4 Tips for Collaborating with a Web Designer

They say that the key to happiness in life is to find something that you love to do and figure out how to make a living at it. For me, web design is that thing, a place where I get to exercise my creativity while helping people and businesses build a presence for themselves online that they can be proud of.

For many of the folks that I work with, building a new brand or website is both a critical part of their plan for future success and a sizable chunk of the budget they have set aside to accomplish those plans. Naturally, the stakes are pretty high, as is the pressure to arrive quickly at a result that everyone agrees is in harmony with their vision.

One of the potential roadblocks on the road to that consensus is that many people have very little experience engaging with the creative process. Even if they have a pretty good idea of what they are looking for, they can have difficulty explaining what they want to their designer, because they don’t know what questions to ask, or what information to deliver before the designer begins. Other times, they are aware they need a professional, attractive design, but they have no idea what that would mean when applied to their specific business.

It’s important to remember that arriving at a final design that everyone can be happy with involves integrating the creative vision of your designer with your vision for your business. Even if you know exactly how to communicate what you want, it can take a while to dial in on the happy middle ground between the two, especially if you don’t have any idea what you want.

Thankfully, whether you know exactly the design you are looking for or have no idea, there are some concrete steps you can take to make sure that your time working with a designer is as pleasant and efficient as possible.

Bring the Hate

One of the best pieces of information you can deliver to your designer is a list of what you really don’t like. Let’s say you hate the color yellow, but you only tell your designer that you like brown and green. Lo and behold, when they submit the first mockup to you, they’ve used brown, green and (wait for it) YELLOW! They didn’t know you hated it, and chose a color they felt fit with the design. If you had told them about your overwhelming hatred of all things yellow ahead of time, then you could be pretty sure they wouldn’t use it.

One good way to get a sense for what irks you when it comes to design is to take a look back at less-than-stellar work that has been done for you in the past and ask yourself what exactly about those pieces was wrong. This can give you a decent sense of things you’d like to avoid moving forward.

Find the Love

So now you know what you hate. Time to spread the love around! When a designer begins a new project, they are essentially working with a canvas of infinite possibility, which they will fill with whatever “feels right” given the information they have on hand. Every bit of guidance you can give them helps simplify and narrow the vast ocean of available choice.

Before you meet with your designer, go look at lots and lots of websites. Take note of the elements you come across that you find appealing or useful. Make sure you are only looking at the quality of the website design, not the caliber of the business that design supports. Great businesses can have terrible websites and terrible businesses can have great websites, so don’t make the mistake of using a bad design as inspiration because you admire the company that uses it.

One really useful place to start when looking for inspiration is the websites of companies that compete with you. Doing so can give you good ideas, but also show you areas where you can easily stand out from crowd.

Show & Tell

Ok! Now that you know what you love and what you hate, you need to get that info to your designer in a way that will be useful to them. Don’t be scared! Even the least artistic among us still has a solid sense of their own likes or dislikes, whether they know how to communicate it or not.

The critical thing is to take good notes as you are exploring so that you can provide specific, real-world examples of what you are talking about. Using Pinterest and other online curation tools can be helpful, or just dump links and notes into a Google doc. Whatever works for you! And don’t skimp on the details or worry about piling too much on your designer. Even if they only use a tiny amount of what you give them, all of it will help them focus in on what you are looking for.

In addition to the above, you’ll also want to provide some insight into the culture of your company and the people it serves. What are you trying to achieve? What types of demographics do you want to attract? What are their wants and needs? The more specific you can be here, the better your designer can build your site to serve the people you want to visit you.

Be Open and Honest

You should be feeling pretty good at this stage. You’ve done your homework, delivered a cogent and specific vision to your designer, replete with examples and inspiration. Now it’s their turn. Don’t be surprised if their first mockup isn’t 100% what you were looking for.

You are now waist deep in the artistic process, and it’s vital that you give your designer room to create. If some of their initial decisions don’t make immediate sense to you, remember that you hired them because they know what they are doing. When you discuss the first round, ask questions about the choices they made and let them tell you their reasoning. You may find that their intentions make sense, even if the final outcome isn’t quite what you were looking for. They might even bring you around to their way of thinking!

However, no matter what, don’t lie just to spare their feelings. If you don’t like something, say so. Just avoid the emotional gut-reaction, and instead try to provide criticism focused on bringing the design closer to your vision.

Working with a website designer involves engaging in a creative back-and-forth, but if you do your homework, give plenty of examples, and stay open and honest during the mockup stage, then the process can be efficient and fun for you both!

Need a new website designed? Schedule a complimentary call with me so we can chat about what you need.

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