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It’s been said that the worst mistake a company can make when they need to build a website is to leave it to a web designer.
But of course somebody who designs websites is by definition a website designer in much the same way as a pilot flies planes or a writer writes articles. What’s more we all know that the worst mistake a company can make is potentially much more catastrophic than hiring a web designer. But I digress.
If we take it as given that a web designer is somebody who designs websites for a living, here are the two most obvious yet compelling reasons why we should leave web designing to them:
Reason 1: Practice makes perfect
Turns out that many web designers (excluding the frauds, of which there are plenty) are experts at designing websites, which is a field that is increasingly complex and evolving fast. That’s because it’s what they do all day (and often all night) and, what’s more, many of them clearly don’t do it for the money. They (the good and great ones) are passionate souls who put in the time to learn new techniques, appreciate and critique one another’s work and value the ongoing honing of their skills and knowledge.
The result is that a good designer — the ones I’ve met at least — can immediately recall, extrapolate and weigh up thousands of considerations, presenting the relevant ones and working through them with the client where necessary. In the process money and time are saved, balls aren’t dropped and opportunities are capitalised on.
For example, the difference between a button and a link (or red vs. yellow button for that matter) can make all the difference between okay and great when it comes to performance.
Reason 2: Each to their own
Your typical marketer spends a lot less time designing sites than web designers. So, if they were to design a website, it would take them a million years and/or they would interfere with and ultimately destroy any hope of creative brilliance, or even adherence to best practice.
This is of course assuming that they are not also web designers, in which case please see point one above.
But the trick, you’ll note, is that you need to find a great designer (and not just a good one) and therein lies the rub.
As a “clientish” kind of person, you probably need to be on the lookout for five things to make sure the above two reasons stand and your decision to hire a web designer to design your website holds.
They are: experience, good communications skills, speed, attention to detail and a great eye.
Also bear in mind that there are a great many types of sites one might wish to develop. There are ecommerce sites, community sites, mobile sites, campaign sites. There are even (sometimes, quite legitimately) brochure sites. Of course it goes without saying that no two sites are ever exactly the same and nor should they be. Each requires different specialist skill sets and approaches.
But even knowing this, the collaboration between designers and clients to create a website can go wrong. For this collaboration to work, you need to find the best web design team for you.
To do this I suggest the following:
- Decide the type of site you require and the goals the site will need to achieve. Think business and brand.
- Then determine — with help if required — what type of site (or combination thereof) will fulfill your requirements.
- Next, (with help again) determine the best possible platform to build it on.
- Finally use those networks or do a Google search to find a designer or developer, or a company that does both. Your selection should be based on the platform you’ve chosen as well as the designer’s reputation in the industry, the aesthetic, usability and engagement of their own site, and their portfolio of client work. Also consider their own ranking on a few relevant Google searches and don’t forget that rapport counts for a lot, especially when the to-and-fro’s begin.
So you found the right person or team to design and develop your site… now what? Well now it’s time to work together. Perhaps whoever it was that said that hiring a web designer is a mistake really meant that leaving your web design partner alone and in the dark about your requirements is a mistake.
And that it is.
So finally, here are the top three tips on getting the most from your working relationship from your chosen web team:
- Brief clearly. A good client brief needs to include a synopsis of the brand along with clear visual standards/guides if you have such things. It also needs to include the objectives of the site and then some examples of loved and hated sites (with reasoning in both cases). Remember – the brief should be typed up to ensure everyone is on the same page and there are no he-said-she-saids.
- Expect a functional spec. You wouldn’t ask your architect to go ahead with building your home without first asking to see the plans. These should be comprehensive and, as a client, you’ll need to work through them with your web design partner to ensure all boxes are ticked (and all objectives met).
- Then, finally, if their credentials are amazing and they’ve proven that they understand the brief and the brand, a good web designer needs the space to push the boundaries and be amazing.
That’s not to say clients should give their design teams free range but that they should trust them when it comes to design. If you’re a client who has a strong idea of what you want, my suggestion is that you let your designer know up front that you would like to be more hands-on with the design. Ask to schedule regular meetings and reviews to avoid needless reverts and the unnecessary relational meltdowns that can result.
With proper planning, solid relationships, good collaboration and the trust that comes with knowing you’ve picked the right team, you can enjoy the best of both marketing and design mindsets. As it turns out, the two are seldom mutually exclusive. Great clients working with great designers can build mind-blowing sites that deliver real value and impact as a result of the brand’s online assets. And the result? Great marketing — which is, after all, what great marketers do best.