoming more popular and that kind of coding simply doesn't work well on those devices. Also in terms of search engines like Google, Flash is not so efficient. It is nice to have a website with all kinds of whistles and effects, but it does take away from a website's primary purpose which is to convey information about your company in a user-friendly and easy way. Have that in your consideration, when deciding on what you like and don't like about websites.
9. Spend some time looking at your competitor's websites and other websites. It is important that you get an idea of what you like and don't like. A designer will know what works and functions, but it is important you like your website and are proud of it. Design styles is also about taste. Your designer will advice you on what works in term of getting your message across, but the rest should be part of your creative process. You should be excited about your website.
10. If you feel comfortable about sharing your budget that is the ideal situation for a designer, since he or she will be able to give a proposal that includes the essentials you need and stay within a realistic goals. You may even get a discounted rate too or something for free, if you are honest about your budget. Designing a website can be a delicate and extensive process and it will take time if you want a job well done. It is important everybody communicates their limits, realistic timelines and technical capabilities. The project is bound to be a success that way. I have experienced people that share experiences about work relationships with designers that went haywire. It is a shame. Always assume everybody wants to do their best and most issues are miscommunication. If you pick up the phone, you might be able to save a work relationship and still get the website that works for you.