A web designer sometimes wears many hats. But their main role is to develop the visual representation of content on a website, application, or other web based medium. Client input is a crucial component to any web project. You know your customers best and often can pinpoint what might attract them to needing your services.
What are the responsibilities of a client and a designer? How can we work together to produce the best possible product?
Providing Business Background Information
You know your business best. Whether your just getting started or you’ve been around for 100 years, nobody can talk about your business better than you. Providing information about the types of people you are trying to attract is key to any design project. Gaining insight on their demographics can make an average website into a much more beneficial one. Design is not just about making a good first impression. Or being “pretty” as some people like to say. It’s much much more than that. It’s about making a website that is easy to use, informational and helps the customer understand what it is that you are trying to tell them in the best way possible. Design determines how well the content is understood.
Allowing the Designer to Design
This is an important one. There are lots of careers out there that require special training. Say for example a pilot or a dentist. Not once have I gone to the airport and asked to speak to the pilot to tell him how I’d like him to fly the plane. Nor asked my dentist to try fixing a filling in another way. Same concept works with design. Design takes training, experience and lots of research. A designer who is up-to date with technology and usability patterns should know how to do their job and provide you with a design that will attract and benefit your visitors. That’s not saying your input isn’t a part of the equation, but let them do their job. It’s what your paying for isn’t it?
Designers are not only there to click a mouse and work a computer for you. They are offering their ideas and concepts to reach your intended audience. Not as easy as one might think.
Giving Constructive Feedback
Feedback is part of the design process. It comes in many forms. Positive, negative, constructive and nonexistent. The best types of feedback are positive & constructive. Constructive can have negative undertones, but when said the correct way, can be extremely beneficial to the project at hand. For more tips on how to give constructive design feedback, read Chapter 6 in our Guide to Website Design – Giving Design Feedback
Negative feedback can cause a designer to become defensive. Even though as a client, you may feel it necessary to voice your honest opinion, it can likely be done in a way that provides other alternatives. If you don’t like how something was designed, telling your designer why you don’t like it can be much more beneficial than saying you hate it all together. What are some of the responsibilities of a designer?
Asking the Right Questions
Design is only 50% about the actual act of designing. The other 50% is about asking the right questions and getting the right information from a client. If you designer isn’t asking the right questions to better understand your business, how will they design the site to attract the right customers?
Here are a few questions that your designer should be asking:
- Who is your target market? What are the demographics of that target market?
- What are your website goals in order of importance?
- Who are your competitors?
- What makes you different than your competitors?
- What would your visitors gain from visiting your website?
- If you already have a website, what things are you having problems with?
- What types of emotions should your visitors feel when coming to your website?
- Do you need a content management system? How often and which elements do you need to update on a regular basis?
- What is your budget for the project?
- What is your desired time-frame for the project?
Designing with the Target Audience in Mind
Gathering the information and using it are two entirely different things. Sure, your designer may have asked the right questions and things seem to be going fine. But are they putting the information you provided them to good use? This is where experience, research and education come into play. Understanding how to take the data you’ve given them is what they should be best at. How do you determine if a designer can target your audience if they haven’t done work in your field?
Take a look at their portfolio. Is there a big difference between the look of each different client in their portfolio? There should be. No one client is the same and has the same exact customer. For example, two flooring stores maybe both offering flooring and have great customer service. Should they look similar? Not necessarily. Maybe one sells all recycled flooring and the other does not. Those differences should be apparent in the designs. Maybe one has a brown background and a green color palette where the other might be black, glossy and highly polished.
The point is a designers portfolio should not reflect their style, but the style of their client’s customers and what they want. Not what the designer wants. Not what the client wants.
Be Fair & Smart. Not Combative.
There are going to be times when you disagree with your designer. Not always, but likely you may have a suggestion or two that isn’t exactly what your designer had in mind. The role of a designer is to listen and to decide if the feedback is right for your customer or if it’s a personal preference. Always remember, 9 times out of 10 you are not your customer. You may hate pink. But your customer’s new baby girl might want to be decked out in pink from head to toe. Pink may just be the answer your customers will resonate with. Designers shouldn’t be combative. Creativity takes a lot of hard work and sweat. If you love what you do, chances are you’re very proud of the end result. It’s hard, as a designer to take negative feedback. But it’s part of the job and should be taken in a professional, calm manner.
These tips should help you understand how to work with a designer and what to expect from a designer when working on your next web project. With any business relationship, it’s best to understand the roles of each member on a team to work as efficiently and as effectively as possible.
What stories or tips do you have to share when working with a designer or with a client on a web project?