Have you been wanting to get your website up and going–or improve it–but find yourself stuck in limbo?
Have you tried getting a site up yourself, but only having average results and spending WAY too much time getting it going?
You may have heard stories about people spending tons of money or wasting gobs of time and not getting the website they wanted. Or you personally may have had a rough experience with a web or marketing team.
Or perhaps you’ve never approached a web designer or marketing company and feel uncomfortable because you are in unfamiliar territory.
The good news is that it’s natural to feel that way. When you hire a web designer, they’ve worked on more web design projects than you. Here are some tips to bring you up to speed on the best way to work on a project. Know that this is based on how I (as a web designer) work best with clients – it’s not a bad idea to ask the one you hire how they typically like to work.
1. Be prepared.
If you are thinking about taking on a web design project, know that you are required, as a client, to do some prep work. Make sure you have time in your schedule to take it on, or it’ll result in delays in the project because of you. Being responsible about the information you need to provide will help ensure that you get what you want in the end.
Before starting a web design project, you’ll need to have things like:
- Your style guide (if you have one)
- Your logo (preferably in vector format)
- High resolution versions of photography or graphics you want to use
- A list of your competition and what works (or doesn’t) about their sites
- A list of sites you like the look and feel of, and why
- A list of access to everything technical – like domain registrar access, hosting access, access to third-party things like newsletters or ecommerce solutions)
- Your colour scheme
- Existing print collateral
- A site-map
- A list of elements that go on each template in order of importance
- Content written for all pages (this doesn’t need to happen prior to the project starting, but this typically where projects get held up).
- Know that changes to scope result in changes to price and timelines
- This should fairly obvious, but if you decide during the project that you want something a little different, then be aware it can result in the price and timing being a little different as well. more work takes longer.
If you have an existing website that the designer will be working on, you’ll also need:
- Website hosting account login username and password.
(For example, this may be a HostGator, BlueHost or GoDaddy account username
and password. The company that hosts your website, for which you pay a monthly
or annual fee.)
- Website Control Panel login information
If you do not have this or know what in the world this is, your designer can generally find this through the website hosting account login username and password, so don’t stress too much over this one. For example, this would be an admin login and password for “cPanel” access on
- FTP Username and Password for your website
Again, this is something that your web designer can access through your hosting account, so that’s the most important information.
2. Do your homework.
What type of designs do you like? What do you not like? By looking at your competitors’ sites and other websites that you enjoy, you can start to see the type of navigation, imagery, layout and look that suits you for your website. By having a list of 3-4 examples of sites that you like and don’t like, you’ll be able to help your designer have a good idea of a direction to get started.
3. Know a few basics.
Even for web professionals, keeping up with technology is difficult. Fortunately, , you don’t need to know the ins and outs of the latest trends to commission a website, but it does help to understand a few fundamentals. Understanding the difference between a domain name, a web host and a website is a great start.
Domain Name: this is the address of your site, like www.techdivamedia.com
Web Host: this is a company that “hosts” your website files. Everything on your website (pages, images, text, etc.) has to be saved somewhere for it to be accessed by other web servers. This is what your hosting company does. Examples include Bluehost.com, HostGator.com and GoDaddy.com.
Website: this is your site that displays all the files that you are hosting with the web host. It’s what shows up when someone types in your domain name.
4. Be prepared to get comfortable and collaborate.
By talking to your designer, showing examples and explaining your ideas, you’ll be able to create something together that produces the result you want. If you hope to hire a designer, tell them to build you a site and then expect to do nothing for a couple weeks…you could be surprised what you get back from them. It doesn’t have to be labor-intensive, but good communication is key to getting a great website AND even having fun while you do it.
Take care to look for a designer that doesn’t seem too eager or hurried. Reputable designers tend to be selective in whom they work with, because they understand how important a good match is to a project’s success.
5. Know what you’re paying for.
Once the match is made, a contract is the next step. Everything that’s meant to be included in the project–from the payment schedule to the number of revisions that a client is allowed to request–should be spelled out. While some designers are flexible about small changes, you shouldn’t count on it. Ask your designer if it is not included in their proposal or contract.
You should also be prepared to put down a deposit to start the project. The amount of the deposit can vary, depending on the scope and projected length of the project.
6. Hold up your end.
While the designer provides a site’s visual and technical framework, normally you would be responsible for providing the site’s content–most commonly the text. Failing to do so on time can delay completion of the project, sometimes drastically so.
If the text isn’t already prepared, you can hire a professional copywriter. Your designer may offer this service or may have recommendations for you.
7. Be decisive.
Content aside, the most common cause of delays or extra costs after the contract is signed are sudden changes or additions. Again, being clear on the terms and knowing what you like/don’t like can really help.
From the moment you get the first proof, be honest with your designer. If it’s way off the mark, tell them. It can be faster to start fresh on something new. If it’s close but there are a few adjustments, be very clear on what those are so that it saves you both time and any additional fees.
It can be exciting to go online with a new or revised website! Reviewing the items in this list can help you leap forward with confidence when you start looking for a designer to build your site. It’s like describing a sunset to someone…the more distinctions of colors you have, the more clearly you can explain it.