7 Tips for Working With Your Web Designer
How to create a smooth client-web designer relationship to ensure a successfully completed project. What you should know when working with a web designer.
Now that you’ve found the perfect web designer for your project, the next step is to hire them for your project and start working together. It’s important to start your collaboration on the right foot. In this article, we’ll cover tips on how to make the most of the client-web designer relationship, what you can expect in the process of building your site, and some important details about payments, contracts, and intellectual property rights to help you avoid trouble down the road.
Creating a Smooth Client-Web Designer Relationship
Some web design projects go better than others. One of the most important ways you can ensure your project goes well is to focus on the quality of the relationship with your web designer.
Web designers and clients don’t often speak the same language. This can result in misguided expectations which grind projects to a halt, and leave one or both parties feeling let down, even scammed.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the client-web designer relationship, and make sure your project goes smoothly from beginning to end.
1. Never Approach Your Web Designer Saying “It’s Just a Simple Job”
For a web designer, this is one of the most demeaning things to hear from a client. There are further variations to this statement that you should also avoid such as: “it shouldn’t take long for you to do,” or even, “I’d do it myself but don’t have the time.”
Because there are many website building tools available, many small business owners and entrepreneurs think that a custom website can be built with little effort. It’s true these template builders have gotten better, and we have a list of our favorites you can review. However, if you’ve decided to a hire a web designer, it’s likely your project requires a dedicated web professional. It’s best to start off on the right foot and recognize that your site is complex and you need help to launch it.
The difficulty and amount of time it takes to build a website or do any web-related task, is something best left to your web designer to determine. After taking the time to find and hire the best web designer for your project, you should feel confident in their skills. It should be clear from their experience and portfolio examples that they have invested a lot of time and energy in their craft – trust them to assess the the job in terms of its difficulty and the time it takes to complete.
Finally, even if the job at hand doesn’t take more than ten minutes to complete, you should recognize the knowledge, training and experience that’s required to make a complex change of code in a relatively short time. Having the experience to save you time and make sure it’s done right with the latest best practices should be seen as added value, not as a penalty against the web designer or an indication that the job is indeed “simple.”
2. Keep Your End of the Bargain
Throughout the duration of your web design project, there will be things your web designer needs from you. It’s best to discuss any content, graphics, brand assets or further information your web designer may need during the interview process. This way, you can be sure you have everything your web designer will need to make a smooth start to your project.
For instance, it’s common practice for a web design studio to ask clients to fill out a questionnaire as part of the onboarding process. This document should include questions about your business, target audience, competitors, and goals for your website. Do your best to offer detailed and exhaustive answers. The more information you provide, the better the chance that your web designer will build a website that meets the objectives of your business.
Take the time to gather any additional items you are expected to provide – such as images, text content, credentials to access your website’s hosted files, or any premium themes and plugins you’ve purchased for the site. The details of what is expected by both parties should be covered in a contract, which we’ll review further below.
Important Note: Making sure you provide any required information in a timely manner will go a long way towards ensuring that your project runs smoothly and deadlines are met.
3. Don’t Rush the Web Design Process
As a client, you’d love for your new website to be ready in a few weeks. Perhaps you have budget constraints, or your company needs a website up and running right away.
Rushing your web design project increases the risk of ending up with a subpar product.
Quality work takes time. Your web designer needs time, not only hands-on time for designing and coding, but also time to evaluate different solutions and outline the approach that best suits the needs of your business.
4. Keep Track of Progress on Your Website & Stay Involved
One of the best ways to ensure a smooth web designer-client relationship is to be involved in each phase of the project, and truly view it as a collaboration.
Results can suffer and deadlines can easily be missed when a client starts a web design project and then disappears until right before the launch date. Conversely, it’s never a great idea for a web designer to hide while working on the look-and-feel of a website and only get in touch with the client for feedback once the final product is ready.
If either party waits too late before reviewing the work, some important requirements may be missed. It’s better to spot problems as they arise rather than after a considerable investment of the web designer’s time. Not only can this increase cost, it can also lead to friction and frustration. Ultimately, it’s the quality of the website that suffers when the client-web designer relationship is not maintained throughout the project.
Stay involved in each phase of the project, from reviewing initial sketches and wireframes, to evaluating prototypes, and participating in the site’s testing. This last point is especially important. Your knowledge of your customer base is invaluable when it comes to usability testing and how your customers would likely navigate the site.
A truly collaborative approach involving both you and your web designer in the creation of the final product, is the most productive and conducive to a successful outcome.
5. Don’t Ask Family & Friends for Feedback on Any Designs Without Context
Throughout the process of building your site, your web designer will send you sketches, wireframes, proof-of-concepts, and complete designs, requesting for comments or approval before moving on to the next phase.
It’s tempting to share these mockups and designs with the people you trust the most — your family, friends and colleagues. After all, having an extra set of eyes to assess your web designer’s product helps you feel more confident about the direction the work is going.
Unfortunately, this can offer backfire, resulting in a strained client-web designer relationship. Especially when it comes to making aesthetic judgments, there are often no objective criteria to support the various opinions you receive from friends and family. Feedback such as “I don’t like the way this looks,” or “I don’t like black,” will increase, rather than eliminate any doubts you have, without offering anything clear to help improve the design.
Asking your web designer to make endless changes based on this or that family member’s opinion is not going to foster a great working relationship, you can be sure of that.
When you feel that you need to get an outside opinion from someone you trust, the best approach is to first inform them about the thought process that guided the design choices, rather than simply ask for their unqualified opinion. Providing that context will help reduce totally subjective opinions about the design, and result in more productive feedback which you can share with your web designer.
6. Don’t Overthink the Design of Your Website
It’s one thing to collaborate with your web designer by providing necessary content and brand assets, being responsive to requests for feedback, and clarifying any business goals for your site. It’s quite another thing to get too involved in the design project, where you are rifling off an inconsiderate number of instructions and then hoping your web designer will get everything “just right.”
Bear in mind, there’s no such thing as the “perfect design.” Website design, like all design is subjective, and what you consider a great design may not be viewed the same by others. Additionally, web design involves much more than aesthetic considerations: your website has to be easy to navigate and use, visitors need to engage with it and complete your calls to action. What if the design you like best is a usability nightmare, i.e. – it looks great, but there’s no clear way to navigate the site? What if it doesn’t encourage visitors to click your Subscribe button or buy your products?
It’s also worth noting there that you often can’t see whether the design really works until you put the website online and track how people actually interact with it over time. By waiting and making changes based on the behavior of visitors on your site, you can be sure your tweaks will be based on real hard data rather than mere subjective opinion.
Because nothing is set in stone, and you want to see how people interact with your site before making changes, often the best to a successful web design project is for the collaboration between web designer and client to continue well after the website is launched.
7. Don’t Micromanage Your Web Designer — Give Them Problems Not Solutions
The partnership between web designer and client goes smoothly when both stick to their respective roles. As a business owner or entrepreneur, it’s your role to communicate your needs and problems clearly to your web professional. It’s your web designer’s job to come up with brilliant solutions to your problems that address your needs.
Clients can be very helpful by identifying a problem, for example: the color palette is too bland for their particular brand. However, too often, what happens next is that they tell the web designer how to fix the problem, for example: replace the gray color with red.
The problem with presenting a “solution” this way is that your web designer won’t learn about the underlying problem and is therefore unable to suggest even better solutions based on their knowledge and experience.
Falling into this trap is something you want to avoid. Your web designer will feel devalued and less engaged in your project. By the same token, you’ll have deprived yourself of their professional know-how. As a result, your partnership will be damaged and your website will not end up looking like the professional product you’ve paid for.
Bonus Tip – Sign a Contract with Your Web Designer!
Whatever platform you use to hire a web designer, it’s best to have a contract in place to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Here’s a few reasons why:
The contract is a safeguard for both you and your web designer. It outlines your respective obligations and expectations. It’s also a reference point detailing the project’s scope and objectives. In the event the relationship doesn’t work out, a contract will protect you against the worst and should provide clear details on what to do in this unfortunate event.
Below are some points your contract should cover in detail. Wherever possible, use non-legalese language in your contract, so that both parties understand its content clearly and correctly.
Your Project’s Cost & Payment Terms
This is where the overall cost of your website, as well as an itemized calculation of each task involved, are detailed. Make sure nothing is left to guesswork here. For instance, if you call your web designer to talk about the project often, check if the time spent talking with you over the phone is included in the final price or has its own separate cost.
For payment terms, check if your web designer expects a deposit before work begins and what conditions are tied to the deposit: If the project falls through, will you get your deposit back? If your web designer disappears and you never hear from him or her again, will you be able to reclaim your deposit, or any additional payments already paid?
The payment terms should also detail the payment schedule: when are invoices due? Is there a penalty for late payments?
Lastly, if you didn’t hire your web designer through a platform that includes payment, be sure to check what payment methods your web designer accepts.
Deliverables & Timeline for Your Site
This section of the contract should specify exactly the tasks your web designer will accomplish and any services they will deliver, as well as how long each phase of the project will take and the total time estimate for completing your site.
As a word of caution, don’t simply accept “website” as your deliverable and “one month” as the timeframe. Your contract with your web designer should be specific to keep things running smoothly. Here’s a sample list of what you might expect to see listed under the deliverables:
- Look & Feel: does the design phase involve a Photoshop or PSD mockup, a HTML/CSS working prototype you can see in your web browser or both? How many design concepts can you choose from? How many page designs and revisions are included?
- Text Content: is this something you need to provide or is it the web designer’s responsibility? By what date does it need to be available? If the web design studio provides the text content, how much is it going to cost?
- Graphics and Images: who supplies the graphic assets? What graphic formats are recommended, for example: PNG, JPG, vector, etc.? How many images are needed? Do you need high resolution images?
- Browser Testing: what browsers and browser versions is the website going to be tested on? On what operating systems, for example: Windows or Mac? What about mobile testing: on iPhone, Android, phones and tablets? What do the tests involve – usability, look and feel, page load speed and other technical assessments? Will the website look exactly the same on all browsers and all platforms, or preferably, will it be a responsive site that “adapts” to each platform?
- SEO/Marketing: is search engine optimization included in the final cost or is this service calculated separately? What does this involve – keyword research, optimized titles and alternative text for images, or meta information in the HTML markup? Are social media strategy and marketing included, and what do they include – one tweet a day, two Facebook status updates a day? Is an email newsletter included, and how often is this sent?
Important Note: When it comes to details, make sure any extra service has its own price tag, payment method, and schedule clearly spelled out!
Intellectual Property Rights
This crucial clause in your contract should detail who owns the content on your site and who’s liable for any trademark or copyright infringements. In other words, if you provide the text, graphics or any other artwork such as a logo, this clause makes clear that you are the owner of this material or you have permission to use it. Your web designer should also give you the same assurance, providing ownership to the work they deliver, as well as ownership or proper licensing of any related assets, text, graphics or other artwork required to complete the site. This clause aims to protect both parties from any claim regarding ownership of the website or of any of its assets.
This section of the contract should also cover protection for any claim a third party can make against you or your web designer regarding ownership of any of the website’s components. For instance, if you buy a bunch of stock images on a marketplace and provide these to your web designer, this clause should identify you as the party who’s liable if any license terms are infringed. In other words, the marketplace or author of the content can’t take legal action against your web designer, but it can do so against you for not complying with the license terms. The same holds true for any content, graphics or images provided by your web designer, in this case, your web designer should be held liable in the event of any claims.
The IP clause should also spell out in detail whether you get the source files of your website, who is required to keep backup copies of the source, and who owns the property rights to the code used in your website, such as custom plugins and other scripts.
Post-launch Work & Warranty
A website is never finished. It’s worth mentioning again that the ideal situation is to continue your collaboration with your web designer after your site has gone live.
In particular, you should consider website maintenance. For instance, if the website is built on WordPress, who’s responsible for making sure the software, such as the theme and all plugins, are up to date?
Another thing to consider is the continual struggle to increase your website's engagement and conversion rates. For example, tracking users’ actions and performing A/B testing to interpret the data and adjust the design of your website based on the results.
Also, what happens if, after the site goes live, you find that it doesn’t display as expected on one of the browsers covered by your contract? This is where it’s important to pay attention to the warranty clause in the contract: will your web designer fix the problem as part of the warranty? Is there an additional cost for the warranty? How long does the warranty last? What happens when it expires? Can extended service plans be purchased?
Finally, what if you start fiddling with the source files and break something on the website? Is this covered by the warranty?
If you think your business requires that the project or some aspects of it be kept confidential, you can include a confidentiality clause in your contract.
Acts of God Clause
Despite the name, “Acts of God” doesn’t refer to any religious concept. This is a legal expression used to describe events that are outside human control where no one can be held responsible.
You and your web designer should state in what ways, if any, the specific rights and obligations stated in the contract will change following the occurrence of such an event.
If your house is destroyed in an earthquake, will you still be expected to pay for the work at the scheduled times? On the other hand, if your web designer’s office is destroyed by a flood, will they reserve the right to terminate the contract or delay the specified schedule until they’re back on their feet?
These terms should state what happens in the unfortunate event the project is cancelled, either by you or your web designer, before completion. What happens if cancellation occurs by mutual agreement? What happens if you cancel the project, or your web designer cancels it? What do you owe? What obligations does your web designer owe you?
Important Note: A contract with the above situations mentioned will help to protect both you and your web designer!
After you’ve found the right web designer, establishing a good client-web designer relationship goes a long way to ensuring the success of your project. Make sure expectations are clear, you provide information and content that is needed, and stay involved throughout the process.
Also be sure you have a good contract in place which details all possibilities, no matter how unfortunate or unlikely. It’s better to be on the safe side and it gives you peace of mind to concentrate on a productive collaboration with your web designer.
Most importantly, trust that you’ve found the right web designer and allow them to use their talents to their best abilities without micromanaging or forcing them to implement solutions. By keeping good communication and staying involved throughout, you can also catch problems right as they arise and keep your time frame moving forward towards launching your site.
Legal Disclaimer: We’re not lawyers, nor are we experts in your country’s laws and regulations regarding all the matters covered above. We make no claims to the accuracy and these tips for your specific business or locale. Before signing any contract pertaining to your business, you should have a licensed legal professional review the document and provide their expert opinion.