Advice on working with a web design company


Okey doke, so here’s a thing. I had a great day on Friday after a client went twitter tweet crazy declaring that I nearly made her cry when she saw the mock visuals for her new site and texted me saying that I ‘really get and understand [my] clients…’.

Advice on working with a web design company
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Lovely stuff, crack open the JD. If you’re interested, it’s here. That’s enough trumpet blowing. Saturday, brought me crashing back to earth. I’ll elucidate and proffer some advice on working with a web design company.

The back story

I had a consultation meeting on Monday with a prospective client. It all went really well, we got on, some great ideas for the project were generated and two hours seemed to fly by. At the end of the meeting I thanked the guy for coming to the office and said I’d send a comprehensive proposal and quote document.

I emailed the proposal first thing Saturday morning and didn’t expect to hear anything back until Monday at the earliest. By 10am on Saturday I received an email from the prospective client saying that he too enjoyed the meeting and the initial exchange of ideas but, and I quote, even though I appreciate the time and effort taken to produce the document [proposal] I just don’t have the time to read nor do I want too [sic]. I’m a visual person. He also ‘found [my] quote to be on the high side’. I will point out that he wanted two websites under the umbrella of his business targeting two different audiences so the quote wasn’t really that high.

Hmmmm, this is a new one. The actual quote aside, I was somewhat taken aback that he actually said that he didn’t have time to read the proposal or even want to. I emailed back explaining that just looking at the fees alone and being price driven without finding 15 minutes to read the proposal and looking at what he would receive for the money and the services provided he wouldn’t see how the quote was arrived at. He duly replied stating that he did read the proposal (funny, I’m sure he said he hadn’t in the first email) but as ‘a visual person a 15 page word document didn’t excite [him]. Excite him? Proposals aren’t meant to be exciting (and just to be pedantic for a second, it wasn’t fifteen pages; it was twelve – nine if you don’t count the cover page, the contents page and the end paper).

The advice

So, with the ranting ramble over, here’s the advice. Website proposals aren’t written to be Pulitzer Prize pieces but should be written to be informative for the client. In a (largish) nutshell, good ones are a summary of the consultation meeting, they should pinpoint the objectives of the website and the outcomes, who the target audiences will be and who the intended users are; they make it clear exactly what the client will receive for the money and what is needed from the client themselves regarding content. They should itemise all costs making it clear exactly what the charges are for. There should be timescales, milestones, details of staged payment dates and conditions for paying for websites by instalments. They should show project management arrangements, website features/functionality and proposed pages. They should also include the full procedure from the beginning of the project to the end, i.e. the actual steps of the project and what happens when. In addition, proposals should be jargon-free. In short a proposal should leave the client in absolutely no doubt what they will be receiving for the money they will pay – no part of the project or professional relationship should be nebulous, unclear, open to interpretation or missing.

Having a website built can be unknown territory for a lot of people, the procedure and process can be foreign and they can be costly. When you receive a proposal make sure you understand everything that’s in it. Question every fee, every bit of jargon, every T&C to ensure that the whole project is clear and transparent. A complete understanding of each other will save hassles further down the line as the relationship between client and designer needs to be good for the project to be a success and a good web designer will be reassuring and want to help you understand how things work. Any web designer will tell you that projects are awful when they don’t get on with the client or vice versa. At the very least, even if the price is too high for your budget make the time to read the proposal to find out why – this, at least, will give you further background knowledge when you ask for a quote from another designer. There’s more than one way of delivering a website and different approaches cost different amounts of money.

The upshot

I don’t usually moan about prospective clients either in writing or publically but I feel there’s something to be learned here. The guy I met with has spent seven years building up his business. It’s a lot of time and a lot of effort. I really hope that, whoever he goes with, he can stop being ‘a visual person’ for fifteen minutes and becomes ‘a reading person’ before he signs a contract handing over control of the future of his online business presence to someone. If there’s something he doesn’t understand he should ask and clarify. We didn’t really fall out I just think we didn’t really understand each other. But, I genuinely wish him well and good luck for his new websites. I did, however, notice he turned up to our meeting in a very nice car – can’t remember what (Merc/Audi/Beemer* delete as applicable). I’ve always found their prices to be on the high side but, I suppose, you get what you pay for.

For a jargon-free and not-at-all-fifteen-pages-long quote or proposal for a targeted bespoke website please have a look at my web design portfolio and then get in touch.



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