My girlfriend loves the website clientsfromhell.net . At least three nights a week as I’m curled up in bed ready to go to sleep, I see the glow of her smartphone screen and hear her starting to giggle about some poor unfortunate designer whose client thinks you clean your computer cache using Windex.
I can’t laugh very hard because I’ve had those jobs. Just ask me some time about the business cards for the gas station in Texas. (Hint: if you highlight, italicize, underline, and bold all your size 10 font it doesn’t make the text “pop” in the way you want.)
We don’t all know about computers. I understand that. That’s why you pay a marketing and computer expert in the first place. That said, there are a lot of things that even a completely technophobic client can do to streamline the design process. Follow these steps and you will have a happier designer, a quicker turn-around time, and a better finished product. Guaranteed.
Without further ado…
(1) Know What You’re Selling AND What You’re Really Selling:
I know. This one sounds dumb. “I sell soap, and I’m really selling soap. Duh.” If that was as deep as this question needed to go, every soap merchant would be a millionaire.
Your answer should be something along the lines of “I sell jewelry but I’m really selling female empowerment,” (sample) or “I sell custom millwork products but I’m really selling old fashioned craftsmanship.” (sample) Even if you aren’t selling a product online you are selling something – convenience, expertise, the great view outside your window. Figure out what makes you special and tell that to your designer right up front.
(2) Know What Reaction You Want:
Cool, so you want a business card / website / brochure. Unless you’re just a collector of marketing memorabilia (rare) you actually want to use these to provoke a response from the public. Possible end goals here include: make a reservation, sign up for my mailing list, call me for a quote, buy a product, follow me on Facebook, come to an upcoming event.
If you have a large website, it’s okay to pick several of these things. The smaller the media is the more important it is to have one concrete goal. No one wants a confusing business card with 6 calls to action.
(3) Find Examples Of What You Like
One of the very best things you can do to make a designer’s job easier is to just show us a picture. Send links to five websites with a list of what you do and don’t like on each site. Be specific, (“I love the overall layout but the navigation is clunky. I do love the way those photos scroll by. I’d like a site like this but with warmer colors.”) They don’t need to be in the same industry but they can be. Send us home with a book full of photos of vintage pin-up girls and say you want your site to have the same feel. Help us get the creative juices going and point us in a direction.
(4) Provide Content
You’d think this one would be self-evident, but we can’t make sites appear out of thin air – well, we can but they wouldn’t represent you very well. This doesn’t mean that a designer can’t write copy for your site, just expect to pay a little extra.
The best clients start work on this at the beginning of the process. They create navigation trees (“I want the home page to link to these five secondary pages. The secondary pages will have links to these tertiary pages.”) They write up paragraphs of content and provide photographs or drawings to go along with it. If they don’t already have high quality photos, they hire a photographer (See my previous blog on the importance of this.)
The View Crest Lodge in Trinidad is an excellent example of a client who did all of this right. They wrote out one paragraph for each of the main pages in their site, a paragraph about each type of cabin that they had available, provided bulleted lists of room features, lists of links, then hired a professional photographer. The entire web design process was seamless and they came out with a high quality product that matched their business personality.
(5) Don’t Be “The Expert”
We love clients who educate themselves on the design process. It often makes it easier for us to express complicated ideas if the client has read up on things a bit and has a basic understanding of what we’re trying to do. That said, there are few things quite as dangerous as the hands-on client who has read two articles about web design and is focused on driving the whole process. Designers spot those people the moment they open their mouth. Typically these folks will pick 1-2 catch phrases and ride them off into the sunset with very little understanding of how they actually apply to their own project’s goals. This leads to a long drawn-out process of the client requesting loads of changes while the graphic designer basically functions as an overpaid long-range computer mouse. Don’t be that client. You pay your designers for a reason.
Feedback is good. Getting stuck on minutia ends up with us caught in an endless frustrating loop.
Bad: “Logos are never supposed to be larger than two inches. Make mine a quarter of an inch smaller. Also, you should never italicize fonts because it’s hard on people’s eyes. Change all of my fonts to Aller Display Light. It’s much easier to read.”
Good: “I’m having trouble reading some of the fonts. Could we try something clearer? The color scheme is good but I’d love to see more open space. Can we make the ad look more old fashioned – I’d love to see an 1800s feel.”
These are both forms of feedback, but the second one allows the designer to do what we are trained to do. Whether you realize it or not, your designer is worrying about things like “How will this render properly at different display sizes?”, “How does it show up in mobile?”, “How does it render on different browsers?” We have years of training at problem solving. Tell us what the problem is – don’t give us the solution.
Follow these five simple steps and your design process is guaranteed to be more streamlined, hassle free, and timely.