How do I get a website?
If you're not sure about how you actually get a website it can be a daunting process. Choosing and trusting a web designer is equally daunting and I have lots of clients who have come to me after being let down by previous designers - two of which actually emigrated to Australia without letting the client know.
In fact finding a decent and reliable web designer is like finding a decent builder – there are a lot of charlatans who think that because they’ve got a knocked-off copy of Photoshop and built a template WordPress website for a mate it somehow qualifies them to charge hundreds of pounds to unsuspecting members of the public. Equally, it’s important to be a good client and develop a positive working relationship with your designer. Two-way communication and, above all, mutual respect are utterly vital for the development of your site and your future working relationship. So, here are a few guidelines to help make your working relationship go a little more smoothly.
Keep to your focus and direction
Seems obvious but having an idea about what you want before you contact a web designer is important. Many times I’ve had clients who have contacted me two weeks into the project saying that someone they were talking to wasn’t keen on the name of the business and want to change it. Recently, someone approached me about a site I built for them over a year ago and and despite overwhelmingly positive feedback in that time, two people don’t like the background colour so it needed to be changed. Needless to say neither of these people were professional designers. You cannot please everyone all of the time so stick to your own goal and your own ideas. Obviously a decent designer will allow for developmental changes throughout a project but too much deviation from the original idea will cause the project to take much longer than originally planned and cost you a lot more money. It’s also important to think about where you’d like your site the be in a year’s time. Planning is vital.
Be realistic about timescales
How long do you think it takes to build a site properly? There’s the initial design mock, the build, the site population of written content, sourcing images, cross-browser checking, SEO, organising hosting, securing domains, setting up and configuring emails, complying to web standards, evaluating, snagging and final tweaking – and that’s the basic abridged list. More if it’s ecommerce. A proper job takes time and will not be done in a week. Any decent designer will already have other work booked in for weeks ahead. If this is the case then you can be assured that they’re probably pretty good and aren’t the best things are worth waiting for? Rushing projects is counter productive: the designer will be under pressure and possibly cut corners to meet your deadline, the site will not be as good as it could have been and it will be a false economy as you’ll probably need it doing again in under a year.
Communication from client to designer needs to be efficient. Responding to feedback for designs, payments of deposits, questions about your website’s development, requests for logins all need to be responded to in good time. It doesn’t need to be a massive essay – a quick acknowledgement email will do. Delays in responding means your website will be delayed. Freelancers need to block out time for work to earn a living. If your site was booked in for building next week but you don’t sign off the mock design your slot will be filled with other work. Your project will be moved to a later date and, therefore, be launched after your deadline. I’ve had a few cases where a project scope and deadline has been agreed and then the client has disappeared for a few months. This is fine, life gets in the way, I understand that. But don’t expect to eventually get back in touch and your site to be finished off the following week. Luckily, none of my clients have taken this tack but have acknowledged that they’ve had other concerns and not had the time to devote to their website development.
Be realistic about pricing
Helpful designers will give you ball park figures for a website. I had particularly awkward phone conversation a few weeks ago where a enquirer was aggressively haggling over a quote and was asking me to justify my rates. Any freelancer will tell you that rates are very difficult to set. There’s a lot of thought that goes into it as regards satisfying the client’s requirements, meetings, length of project, anticipating potential problems and the deadline. Figures are not plucked out of the air and they are carefully considered on a time basis, i.e. how long it’s going to take to build. If you’re confident you’re hiring a professional then pay professional rates – you get what you pay for. This aggressive haggling wouldn’t happen in any other professional service and as I pointed out to the gentleman in question I couldn’t go into his hair salon and try to beat him down on the price of haircut. He would tell me what I told him: I can’t do it for that price.
I actively encourage my clients to work with me on the development their project. I think it’s important for the site to be a success and generating ideas together is fun. However, you’ve hired a professional web designer for a reason and often some clients can be very insistent on a particular website feature which your designer may think is unnecessary, out of place or, at worst, just plain wrong. Trying to tactfully advise and explain why this offending feature shouldn’t be included is tricky sometimes and it can be counter productive if a client is determined to have their way despite being given good reasons why an alternative would be better. Fortunately, these instances are rare and the overwhelming majority of my clients are lovely. But it does happen sometimes. Everyone uses the internet but it doesn’t mean we’re all experts. I use aluminium chairs quite a lot but I wouldn’t dream of going into a manufacturer’s office and telling them which parts of their production process I thought they were doing wrong. They would, quite rightly, tell me where to get off.
So, clearly, website development involves a two-way relationship. Things are better when people work together towards a shared goal. Good web designers like websites that succeed; that achieve the goals outlined at the outset. If a website doesn’t achieve these initial goals, it’s failed – a waste of the web designer’s time and the client’s money. Togetherness is good. Choose carefully and be excellent to each other.
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