Of course, you hope to find the perfect web designer: someone with exceptional technical chops, who is also personable, responsive, detail-oriented, a great business partner, and optimally, a mind-reader who anticipates your every need.
Many pros educate clients around relationship success factors, specifying everything from preferred image formats, to allowable days, times, and methods to contact them. In addition to those expectations, I assure you, the clients who make my A-list are the ones who go above and beyond in how they plan and implement communications with me.
Read on for 10 tips to accelerate your ascension to the top of your web designer’s “Most Favored Client” list.
Related: A web designer’s tips for communicating with freelance designers
1. Be forward-thinking
Certainly, you’ll send content updates, but also keep your web designer informed about non-content items affecting the website. What do I mean by non-content? Each of these administrative items is something they will want to know about:
maintenance or update notices from your hosting company
messages about payments or due dates for hosting, domain registration, SSL, or other related services, especially if you’re not absolutely sure about paying them
creation or distribution of website log-in or password information to any other service providers
If you own a domain, you’ve probably received notices for renewals, SEO services, and more. I encourage clients to forward bills or solicitations to me because I can quickly determine their legitimacy. I’d much rather answer a question than spend time unraveling the damage done because it was not asked. As the time for this is covered by their monthly maintenance Care Plan, clients don’t need to worry they will be billed for asking questions.
Pro Tip: Investing in domain privacy keeps these annoying solicitations to a minimum.
2. TMI is encouraged
Keep your web designer aware of organizational news — even if you think they might not need to know — including newsletters, press releases, or social media updates possibly affecting the website.
Web designers often need access to information before the general public. If that’s likely for you, consider a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA). Press releases are an excellent example, as they may be used to prepare marketing materials ahead of release. If the release information necessitates website changes, then of course your web designer needs to know ahead of publication and will require time to prepare materials in advance.
In many cases, adding a press release to your website does not require precise, to-the-minute posting. However, if they need to be available to post on a specific day at a specific time, advance notice is surely required. In addition, if that time is not during normal working hours, extra charges may apply.
3. Set up an Early Warning System
For important website updates requiring specific timing, reach out at least a few days ahead of time to confirm your web designer will be available to make needed updates. If you wait until the last minute and they are on vacation or otherwise unavailable, you may be out of luck.
I love advance notice from clients, as it lets me get their specifically timed updates appropriately prioritized on my calendar.
Bonus points for specifying when short-term updates should be removed or reverted to earlier content. Double-bonus points for circling back before the removal date with a remind-o-gram. If an offer has an expiration date, explicitly say “please remove the offer on June 30.” I will calendar removal dates if I can figure them out from the original request, as I don’t count on clients to remember to tell me. And yet, with managing 100+ sites, I don’t have time to scan all sites every day, looking for details that may have expired and should be modified.
4. Become a (timing) control freak
if you require specific timing, look for an implementation allowing your web designer to get their part done early, while you control the last-minute timing details. Two good examples from my client base:
Client A runs children’s enrichment classes. They advertise in advance: “Registration for the summer session opens at 10:00 am on Friday, May 8.” By using a third-party registration app, I can link to the registration forms they have prepared for each class in advance, including programming them to go live at the right time on the right date.
Client B is a local theatre company. Auditions include several days of call-backs, followed by the cast list announcement. The call-back list needs frequent updates over a short period, so they set up a Google Doc which their site links to (“get the latest call-back and casting info”), well in advance. I install the link ahead of auditions, then they can update the Google Doc on their own, often late at night after the latest call-back session.
5. Separate types of feedback
I recommend clients send content feedback and design feedback in separate messages. Content edits are often more objectively correct or incorrect and can easily be addressed and checked off of a list. Design work is more subjective, and while the client should expect to be happy and satisfied with the end result, it may not be a clear case of “good” vs. “bad,” or “right” vs. “wrong.” With design work, feedback will often require discussion before it can be resolved or implemented.
6. Act as a filtration device
Not every single piece of feedback has to go to your web designer unfiltered. If you’re soliciting input from multiple folks within your organization, consolidate and get clarification as needed before submitting the final list to your web designer. Consider the following:
Is this feedback relevant, helpful, and specific, or does it need clarification?
Does this person have enough background information to understand the context of what he or she is reviewing?
Are they being collaborative and trying to help make the website better?
Is the comment in direct conflict with another comment from someone else in the group? If so, you’ll need to resolve the conflict before passing along both comments.
7. Keep spelling errors in check
Yes, there will be multiple opportunities to proofread website content, but don’t rely on your web designer to be your personal spell-checker. While I proof what clients send me, how many times have I missed client typos that resulted in another valid dictionary word?
Some medical, legal or technical terms may not be familiar to your web designer. This makes your proofreading efforts even more important. It’s likely a spell-checker will mark them as wrong because they are not in its dictionary, but your web pro won’t know the right spelling so may just assume everything’s fine.
And it (practically) goes without saying, your web designer can’t be expected to know if staff names are spelled correctly, or if phone numbers and addresses are accurate!
8. Speak precisely to avoid delay
Avoid giving your web designer a reason to come back to you for clarification. Attention to completeness saves time in the long run. If I ever have a question, I’ll query the client before starting the task — there’s no point in guessing when an incorrect guess likely results in more rework for me! But asking the question and waiting for a response does delay implementation. Your web designer may need to go back to you after receiving a request with:
a missing attachment
unclear or ambiguous instructions
a change in one place affecting the website elsewhere, but without explicit instructions for that instance
9. Give attachments extra attention
Speaking of attachments… so often, my clarification questions to clients are around attachments — especially poorly named ones.
Give attachments explicit and trackable file names, including your organization name.
If there’s a publication date (such as a PDF version of a magazine article), include the title, publication, and date in the file name.
If the file may be revised in the future (such as a patient form for a medical practice), the file name should include the date or revision number. In addition, the file itself should include the date in the footer.
10. Trust, but verify
When your web designer confirms a change request has been completed, take a few minutes to confirm your instructions have been correctly interpreted. Perhaps your instructions were ambiguous or incomplete in some way you did not anticipate.
When I’m given a more-than-simple request, my response to clients always ends with “please review and make sure I’ve interpreted all of your instructions correctly.” I want to give them the nudge to correct anything ambiguous, which gives me a chance to recover if I’ve goofed on interpretation. If you need to send a correction due to your ambiguity, start off with “sorry if my instructions were not clear…” and then lay out the needed changes.
How to optimize results with your web designer? Communicate with conscious attention to reducing errors in interpretation, timing conflicts, missing detail, and ambiguity. They are fully invested in making you successful — so help them by communicating as clearly, precisely, and thoughtfully as possible.
TMI is encouraged
Set up an Early Warning System
Become a (timing) Control Freak
Separate types of feedback
Act as a filtration device
Keep spelling errors in check
Speak precisely to avoid delay
Give attachments extra attention
Trust, but verify
Take these 10 tips to heart, and communicate away!
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