If you have ever had an involvement with a website design company, you may well have experienced a great deal of mis-communication, mis-interpretation and missed deadlines.
What sees like the simplest of notions, turns into a 6 month headache.
As an integral part of a web design agency, i would like to offer up some suggestions as to why this can happen.
Let me firstly give you the web agencies argument, then i will reveal how this whole sorry process can be avoided and save you hundreds if not thousands of pounds at the same time.
An agency works to a spec document, usually prepared by the client or as a joint effort. A paper sitemap is created so we can see the site hierarchy and what links to where.
When this phase is complete, our web designers will begin to create a graphical interface to display your content in the best possible way.
This is where the first MAJOR problem occurs.
As professional web designers, we will proceed to create a website that delivers your business or personal goals, this has a direct impact on site design and layout.
Let me give you an example:
If we are tasked with creating an ecommerce site for selling a product, we will create a homepage where the visitor is guided into the sales process, every click that they take them further down the path to the sale, after all, an ecommerce website should sell right?
Not corresponding to some clients no, far better in their eyes, to have a beautifully sculpted landing page showing the latest and greatest web 2.0 or flash movie intro, culminating in the inevitable 'click here to enter' button, centred on the page.
To hell with search engine optimization, they want their site to look the best!
This is always a bad start to a client / designer relationship and sets alarm bells ringing at web design hq with distant cries of 'Oh no. we've got another one .. 'emanating from the design office.
Sure, if you're a big brand looking to release and market a new product then knock yourself out, but for Joe Bloggs paperclip sales? I think not.
This brings me to my second point – logo's.
Do you really think that your company is SO important to the end user that they are MUST be subjected to the monstrously oversized logo you are forcing the design team to integrate. What's more, after we submit the site to you for initial sign off – 99% percent of the time we are sat waiting for the 'can you just make the logo a bit bigger' phone call.
Your site should be about the product or service, it's not about your logo, keep this in mind next time you think half a page is 'reasonable' logo space.
It's amazing how many clients play at 'designer' once the ball starts rolling.
So after spending days or weeks on design tweaks that detract from your business goals, we finally submit and give you what you want, a site based on 'this great site i saw on xyz.com', a site i should mention that is already old fashioned and already out of date. We work for the future, not the past.
Just to point out that i'm not ranting here, this is cold hard fact, drawn from actual daily experiences.
The next stage can be even more disastrous, the integrating of content.
Now we are getting to the nuts and bolts of the project, the promise of content and imagery suddenly sees like a distant dream. We hear week over week that the content is nearly finished, but it is not, it is not even started.
Many clients are under the illusion that writing content is easy, until they begin the task. Nobody likes writing content. Every word or paragraph is important and can be the difference between delivering the right or wrong message to your audience.
It's not unusual for a web design agency to wait 6 months for content to materialize, it's even less unusual for us to be asked to write the content. Why not just ask us to do this in the first place?
All the procrastination is costing money.
For those that do bite the bullet and write the content themselves, they become lost in the sitemap, many convince them that the sitemap is actually incorrect and that a new one should be generated?
This has massive implications, the web site design could well have to be broken down and re-started in order to accommodate the 'small changes' to the structure.
It's not unusual to re-start a project several times, as the real goals of a website finally dawn on the client. By this time, the ever humble web agency is so brow beat, that they simply agree, in the hope that the project will at some stage be put to bed.
I can fully empathize with the client, i realize that intervention is not intentional done to upset the applecart, it's just a lack if education and i do not mean that in an offensive way.
To really drive this point home, imagine that you are a roofing contractor, highly specialized and having gone through years of professional training. You are half way through fitting my new fandangled roof when i casually pop outside and tell you that i think it will look better if you put it on upside down.
Now here's the good part.
There is a new breed of web design agency surfacing. One where the client is rewarded for allowing the agency to perform their task without interruptions.
The client is asked to create a list of page titles and create content for those pages in advance. The also collect and imagination they wish to use. Design wise they provide a suggested color scheme and a list of website they find inspiring (for design cues). Lastly they provide a list of keywords that will shape the tone of the site ie fun, modern, contemporary, corporate.
All this material is submitted to the agency and that is the last input the client has.
The agency can then use the submitted material to create a fully functional website within a very short timeframe.
The client has to trust that both his submitted information is correct and that the agency will do a professional job.
The clients reward for this is a huge cost saving, sometimes thousands of pounds on a single project.
The agency is allowed to provide a professional service with a lightning fast turnaround time.
Now in the real world, there will always be clients out there who want to control the web design process, but for those who recognize that the job should be left to the experts, the rewards are multiple.
It certainly pays to be prepared does not it?