Of all the areas of web design and development that I enjoy the most – our Web Design meetings really rank highly for the part they play in ensuring a great website result for the client.
The key to the success of those meetings starts with analysis & research before the meeting, which can include reviewing the client’s business and marketing models , their current website, and industry leading websites for comparison and samples. Key communication actually starts in the sales cycle and should be in full “voice” – during the design meeting. Clients should be engaged in identifying their needs, aims and outcomes and the whole team (client and designer) should establish a collaborating process to ensure a successful outcome.
Surely Your Web Designer’s Skills Would be More Important?
Without a doubt you have to have a great web designer to produce great websites. But an accomplished Web Designer is not only measured by graphic abilities. He or she must have a strong knowledge of the development tools the website will be using (and how they function) and must also have the ability to understand their client’s needs and requirements and to create a design that is results oriented.
There are many great web designers out there who can create the most eye catching web designs. But not all of those designs actually work for their clients. If the site looks good that will no doubt pass the first test of a new visitor – the test of whether they like the website or not. But as soon as they start to look for the specific items and areas of interest this may quickly change from “Liking The Site” to “Leaving The Site”. As my dear mother in Australia used to say “Peter – Looks Aren’t Everything” – in my case and the case of a successful website she would be right. (p.s. I do have a great personality!!!!)
Good Web Design Planning Starts with Analysis & Research!
We had two web design meetings planned for a Monday recently. In order to ensure that myself and our Design Director Vicki Payne were ready for those meetings we spent around 1-2 hours preparing for each meeting. During the sales cycle we really focus on the business and marketing models of the clients, the desired results they want from the website, and their timeline and budget. In the design meeting we really start to home in on the look and feel!
Preparing for our Design Meeting:
To prepare for design meeting my primary responsibility is to prepare an agenda for the meeting that ensures when we leave that meeting our Design Director has direction and clarity as to the design the client is seeking (the “look and feel” of the website). Although the design is now in the hands of our designer this process should remain a collaborative process. The client will ultimately pick the design sample (or combination of) that they feel best represents them. This decision making keeps the client in the forefront of the design process.
Wouldn’t The Designer Know Best when it comes to Web Designs?
At Bear Web Design we have two of the best custom web designers in Middle Tennessee. Vicki Payne our Design & Development Director has designed and developed over 150 great web designs over the last 10 years (plus hundreds of other sample designs). She is clearly expert in her field – as is our junior designer, Dana Bryson, who joined Bear Web Design in 2010. Yet when we attend a design meeting with a new client we approach every design the same – analysis, research, business direction, and business and marketing models of the client. Those steps really help establish a great design plan, ensuring that it is never just “our opinion” that directs these meetings.
I am sure many small business owners have ended up with what they thought was a great looking website that 6 months down the track was deemed as non-functional. (or basically not working for them). If you have ever been involved in a web design project and you have been told “Don’t worry – our designer knows exactly what you need” – you probably need to be REALLY WORRY!
Without a strong analysis of your business, how on earth can that designer really know what your business is about and what specific outcomes you are looking for with your website? Pre-selecting a website template is a great example of how a website that only looks good on the surface is simply not the best option (because in all probability that template was never built for that client’s business in the first place).
Analysis – Starts in The Sales Cycle!
It is much more difficult for me to produce a proposal for a client without having the entire web project understood. The only way to understand a website development project is to have a full analysis of the business and marketing models of the client. There is no other way to do this but to ask questions and do research — including research on the client’s existing site and also similar sites in their industry. So when we have produced a proposal we have a complete timeline and pathway to designing our client’s new website. We understand the client’s business models and we understand the outcomes the client is looking for.
Design Meetings Focus On details
When we commence our design meeting we are really focusing our design on the details with a primary focus on the look and feel of the website. We must leave this design meeting with clear direction. To help show the techniques we use to accomplish this, here is our standard agenda we use to help us really focus in on the details (with some comments to explain each area)…
- Introduction – Specific Aim of Meeting – Identifying Look & Feel of Website(s)
- Client’s Mission Statement – Primary Business & Marketing Models
- Slogans – Logos – Identifying Demographics and Customer Base
- Design Discussion – Website Look – Site Functionality – Web Site Areas
- Color, Images (Photos), Logos, Font Style, Menus, Graphic Techniques
- Additional Extensions, Components & Modules and any integrating 3rd Party Software
- Social Media integration and interaction as well as the website interaction
- Review of current website (likes, dislikes) and good industry examples (that we can learn from)
Additional Questions – Next Step(s)
At the completion of the design meeting we have really established all the necessary information and direction for our designers to be able to produce design samples for our client. We do not actually start building the website until the client has signed off on the design through this process. Our designers then create and post 3-5 unique design samples in .jpg image format, which are the exact replica and size of a normal website. This saves time and money in deciding the final design. To design the site and then change the design after development has begun would be inefficient and extremely costly.
Once the client has selected the final design we are ready to move forward with the actual web development. To a very large extent the success of the website has already been established and — don’t be mistaken — it has been established with analysis, research, communication & collaboration, and of course a great web designer!