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How to get the best out of your website designer

Well, saying “I need a website“ and leaving it at that won’t get you very far!

And saying to them “I’ll know when I see it?” also won’t help them at all.

If I asked you to go shopping for me, you’d want to know what kind of shopping – grocery, clothes, a birthday present, and so on. And let’s say I told you “groceries”. So then you’d like to know what I wanted from the shop, in as much detail as possible.

And it’s the same with designers: you need to give them a “shopping list”?or in other words, a brief.

With any designer, the better the brief that you give them, the better the job they can do for you.

So it’ll pay you to do a lot of the thinking up front about what you want from your website (after all, it’ll be there to help promote your business, so the responsibility lays with you to make sure it’s right), and give your designer as much detail as possible.

A good way to start planning a website is to actually look at other people’s websites and how they’re structured. Note down what you like about them and what you don’t. Note also what you like about the colours or imagery that they use. Most designers will like you to share this information with them.

If you want to start with a website – have a look at my main website over at http://www.merriemarketing.com.   You’ll see that I have tiers of information – I’ve grouped together related information under one heading so you can navigate quickly to where you might want to go to.

I always think that anything technical should start off with pen and paper?and in this case, use post-it notes. What I’m suggesting is to write the kind of pages you want on your website on post-it notes, so you end up with one page name per post-it. Then stick them on a wall or on your desk and play around with the structure until you think it works.

By doing this you’ll see if you need additional pages on your site, or if you need to take some away. You can see how it flows and how a visitor would find their way around your site.

When you’re happy with it, copy down the final structure and give that to your website designer. They may well make other suggestions, but that’s good?use their expertise and skills to make your ideas work a whole lot better for you. Better that way than asking them to start with a blank bit of paper – and it’ll cost you more if they spend more time on it!

So, you’ve got an idea about how you want it to look and feel, and you know what the structure is?but what else is there. Well, your designer will also need to know:

  • The background to your business and the goals for your business;
  • The ethos and values of your business;
  • What you sell and how (and if they need to integrate a payment system, like PayPal, they need to know; does your product require postage?);
  • If you sell products, who is going to supply the product shots;
  • Your USP (unique selling proposition?ie, what makes you so different from others in your field)
  • Who your target market is (clue, it’s not everybody!!), what they like, other websites that they probably go to (if you don’t know that, you should!!);
  • The kind of imagery to use;
  • Who’s supplying the copy and by when;
  • Do they need to include coding from an autoresponder for your data capture page;
  • When they need to supply a first concept to you and when you need the final site completed by (tip: websites always seem to take far longer than you think to create, and it can often be the final tying up of systems that takes the time).

You also need to send them:

  • Your logo (if they’re not designing it as well)
  • Your professional photo
  • Your contact details
  • Your Privacy Policy and Site Terms (a legal requirement)
  • A copyright notice
  • And the copy if you’re writing it or you have a copywriter write it. And if it’s the latter, the copywriter can be writing copy whilst your designer designs the site concepts. Then the two will be ready to merge at the same time.
  • As you can see, there’s more to briefing a designer than saying “I want one of those please!“. The more effort you put in to the planning of it, and thinking about what you need and who it’s for, the happier your designer will be and the better your website will be! Oh – and it’ll be cheaper for you in the long run.

    Hope that helps!
    See you next week,
    Kim.