This article may seem like self sabotage but I believe this information is beneficial to both the client and the web developer. There is nothing wrong preparing a potential client on how to work with a web designer. After all, when a client comes well organized and prepared then the web project can go much faster than expected, saving you both time and money. After 15+ years of web design experience here are key things that I believe make a client an excellent client.
Your Web Site Must List vs. Wish List
Think about the key components your site needs to be successful and write those down; commerce, automated shipping, mailing lists, mobile friendly, dynamic looks changes based on season or time of day, holidays, etc… Make that into a must have list and write up as much detail as you can. Now think about the items that you can live without but would really like to have. Having a mission statement of what your web site is going to be used for is also a key piece of information you will need to share with your Must List. You might also want to share the type of audience you are going after, common demographics, common psychographics, and so forth. All of these things will paint the “big forest” picture for your developer to use in order to come up with the best game plan.
Use Your Designer Like an Architect
A good web designer will have a good understanding of possibilities, limitations, opportunities and so forth. Have an open mind and see if what they propose is better than what you had in mind. Its okay to want to stick to a particular design, or style, but come to the table with an open mind and you will benefit with a set of solutions that will impress you. One of the toughest types of clients I have are the micro-managers that want to tweak and tune every single element. These are clients that don’t fully trust your plan and experience. Be aware of this behavior as often this is very taxing and can cause delays and other conflicts within a project. Have confidence within your designer and if you don’t, maybe you didn’t hire the right person.
Web Project Timeline
Be realistic and establish a timeline of when you’d like to see the project completed. You can also ask for a timeframe for certain assets to be completed by; mockup, edits and tweaks to mockup, alpha version of site tool(s), etc. Be realistic with your timeline and keep in mind that alterations to the overall project scope will delay the timeline.
Find Web Sites You Like
I am a fan of clients who come to me and already have a few links of sites that they like. This can give your web designer an understanding of what site style you are going after, what tones and colors you enjoy, the type of photography you like, specific functions you think work well and so forth. Few links with few notes for each web site will make you better prepared to work on the project.
Prepare Your Web Site Assets and Photography
Well written content, product photography and other assets all take time to be prepared. Start to write a master plan of things you will need and start to prepare them. Once you have a rough draft ask your web designer / developer to review it and provide you with feedback. A good web developer will have a firm understanding of how search engines work and will help you finesse the content so that its search engine ready. They will also give you feedback if there is too much or not enough content, if your product photography is professional or lacking, and will give you other advice to help you get the best web site performance available.
Generally once I start to work on a project with a client I will email them a mini-tutorial on how to prepare and fine-tune content for search engines. This email explains how a search engine evaluates content, decides what keywords to consider your site under, which pages it will consider the most relevant and so forth. If you need help in writing your content, ask!
The above items will help you streamline the work process with your web designer and save you time and money. Ask if you can offload other things from the web designer, if you have the time to tackle them. Enjoy this process as its exciting to see your thoughts materialize to an actual web site!