There is always a lot of confusion about what is needed when you hire a web designer, so I thought I would share a helpful starter list and some explanation of each item. This list may not be all inclusive depending on your project, but it should help get you started and help you have a better understanding of what is involved in your first meeting with a web designer.
1. Know the goal of your website
It is not enough to simply know that you want a website. It is not enough to know that you need a website. To want or need one is a good start, but it is more than that. To go to a web designer with this simple knowledge is not enough. The progress you make will be little more than wasting their time and your money.
Now that you know that you want and/or need a website, you should start to figure out what the precise goal or goals are for your website. What will your website do for you? What will your website do for your company? What is your website’s primary job?
2. Know your budget range
To know that your website has a specific job to do is not enough. It is not in charge. It is not the boss. You are the one calling the shots, thus you need to know what your budget range is for your website project. Can you afford your project?
A website can be expensive, but it does not have to be if you do careful planning and work with your designer and/or developer. If you set up a plan that builds on your needs and wants most designers can configure a quote that makes your project fit within your budget. You have to know what your budget is before you get started.
Be prepared to shop around. Be prepared to make compromises of wants to get the things that you need. Be prepared to work on a long term plan. A website is not a “once and you’re done” project. If done correctly, a website is an ongoing part of your overall marketing package.
3. Have a list of required and wanted features
We all have “needs” and “wants.” It is most important that our “needs” be met before our “wants” come into factor. It is not unreasonable to expect that some of your “wants” be met, but depending on your budget, it may not always be feasible to meet all of your “wants.” In these circumstances, consider a phased project that prioritizes the most important features of the project and builds out the things that would be “nice to have” for future phases.
4. Have a list of websites that are similar to the look and feel you want as well as those that have features that you require or want
We all surf the web on a regular basis and have a list of websites that we like. When you are considering having a website built, pay special attention to features on websites that draw your attention and why. Make a list of these websites and features. Knowing what you like will help your designer figure out what kind of style is suited to you.
5. Have a list of websites that you dislike (what to avoid)
We all surf the web on a regular basis and have a list of websites that we really dislike. When you are considering having a website built, pay special attention to features on websites that draw your attention in a negative way and why. Make a list of these websites and features. Knowing what you dislike will help your designer figure out what kind of style is not suited to you and what to avoid.
6. Know what colors you want to use and want to avoid
Have a list of colors your like and dislike. If you want a certain color for a certain reason, then let your designer know that. Try to be as specific as possible when specifying colors you like. There are many shades of the color blue so if you want dusty blue, please say that to help narrow down the range of colors we have to select from. The process of picking colors can be time consuming to just get the right colors unless you already know exactly what colors you want.
You can pull color inspirations from a variety of places. Do not be afraid to do that. If you have a picture online that you like and you want the colors to come from that, then please bring that picture with you when you meet with your designer.
If your company has certain colors that must be used to maintain consistency with existing logos or style guides, please have those colors and color codes with you to make the designer’s job easier. A close match is sometimes not close enough.
Please understand that not all colors are appropriate for all websites and businesses. If the color is not working in the manner selected, the designer may reserve the right the modify or adjust the color. Do not be offended if the designer is using their trained abilities to help make your website look better. Trust that they know what they are doing.
7. Have a list of your competitors with websites if possible
Sometimes it is easier to design a website and know what your website should include and do if you have a list of competitors and their websites. This is called market research in a very loose sense of the term. Do not be afraid to do some. Your designer will for inspiration and help.
A web designer is not just a designer, they often research the companies, products, and industries that they are buildings websites for. This is so that they can have a better understanding of what they are designing for. If they have a better understanding of the product and the clientele/users/customers, they can better suit the needs of them.
A website is not for the owner, the website is for the end user. It is important that the designer meet the needs of the end user. It is important that the owner be happy with the results, but the designer’s goal is to make sure that the user experience is the best that it can be. They can best achieve this by having some understanding of the product and the user.
8. Know your target audience
It is important that you know who your target audience is. Your website is not only to be a representation of your and your business, but it is to be a tool for your users to find out information. It is important that your target audience have the best user experience possible. If they have a good experience, they are likely to return. Users that return are likely to yield a higher return on investment because they are more likely to convert to purchasers or refer other users. As an owner you cannot ignore the end users, you must know who they are and understand their needs and wants.
9. Know where your website content (text, images, etc) is coming from
It is important for you, as the owner, to know and understand where the content for your website is coming from. The content does not magically appear and there are not website elves that create it while everyone is asleep, so this content has to come from somewhere. As the owner, it is your responsibility to provide the content unless your are specifically hiring the designer to also do this.
This does not mean that you must have and provide all content up front and on the initial meeting, however, you should have a good idea of what content you want your website to present to your users. Think back to the goal and purpose of your website. You should have an idea of what categories of content you need to present, what you want to present to the user, etc.
Please keep in mind that the more that you have the designer do, the more the project ends up costing in the end. Most designers request that all content be given to them in a digital format, including any pictures you may be using. Do not let this dissuade you from using a particular designer, just be aware that additional charges may be applied to your project if your content is not received in the proper format.
These are by no means the only things that will make the hiring of a web designer fool proof, but these few simple things will save yourself a lot of frustration and headaches later in the process. It will save you from some surprises and scrambles throughout the design process.
Remember that a little bit of preparation goes a long way.