So your business is growing.  You’ve been selling a product or service for a little while, but you feel that it is time for you to expand your brand online to maximize your exposure, and grow your customer base.  Good for you!  So now you are looking on Google, or talking to your contacts to try and find a good web designer who can help you take this next step.  Once you’ve found someone, you’ll have a sit down, and start to talk over the specifics of your site. In this article, I’d like to help you understand the process a little from the web developer’s point of view so that you can be the very best web design client you can be.  Building this site is very much a partnership between you and the web designer, so the better prepared you are, the more efficiently the designer can work.  Efficiency translates into savings in time and money, and it will also ensure that you get the site that you are looking for, and that your business needs.

I) DETERMINE THE SCOPE

WHY DO YOU NEED A SITE?

One of the very first questions that you will need to answer in the design process will be, “What is the purpose of your site?”  It’s great that you want a site, but a clear understanding of what you want to do with the site is fundamental to great design.  If you have no clear plan, later steps of the process will become much more convoluted.  Are you selling products? You may want your site to be an online store, so you can sell to a broader audience.  Do you provide a professional service?  You may want your site to provide a point of contact for potential clients to find you, and begin the process of engaging with your service.  Are you trying to provide general information to people about your business?

WHAT FEATURES DOES YOUR SITE NEED?

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of why you’re building this site in the first place.  With that in mind, it’s time to look at what features that your site will need.  If you want to sell products online, then you would need an e-commerce solution like woo-commerce.  If you want to use a blog to draw in potential customers with dynamic content.  If you use email marketing and social media, you may want to have those linked to your site. Do you run events?  Perhaps a calendar of events would be useful.

WHAT PAGES DO YOU NEED?Block-Diagram

Something that will make your web designer’s job a lot easier is if you create a block diagram with all of the various pages that you need.  Common pages would include (but not limited to) Home, About, Contact, Blog (if applicable), Store (if applicable), Products & Services.  There may also be sub pages under your top level pages.  An example may be a page that give a bio on your team, under the about page.  Perhaps a page for each of your product lines, under Products and Services.  The trick it to create pages that will cover a decent amount on

WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?

This is always a bit of a dance.  As the client, you’d like to get the site you need for a price that is easy on the pocket book.  As a designer, you want to provide a site that does what the client wants, without having the wrestle against the constraints of a overly limited budget.  As the client, I would encourage you to determine what you can spend.  It’s okay to communicate that you really would like to spend less, but that you cannot go above a certain amount of money.  I can be very deflating for both parties if the designer, being unaware of your expectations, creates a proposal that costs twice what you are willing to pay.  If you have a number in mind, communicate it.  The designer can work with you to save costs to fit the project into your budget.  You may not get all the bells and whistles, but together, you can likely come up with a budget and scope that work together.  If there are some must-have features that you can’t afford, you may consider putting the project off until you can.

II) LOOK AND FEEL

As a client, you’re going to be in one of two situations at this point.  Either your business has previously established visual elements, or not.  If you have been doing printed materials, you may have some or all of this ironed out.  Perhaps you have a logo, or perhaps you have a complete style guide for your brand.   It’s always a good practice to use common elements in your company’s visual communications, in order to build a sense of continuity.  These elements could include:  logo, fonts, colour pallet, tag lines,  or even things like the use or absence of elements like shadows, gradients, and certain geometric shapes.  If you have any or all of these, you’ll want to provide your designer with them.  If you have little or none of these things, you might want to put some thought into them, or consider allowing your web designer (or another graphic designer) create these assets for you.

keep in mind that stealing ideas from one person is called plagiarism; stealing ideas from many is called research!

Another practice that you might find helpful would be to surf around to other websites, and take note of things that you like about their look and feel. I’m not suggesting that you rip off a web site completely, but keep in mind that stealing ideas from one person is called plagiarism; stealing ideas from many is called research!  Perhaps you like the way that one site displays its products in an image slider at the top.  You like the creative way that another site does it’s headings.  Maybe you really love the fonts that one site uses.  You may like the use of white space with a site, or the use of images and parallax effects on another.  Any of this insight into your visual preferences can help the designer.  I append that by saying that the designer is doing this job partially because they have a good idea of what works visually.  They want to create a site that you will like, but also something that they wouldn’t mind having their name on when it’s done.

III) GATHER & DELIVER CONTENT

Your designer’s job is to deal with the visual and technical elements of the project.  They are not an expert on your business; you are.  You can’t expect a designer to write about your business with the same understanding and authority as you posses.  Your job is to provide the designer with well written copy, and high quality images for the various pages.  If providing these is a problem, you might want to consider outsourcing it.  Your designer may be able to write copy for you, or provide you with images, but it is likely that it was not part of the initial scope of the project. One of the most common delays in website production is due to the designer waiting for content from the client.  If you start working this out early, you can avoid unnecessary delays during production.

IV) CLOSE THE LOOP

The final thing you need to do to be a 5 star web design client is to communicate.  You are likely a very busy person, as is your web designer.  Sometimes it may seem like progress on your project has stalled.  You may want to just send a friendly follow up email to your designer, if you haven’t seen or heard anything for a while.  Sometimes both parties are simply waiting on the other.  If both thing that the ball is in the other’s court, then your project can stall for a while before somebody reaches out.  You don’t need to micromanage the process, but feel free to touch base with your designer periodically, just to make sure they have everything that they need.

CONCLUSION

Well, that should do it.  If you can follow these simple steps, you will make life a little easier of both yourself and your designer, when you are working on your business’ web site.  Keep in mind that the project is a team effort, and that you doing your part will result in a better end-product and potentially save you time and money.