How to Communicate with your Web Designer

Responsive design

Most marketers and SEO professionals have a good understanding of the way that the web works and websites are built, but there still exists a great deal of miscommunication when it comes to working with web designers and this is something that can be avoided.

In fact, the majority of the time, it’s due to a lack of communication when a project runs on or into difficulty. With that in mind, let’s have a look today at how you can more effectively deal with designers when a new project comes up.

Marketers and SEOs tend to be somewhere in the middle of the client-designer relationship, or they work in a team for various projects. Some of course have their own clients and have designer partners that they trust to get the job done. So what’s the most common issue that the team (in whatever its form) is faced with when working on a web development project.

Unclear Brief

A lot of the time, confusion and frustration arises due to the designer not receiving a clear enough brief for the job that needs carrying out. A vague explanation of how the site should look and a colour palette just isn’t enough for the majority of designers, unless you’re willing to accept whatever they come up with.

You should, as a bare minimum, provide:

  • A clear and detailed brief with necessary CTAs listed
  • A brand persona so that the designer has a good idea what the brand wants to convey
  • Sketches of ideas if these have occurred to you or anyone else and been approved by the client
  • A workflow document that both parties agree on outlining milestones such as first draft
  • An agreed calendar to discuss progress
  • All imagery that will be used on the site

Brand guidelines can be as complex or simple as you like, but should include things like colours, logos, tone of voice etc.

Changing the Goalposts

Getting together a decent website takes a lot of work and it can be more than a little frustrating for a designer to hear “oh, can you just change that, I don’t like it”. Keep feedback positive and ensure that you understand the process and potential time that it will take to make changes. What may seem like a simple change for you could in fact be huge for the designer, so ask before blithely requesting changes.

Planning is a big part of this process, so you should have a very clear idea of what you want from the beginning and once you have settled on this, don’t change your mind and decide something you just saw online would be better. Give your designer the ability to be creative, but don’t stifle that creativity by insisting on a design that’s limited or by attempting to change everything halfway through the project.

Don’t be Needy

Many designers find that clients want to discuss the project on a daily basis and call for hours at a time to discuss progress. This is counterproductive. Set a calendar to discuss anything you need to in advance with the designer. This way you’re not disrupting the workflow and the designer can get on with her job safe in the knowledge that she’s not losing lots of cash on the job by taking a call for an hour of so a day free of charge.

Communication is vital to the design process, but it’s also hugely important that it’s effective. If you find that questions to do with the design pop into your head during the day and you want to discuss them, jot them down and address them at the next scheduled meeting. Of course, if it’s an urgent communication then you might have to get in touch, but perhaps drop the designer a mail first to ask when she’s free.

Of course, the other solution to this is to simply pay the designer for her time for each phone call that runs longer than five minutes.

Provide Useful Feedback

When giving feedback if you don’t like something about the design, don’t be afraid to say so but do try to give clear reasons why. For example, perhaps the designer has put a red button on a page which you just don’t like. Ask the designer why they made that choice, as they make have a very good reason which is connected to usability. However, the thing about usability is, without testing, it’s not an exact science. Take the time to discover his reasoning and more to put across exactly why you don’t like it and it’s highly likely that you’ll come to some sort of compromise quickly.

Say Thank You

Sounds obvious perhaps but many people fail to do this if a design hasn’t met their expectations. Of course, designers are not infallible and mistakes are bound to occur, but great communication and mutual respect means that there’s little that can’t be overcome. Web development projects often run over due to unforeseen bugs, or a lack of understanding when it came to the brief. Expect this and work it in at the planning stage to avoid stress and resentment creeping into the project when it’s not necessary.

Be Concise

When communicating ideas it can be very difficult to be clear about what you mean, especially if you don’t particularly have an eye for design yourself. With this in mind, try to ensure that all communications are as concise as possible and if in doubt, meet with the designer so that you can get a clear idea of if they understand what you’re trying to say. Just as with feedback, try to get across not just your ideas, but the meaning behind them.

Developing a new site or overhauling an existing one can be exciting and fun, but it depends heavily on effective communication. Understand that the designer has a different skill set to yourself and try always to be clear in what you want and what you expect and your project should go swimmingly.

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Kerry Butters

A prolific technology writer, Kerry was an authority in her field and produced content for a variety of high profile sites in her niche. Also a published author, she adored the written word and all things tech and internet related. Sadly she passed away in February 2016 after a valiant battle with cancer.

4 thoughts on “How to Communicate with your Web Designer

  1. 6tel says:

    Great post, Kerry. In my modest experience, most of the times clients do not have the slightest idea of what they want, and even when you create a brief for them on design, usability, etc, it gets frustrating when they expect changes to be made in an unrealistic timing just because they are signing the check. You just can’t say “no” but sometimes these expectations come after a project has been delivered and approved, and it gets difficult to explain the reasons for a button here or a field there when the client also does not have an understanding of the work, the discipline behind it, or gets inflexible on ideas that just popped up to their heads after finishing a project.

  2. Kerry Butters says:

    Thanks for reading :) Yes, I agree, the nature of design work means that there’s often a communications gap between the designer and the client and of course, work is also often interrupted. There needs to be good, clear briefing and a certain amount of artistic leeway for the job to be done to the satisfaction of both I always feel.

  3. Nevy says:

    This article is very timely and helpful to me. I’ve been considering an official website recently. I’ve mentioned it to a few web designers and I’ve been feeling like they’re not all that enthusiastic about designing for me and until now I’ve been thinking it’s because of my content. But now I realize it’s because of the unclear brief!

    I need to work on that.

    Thank you and great post!

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