Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Communicating Needs and Expectations to Web Designers

Web DesignIt isn't really a complicated concept. When you need something designed, you hire a designer. It's as simple as that. However, exactly what you get from the designer depends entirely on how well you communicate exactly what it is that you want, what you expect and what you need, which isn't always easy.

Getting a designer to understand what you envision in your head can be tricky. You might be interested in having a logo or a website created, but a designer is going to need a lot more than that to go on. To get the best out of your relationship with your designer you need to know a few helpful tips.

First, you need to understand what exactly it is that a designer does. A lot of misunderstandings that occur between designers and clients can be traced back to misconceptions about a designer's role or false expectations.

According to graphic designer BJ Heinley, "Designers and clients should both understand the difference between design and production. Designing a logo and a business card is different than getting them printed. You hire a designer for his/her opinion and knowledge in a particular area, and you're asking him/her to help you navigate waters that you don't feel confident wading into alone. You hire production and development people to get something done in the best and most efficient way possible. "

Unfortunately, this can get confusing sometimes, especially if the design and production sides of the process are handled by the same person. It is still important, however, to know which parts of what you are asking a designer to do are production and which parts are design.

In order to give your designer the best possible information to work with you have to seriously think about what exactly it is you want. You need to think about the functionality you want your users to get out of your design. You also need to think about what information you want to convey and what sort of feeling you want to evoke.

"Examples are the easiest way [for clients] to share what they are looking for. That doesn't, however, mean for them to send over a website from a competitor and say, 'I want this,'" according to freelance web designer David Ronnie. Ronnie also mentioned that you should think about why you like a particular design and how it relates to what it is you want.

Heinley likes to use familiar analogies, like comparing a car to a website, in order to draw from customers exactly what they are looking for. "I'll often ask questions like: Why are turn signals where they are? Why is the steering wheel round and not square? Why put the speedometer where it is?" he says. "These real-world examples have parallels on a website. Where is the logo placed on the page and why? Where are a search bar and button placed on a page? What type of navigation should or shouldn't be used? After a few minutes of this, the client is usually clearer on some of the design considerations."

According to Ronnie, "Any forethought and planning of content and navigation previous to meeting the designer can help immensely with the company job." Content is an often overlooked part of website design, but it is also critical for the majority of sites. The point of a website for many small businesses is to get a message across and facilitate some sort of action.

One of the hardest things to do as a client is to give up control to the designer, but it is also one of the most important. Don't think this means you won't get what you want or that you can't offer feedback. Do not, however, try to micromanage the design process. You are hiring a designer because you value his expertise and skill. This means you need to trust him to take your initial input and create something that works for you.

Despite all of these helpful hints, you still have to realize that working with a designer does involve a little bit of business. Just so there aren't any surprises, you should clearly define the business end of the arrangement and get it out of the way before you actual begin to design anything.

There is nothing worse than getting to the middle or end of a project and finally getting around to discussing payment. Here's the key: talk about money and deadlines up front. "No work should be done until payment prices and terms are agreed upon, " says Heinley.

It is also important to understand that design is a difficult thing to put a price on. According to Heinley, "Due to the nature of exploration and innovation in design, projects sometimes will have unforeseen costs and time." As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider and perform when you are trying to communicate a design with a designer or a producer. So take these tips and use them to make your next experience with a designer the perfect one.
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