After first feeding them a latte…
So you’ve decided that you need a website, and you’ve started the gears turning with the Frogs (or, perish the thought, another agency entirely). Maybe you’ve done some sketches on a cocktail napkin and now you’re ready to start working with the graphic designer assigned to your project. You’re on your way to having a beautiful new website design.
For any designer, the process is clear and simple, but it may be new to you so here are a few tips to help you understand what’s happening so that you can develop a fruitful and stress-free relationship with your designer.
You’re paying for experience
You may have heard of Photoshop and even used it once or twice, but there are people in the world who have forgotten more about Photoshop than most of us will ever know. These are design professionals – the ones who work with Photoshop day in and day out, learning the intricacies of the software and understanding how to craft a piece of art with nothing more than a keyboard and a mouse.
It’s this expertise you’re paying for when you hire a graphic designer to artfully construct the look of your website – not just knowing Photoshop, but also understanding a variety of software, design philosophy, how to draw a user’s eye to important visual and textual concepts, and that you never wear brown shoes with black pants.
A designer has spent years learning about design and what looks good, but when you’re paying good money for a website and you think of it as your baby, it can be difficult to step back and let the designer do the job you’re paying them to do. To make the relationship as smooth as possible, though, there’s a point where the conversation about design intent and message is over, and it’s time for the designer to get to work.
A good, experienced designer will be able to recognize patterns of colour and shape, and be able to draw every element of a website’s design together into a piece of art that not only gets the point across but also pushes a viewer to focus in on the most important elements.
Some people want to micro-manage every aspect of the design instead of relying on the professional’s advice, and that’s where problems can start to arise. A designer will put together the best design they can, based on the client’s needs and objectives. While a client may not love it at first sight, it will be professional and will be based on the information the designer was given.
“A good designer will bring their many years of training and experience together to build an excellent website – something that fits the objectives”
Getting that one version
Clients may be surprised when they only get one version of a website design instead of several to choose from. This is the complete opposite of what they get when a designer creates a logo (typically a few different ideas are presented based on the client’s needs).
With a website, though, a designer doesn’t need to generate several ideas. In fact, that’s a lot of extra time and money that doesn’t need to be spent. A good designer, with an understanding of the client’s brand and intent, will bring their many years of training and experience together to build an excellent website – something that fits the objectives. They’ve gone through a variety of versions in their head and come up with the best result.
“I think the main thing is just trust our expertise and knowledge,” says Jen Hawkyard, Treefrog’s art director. “I think what happens a lot of times is people come in with the ‘this is the way I think it should be done attitude’ and aren’t listening to the advice and expertise that we have. We do things for a reason and it’s not haphazard.”
To get the most from the relationship with the designer, clients should ideally listen to the designer’s advice. It’s okay to question the advice; it means you’re interested and invested in the project. However, there are reasons designs are done in a certain way.
As Jen explained, web design is very intentional. Designs make a user’s eyes follow a very specific path, leading them to see key attributes – all based on what a client says is the most important parts of their business. As long as that information is accurate, the design is appropriate.
The Dos and the Don’ts
Do you want to make things as easy and seamless as possible during the website design process? It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are a few tips from the Frogs that will make your life easier and help you get the design you really want:
Do understand you’re paying for a professional instead of your nephew who “knows something about computers.”
Do listen to the advice of the designer. They’re professionals with mucho experience and talent.
Do be very clear about your objectives and brand identity. If you want things to run smoothly, it’s important that the designer knows where you’re coming from and what you want.
Do use the designer for the appropriate task. You wouldn’t use a hammer like a screwdriver. Use the designer for their expertise.
Do trust and relax. Treefrog looks for the best talent. They know their jobs, and they’ll do a fantastic job if you let them.
Don’t micro-manage. Nobody is at peak performance with the boss hanging over their shoulder. Let the designer do the job they were hired to do for you.
Don’t treat the designer like a layout person. They went to school for their job and spent years doing it. They know what looks good, and they’ve already thought of alternatives. They’ve chosen what is best based on your objectives.
Don’t keep tweaking excellence. Once the design is excellent, don’t keep tweaking in the hopes of getting perfection.
Don’t hire a designer if you want a computer operator. You’re spending a lot of money to get good graphic design and a designer’s professional advice. Don’t worry, be happy. The designer will come back with a website design tailored to your needs. If you communicate those needs well, the design will be in line with your business goals.