Getting Along With Your Web Designer

You're all ready to get started creating your web presence and you've found a skilled web designer to build your website for you. Do you know what he needs from you to do an efficient job? Good web design requires cooperation between the architect and the user to create a product that will serve its intended function, and you don't have to be an internet expert to do your part. There are a number of things you can do when working with a web designer during the building and maintenance phases to smooth communications, reduce confusion, get work done faster, and get the results you want.

Building a New Site

If you're starting from scratch, your first job as a customer is to define what you want the designer to build.

  • Start by doing some research on the internet to see what kind of sites your competitors have and how they are organized.
  • Look at different layouts and navigation styles and decide what you like best.
  • Know what colors and text styles you like and provide good, high-resolution copies of your logos and company graphics.
  • Decide what kind of information you want people to find on your website. Do you only want to sell stuff, or do you also want to provide technical information about your products, processes, or services?
  • Discuss with the designer how to organize your information with efficient navigation and page design.
  • Do you need the customer to provide you with information through the site? Make a list of what information you need to collect and discuss with the designer how it can be collected and conveyed to you.
  • Do you need to use information or graphics from your suppliers on your website? Get the supplier's permission to use their information. Never use someone else's exact copy without their permission, this is plagiarism.
  • Write your own content for your website. Remember, you are the expert on your products and services. Even if you are a bad writer, draft the information you want to present on each page and hire a professional writer to polish it for you.
  • Define when the website will be considered completed. At some point, the initial design needs to be considered finished, and any additional changes from that point forward should be considered updates to be billed separately.

There are also some things you shouldn't do:

  • Don't ask the designer to start over with a completely new design in the middle of the project or when it is nearly complete. Nothing irritates a designer worse than when you approve a design, then change your mind three weeks later and decide you don't like it anymore after the website is more than half finished. It creates a lot of extra work and will often cost you more money. It also delays the designer in working on projects for other customers, making everybody unhappy.
  • Don't keep adding to the design requirements as you go along, making the project bigger and bigger. This is called mission creep, and it hinders the designer in knowing how a project is going to be completed and giving you an estimate of duration and cost. Sometimes changes are unavoidable, but it's best if you can lay out all your plans at the beginning and stick to them.
  • Don't make the designer guess what you want. Give as specific instructions as you possibly can and you are more likely to get what you want faster.

Website Maintenance

Once the site is completed, you will probably occasionally need to make changes to the site to update information, add new products, or remove outdated or discontinued items. Here are a few tips to make this process more efficient as well:

  • Be specific, and don't make the designer hunt through your website to find where the changes need to go. Provide the exact page and location on that page for each change that needs to be made. If some pages contain similar information, copy the URL of the correct page from the address bar in your browser and include it with your list of changes. Designers work on a lot of websites and may forget where everything is in yours if they haven't looked at it in a while.
  • Try to send changes by email whenever possible. Copying and pasting text from an email or Word document is a lot faster than retyping text from a fax or a document sent by mail, and adding a graphic that is already in a digital format (.jpg or .gif) saves time over scanning it from a brochure and cleaning it up first.
  • If you are making small changes within a body of text such as list, a restaurant menu, or a description, highlight the changes with a different color text so that they can be found with a quick visual inspection instead of a detailed reading and comparison with the old version. If you need to remove text, make sure you show what is to be removed. If you simply omit it from the new copy you send, the designer might not notice that it's gone.
  • If you think something may be broken and needs to be fixed, describe exactly the steps you took after entering the website to recreate the error. This helps the designer pinpoint the source of the error faster so he can proceed with fixing it.

These are just some basic things you can do to forge a more effective and profitable relationship with your web designer. If you can do your part to make his job more efficient and be an easy client to work with, he will be more happy to serve you in the future, and you'll get what you need with less trouble and less worry.

© Copyright 2005 by Stacy Clifford

Stacy Clifford is the founder of ChiliPepperWeb.net and has spent four years assisting customers in understanding how their web services work.

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