If you expect every web project to go smoothly you’re being extremely naive. Problems always occur but most of the time they’re minor enough to fix right away. Other times the issue can seriously affect the quality of the final website. All parties involved in creating a website are all united by the common goal of creating one that works so often these problems are created unintentionally. Here I outline how the client, the web designer and anyone else involved can do things that can get in the way of a good website.
The client is of course very important—without them no websites would get commissioned. There are, however, four main ways a client can unwittingly make creating a good website difficult.
The first one is the ‘amateur web designer’ client. That is someone who has probably obtained a copy of some web design or graphics software and has spent a few hours playing around with it. Such a person is over–the–moon with their new found skills and is keen to showcase them as part of their new website. While certain tools do allow the inexperienced to build websites very quickly—and easily—they are a far cry from a professionally built website. A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing and I have already outlined how making your website yourself can cause serious damage to your business. The client should voice their opinions to the web designer but should not actually take part in the design if it’s not their job to do so.
The second thing is indecision; the client who keeps changing their mind. The bigger a site is the harder it is to make amends once the build of the site has begun. It is akin to asking a builder to change the foundations of a house at the point where he’s finishing off the roof. The web designer and client should both agree all major features of a website before it is built.
Thirdly, you can get a client who is too slow at making decisions. Constantly waiting for bits of content to be sent over and to get things signed off can be very frustrating as it not only delays their payday, it is very uneconomical from a time point–of–view to build a website in small fragments. The client and web designer should specify deadlines for each stage of the site (including the supplying of content and signing things off) in the contract (see later).
Finally, we have what I dub the ‘too many cooks syndrome’. This is common in corporate environments; it is when there are lots of people required to sign something off. Similar to the previous point it can delay a project. The syndrome is exacerbated during summer when from June to September you can almost guarantee one of the group who needs to be in on all the decision making is on holiday. This is probably the most difficult problem to address but stating in the contract that only a certain percentage of the decision makers need be present to sign something off can help.
The web designer
Of course as with the client the web designer can be tardy too. When you first start putting together the specification for the project be sure the web designer is working to milestones—and hold them to it.
Some web designers and (particularly large) companies lower their initial price to win the job only to inflate the cost of work done afterwards. This often accounts for why web design quotes differ so much. Be sure to read the small print in the contract to make sure what you see is what you get.
So far, I’ve assumed you have a contract. And this brings us onto the most important point: work to a contract. A contract is a legal binding and mutually beneficial agreement. Among other things the contract should detail out payment terms, milestones, delivery dates and copyright and ownership. Make sure you work to a contract—and read it through carefully to check it covers everything. If you’re unsure—and it’s a big project—it would be worth paying a solicitor to take a look at it.
There are other people who can get in the way too, not just the client or the web designer.
Sometimes another agency are involved. It’s not uncommon for a marketing or print agency to do the branding and then pass it to the web designer to create the site. This is usually not a problem as they leave you to it but some agencies try to get involved with the web design too. The problem is some agencies have little or no knowledge or experience with the web and they try to apply what they know works in print to a website. Unfortunately, web and print are very different. Applying print design knowledge to a website is like putting diesel in a petrol car; it may look alright from the outside but once you start running it, it will soon become apparent it’s of no use to you. Websites also have a core purpose that surpasses all design and branding—and that’s to convert users into customers (online enquiries, purchases, account creation, etc). Those not familiar with the web can often place design and branding over this. For the web, this is a big mistake. Always, always get your site designed by someone who knows how the web works.
The previous web designer can also get in the way. Changing your web designer can be a stressful experience if he or she proves to be awkward.
Finally we have ‘the pub expert’. They’re everywhere and they know everything…apparently. A pub expert is usually someone who has a web design friend or has read a Web Design for Dummies–esque book and now considers themselves an authority on the subject. They’ve heard about how the latest open–source content management system can help you get a better, cheaper website. The best way to deal with pub experts is to simply dismiss what they say—or run the idea by your web designer. You can almost guarantee they’ll be talking nonsense.
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