sending thoughts

How to help a web designer help you

If you need help with a web design project you might probably think that the first thing to do is finding the best freelancers and agencies to see who can do the best job. But if that’s the case you are wrong: the first step is to know what you need and what you want. You can’t just go around asking them to send you a proposal to build a website if you don’t provide enough information about what you are looking for.

The reason? A website can be done in a billion different ways. A Tumblr blog with a default theme can be ready to go in less than 15 minutes and without spending a dime on graphic design or extra functionalities, but that is of no help to you if what you want is an e-commerce site to compete with Amazon.com (which would take a massive investment and quite a few months of work). So here are a few questions you should be ready to answer if you really want to help a web designer help you:

1) What’s the website for?

Easy: the overall goal of your website. If you just want to have a simple page with some information about the company and a contact form, the designer will understand that there is no need to budget for a a system to accept credit card payments. But if you want to sell stuff online he’ll look into different ways to manage your inventory or how to load all the images more efficiently to make the shopping experience better.

You should also think about your specific needs. If you just say that you want an e-commerce site, then a basic Shopify plan could be enough for you. But if you want to show different products to different users, or you need your sales team to access client information that shouldn’t be public, then you have to look into something else. Multilingual sites, receiving payments from different countries, user registration… the list can be as long as you want.

2) How do you want your website to look like?

Plenty of times, when someone approaches a web designer they already know how they want their website to look like. But for some reason they don’t say it. That’s a big mistake. Knowing what you like and the style you are looking for is a great help for the designer. And don’t worry, a good professional will find a polite way to tell you if your idea sucks, if it would be too expensive to build or how you could make it better.

One thing I like to do is ask potential clients to look at the websites of their competitors and list which ones they like and which ones they don’t, and write a few words on why they like/dislike those sites. You can also browse a website theme collection to see what’s the world wide web looking like these days.

3) What’s your budget?

Last but not least, there is no way around sharing your budget. Even if you share your goals and needs, and how you want your website to look like, there always are cheaper and more expensive solutions to the same problem.

For example, the cost of the design depends on two things: how important is for you to have a custom layout and how much can you spend on it. If you don’t need anything special and have a tight budget, you can buy a template from a site like Themeforest, and maybe get a designer to make a few teaks to it. But if you need something unique then you’ll need a bigger budget. The same applies with functionality: you can develop a solution for your specific problem or find an existing one that is not perfect but does the job.

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