Your website development goals probably look something like this
1. To have a web site that is visually appealing and easy to use for your market
2. To have a web site that is easy to maintain
3. To have a web site that has the information your viewers want
4. To get all this as reasonably priced and time efficiently, as possible!
Your web developer is part of your business team to help you achieve those goals.
While there are many unscrupulous or unqualified web designers in the marketplace, most web developers are interested in helping you have a successful and profitable website. There are many things you, the web site owner, can do to help the process go smoothly – or feel like a disaster! The following is a partial list of some of the ways you can help your own web development process go smoothly by being a great client.
1. Hire a web designer who will explain the process and options to you. Your web designer doesn’t know about your organization or market, he or she should also be asking you a lot of questions. If your designer balks at explaining things to you – get a different designer!
2. Listen to your designer and ask questions until you understand both the steps the designer will be taking and what they mean to your organization. Don’t just rubber stamp everything, UNDERSTAND IT! The client who just agrees and doesn’t understand will probably be the client who is angry when things don’t go the way they want. Remember that you are the site owner. If you don’t know understand the basics of your web site, ultimately, it’s your problem, not the designer’s.
3. Take a web marketing and design course. That will help you communicate with your web developer.
4. Have definable goals. Write down what you hope to achieve with your website, and tell your designer which items are most important to you. Your web developer may have some great suggestions for you. Work with your developer to outline the order of steps that will be taken on your site.
5. Don’t be angry with your developer for work that wasn’t done when you asked for something else to be done first! If you need to change the site priorities, find out where the developer is in the current task list and explain whether you want the current task completed before the priorities are changed. Remember that means that the work that was stopped may not completed and will need to be revisited later.
6. Put your decisions, corrections or changes in writing – or an email – and then speak to your developer in person or on the phone to be sure that your writing communicated what you really mean. Ask if your decisions will have side effects on other decisions. If you give your developer a change, be sure the developer knows whether you mean that change to be immediate priority or to be added to the task list.
7. Proof your site. Remember that you are very acquainted with your information, but your developer isn’t. There are many types of errors that your developer won’t catch. Also, in the process of creating a visual design, it is very easy to miss textual errors and typos. Even in print orders, clients are usually asked to proof the work. If the error is one where the developer had the correct information, the developer should make the change without charging for it. If the information the developer had was wrong to start with, you should be happy to pay for the changes.
8. Respect your developer’s time. Unless you hire a web developer or web master as an employee, don’t expect the developer to be at your immediate beck and call. More than likely, the developer has other clients work to do and other commitments. It is not uncommon for a developer to already have two weeks of work lined up when you call with a change you need. Ask a prospective developer how much time they estimate will be available for your site. Ask your developer to keep in contact with you if their situation changes. If you have a timing change, talk to your designer to see whether your job time can be moved up, but it’s not the designer’s responsibility to push other clients aside for your job. If you say there is no rush – your developer will assume you mean it!
9. Understand the tasks and skills needed to create a website. A website is a complicated piece of software that includes visual design, file management, search engine optimization, copywriting, photography, coding, database management, and programming. There may be some of these skills that your web developer doesn’t have, and you may need to coordinate with other contractors.
10. Understand that there are website infrastructure tasks. There is a great deal of back-end work in developing a web site. If your work doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, your developer may be working on the basic file structure, templates, a database, CSS files, or other pieces your site needs to work. If your developer doesn’t seem to be doing anything, ask to see the files in progress and ask how they fit into your website. Understanding these pieces will be very helpful to you later on, as your site needs to be maintained.
11. Pay up! Some developers charge by the job and some developers charge by the hour. In either case, remember that your developer has already incurred the time expense to do your work. Don’t expect your developer to continue working on your site if you wait more than a month to pay your bill unless you have made previous arrangements.